James Madison Papers

Virginia Delegates to Benjamin Harrison, 4 December 1781

Virginia Delegates to Benjamin Harrison

RC (Virginia State Library). Written by Joseph Jones and addressed to “His Excellency The Governor of Virginia Richmond.” JM wrote the postscript.

Philaa: 4th: Decr. 1781


Relying on the assurances given by your Excellency,1 that we should be releived from our embarrassments here, by the agency of Mr. Ross2 to whom our supply had been committed, we ceased from further representations on that head, believing them to be as disagreeable to you as they were painfull to ourselves—but the experience we have had of Mr. Ross’s exertions serves only to shew he wants either the inclination or the ability to extricat us from our difficulties, the supplies furnished being inadequate to our occasions, and chiefly by Bills drawn upon credit obtained here payable from forty to sixty days sight, and discounted at a loss to the State of from 10 to 18 and 20 p cent.3 a trafic as disagreeable to us as dishonourable and injurious to our constituents.

Mr. Thomas Pleasants acting here under the direction of Mr. Ross has opened to us a prospect of future supply, less uncertain and [more in?]dependent than we have for some time experienced, and hoping it may be convenient to the State to adopt the measure, we have taken the liberty to draw a Bill upon your Excellency for four4 thousand dollars in specie, payable sixty days after sight, to Mr. John Cowper5 or order which, if duly honoured in Virginia, will establish a fund of supply for the Delegates, who may attend in Congress, for part of the ensuing year, and relieve them from the inconveniences and anxiety of precarious subsistence. we have the honor to be

yr. Excellency’s obed. & hum: Servts.

J. Madison Junr.

Edm: Randolph.

Jos: Jones

P.S. this Letter has been opened since it was Sealed to alter the sum from eight to four thousand dollars6 the amount of the Bill now drawn. Mr. Cowper could furnish the larger sum and we request your attention to that sum if practicable as perhaps so good an opportunity may not soon present itself.

1Assuming that Thomas Nelson was still the governor of Virginia, the delegates were reminding him of their frequent appeals for funds (especially in their letter of 18 September) and of assurances from him and Lieutenant Governor David Jameson that money would be supplied. See Jameson’s letter of 29 September to JM, and Nelson’s of 5 October 1781 to the Virginia Delegates.

2David Ross.

4Written above a deleted “eight.” See postscript of letter.

5Probably John Cowper (ca. 1738–1799) of Nansemond County, which he represented in the House of Delegates in 1783 (Norfolk County Court Records, Will Book, No. 3, p. 216, microfilm in Virginia State Library). Cowper was a member of the mercantile firm of Wills Cowper and Company of Suffolk (Virginia Historical Register, II [1849], 147). After the war, “being a Person of good understanding” with “an intimate acquaintance with the principal characters of N. Carolina,” Cowper was appointed (with the Reverend Robert Andrews) to serve on a joint commission “for cutting a navigable Canal from the waters of the Elizabeth river, in this State, to the waters of Pasquotank river, in the State of North Carolina” (Calendar of Virginia State Papers description begins William P. Palmer et al., eds., Calendar of Virginia State Papers and Other Manuscripts (11 vols.; Richmond, 1875–93). description ends , IV, 176; Alice Barnwell Keith, ed., The John Gray Blount Papers [2 vols. to date; Raleigh, N.C., 1952——], I, 243–81, passim; Hening, Statutes description begins William Waller Hening, ed., The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia, from the First Session of the Legislature, in the Year 1619 (13 vols.; Richmond and Philadelphia, 1819–23). description ends , XII, 479). In later years Cowper settled at Prosick, his estate in Norfolk County, which he represented in the House of Delegates in 1791 (Swem and Williams, Register description begins Earl G. Swem and John W. Williams, eds., A Register of the General Assembly of Virginia, 1776–1918, and of the Constitutional Conventions (Richmond, 1918). description ends , pp. 18, 35).

6See n. 4, above.

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