James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Jacquelin Ambler, 29 December 1781

From Jacquelin Ambler

RC (LC: Madison Papers). Docketed by JM, “Decr. 29. 1781.”

Richmond Virginia 29th. Decr. 1781

Dear Sir

I cannot give you a word of news, and I fear Mr. Hayes’s Paper of to day will afford but little. I have not seen it yet.1

The [Assembly is] still sitting, but the defection of the [members is] so great, that we are in dread lest every Evening should prove the last, and the business left—as they begun.2 The most sanguine seem as if they will be content even with a par-boiling. Oh Sir we want some Publications that will rouse our Citizens. I sincerely wish you could spare an hour now and then to this salutary Work. I will take care, if you will transmit the pieces to me, that they shall be safely lodged with the Printer, and none made acquainted with the writer but those you may direct. beleive me they will render us most essential good, and especially on the approach of a new ele[ction?].3

Yours with great esteem & regard

J. Ambler

1See Lee to Virginia Delegates, 12 June 1781, n. 11. This would have been the second weekly issue of James Hayes, Jr’s., Virginia Gazette, or, the American Advertiser.

2See Ambler to JM, 22 December 1781. Although the Virginia General Assembly managed to remain in session until 5 January 1782, the House of Delegates ordered the sergeant at arms on 28 December 1781 to bring in forty-nine absent members who had not been excused from attending. Three days later thirty members were still absent without known cause (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, pp. 61, 64–65).

3JM apparently did not respond to Ambler’s appeal. The elections of delegates occurred in the counties and municipal corporations annually in April, while those of the twenty-four senators, who served for four years, were rotated in twenty-four designated districts from the first Monday in August through the second Tuesday in September. To stagger the expiration dates of the senatorial terms, Article VI of the Form of Government of Virginia, adopted in 1776, provided that “the districts shall be equally divided into four classes, and numbered by lot. At the end of one year after the [first] general election, the six members elected by the first division shall be displaced, and the vacancies thereby occasioned supplied from such class or division, by new election, in the manner aforesaid. This rotation shall be applied to each division, according to its number, and continued in due order annually” (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, 114–15, 128–30).

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