James Madison Papers

From James Madison to Thomas Jefferson, 26 March 1782

To Thomas Jefferson

Printed text (Madison, Papers [Gilpin ed.] description begins Henry D. Gilpin, ed., The Papers of James Madison (3 vols.; Washington, 1840). description ends , I, 116). The letter has not been found.

Philadelphia, March 26, 1782.

Dear Sir,

A letter has been lately received from you by the President of Congress, accompanied by a bundle of papers procured from the Cherokees by Colonel Campbell.1 As it appears that these papers were transmitted at the request of the late President, it is proper to apprize you that it was made without any written or verbal sanction, and even without the knowledge of Congress; and not improbably with a view of fishing for discoveries which may be subservient to the aggressions meditated on the territorial rights of Virginia.2 It would have been unnecessary to trouble you with this, had it not appeared that Colonel Campbell has given a promise of other papers; which if he should fulfil, and the papers contain any thing which the adversaries of Virginia may make an ill use of, you will not suffer any respect for the acts of Congress to induce you to forward hither.

1See 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, 250, n. 7; 299, n. 1. The letter was Jefferson’s of 20 December to President Thomas McKean, complying belatedly with President Samuel Huntington’s request of 27 April for a number of documents which Colonel Arthur Campbell had taken from the Cherokee Indians in January 1781. According to Huntington’s letter, Jefferson might deem some or all of the manuscripts worthy to be included in a “Collection of American State Papers” being assembled for publication by Ebenezer Hazard (Boyd, Papers of Jefferson description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson (16 vols. to date; Princeton, N.J., 1950——). description ends , V, 562–63; VI, 141 n.). The committee, to which Congress on 22 March 1782 referred Jefferson’s reply and its enclosures, apparently never submitted a report (NA: PCC, No. 186, III, 18). Whether any of these documents were ever in Hazard’s possession is not known. His Historical Collections; Consisting of State Papers, and Other Authentic Documents; Intended as Materials for an History of the United States of America (2 vols.; Philadelphia, 1792–94) does not encompass southern affairs so late as the 1780’s.

Arthur Campbell (1743–1811) of Washington County, Va., was a frontiersman all his life, which included three years as an Indian captive in his youth. He served in the Virginia Convention of 1776 and in the House of Delegates during six sessions between that year and 1788. Involved in many western land speculations, he prominently supported the movement to separate Kentucky from Virginia and to cut off a part of southwestern Virginia for inclusion with the Watauga district of North Carolina in the “State of Franklin” (Thomas P. Abernethy, Western Lands and the American Revolution, pp. 79, 102, 124, 131–32, 166, 191, 255, 258, 261–62, 290–338, passim; Jefferson to JM, 24 March 1782, n. 5).

2Although Huntington had not been specifically directed by Congress to approach Jefferson on Hazard’s behalf, he was complying with the resolution of Congress of 20 July 1778 (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XI, 705). JM was concerned, of course, lest there might be material in Campbell’s documents which would be useful to Huntington, McKean, or other delegates in Congress who were strenuously opposing Virginia’s title to the West.

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