James Madison Papers

From James Madison to Edmund Pendleton, 19 March 1782

To Edmund Pendleton

RC (LC: Madison Papers). Addressed to “The Honble Edmund Pendleton Esqr. Caroline County Virginia.”

Philada. March 19th. 1782

Dear Sir

Yesterday’s post brought me your favor of the 11th instant, which if my recollection does not fail me is an act of supererogation, the terms of our contract entitling Mr Jones alone to your correspondence of the present week. To show you how acceptable it is to me I have selected the inclosed gazette published here last week1 as containing the greatest portion of entertaining & interesting matter which we have of late recd. I leave it to Mr. Jones to transmit you the gazette of this morning.2

The Ministerial Speeches with other circumstances place it beyond a doubt that the plan for recovering America will be changed. A separate peace with the Dutch, a suspension of the offensive war here, an exertion of their resources thus disencumbered against the naval power of France & Spain and a renewal of the arts of seduction & division in the U. States will probably constitute the outlines of the new plan. Whether they will succeed in the first article of it can not be ascertained by the last intelligence we have from Holland. It is only certain that negociations are on foot under the auspices of the Empress of Russia.3 Mr. Randolph set off this morning4 & will probably reach you nearly as soon as this. I leave it to him to make known other particulars. I am &c.

J. Madison Jr.

1Almost certainly this was the Pennsylvania Packet of Saturday, 16 March 1782, which included a lengthy account of the debate in the House of Commons on 12 December as reported in the Whitehall Evening Post (London) of 13 December 1781.

2The Pennsylvania Packet of 19 March contained the speech of the Earl of Shelburne on 27 November 1781 in the House of Lords, reviewing the seven years of war which had accomplished a “great deal worse than nothing.” Joseph Jones began his dispatch of 19 March to Pendleton by writing, “I know not whether it is my turn regularly to answer you this week or not as your Letter [of 25 February] was to Mr. Madison, but be that as it may I shall take the liberty of troubling you with a Letter” (Burnett, Letters description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress (8 vols.; Washington, 1921–36). description ends , VI, 319–30).

3See JM to Jefferson, 18 March 1782, n. 7. On 29 July 1782 William Lee wrote from Cleves to his brother Richard Henry Lee: “Last spring Russia, whose object is to have the war continue as long as possible, to keep the parties nearly equal, threatened the Dutch, if they did not make a separate peace with Great Britain. The Dutch however refused, and since the disaster [Battle of the Saints] of the 12th of April in the West Indies was known, Russia has been quiet; for the English have revived their old ideas, and talk of nothing less than totally annihilating the navies of France and Spain” (Worthington Chauncey Ford, ed., Letters of William Lee, Sheriff and Alderman of London; Commercial Agent of the Continental Congress in France, and Minister to the Courts of Vienna and Berlin, 1766–1783 [3 vols.; Brooklyn, N.Y., 1891], III, 871). The preliminary peace between Great Britain and the Netherlands was not signed until 2 September 1783 (Samuel Flagg Bemis, A Diplomatic History of the United States [4th ed.; New York, 1960], p. 62).

4JM erred. In their letter of this date to Governor Harrison (q.v.), the delegates wrote that Edmund Randolph had left on 18 rather than 19 March. In a letter to JM on 5 May 1782 (q.v.), Randolph stated that “on the morning of my departure,” Congress referred foreign dispatches to a committee of which JM was chairman. This occurred on 18 March (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXII, 140).

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