James Madison Papers

From James Madison to James Madison, Sr., 1–2 August 1781

To James Madison, Sr.

RC (LC: Madison Papers). Addressed to “Col James Madison Orange County Virginia Favd. by B. Bradburn.”

Philada. Augst. 1st. 1781

I recd. your letter by Mr. Randolph1 and this morning have a verbal information from you by B. Bradburn.2 I shall send by him a Barrel of Sugar and a bag of Coffee, which I wish to be retained for your own use as far as necessary, & the residue divided between my brothers Fr. & A.3 This purchase has not been effected without inconvenience & increases the urgency of some supply of cash as early as your resources will admit. I also send a number of little books to be added to the library of Miss Fanny.4

The letter I intended to have written by Capt. M. Walker,5 was by accident prevented from getting into his hands in Time. The newspapers inclosed in it with a large addition are sent by this conveyance. As they are continued down to the present day it would be tautology to enter into the current intelligence. We have heard little of late from Europe, except that the Mediation proffered by Russia for the dispute between England & Holland has been referred by the former to the general pacification in which the mediation of the Emperor will be joined with that of Russia. As this step is not very respectful to Russia it can only proceed from a distrust of her friendship and the hopes entertained by Britain as to the issue of the Campaign, which as you will see in an intercepted letter from Germaine to Clinton were extravagantly sanguine. We have no late intelligence from the W. Indies. Genl. Washington is going on with his preparations & operations agst. N. York. What the result will be can be decided by time alone. We hope they will at least withdraw some of the Invaders from Virginia.6 The French fleet is still at Rhode Island. The British it is reported has lately left the Hook.7

Augst. 2d. Information has been recd. from N. York thro’ a channel that is thought a good one, that orders are gone to Virginia for a large part of the troops under Cornwallis immediately to sail for that place.8 Should this be well founded the execution of the orders will announce it to you. Among other advantages attending an Evacuation of Virga. it will not be the least that the communication with this place by the Bay will supply the State with many necessary Articles wch. are now transported by land at so much expence & will enable you to pay for them easier by raising the price of your commodities. It gives me pain to hear that so many of the people have incautiously sold or rather given away their Tobo. to Speculators when it was in no danger from the Enemy. The destruction of that Article which alarmed them, was an obvious cause of its future rise, and a reason for their retaining it till the alarm should be over. Goods of all kinds, particularly dry goods are rising here already. Salt in particular has risen within a few days from 2 Dollrs. to a guinea per bushel.9

I send you by this opportunity five English Grammars for Mr. W. Maury agreeably to his request.10 This is the first that has offered although I have had them on hand for some months. The price of the whole is a guinea. The price of Dr. Cullen’s medical book published here is also one guinea.11 If you would chuse a copy on that condition I can send you one by a future opportunity. With my most affectionate regards to the family. I am Yr. dutiful Son

J. Madison Jnr.

Augst. 2d. In my letter of this day I have made a mistake in the number of Grammars & the price of them. I find the real no. to be 6 instead of 5. The price of the whole is consequently 42s. Penn: Currency equal to about 33s. 6 Virga. Currency. J. M.

1Edmund Randolph took his seat in Congress on 16 July 1781. The letter which he brought to JM has not been found.

2Butler Bradburn (ca. 1756–ca. 1801), whose reason for being in Philadelphia is unknown, had been recently commissioned a second lieutenant of Louisa County militia. Although he settled in Kentucky about 1790, he was back in Virginia by 1793 (Louisa County Personal Property Books, 1800–1801; Louisa County Land Property Books; Louisa County Court Records, Order Book, 1774–1782, p. 326, on microfilm in Virginia State Library).

3Francis Madison (1753–1800) and Ambrose Madison (1755–1793).

4Frances Madison (1774–1823). The titles of the books are unknown.

5Probably Captain Merry Walker (ca. 1751–1810), then a resident of Culpeper County and a neighbor of JM’s brothers William and Francis. Walker became a justice of the peace in Madison County when it was formed from a part of Culpeper County in 1793. He prospered as a planter, owning many slaves and thousands of acres in Kentucky (Madison County Court Records, Order Book, No. 1, p. 1, and Will Book, No. 2, p. 309, both on microfilm in Virginia State Library; Executive Papers, Militia, Madison County, in Virginia State Library; Willard Rouse Jillson, comp., The Kentucky Land Grants [Louisville, 1925], pp. 133, 248, and Old Kentucky Entries and Deeds [Louisville, 1926], p. 458).

6For comment on the public affairs mentioned in this paragraph, see JM to Pendleton, 31 July 1781, nn. 3, 4, 5, 6.

7See Virginia Delegates to Nelson, 24 July 1781, and nn. 2, 6. The Pennsylvania Packet of 31 July and 2 August 1781 reported minor maneuvers of the French fleet and their return to Newport. The source of JM’s information about the British fleet is not known, but on 25 July 1781 Washington, quoting an informant, wrote Rochambeau: “Saturday the 21st. of this month Adml. Graves with six or seven ships of the Line sailed from his station off Sandy Hook the Wind at South West. The Fleet steered about South East. Their destination not known, but conjectured to convey Lord Cornwallis from Chesapeak to New York” (Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington description begins John C. Fitzpatrick, ed., The Writings of George Washington, from the Original Sources, 1745–1799 (39 vols.; Washington, 1931–44). description ends , XXII, 416).

8In at least five dispatches during June and early in July, Clinton urged Cornwallis to send about three thousand of his seven thousand or more troops to New York City. Upon Cornwallis’ insistence that he needed the entire force under his command, Clinton yielded to the Earl in a letter of 8 July. Writing three days later, Clinton assured him that, as a “very liberal concession,” he was “at full liberty” to retain all of his soldiers if they were “absolutely necessary for defensive operations,” but he should send to New York any number he might find he could spare (Benjamin F. Stevens, ed., Campaign in Virginia, II, 21, 24–25, 27–28, 29–30, 41, 50–53, 62–65). The “channel” of this information may have been James Duane and Ezra L’Hommedieu, who arrived in Congress from the state of New York on 31 July (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXI, 816). At the time of their departure from home, a rumor was current that the British troops from Virginia were already arriving, or soon would arrive, in New York harbor (Hugh Hastings and J. A. Holden, eds., Public Papers of George Clinton, VII, 111, 135). This misinformation probably stemmed from the disembarkation of the Pensacola garrison at the port of New York (Virginia Delegates to Nelson, 24 July 1781, n. 3).

9In British America at the time of the Revolution, “dry goods” often connoted not only all textile fabrics but also most other wares, except groceries, used in the home. The official price established in Virginia for salt impressed for the army was twenty shillings a bushel for “Alum Salt” and fifteen shillings for the same measure of “French & Country made” salt (Journals of the Council of State description begins H. R. McIlwaine et al., eds., Journals of the Council of the State of Virginia (Richmond, 1931——). description ends , II, 366). Alum salt is rock salt; the “French” variety was the residue left after evaporating sea water; and the “Country” variety was evidently that of native production, however made.

10Walker Maury, an Orange County schoolmaster.

11This must have been the often republished First Lines of the Practice of Physic, for the Use of Students in the University of Edinburgh (1st ed.; 4 vols.; Edinburgh, 1776–84) by William Cullen (1710–1790), Professor of the Practice of Physic at the famous medical school of that institution. Dr. Benjamin Rush’s edition of this work was published in three volumes in Philadelphia, 1781–1785.

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