James Madison Papers

Virginia Delegates in Congress to Thomas Jefferson, [12] December 1780

Virginia Delegates in Congress
to Thomas Jefferson

RC (Virginia State Library). All of this letter, including its text and the address on the cover sheet, is in JM’s hand, except for Theodorick Bland’s signature at the close.

Philada. Decembr. [12,]1 1780

We have the honor to enclose your Excellency a Resolution of Congress of the 6th. instant relating to the Convention troops[,]2 also a copy of a letter from G. Anderson found among the dead letters in the post office and communicated to Congress by the Postmaster. If there should be occasion for the original of the letter it shall be transmitted on the first intimation.3

An Irish paper informs us that Henry Laurens Esquire was committed to the Tower on the 6th. of October by a warrant from the Secretarys of State on suspicion of High Treason. All the despatches entrusted to the same conveyance unfortunately fell into the hands of the Enemy at the same time.4

A letter from Mr. Jonathan Williams dated at Nantz, Octr. 17. confirms an account received several days ago, of the Ariel commanded by P. Jones, Esqr. & containing cloathing &c for the Army being dismasted & obliged to return into port. The effect of this delay will be severely felt by the troops who have already but too much reason to complain of the sufferings they have been exposed to from a want of these necessaries.5

The same letter from Mr. Williams as well as some others received within a few days give us reason to believe that Portugal has at length yielded to the solicitations of the Neutral Powers & to the remonstrances of France & Spain so far as to accede to the general object of the former and to exclude the English from the privileges which their vessels of War heretofore enjoyed in their ports.6 we have received Payment of the Bill drawn by Mr. Benjn. Harrison.7

we [are?] with perfect respect Yr. Excellys most obedt. & very Hum[ble] Servts.

James Madison Junr.
Theok. Bland Jr.

1In the third paragraph, the delegates mention Jonathan Williams’ dispatch of 17 October. This was read in Congress on 11 December (Journals of the Continental Congress, XVIII, 1141). This fact as well as the close resemblance between what JM wrote to Joseph Jones on 12 December (q.v.) and what is in the present letter seems to justify assigning the same date to it.

2The two inclosures mentioned in this paragraph have not been found. Congress resolved “That such of the Convention troops as are not already removed from the barracks near Charlotteville” to Fort Frederick in Maryland remain at Charlottesville (ibid., XVIII, 1123; Pendleton to JM, 23 October 1780, n. 4; Jones to JM, 10 November 1780, n. 4).

3On George Anderson, see Henry to Virginia Delegates, 23 May 1780, nn. 1 and 4.

5See Mathews to Greene, 27 November 1780, n. 2; JM to Jones, 12 December 1780, n. 7. Jonathan Williams, Jr. (1750–1815), grandnephew of Benjamin Franklin, was serving at Nantes as commercial representative of the United States envoys to France. Although Arthur and William Lee’s charges that Williams had been involved in dishonest financial transactions were not sustained, they exacerbated the factionalism between the Lee and Deane-Franklin supporters in Congress. Later in his career, Williams became a distinguished army engineer and the first superintendent of the United States Military Academy.

7See Jefferson to Virginia Delegates, 14 November 1780. In his accounts under date of 6 December, JM entered, “To do [cash] recd from Turnbull & Co—23691 [dollars]” (Expense Account as Delegate in Congress, 20 December 1780).

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