James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Edmund Randolph, 11–13 April 1782

From Edmund Randolph

RC (LC: Madison Papers). Docketed, “Apl. 11th. 1782,” by JM. The cover is missing, and the letter is unsigned. The handwriting of the letter is Randolph’s, and its contents permit no doubt that JM was the recipient.

Richmond April 11. 1782

Dear sir

We announced to you from Bush-town1 the difficulties, which we had encountered on our journey. Whether the roads were really better, as we advanced southwardly, or seemed so from our approach towards home, I cannot tell; but the fact was, that we appeared to travel from Baltimore with scarcely any friction. My family are now fixed at an humble cottage, about six miles distant from hence; which forms a contrast with Philadelphia, that nothing can reconcile me to, [but?] the presence of my domestic triumvirate, and the pleasures of my library.2 I might add another cause of consolation, when I address myself to you, who are at this moment perhaps suffering under the severe anguish of the want of money:3 altho we have only coarse fare, we wish for much less, than we did, whilst surrounded by the luxuries of Philadelphia, and have therefore less occasion for cash.

I hope, that my draught on you for the 20£ did not distress you. I trust, that it could not, as it was made in consequence of your own friendly offer. Tell me the mode, in which I shall account for it. It shall be remitted to you, or charged in the auditors’ books against me, at your choise.4

The business of the court has hitherto prevented me from waiting upon the executive. I shall probably confer with them in a few days: but my communications will be short, in comparison to the thirst, which some of the gentlemen of the board may have for a full knowledge of our political situation.5

When I inquired into the state of our treasury, I found that 100£ had been the extent of receipts; and that the whole of that sum was immediately appropriated to the quartermaster’s department. Judge then what my present sensations are, after having bound myself to repay to Whiteside about 200£, which he lent to me on my private credit, but which I took up from a confidence that I should reimburse him out of the public coffers?6

April 13th.

On saturday last Colo. Brooke quitted our exhausted treasury to reap those treasures, which he had laid up in heaven. The apoplectic stroke, which brought him to his end, gave him a warning of but five minutes.7 It is believed, that Mr. J. Ambler will succeed him in office, until the meeting of the assembly; and it is probable, that they will confirm him.8

It is a matter of some wonder, that the minister of France did not visit our governor. Was there any misunderstanding on the score of etiquette? or has the suspicion, which some people entertain here, reached the ears of the minister, that Harrison is an enemy to the French?9 By accident yesterday the resolution of congress, recommending the confiscation of british manufactures, came into conversation at the governor’s table. It seemed to me to be a fit season to ascertain the objections, which had been conceived against it, but an improper one to answer them. Our discourse, however, was too short for the discussion, and was concluded by a general assertion, on the part of Mr. Harrison, that the legislature would not adopt it.10

Mr. Madison, who is with us, informs me of an incident, which caused much discontent in Williamsburg, about a month since, and argues little in favor of the prudence of count Rochambeau. A waggoner from the back country had been detected in the robbery of a french soldier. Summary justice was administered; for he was flagellated by military authority, as some say, without the form of trial, and according to others, with no other than before a tribunal of officers. This harsh punishment, thus inflicted, gave a keener edge to the acrimony of those, whose principles are abhorrent from the alliance. But I hope, the clamour has subsided for the present, and that our citizens will not be driven to indecent expressions of their indignation by a repetition of this ill-judged exercise of power.11

I shall obey the commands of your favor of the 2d. instant.12 But it is probable, that the havock of war will prevent me from making any territorial inquiries, later than the abolition of regal government.

The governor complained yesterday of the sterility of your correspondence; saying, that you did not communicate the circulating news, and that he should cease to write on every other subject than business.13 I reminded him of the ter[ms] stipulated with governor Nelson: but these have not been put into his hands. It might not be amiss to transcribe the regulations, and send them to him.14

If you have an opportunity, pray ask Mr. Morris, whether he has received my letter of last week.15 Entre nous, there will probably be a paper war between him and the Governor. You remember a letter, which I mentioned to you. This will perhaps blow up a flame.16

My best respects attend all your family. Mrs.17 carries her good wishes farther, and prays for their and your happiness.

Assure Mr. Jones of my affectionate esteem, and present me in the most acceptable manner to his lady.

Charge yourself with my compliments to Mr. Lee & Mr. Bland. This being done, I give you a carte blanche to assume any portion of the for-ment.18 regard of

Your friend, & serv:

Can you send a copy of the journals for 1781?19

1Probably from the Bush stone tavern (erected ca. 1750), about seventeen miles northeast of Baltimore. See JM to Pendleton, 19 March 1782. Randolph’s letter to JM from Bushtown (Bush), written about 24 March, has not been found.

