James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Edmund Pendleton, 15 April 1782

From Edmund Pendleton

Tr (LC: Force Transcripts). Another copy, also taken from the original manuscript, is in the Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society, 2d ser., XIX (1905), 149–50.

Virga. April 15th 1782.

Dear Sir

I have your favr of the 2d & agree with you that the expostulations of the friends to Virginia will be properly interposed, and the Clamours of her Enemies well applied, if both together will effect the rousing her to proper exertions for recovering her consequence in the united Scale.1 The Executive have pd Attention to this important Subject, & having an empty Treasury, have circulated a request for the prompt advance of half the land tax payable some Months hence for the purpose of recruiting our line;2 Our County,3 which yields to none in alacrity on such Occasions, appear willing to comply, but from conversing on the Subject with several Gentlemen, it is the general Opinion that there is not in the County Specie Sufficient to pay 1/4th of that tax, & I se[e] no prospect of our being able to pay it at the time, tho’ specific Commodoties where the Alternative is allowed (as is the case in all but the land tax) may be had.4 the little Cash, which is pick’d5 by Us, at the distance we are from the French Army, immediately goes to the Merchants at Port Royal or Fredg6 who chiefly trade on Commission from the Eastern States, whither I suppose it is sent for we se[e] it no more, very few of them offer to buy our commodities, & when they do, ’tis at such a price that only makes us angry. Tho’ there is some reason for complaint agt Virginia, yet the Clamours are carried to excess in respect of her line;7 she has contributed more than her proportion of men, and formerly devoted herself to exertions in the cause, to the neglect of trade, which other states pursued wth Avidity not consistent with their proportion of duty. this circumstance wch enables them to Vaunt & shew away now at the 11th hour, prevents the present resources of Virga. to recruit her line when by an ill judged inclination to save Charles Town, a respectable Corps of them were lost;8 however we must bear these Insults with patience ’til time shall enable us to prove that the resources of Virga. tho’ they can’t be called forth at every9 moment, are great & Permanent, and that we never want inclination to employ them for the common Interest.

Reports continue of the evacuation of Charles Town, and the last is said to come from the Frigate arrived as an Express from Count de Grasse to Ct Rochambeau,10 with the Additional circumstance of the Troops being carrd. together with a detachment from New York to the West Indies.11 You’l have a better Account of these things than we can have, as also whether there be grounds of truth in other Accounts circulating here, that Jamaica & Antigua are both Invaded by our Ally and their Troops here called thither, at the same time that the Marquis d’Fayette is arrived at Boston with 4000 others.12

Mr Jones tels me he is coming away & the future burthen of my correspondence will fall upon you.13 should any letter to him reach Phila after he leaves it, you’l consider it as Address’d to you. Our Elections run much into New Members, amongst others are Monroe & John Mercer formerly Officers, since fellow Students in the law & said to be clever.14 The Attorney might as well have stay’d with you. the Genl Court sat but 6 days in Criminal business only, & I am told very little will be done in the other Courts the approaching terms.15 Our Treasurer, Colo. Brooke, died suddenly last week I suppose with an Appoplectic stroke. I have not heard who is his successor.16

I am Dr Sir Yr Affe friend

Edmd Pendleton

1See JM to Pendleton, 2 April 1782, and n. 3.

2See Jameson to JM, 23 February, and n. 6; 2 March, and n. 3; 23 March 1782, and n. 5. On 5 January 1782 the Virginia General Assembly had enacted a law “for ascertaining certain taxes and duties, and for establishing a permanent revenue.” The second section of this lengthy statute fixed the land tax at £1 for every £100 valuation, to be paid on or before 1 July. Nine-tenths of this tax had to be paid in specie, equating a Spanish milled dollar as six shillings, and the remainder might be discharged “in the bills of credit emitted on the funds of this commonwealth and the faith of the United States as pledged by the resolutions of congress” of 18 March 1780 (Hening, Statutes description begins William Waller Hening, ed., The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia, from the First Session of the Legislature, in the Year 1619 (13 vols.; Richmond and Philadelphia, 1819–23). description ends , X, 501–8; Harrison to Virginia Delegates, 11 January 1782, and n. 4).

3Caroline County.

