Virginia Delegates to Benjamin Harrison
RC (Historical Society of Pennsylvania). Written by JM. Docketed, “Lre from Delegates in Congress Decr 27. 1781.” Probably the letter reached Harrison in Richmond on that date.
Philadelphia Decr. 18th. 1781
At the request of Baron Steuben, a letter from him to your Excellency is herewith inclosed.1
The paper from the Secretary of War to Congress also inclosed is an answer to the two Resolutions of the General Assembly transmitted to us by your Excellency which were referred by Congress to the Departments of War & finance.2
A Representation to the States on the subject of the late requisitions for the ensuing year agreed to yesterday in Congress is likewise herewith transmitted.3 It could not be authenticated for the reason applied in our last to the Resolutions relating to the completion of the Military Establishment.4 As soon as it has passed the last formality in Congress it will be transmitted by the President.5
We have thought proper to add to the other inclosures a table for the payment of loans to the U.S. computed under the direction of the late Treasury Board in pursuance of the Act of Congress of the 28th. of June 1780 on that subject. It will probably be of service in fixing the value of the depreciated currency advanced at different periods by Virginia to the U. States.6
The letter to Mr. Ross relates to sundry slaves the property of some Gentlemen of the State of S. Carolina the meritorious sufferings of whom will sufficiently recommend what concerns their interests to your Excellency’s care & attention.7
We have the honor to be with the highest respect & esteem Yr. Excell’y’s Obt. & hble servts.
J. Madison Jr.
PS. We are obliged by arrival of the hour for the post to omit the representation which we expected wd. have been ready for us.8
1. After Cornwallis’ surrender, Steuben resumed his duties as inspector general of the continental army and was in Philadelphia with Washington, planning military operations for 1782. Steuben’s letter to Harrison has not been found.
2. See Instruction to Virginia Delegates, 29 November 1781, and n. 1.
3. See postscript of present letter; and Virginia Delegates to Nelson, 7 November 1781, n. 2. Edmund Randolph was the principal author of the “Representation,” urging compliance by the states “with these requisitions of men and money.” See JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXI, 1174–76, and 1176–78 n.
4. The “Representation,” as submitted by the drafting committee, was considerably amended before being adopted by Congress on 17 December. Probably for this reason an “authenticated” copy of the official text was not available by the following day. Although their letter has not been found, the delegates appear to have written to the governor on 11 December, commenting upon the allocation of troop quotas decided upon by Congress the day before. For the quota of Virginia, see JM to Pendleton, 27 November 1781, n. 3.
5. The 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 (III, 18–19) for 1 January 1782 notes the receipt of letters from President Hanson and General Washington requesting Virginia immediately to furnish her quotas of money and troops. Harrison referred the letters to the General Assembly on the same day (Journal of the House of Delegates description begins Journal of the House of Delegates of Virginia, March 1781 Session in Bulletin of the Virginia State Library, XVII, No. 1 (January 1928). description ends , October 1781, p. 66).
6. By 29 July 1780, in pursuance of the directive mentioned in the present letter, the Board of Treasury had completed “proper tables for direction of the commissioners of the continental loan offices in the several states in paying off” the loans (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XVII, 568–69). Later in the year these tables, showing the variations in specie value of continental currency between 1 September 1777 and 18 March 1780, were printed by David C. Claypoole of Philadelphia as a pamphlet entitled Table for the Payment of Principal and Interest of Loans, Agreeable to the Resolutions of Congress, of the twenty-eighth day of June, 1780 (NA: PCC, No. 78, IX, 387–409). The delegates probably enclosed one of these pamphlets to Harrison. The tables are also printed in Henry Phillips, Jr., Historical Sketches of American Paper Currency, 2d ser., pp. 210–17.
7. Although the letter to David Ross, the commercial agent of Virginia, is missing, he may have been asked by South Carolinians, who were desperately short of money or credit, for permission to export slaves to Virginia for sale. If this was the tenor of their letter, the law of Virginia, as well as the spirit of her Declaration of Rights, forbade a favorable reply (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, 57 n.; 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 , IX, 113, 471–72). Until the spring of 1782 at least, the governor of South Carolina continued to press Governor Harrison to open the domestic slave trade. After informing Governor John Mathews on 30 April, “I am sorry it is not in my power to give Your Excellency Liberty to dispose of the Negroes you have for sale in this State,” Harrison referred Mathews’ request, without avail, to the General Assembly (McIlwaine, Official Letters description begins H. R. McIlwaine, ed., Official Letters of the Governors of the State of Virginia (3 vols.; Richmond, 1926–29). description ends , III, 199, 216). Still in effect in Virginia was the “act to authorize the citizens of South Carolina and Georgia to remove their slaves into this State,” passed on 8 July 1780 (Journal of the House of Delegates description begins Journal of the House of Delegates of Virginia, March 1781 Session in Bulletin of the Virginia State Library, XVII, No. 1 (January 1928). description ends , May 1780, p. 79). Designated to remain effective until one year “after the expulsion of the enemy from, or the restoration of civil government in the state from which such slaves were respectively removed,” the statute decreed that bondsmen brought in by masters were to be registered in the county courts, and that any, with their children born in the state, who remained beyond the expiration of the act, would automatically be free. To sell the chattels required written permission of the Governor in Council, granted only if the sale appeared “necessary for the comfortable support and maintenance” of the owner “and his or her family” (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 , X, 307–8).
8. See above, n. 3.