James Madison Papers

From James Madison to Thomas Jefferson, 18 March 1782

To Thomas Jefferson

RC (LC: Madison Papers). Docketed by Jefferson, “Madison Jas. Mar 18. 1782.”

Philada. March 18th. 1782

Dear Sir

In my last to you on the subject of the map in the hands of Dr. Smith I informed you of the little chance of getting a copy of it for you.1 Nothing has since occurred wch. affords the least expectation from that quarter, but I have met with a bundle of old pamplets belonging to the public Library here in which is a map published in 1650 which from this & other circumstances I am pretty confident is of the same impression with that of Doctr. Smith’s. It represents the South sea at about 10 days travel from the heads or falls I forget which of James River.2 From the tenor however of the pamphlet to which it is immediately annexed & indeed of the whole collection there is just ground to suspect that this representation was an artifice to favor the object of the publications which evidently was to entice imigrants from England by a flattering picture of the advantages of this Country, one of which dwelt on in all the pamphlets is the vicinity of the S. Sea, and the facility it afforded of a trade with the Eastern World.3 Another circumstance wch. lessens much the value of this map to the Antiquary is that it is more modern by 25 years than those extant in Purchase’s pilgrim,4 wch. are referred to in the Negociations between the British & french Commissaries touching the bounds of N. Scotia as the first of Authenticity relating to this part of the world.5 If notwithstanding these considerations you still desire that a copy be taken from the map above described I shall with pleasure execute your orders, or if you wish that a copy of the map of Virga. or of the whole country may be taken from those in Purchase, your orders shall be equally attended to. I much doubt however whether that book be so extremely scarce as to require a transcript from it for the purpose you seem to have in view.6

You will find in the inclosed gazette all our latest intelligence both from Europe & the W. Indies. The Ministerial speeches in Parliament as well as other considerations render it pretty certain that the system for recovering America will be changed. A peace with Holland & a suspension of the expensive operations in America, are to give their resources full play agst. France & Spain, whilst all the arts of division & seduction will probably be practised on the U. States.7

Congress have taken no step in the business of the Western territory since the report of the Committee of which I have already given you an account, & which we hear arrived at Richmond on the day of the Ajournment of the Assembly.8 We wish it to undergo their consideration, & to receive their instructions before we again move in it. Mr. Randolph by whom this goes, will probably be present at the May Session9 & will be possessed of every information that may be necessary. I refer you to the interview with him which I hope that occasion will afford you for other congressional intelligence.10

I am this moment told that pretty certain information is come to hand of the final reduction of St. Kitts.11

With great regard I am Dr. Sr. Yr. obt. friend & Servt.

J. Madison Jr.

1JM last wrote to Jefferson on 3 April 1781 about the map owned by Dr. William Smith (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, 45).

2The Library Company of Philadelphia owned a copy of the pamphlet, cited in n. 3, in which appears a reproduction of the “Faithfull Map of Virginia in America,” drawn by Virginia Ferrar (Farrar) in 1651. This chart assures its users that the “happy shore” of “The Sea of China and the Indies” may be “discovered to the exceeding benefit of Great Brittain and joys of all true English” by “a ten dayes march with 50 foote and 30 horsemen from the head of James River, over those hills and through the rich adjacent Vallyes beautyfied with … proffitable rivers, which necessarily must run into the peacefull Indian Sea.” For a facsimile of this map, see Coolie Verner, “The First Maps of Virginia, 1590–1673,” Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, LVIII (1950), facing p. 9.

3E[dward] W[illiams], Gent., Virginia in America, Richly Valued: More especially the southern Parts. With the Tendure of the Vine and Silkworms, etc. Together with a Compleat Map of the Country from 35 to 41 Degrees of Latitude discovered, and the West Sea (London, 1651). Either through a lack of geographical knowledge or of scruples, English colonial promoters often had sought to attract settlers and financial backing by minimizing the width of North America. The lure of the Orient was, of course, a potent force in European history for many centuries.

4A map drawn about 1612, utilizing information supplied by Captain John Smith, appears in Samuel Purchas, Purchas his Pilgrimage (4 vols.; London, 1625), IV, facing p. 1690. For a description of this map, see pp. 9–10 of Coolie Verner’s article, cited in n. 2.

5JM evidently derived his comments from The Memorials of the English and French Commissaries Concerning the Limits of Nova Scotia or Acadia (London, 1755), p. 267. This volume describes the map as “the first antient Map of this Country which has the Marks of Knowledge and Correctness in it; it was published within about Twenty Years after the earliest Settlements made in this Country by the English and French, which gave Geographers an Opportunity of getting a Knowledge of it.”

6Although Jefferson’s probable “purpose” was to gather data for inclusion in his Notes on the State of Virginia, JM still hoped that his friend would draft a historical brief upholding the western claims of Virginia (JM to Jefferson, 15 January; and Jefferson to JM, 24 March 1782).

7The Pennsylvania Packet of 14 and 16 March, and the Pennsylvania Journal of the latter date, published much news from overseas and the West Indies, including an extract from the journal of the House of Commons for 12 December 1781. Although Lord North, defending the policy of the ministry, declared that he planned “to change the form of the war altogether,” neither he nor Lord George Germain, who also spoke, was explicit about what the “change” would be. Apparently they contemplated extending more help to the Loyalists than ever before, confining British occupation of the Atlantic seaboard to Halifax, New York, Charleston, and their environs, possibly driving the French from Rhode Island, and giving priority to military operations against France and Spain in the West Indies and Europe. The above newspapers further reported the probability that Holland would soon withdraw from the war as a result of the mediation of the tsarina of Russia. JM’s comments also suggest that he had read John Adams’ dispatches of 4, 13, and 18 December 1781, received by Congress on 18 March (Report on Foreign Dispatches, 20 March 1782; Wharton, Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence description begins Francis Wharton, ed., The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States (6 vols.; Washington, 1889). description ends , V, 36–38, 43–44, 55).

8See JM to Jefferson, 15 January 1782, and nn. 8, 9, 10; also 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, nn. 1, 4, 7).

10See Randolph to Harrison, 22 April 1782 (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, 133–36).

11The capitulation of St. Kitts and Nevis on 12 and 19 February 1782 was reported in the Pennsylvania Packet of 19 March.

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