James Madison Papers

From James Madison to Edmund Pendleton, [27 November] 1781

To Edmund Pendleton

RC (LC: Madison Papers). The cover is missing, but Pendleton docketed the letter, “James Madison Esqr. Novr. 27. 1781.”

[27 November 1781]1

Dear Sir

Your favor of the 19th. instant came to hand yesterday. On the same evening arrived our illustrious General returning to his position on the North river. We shall probably however have his company here for some days at least, where he will be able to give Congress very seasonable aid in settling the military establishment for the next year, about which there is some diversity of opinion.2 Whatever the total requisition of men may be on the States, I can not but wish that Virginia may take effectual measures for bringing into the field her proportion of them. One reason for this wish is the calumnies which her enemies ground on her present deficiency, but the principal one is the influence that such an exertion may have in preventing insults & aggressions from whatever quarter they may be meditated, by shewing that we are able to defy them.3

The Delegates have lately transmitted to the Govr. for the Assembly all the proceedings which have taken place on the Subject of the territorial Cessions.4 The tenor of them & the reception given them by the Assembly will I doubt not be communicated to you by some of your correspondents in it.

There is pretty good reason to believe that a descent on Minorca has actually taken place.5 It is a little problematical with me whether successes against G. B. in any other quarter except America tend much to hasten a peace. If they increase her general distress they at the same time increase those demands against her which are likely to impede negociations, & her hopes from the sympathy of other powers. They are favorable to us however in making it more the interes[t] of all the belligerent powers to reject the Uti possidetis as the basis of a pacification.

The report of Rodney’s capture never deserved the attention it seems which was given to it.6

I am Dear Sir Yrs. sincerely

J Madison Junr.

1In addition to the docketing by Pendleton, JM’s reference in his second sentence to the time of Washington’s arrival in Philadelphia also fixes the date as the 27th (Pennsylvania Journal, 28 November 1781).

2Washington was received by Congress on 28 November. In welcoming him, President Hanson voiced “the expectation of Congress that Your Excellency would remain for some time in Philadelphia,” so that the committee on “the requisitions necessary to be made for the establishment of the army” could consult with him. Washington remained in the city until 23 March 1782 (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXI, 1142–44; Douglas S. Freeman, George Washington, V, 403–10).

3See JM to Pendleton, 30 October and 13 November; Virginia Delegates to Nelson, 7 November, and nn. 1 and 2; JM to Jefferson, 18 November 1781. JM evidently believed that, by filling her troop quota, Virginia would demonstrate both her continuing concern for the welfare of the United States and her ability to defy her opponents in or outside Congress. This opinion complemented rather than contradicted his earlier advocacy of granting authority to Congress to coerce a state which fell short of supplying its stipulated proportion of soldiers, military supplies, and money (JM to Jefferson, 16 April 1781).

The exact number of Virginia’s “present deficiency” of troops is impossible to determine, but on 3 and 21 October 1780 Congress had allotted her, for the continental army in 1781, “8 regiments of infantry, 1 of artillery, and 2 of cavalry” in a total of forty-nine of infantry, four of artillery, four of cavalry, and one of artificers. On 10 December 1781 Congress adopted the same apportionment for the coming year (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XVIII, 894–95, 959–60; XXI, 1163–64). Assuming success in recruiting and equipping, this would have brought the total of Virginia manpower in the continental line, according to the revised tables of organization adopted on 3 and 21 October 1780, to approximately 6,680, a number much greater than Washington frequently had in the entire army under his personal command.

According to a report of Colonel William Davies, dated 26 November 1781 and entitled “A General Return of the Recruits Raised for our Continental Quota under the Act of Oct. 1780,” Virginia provided 1,239 soldiers during 1781. This total comprised 198 who had enlisted for the duration of the war and 50 for three years, 775 who had been drafted for eighteen- and 216 for six-months’ service (Executive Communications in Virginia State Library). These recruits by no means filled the state’s quota for 1781. With Virginia freed of the enemy’s presence, the prospects for filling the quota for 1782 were even less bright.

Index Entries