James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Edmund Pendleton, 25 February 1782

From Edmund Pendleton

Tr (LC: Force Transcripts). Addressed to “The Honble James Madison jr Esqr Philadelphia.” Another copy of the original manuscript is printed in the Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society, 2d ser., XIX (1905), 147–48.

Virga. Feby 25th 1782

Dr Sir

I have yr favr of the 7th and regret the Irregularity of the Post which has deprived me of some & delayed others of yr agreeable letters.1 However I comfort myself with the reflection that the Frosty season is nearly over, and that our correspondence will soon become more regular as well as Interesting. I shall anxiously expect every future post to bring some account of the effects in Europe of the great event at York, which I think the first arrival from that quarter must certainly bring.2 nothing of the sort has yet reached us. we have a loose report of a severe engagement between Genl Green and the Enemy, in which both sustain’d great & pretty equal loss, but it wants credibility & probability.3 We are marching our drafts to reinforce him.4

I wish you out of the Thorny tract into which the Vermontiese have led you; I fear they are more like to produce that kind of fruit, than olives, and may require severe amputation.5 Why should any Alteration be made at present in yr scales of contribution for each State?6 since it is in its nature temporary and subject to adjustment, according to that rule which shall be established, when peace shall afford time and Opportunity for a proper investigation. the attempt now to change the Rule which can’t be made a definition,7 if it is not suggested by some Party Views, is calculated to produce dissentions, of which we have enough. If indeed the rule could now be finally fixd, it might be probably done with more temper8 than when we are freed from the dread of a foreign Enemy, and I am persuaded that it would have been more justly and peaceably settled in 1776, as was intended by Congress the year before,9 than it can be now, or at any future period, as the true spirit of Union was then more predominant than it has been since, or will be;10 But as it was then put off, and a mode adopted subject to a future Account and Regulation, I cannot think it prudent to change that mode for another temporary one. In the meantime, I do not see why the Accounts should remain unexamined; The several Articles furnished by each State, may be exam[in]ed by the Vouchers and fairly entered in a General Account with that state, and be ready when ever the Proportion is fix’d, to form the Aggregate sum to be proportion’d, when in one Article each state may-be debited for its share, and the Ballance discover’d.11 If this Minutia of the Account is neglected ’til the end of the War, I prophecy it will never be settled, but like the Contents of the Irish Treasurer’s Waggons, will affrighten Congress out of the attempt, especially as it will probably be the Interest of some states to drop all Accounts & to burn Books, as the saying is. since I am reduced to the borrowing an expression from old Bonniface,12 it is time to stop, & tell you that I am

Dr Sr Yr mo affe

Edmd Pendleton

2See Harrison to Virginia Delegates, 2 February, n. 1; and JM to Pendleton, 7 February 1782, n. 2. The Pennsylvania Packet of 19 February reported how gratified the court of Madrid had been to hear the news of Cornwallis’ surrender.

3See Virginia Delegates to Harrison, 15 February 1782, n. 3. Although the “severe engagement” had never occurred, the rumor of it probably arose from the abortive attempt, during the night of 13–14 January, of a portion of General Greene’s army to launch an attack against the enemy on James and Johns islands, a few miles south of Charleston.

4The version in the Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society reads “making” rather than “marching.” See Jameson to JM, 26 January, n. 1; and Harrison to Virginia Delegates, 1 March 1782, and n. 9.

5See JM to Pendleton, 7 February 1782, n. 4. In this letter JM had called Vermont a “thorny subject.” By putting “olives” in opposition to thorns, Pendleton may have had a particular passage of the Bible in mind or may have blended separate portions of several of its verses. For example, Matthew 7:16-19, Luke 6:44, and Judges 9:8-15 suggest Pendleton’s metaphor.

6See Virginia Delegates to Harrison, 25 February 1782, and n. 2. The copy of the present letter in Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society has “your scale,” not “yr scales.”

7The word “definitive” appears ibid., but if Pendleton wrote “definition,” he used it in the sense of “precise judgment.”

8Used in the sense of “equanimity” or as an equivalent of the “justly and peaceably” appearing later in this sentence.

9Pendleton probably refers to the resolution of Congress of 29 July 1775 fixing a temporary quota of money to be contributed by each colony, with the understanding that the sums would “undergo a revision and correction” after “the number of Inhabitants, of all ages, including negroes and mulattoes” in each colony became known (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , II, 221–22). On 17 February 1776 a standing committee was directed, among other duties, to have each colony make an enumeration of its people. This, however, was not done either in that year or in any other year prior to 1783, even though the matter came before Congress occasionally, and Article IX of the Articles of Confederation stipulated that each state’s troop quota should be proportionate to “the number of white inhabitants in such State,” as compared with their total number in all the states (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XI, 651; XIX, 219–20; XXI, 1129–30; XXV, 953).

10See 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, 307–8; 309, n. 8; JM to Pendleton, 7 February 1782, n. 7.

11Pendleton was recommending that, although steps should be taken immediately to draw up a “General Account” for each state, listing its debits and credits as evidenced by relevant vouchers held by that state’s and Congress’ administrative officers, or by individuals who had furnished goods or services to civil or military agencies of the Confederation government, the preparation of a consolidated balance sheet (“one Article”) for all the states taken together should or perhaps must await the end of the war, when the quota of each state could be determined in accordance with the “mode” prescribed by Article VIII of the Articles of Confederation. See JM to Pendleton, 7 February, nn. 5 and 6; Jones to Pendleton, 19 March 1782, in Burnett, Letters description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress (8 vols.; Washington, 1921–36). description ends , VI, 319–20.

12The editors have been unable to identify the “Irish Treasurer’s Waggons.” See above, p. xix. Boniface, the innkeeper in the comedy Beaux’ Stratagem by George Farquhar (1678–1707), rarely speaks without using the expression “as the saying is.”

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