James Madison Papers

Expense Account as Delegate in Congress, 20 June 1781

Expense Account as Delegate in Congress

MS (Virginia State Library). Account submitted by JM to Virginia general auditors. JM’s file copy is in LC: Madison Papers. JM’s covering letter, if any, to the Virginia Auditors of Public Accounts has not been found.

1781. From March 20–June [20]—1781
To Balance in hand on last settlement 11859 Dollrs.1 May 9. By Board &c. including liquors & Compy. from
March 202 To do recd. of Mr. Jones  3918⅓3   March 20th. to May 9th 20,300
To do recd. of Col. Bland  6118⅓ By washing  1595
21895⅔ 21895
June 20. By Board &c from May 9th £35-12-64
By washing   2-18-
By Horses from March 20th  24-10-5
By allowance for 92 days at   — per day6

1See Expense Account as Delegate in Congress, 27 March 1781. In his retained copy, JM headed each of the two columns “Cont. Drs.”

2JM’s file copy dates this entry “March 24.” Apparently that was correct, for the Virginia auditors’ ledger sheet for JM in the Virginia State Library posted the same date. There, too, are noted the rate of depreciation as 135 and the value in Virginia specie as £8 14s. On this same sheet, the sum received by JM from Bland is merely dated “April.” The depreciation rate is given as 220, and the Virginia specie equivalent as £8 6s. 6d. “Virginia specie” meant the hard money equivalent of the paper currency issued by Virginia under the ordinance of Congress of 18 March 1780, after the depreciation rate of the date in question had been applied. This rate varied from state to state.

3On his file copy JM, here and in the Bland entry on the next line, omitted the “1/3.”

4Due to the financial crisis described by the Virginia delegates in their letters to Jefferson of 5 and 8 May 1781 (q.v.), paper money was no longer acceptable in Philadelphia. Early in that month, when Joseph Jones returned to Congress after an absence in Virginia, he brought with him about $25,780 in old continental currency. On 7 May he apparently felt fortunate to exchange this for less than £20 in specie and was obliged to sell his portmanteau horse (pack horse) and phaeton in order to raise enough money to pay his board and rent. Referring chiefly to this period in his letter of 20 August 1781 to the general auditors of Virginia (Virginia State Library: Executive Papers), Jones commented, “the wear and tear of Horses, carriages, cloathing and other extra expenses necessary to the appointment renders the office by no means eligible in point of Profit, whatever it may be in point of honor.” Even before the financial crisis, one hundred dollars in the old continental currency was worth only about two-thirds of a dollar in specie (Henry Phillips, Jr., Historical Sketches of American Paper Currency, 2d ser., p. 217).

5In his file copy, JM added this to the two preceding amounts and reached a correct total of £63 6d.

6Not knowing what arrangements would now be made for paying the delegates, JM left this portion blank. The rate, as fixed by the Virginia General Assembly in 1779, was $20.00 a day in old continental currency (Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (2 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , II, 98, n. 5; 289; 290, n. 8). The ledger sheet kept by the general auditors (n. 2, above) indicates that JM was paid about £2½ per day. See also Virginia Delegates to Jefferson, 8 May 1781, n. 1.

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