James Madison Papers

From James Madison to Edmund Pendleton, 9 January 1781

To Edmund Pendleton

RC (LC: Madison Papers). The address sheet is missing, but JM, probably late in life, wrote “To Mr. Pendleton” at the top. Pendleton docketed the letter “James Maddison Esq Jan. 9th. 1781.”

Philada. Jany 9th: 1781

Dr Sr.

I have again the pleasure to begin with acknowledg the receipt of a favor from you, that of the 1st. inst: having come to hand yesterday.

On Thursday last Congress were informed by Genl. Potter & Col. Johnston who came Expresses for the purposes that a general mutiny had broken out on the morning of New Year’s day in the Pennsylvania line which was cantoned near Morris Town apart from the rest of the Army. Every effort was used by the Officers to stifle it in its infancy but without effect. Several of them fell victims to the fury of the Mutineers. The next information came from Gen Wayne who wrote from Princeton whither the troops had marched in regular order on their way to Philada. as they gave out with a determination not to lay down their arms nor return to their obedience till a redress of grievances should be obtained. They suffered none of their officers to be among them except Genl Wayne & Cols. Steuart & Butler and these they kept under close guard, but in every other respect treated with the utmost decorum. The grievances complained of were principally a detention of many in service beyond the Term of Enlistment & the sufferings of all from a deficient supply of cloathing and subsistence and the long arrearage of pay. Several propositions & replies on the subject of redress passed between a deputation of Sergeants in behalf of the Troops & Genl Wayne but without any certain tendency to a favorable issue. The affair at length began to take a very serious countenance and as a great proportion of that line are foreigners & not a few deserters from the British Army and as they shewed a disposition to continue at Princeton from whence a refuge with the Enemy who it was said were coming out in force for the purpose, was at any moment practicable it was thought necessary, notwithstanding the humiliation of the step to depute a Committee of Congress with powers to employ every expedient for putting a speedy end to the discontents. The President of the State with a number of Gentlemen from this place also went up to interpose their influence. By a letter from the Committee who had proceeded as far as Trenton recd. the evening before last, it appears that the President who was ahead & had written in to Genl. Wayne was likely to have a confidential reception. The Committee also[?] write that an Emissary of Clinton who had appeared among the Soldiers with a paper setting forth the folly & danger of adhering to a cause which had already brought so much misery upon them, promising a protection under the British Govt. a body of troops to cover their escape, & payment of all arrears due from Congress, was siezed & given up to Genl. Way[n]e Who handed him with his guide over to the President of this State, who placed them under the custody of his light-horse. This circumstance not only presages a fortunate issue to the Mutiny, but is such a proof of attachment to the Country in the most trying situation as must effectually repress the joy & encouragement which the Enemy had taken from this threatening event.1 The late detachmt from N. York which a letter from Fredg.2 says is in Chesapeak is abt. 1600 strong & commanded by Arnold.

I am Yrs Sincerely

J. Madison Junr.

1For editorial clarification of the persons and events mentioned in this letter, see the footnotes of JM to Jefferson, 9 January 1781. JM probably wrote to Pendleton at somewhat greater length about the mutiny because he did not send him copies of the three documents contained in his dispatch to Jefferson.

2In the Pennsylvania Journal of 10 January 1781 is an extract from a letter written eight days before by an unnamed person living at Fredericksburg, Va., stating that “about 48 sail of vessels arrived in our Bay, Saturday evening last, supposed from New York.”

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