2By “triumvirate,” Randolph apparently meant himself, his wife Elizabeth Carter Nicholas (d. 1810), daughter of Robert Carter Nicholas, and son Peyton (1779–1828). In his letter of 10 May 1782 to JM (q.v.), Randolph designated the “humble cottage” as “Pettus’s.” He seems to have rented from Dabney Pettus (d. 1788) a house situated north and slightly west of Richmond in Henrico County (R[obert] A[lonzo] Brock, ed., The Vestry Book of Henrico Parish, Virginia, 1730–1773 [Richmond, 1874], p. 141; Clayton Torrence, ed., The Edward Pleasants Valentine Papers [4 vols.; Richmond, n.d.], I, 28; III, 1661).

5See Randolph to JM, 19 April 1782. Randolph meant that, when conferring with the governor and Council of State, he would be careful not to reveal information which, as a member of Congress, he was pledged to keep in confidence. In a letter of 8 April Randolph informed Harrison: “Most of the late letters from the Virginia delegates in Congress have referred to me for particular communications. But I do not recollect anything which I am at liberty to communicate of very great consequence. Should the executive however conceive, that I can give them any information, I shall be ready to wait upon them, whenever I am called upon” (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, 125–26).

6Peter Whiteside individually or in connection with his Philadelphia company. On 9 May, in his reply to a letter of 22 April 1782 from Randolph asking for £200 so that he could pay a personal debt of that amount owed to Whiteside, Harrison stated, “I assure you Sir, I am greatly distressed at not having it in my power to comply with your money demand” (ibid., III, 134; McIlwaine, Official Letters description begins H. R. McIlwaine, ed., Official Letters of the Governors of the State of Virginia (3 vols.; Richmond, 1926–29). description ends , III, 207).

7George Brooke’s death occurred on Sunday, 7 April. See Jameson to JM, ca. 12 January 1782, n. 9.

8See Jameson to JM, 9 March, n. 6; Pendleton to JM, 22 April; Virginia Gazette description begins Virginia Gazette, or, the American Advertiser (Richmond, James Hayes, 1781–86). description ends , 20 April 1782. Ambler was confirmed as treasurer on 29 May (Resolution of the General Assembly, 28–29 May 1782, MS in Virginia State Library).

9See Virginia Delegates to Harrison, 5 March, n. 3; JM to Randolph, 23 April; and Harrison to Virginia Delegates, 4 May 1782. The italicized words in this letter, with the exception of “prays” near the close, are written in the delegates’ official cipher. On his return from Philadelphia, Randolph had brought the key to the cipher, which he thought to be “inscrutible,” but he did not give it to Foster Webb, Jr., for transmission to Governor Harrison until 21 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, 133–34).

11The Reverend James Madison must have regarded this episode as exceptional, because he praised the general conduct of the French troops during their stay in Williamsburg (the Reverend James Madison to JM, ca. 2 March, and n. 7; and 15 June 1782).

12Not found. Someone other than JM wrote “9th” over the date, for Randolph seems to be referring to JM’s request, made in his letter of the 9th (q.v.), that a search be made for documents supporting Virginia’s title to the West. Since more than four days would at least normally be required for a letter to reach Richmond from Philadelphia, JM probably also included “the commands” in a letter, now missing, dated 2 April 1782.

14Although the regulations have not been found, the Virginia delegates stated in their letter to Governor Harrison on 1 January 1782 (q.v.) that “the general plan of our official correspondence excludes unauthenticated intelligence.” Perhaps as a result of the occasional interception by the enemy of correspondence containing confidential information, Governor Nelson and the delegates had agreed to omit matters of this sort from their letters until they had arranged to use a cipher (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, 293; 294, n. 6).

16See Virginia Delegates to Harrison, 25 February 1782, n. 3. Randolph may refer either to Morris’ letter of 26 February to Harrison or the latter’s dispatch of 27 March to Morris (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, 77–78; McIlwaine, Official Letters description begins H. R. McIlwaine, ed., Official Letters of the Governors of the State of Virginia (3 vols.; Richmond, 1926–29). description ends , III, 184–85). In the correspondence relating to Virginia’s financial obligations, the two writers indulged in personalities.

17Randolph wrote “Mrs.” above a blank space in which he appears to have erased a much longer word. Following “Mrs.,” he added what seems to be a capitalized initial, possibly an “R,” but now indistinct because he, JM, or someone else drew four ink lines across it. The missing name may have been “Randolph.”

18Probably an abbreviation of “before mentioned.”

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