James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Benjamin Harrison, 19 January 1782

From Benjamin Harrison

RC (Maine Historical Society, Portland). In the hand of Archibald Blair, clerk of the Council of State. Addressed to “The Hon. Mr. Jas. Madison.”

In council Jany. 19th. 17821

The Executive have appointed Mr Madison and Mr Andrews commissioners to meet those of Pensylvania,2 to run and finally settle the boundary line betwixt this State and that; in order to do it with accuracy, some astronomical Observations are necessary, Mr Madison will make them in the back Country and Mr Andrews some where near Philadelphia, we think it necessary least any accident should happen to either of those Gentn. to give each an assosiate, and we have to beg the favor of you to assist the latter, you will be so kind as to excuse our making this request, we well know your usefulness in your present employment, but as it is a matter of consiquence to this State, and ought to be trusted to none but men of Honor and abilities and perhaps a Virginian, we earnestly request you to undertake it; if you should not be able to comply with this desire be so kind as to recommend some person to act in your stead, we know of no one here capable of the business that will undertake the journey.3 I have never yet heard one word from that raskal Bringhurst about the Chariot will you be so obliging as to call on him again and let me know whether I am ever to get it or not4 I am

Dr Sir Your most Obedt. Humble Servant

Benj Harrison

1Under this date in the “Council Minute Book, 1781–1782” in the Virginia State Library is a canceled entry mentioning the consideration of a letter “to Delegates in Congress” (Journals of the Council of State description begins H. R. McIlwaine et al., eds., Journals of the Council of the State of Virginia (3 vols. to date; Richmond, 1931——). description ends , III, 31, n. 34). Probably the deletion signifies that the Council of State decided against sending a dispatch. None of that date from the governor to the delegates has been found.

2As commissioners of Virginia, the Reverend James Madison and the Reverend Robert Andrews, both of the College of William and Mary, had met in the summer of 1779 in Baltimore with their counterparts from Pennsylvania (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, 520–34). For their agreement, see Randolph to JM, 26 April 1782, n. 2.

3H. R. McIlwaine concluded that Blair had erred in addressing this letter to JM rather than to “the gentleman appointed as Mr. Robert Andrews’s assistant” (Official Letters, III, 130 n.). The journal of the Council of State for 16 January exonerates the clerk by recording the appointment of “James Madison junr. and James McCorcle esquires [as] Associates to the Commissioners who are, on behalf of this State, to run the boundary line between it & the State of Pennsylvania” (Journals of the Council of State description begins H. R. McIlwaine et al., eds., Journals of the Council of the State of Virginia (3 vols. to date; Richmond, 1931——). description ends , III, 28). The executive of Virginia experienced great difficulty in filling these two positions. JM declined on 1 February 1782 (q.v.) and was replaced by John Page. After McCorkle and Thomas Lewis refused to serve, Governor Harrison received an acceptance from Andrew Ellicott of Maryland in June 1784, shortly before the surveyors began their work (ibid., III, 59, 295, 345–46, 377, 401; 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 , III, 592).

4John Bringhurst (1726–1795) was a coachmaker in Germantown, Pa. (Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, V [1881], 377; VI [1882], 139; LV [1931], 317, 320 n.).

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