To Edmund Pendleton
RC (LC: Madison Papers). The cover is missing, but the contents of the letter permit no doubt that Pendleton was the recipient.
Philada. Feby. 7th. 1782.
The post has been very irregular for several weeks past & this week the Mail South of Annapolis has failed altogether;1 by which means I lose the pleasure of your alternate favor.
A vessel from France informs us that the frigate freigted with the event at York had arrived there in 22 days.2 We are hourly & anxiously expecting the echo of it from Europe & particularly from England. Unless some revolution in the councils of the latter should result from it, our last intelligence with respect to them justifies our suspicion that they will continue to be as bloody as ever.3
Congress are still occupied with the thorny subject of Vermont.4 Some plan for a general liquidation & apportionment of the public debts is also under their consideration, & I fear will be little less perplexing. It is proposed that untill justice & the situation of the States will admit of a valuation of lands5 the States should be applied to for power to substitute such other rule of apportioning the expenditures as shall be equitable & practicable, and that Commissrs. be appointed by the concurrent act of the U.S. & each State to settle the accts. between them. The scheme is not yet matured, and will meet with many difficulties in its passage thro’ Congress.6 I wish it may not meet with much greater when it goes down to the States. A spirit of accomodation alone can render it unanimously admissible; a spir[it] which but too little prevails, but wch in few instance[s] is more powerfully recommended by the occasion than the present. If our voluminous & entangled accts. be not put into some certain course of settlemt. before a foreign war is off our hands it is easy to see they must prove an exuberan[t] & formidable source of intestine dissentions.7
The Alliance a Continel. frigate carrying the Marquis to France, has sent a fine prize to Boston with 5 or 600 Hhds of Sugar on board.8
I have had so short notice of the arrival & departure of the post, that I not only write in haste but with brevity.
J. Madison [Jr.]
2. See Jameson to JM, 26 January 1782, n. 2. The Duc de Lauzun, bearing Rochambeau’s dispatches telling of Cornwallis’ surrender, reached Brest on 19 November 1781 (Pennsylvania Journal, 13 February 1782).
3. On 25 November 1781, two days before Parliament convened, London first heard of the disaster at Yorktown. The Pennsylvania Packet of 12 February reported a rumor that George III had taken refuge in the Tower of London because of riots occasioned by the bad news. Military and civil officers in the United States expected, and the king and Parliament at first were determined to make, a fresh attempt in the spring of 1782 to suppress the rebellion. See JM to Pendleton, 25 February 1782, n. 7. The loss of Cornwallis’ army, however, was an important cause of the fall of Lord North’s ministry on 20 March of that year.
4. See Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (4 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , III, 223–24; 225, n. 11; 226, n. 13; JM to Pendleton, 22 January 1782, and nn. 5, 6. Samuel Livermore, as chairman of the grand committee, reported on 19 February in favor of statehood for Vermont, provided that its inhabitants, after agreeing to the stipulated boundaries without delay, would elect delegates to Congress authorized to sign the Articles of Confederation. On 1 March the delegates from New York, Virginia, South Carolina, and Georgia unanimously combined to defeat this proposal (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXII, 80, 105–8). On the same day, over the opposition of six state delegations including the delegation from Virginia, Congress refused to return the remainder of the report to the Livermore committee. Except for the provision that continental troops, as well as militia of New Hampshire and New York, would, if necessary, compel the inhabitants of Vermont to obey the will of Congress should they spurn the proposed boundaries, this portion of the committee’s report was approximately the same as that summarized in n. 6 of JM’s letter of 22 January to Pendleton (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXII, 108–14). After 1 March the Vermont issue did not come importantly before Congress until 17 April 1782, but see Motion Concerning Documents on Vermont, 3 April 1782.
5. Article VIII of the Articles of Confederation provided that all charges “for the common defence or general welfare … shall be defrayed out of a common treasury, which shall be supplied by the several states in proportion to the value of all land within each state, granted to or surveyed for any Person, as such land and the buildings and improvements thereon shall be estimated according to such mode as the united states in congress assembled, shall from time to time direct and appoint” (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XIX, 217).
6. On 9 January 1782 a committee of five delegates, with Joseph Jones as chairman, submitted in amended form to Congress an ordinance, drafted by Robert Morris, “respecting the settlement of public accounts.” The committee recommended that each state be asked to send an agent to Philadelphia and that these men decide by majority vote, or by the affirmative votes of at least seven if merely the quorum of nine should be present, “the proportion to be paid by each State of the expence which has accrued during the present war … excepting such part thereof as now is or may hereafter become a funded debt of the United States.” If this suggestion was adopted, Congress should then, upon the nomination of the superintendent of finance and the subsequent approval of each state, name for each state a commissioner who would have “full power and authority finally to settle (in such form as by the Comptroller of the Treasury shall be directed) the accounts between the State for which he shall have been appointed and the United States” (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXII, 12–14, and 14, n. 1). After being debated on 11 and 16 January, these recommendations were referred to a grand committee with Samuel Livermore as chairman and Jones as the member from Virginia (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXII, 34, 36).
On the date of the present letter Congress heard, debated, and recommitted the report of this committee (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXII, 68). Thirteen days later Congress adopted the revised proposals of the committee—by then with George Clymer of Pennsylvania rather than Livermore as its chairman—touching upon the two chief recommendations summarized earlier in this footnote. Although the provision for a commissioner in each state remained essentially unaltered, the suggestion of a meeting in Philadelphia of agents from the states was discarded. In its place, the legislature of each state was asked “without delay, to authorise and empower the United States in Congress assembled, in the final settlement of the proportions to be borne by each State, of the general expences of the war, … to assume and adopt such principles as, from the particular circumstances of the several states, at different periods, may appear just and equitable, without being wholly confined to the rule laid down in the eighth Article of the Confederation, in cases where the same cannot be applied without manifest injustice.” See above, n. 5. To aid Congress in arriving at these “proportions,” the states were requested to send “as soon as may be, all such documents and information as they may judge most proper” (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXII, 82–84). The exceedingly complicated problem of adjusting the cost of the war among the states would not be solved, of course, for almost a decade, but the efforts to solve it were to ease Alexander Hamilton’s task as secretary of the treasury. Over five months elapsed after 20 February 1782 before the issue again came before Congress—and then as the result of a resolution of the Virginia General Assembly on 28 May and 1 June 1782 refusing “to authorise Congress to alter the mode appointed by the Confederation, for apportioning the quotas of the respective states” (NA: PCC, No. 75, fols. 363–65; JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXII, 413). See also Virginia Delegates to Harrison, 11 June 1782, and n. 2.
7. Once more, as when the ratification of the Articles of Confederation was the issue, JM feared that an agreement might never be reached unless it were effected before the termination of the war served to break the only important bond between the states.
8. The “Alliance,” with Lafayette as one of its passengers, sailed from Boston on 25 December 1781. JM probably derived his information about the “fine prize” from either the Pennsylvania Gazette of 6 February or the Pennsylvania Packet of 7 February 1782. The latter paper on 12 February corrected the news item by saying that the captor of the large vessel bound from Jamaica to New York City had been a Philadelphia privateer rather than the “Alliance.”