James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Joseph Jones, 17 January 1781

From Joseph Jones

RC (LC: Madison Papers). Address sheet is missing, but the letter’s context and its presence in the Madison Papers permit no doubt that JM was the recipient.

17th. Janry 17811

Dr. Sr.

I was in doubt whether to write you by this post or not as I intend seting out in a day or two for Philadelphia and should probably have the pleasure of taking you by the hand before my Letter wod. arrive but as we have yet in this quarter recd. no certain account of the departure of the Enemy and it is reported they intend paying us a visit up Potomack I may possibly delay my Journey a few days to see the event of this affair.2

We hear they have done great injury to the Houses of Col. Harrison of Berkely and carryed away all his valuable Negros.3 If they attempt to visit Fredericksburg I believe they will have reason to repent the Enterprise as there now is there and in the Neighbourhood a considerable Force and a further reinforcemt. expected to Day. I have I confess no expectatio[n] they will come up Potomack River. their Force is inadequate to any attack where the Country has been previously alarmed which is here and I believe in most other parts4 the case. If they do us any injury it must be by plundering private persons of their property along the Shores and receiving the Negros who may run away and join them. It is not improbable this days Post may bring us information of their departure.5 I hav[e] a Letter from Col. Anthony Thornton f[or] you with I presume the Cash inclosed you advanced his Son.6 The Assembly have come to a set [of] Resolutions relinquishing to the United States7 the Lands beyond the Ohio upon certain conditions. They have also changed the allowance to the Delegates to 46/ specie P day.8

I am Dr. Sr. Yr. aff Friend & Sevt.

Jos: Jones

Be pleased to renew a Ticket in the Lottery for Mrs. H. Battaile No. 12153 a price of 40 doll and for J. J. the number inclosed.9

1Besides this date line, placed by Jones at the end of the letter, JM also dated it—“1781, Jan. 17.”

2Although it is not known when Jones left his home near Fredericksburg to go to Philadelphia, he resumed his seat in Congress on 29 January. Allowing at least a week for the trip, he could not have delayed his departure long after writing this letter. Benedict Arnold and his troops evacuated Richmond on 6 January and, “without a whiff of gunpowder,” returned to Portsmouth where they entrenched and encamped for the winter (Boyd, Papers of Jefferson description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson (16 vols. to date; Princeton, N.J., 1950——). description ends , IV, 259; Christopher Ward, War of the Revolution, II, 869).

3Berkeley, the estate of Benjamin Harrison, speaker of the House of Delegates, was on the James River below Richmond. As late as 1783, he was still trying to recover his slaves, or at least their value (Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington description begins John C. Fitzpatrick, ed., The Writings of George Washington, from the Original Sources, 1745–1799 (39 vols.; Washington, D.C., 1931–44). description ends , XXVI, 364, 370, 401).

4Following “parts,” Jones wrote and deleted “of the Country.”

5Jones, of course, was overly sanguine. The British continued to harry Virginia until the surrender of Cornwallis in October 1781.

7Jones had written “Congress,” but then changed it to “United States.”

8See Virginia Delegates to Jefferson, 5 November 1780, n. 1. Jones was mistaken. Hening’s Statutes does not include this law, and there is no mention of its passage in the Journal of the House of Delegates description begins Journal of the House of Delegates of the Commonwealth of Virginia; Begun and Held At the Capitol, in the City of Williamsburg.Beginning in 1780, the portion after the semicolon reads, Begun and Held in the Town of Richmond. In the County of Henrico. The journal for each session has its own title page and is individually paginated. The edition used, unless otherwise noted, is the one in which the journals for 1777–1781 are brought together in one volume, with each journal published in Richmond in 1827 or 1828, and often called the “Thomas W. White reprint.” description ends . Furthermore, in his financial statement to the Virginia auditors on 27 March 1781, JM continued to show his per diem expense allowance at the old rate of $20.00 (MS, Virginia State Library). Also see Burnett, Letters description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress (8 vols.; Washington, D.C., 1921–36). description ends , VI, 192.

9The first lottery “for defraying the expences of the next campaign” was provided for by Congress in November 1776 (Journals of the Continental Congress, VI, 917, 959–64). In May 1780, as an economy measure, Congress authorized the managers of the fourth lottery to accept renewals from persons who wanted to retain the same tickets which they had held as participants in the third lottery. Although the drawing of the fourth lottery’s winning tickets began on 2 April 1781, it was not completed for over a year; and the lucky holders were not paid until long after (ibid., XVII, 459–60; XIX, 123, 304; XXI, 1200; XXII, 151; XXIII, 543–44, 824). “Mrs. H. Battaile” may have been Hannah Battaile (1718–ca. 1793), the widow of Nicholas Battaile of Caroline County and a sister of JM’s paternal grandmother (T. E. Campbell, Colonial Caroline, pp. 380, 479).

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