4By the act mentioned in n. 2, above, and by another passed on the same day and entitled “An act for laying taxes in certain enumerated commodities,” the taxes on polls, slaves, horses, mules, cattle, carriages, billiard tables, and taverns might be paid in grain, flour, bacon, tobacco, or hemp, or in specie at rates stipulated in the measures. Which commodity or commodities would be accepted varied, depending upon whether the tax was assessed upon a person, beast, or article. The dearth of specie, not only in Caroline County but throughout almost all of Virginia, obliged the General Assembly in its October 1782 session to permit the payment of the land tax and all other taxes in specie, specified commodities, or in bills of credit emitted by the Commonwealth (Ambler to JM, 11 May 1782; Hening, Statutes description begins William Waller Hening, ed., The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia, from the First Session of the Legislature, in the Year 1619 (13 vols.; Richmond and Philadelphia, 1819–23). description ends , X, 490–91, 504, 508–9; XI, 112–29, and especially 117–19).

5The version in the Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society has “picked up.”

6Port Royal in Caroline County is about fifteen miles southeast of Fredericksburg in Spotsylvania County. Both front the Rappahannock River. Using silver livres to purchase provisions and pay their soldiers and sailors, the French had greatly relieved the shortage of specie in the neighborhood of Williamsburg and Yorktown (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, 261–62; 263, n. 9; the Reverend James Madison to JM, ca. 2 March 1782, n. 7).

8The Board of War reported to Congress on 21 August 1780 that, when Charleston fell to the British on 12 May of that year, they captured “245 officers and 2,326 non comd officers and privates” (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XVII, 753). About 40 per cent of this number appear to have been from Virginia (Hamilton J. Eckenrode, “List of the Revolutionary Soldiers of Virginia,” Eighth Annual Report of the Library Board of the Virginia State Library, 1910–1911 [Richmond, 1912], pp. 6–7). See also JM to Pendleton, 2 April 1782, and n. 5.

9The copy in the Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society has “any” instead of “every.”

10See Virginia Delegates to Harrison, 19 March, n. 2; and Harrison to Virginia Delegates, 23 March 1782, and n. 3. The rumored evacuation of Charleston was reported in the Virginia Gazette description begins Virginia Gazette, or, the American Advertiser (Richmond, James Hayes, 1781–86). description ends of 13 April 1782.

12These reports were erroneous. See JM to Jefferson, 15 January, n. 16; and JM to Pendleton, 9 April 1782, n. 3. The Virginia Gazette description begins Virginia Gazette, or, the American Advertiser (Richmond, James Hayes, 1781–86). description ends of 13 and 20 April 1782 stated that the French had landed on Antigua. The source of the rumors about Jamaica and about Lafayette reaching Boston has not been identified. Although on 20 April 1782 the same newspaper mentioned that Lafayette expected to return to America soon, he did not arrive until 4 August 1784. This, his third visit, lasted until 21 December of that year (Louis Gottschalk, Lafayette between the American and the French Revolution, 1783–1789 [Chicago, 1950], pp. 84, 141).

14Although 59 of the 150 delegates elected had not served in the legislature before, Archibald Cary, the speaker of the Senate in the May 1782 session, was of the opinion that “we have a better assembly than we have had for several years” (Swem and Williams, Register description begins Earl G. Swem and John W. Williams, eds., A Register of the General Assembly of Virginia, 1776–1918, and of the Constitutional Conventions (Richmond, 1918). description ends , pp. 15–16, and passim; Cary to Washington, 25 May 1782 [MS in LC: Washington Papers]; Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington description begins John C. Fitzpatrick, ed., The Writings of George Washington, from the Original Sources, 1745–1799 (39 vols.; Washington, 1931–44). description ends , XXIV, 347). James Monroe, a future president of the United States, began his tenure of about sixteen months as a member of the Virginia Council of State on 8 June 1782, after resigning as a delegate from King George County to the General Assembly (Journals of the Council of State description begins H. R. McIlwaine et al., eds., Journals of the Council of the State of Virginia (3 vols. to date; Richmond, 1931——). description ends , III, 104, 296).

In 1778, after two years of service in the continental line, John Francis Mercer (1759–1821) of Stafford County was a major and aide-de-camp to General Charles Lee. The misconduct of Lee at the Battle of Monmouth and his subsequent suspension from the service led Mercer to resign his commission in October 1779. In the following year, and again in 1781, he took the field briefly as a lieutenant colonel of militia. During the intervals of his military career, Mercer studied law under Jefferson and practiced the profession for a short time in Fredericksburg. In 1782 and 1785–1786 Mercer was a member of the House of Delegates. Between these terms he attended Congress as a delegate from Virginia. In 1785 he moved to Maryland, where he quickly rose to political prominence. Besides serving frequently in the legislature, he was a member of the delegation to the Constitutional Convention of 1787, one of the Maryland congressmen from 1791 to 1794, and governor from 1801 to 1803.

16See Randolph to JM, 11–13 April 1782, and nn. 7 and 8.

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