James Madison Papers

Virginia Delegates in Congress to Thomas Jefferson, 13 February 1781

Virginia Delegates in Congress
to Thomas Jefferson

RC (Virginia State Library). Except for the signatures of Joseph Jones and Theodorick Bland, the letter is entirely in the hand of JM and franked by him. A clerk, however, docketed it, “Colo T. Blands Letter Feby 81.”

Philada. Feby. 13th. 1781


By the Speaker Harrison who arrived here the day before yesterday we were honored with your Excellency’s favor of the 26th. Ulto. We shall communicate your answer to the Baron d’Arendt, and if his claim against the State be supported by proper evidence shall take the best steps in our power to discharge it1

A Vessel just arrived from Cadiz has brought Congress two letters from Mr. Carmichael, from one of which dated Madrid Novr. 28th. 1780. the following is extracted: “From the best information I have been able to collect I am sorry to tell you, that the nation (British) will be able to borrow the sum demanded for the expenditures of 1781, which with the usual vote of credit at the end of the session will amount to 16 Millions sterling at least. The scheme of the Ministry to effect this is not yet public but I am told it will be on similar conditions to that of the present year. 92,000 men are voted for the marine, and I have reason to think a considerable reinforcement will be sent early to the Southward and that agreeable to a proposition of Sr. J. Amherst2 the Enemy means to occupy and fortify strongly a post near the Mouth of Chesapeak from which, with a strong Garrison & naval force, they hope to interrupt the navigation of the bay and by frequent incursions prevent the States of Maryland & Virginia from sending supplies of men &c &c. to the Carolinas Among the troops mentioned to be embarked there are three regiments of Light Dragoons. Your servants nearer G. B. will however give you more accurate information. I am persuaded that our Ally will take early measures for defeating these designs. This latter information is derived indirectly from conversations with men in a situation to be well informed.”3 Private letters by the same conveyance add that the blockade of Gibraltar was continued with great vigor, and that the Garrison began to be severely distressed.4

We have the honor to be with great respect & esteem Yr. Excelly’s. obt & hume servants

Jos: Jones
James Madison Junr.
Theok. Bland Jr

1See Jefferson to Virginia Delegates, 26 January 1781, nn. 1 and 4.

2Sir Jeffrey Amherst (1717–1797), a British commander-in-chief during the French and Indian War, had declined a field command in the Revolution but served in England as an adviser on military affairs in North America.

3See JM to Pendleton, 23 January 1781, n. 3. The brig “Virginia,” arriving at Philadelphia on 11 February, forty days out of Cadiz, delivered official letters of 28 November and 19 December to Congress from William Carmichael. JM’s information is taken from the first of these dispatches. Both are printed in Wharton, Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence description begins Francis Wharton, ed., The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States (6 vols.; Washington, D.C., 1889). description ends , IV, 164–68, 198.

4See JM to Pendleton, 23 January 1781, n. 3. The “private letters” have not been identified. Carmichael’s letter of 28 November 1780 to “Dear [Richard?] Harrison” (Dolley Madison Memorial Association, Guilford College, N.C.) does not mention Gibraltar.

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