James Madison Papers

From James Madison to Edmund Pendleton, [13] February 1781

To Edmund Pendleton

RC (LC: Madison Papers).

Philada. Feby. [13]1 1781

Dear Sir

I have your favor of the 5th. instant by the post. Col. Harrison arrived here yesterday,2 and as he mentions no circumstance which indicated an intended departure of the Enemy I am afraid your intelligence on that subject was not well founded. Immediately on the receipt of your former letter relating to an exchange of C. Taylor3 I applied to the Admiralty department, and if such a step can be brought about with propriety, I hope he will be gratified, but considering the tenor of their treatment of naval prisoners, and the resolutions with which it has inspired Congress, I do not think it probable that exchanges will go on easily, and if this were less the case, a mere passenger under the indulgence too of a parole, can scarcly hope to be preferred to such as are suffering the utmost hardships and were made prisoners in public service.4

A vessel arrived here a few days ago from Cadiz which brings letters of as late date as the last of Decr. Those that are official tell us that England is making the most strenuous exertions for the current year, & that she is likely to be but too successful in the great article of money. The Parliament have voted 92000 seamen, and a considerable land reinforcement for their Southern Army in America is also sd to be in preparation. Private letters by the same conveyance mention that the blockage of Gibralter is going on with alacrity, and that the garrison is in such distress as flatters the hope of a speedy capitulation.5

If Mr. Pendleton your nephew is still with you be pleased to return him my compliments.6 With great respect I am

Dr Sr. Yr. Obt. servant

J. Madison Jnr.

1In his reply of 5 March (LC: Force Transcripts) Pendleton referred to this letter as “of the 13th past” and he docketed it with that date. On the other hand, in his second sentence JM alluded to the arrival of Benjamin Harrison “yesterday.” JM probably thought that Harrison had reached Philadelphia on the 12th, not knowing of his arrival late the evening before. At the outset of the second paragraph, JM mentions “a vessel” coming “a few days ago.” This was the “Virginia,” which docked at Philadelphia on 11 February. If JM had been writing on the 12th, he would hardly have referred to the 11th as “a few days ago.”

3Craddock Taylor. The date of the “former letter,” now missing, was 18 December 1780 (JM to Pendleton, 26 December 1780).

4On 5 January 1781, Congress voted to stop exchanging captive navy personnel until Great Britain returned to America the United States seamen held as prisoners overseas. On 29 January Congress superseded this resolution with another which sanctioned as harsh a treatment of prisoners from the British armed services as was meted out by the British to their captives from the American army or navy (Journals of the Continental Congress, XIX, 28, 96–97).

6Henry Pendleton.

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