James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Jacquelin Ambler, 20 April 1782

From Jacquelin Ambler

RC (LC: Madison Papers). Docketed by JM, “Apl. 20th 1782.”

Virginia Richmond April 20th. 1782

Dear Sir

I sent on your favor which came by Post on Thursday to our friend Mr. Jameson, who is still at York; & doubt not he will replace the money immediately which was so kindly advanced his Nephew.1 I know he lodged thirty pounds with Mr. Foster Webb, before he left Richmond; and expected Mr. Webb would have been in Philadelphia by this time. The sudden, unexpected death of the Treasurer makes it uncertain now when he can get out.2 Mr. Jameson was unwilling to make the remittance by draft on Phila. lest any possibility of disappointment should happen, but as Mr. Webb’s trip is still delayed, I have advised him to send on a good Bill as speedily as possible.

I rejoice to hear the Allies of France were included in the Capitulation of St. Kitts. The omission was eagerly caught at by those who are never happier than when they meet with an opportunity of increasing the prejudices against our friends.3

The Executive have been exceedingly jealous for some time past on account of the great number of flag Vessels which arrive from New York and have given the most pointed Orders to have them diligently search’d and nothing permitted to be landed from them without their express license.4

We are quite without news from any quarter. I am Dear Sir with great esteem & regard Yours

J. Ambler

1JM’s letter has not been found. While in Philadelphia, Lieutenant Colonel John Jameson had evidently borrowed money from JM (Jameson to JM, 23 March 1782, and n. 7). In his missing letter to Jameson, probably written on 9 April, JM apparently mentioned the amount of the loan and included the news he had sent to Pendleton on that date (q.v.).

2The death of George Brooke, the treasurer, would naturally have delayed Foster Webb, Jr.’s, departure. Webb was on the staff of the treasurer’s office and aspired to be Brooke’s successor (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 , II, 408; Pendleton to JM, 22 April 1782, and n. 12). After Ambler became ad interim treasurer on 12 April, he very likely required Webb to assist in preparing the accounts to be presented to the General Assembly in May (Randolph to JM, 11–13 April, 1782, n. 8).

3See JM to Pendleton, 9 April 1782, and n. 4.

4Although flag-of-truce ships, carrying supplies for the support or comfort of prisoners of war, served a necessary humanitarian purpose, they required close supervision lest they engage in illicit trade with the enemy or with patriots unable to forego an opportunity to profit. Acting under the ninth article of the Articles of Capitulation, concluded with the British at Yorktown on 19 October 1781, Timothy Pickering, quartermaster general of the continental army, agreed to purchase for military use many of the wares of “the British Merchants and Traders, that are within the Garrisons of York and Gloucester,” and pay in tobacco made available in Virginia for shipment to New York or Charleston in British flag-of-truce ships. Washington and Robert Morris endorsed this contract (Benjamin Franklin Stevens, ed., The Campaign in Virginia, 1781: An exact Reprint of Six rare Pamphlets on the Clinton-Cornwallis Controversy … [2 vols.; London, 1888], II, 202; Octavius Pickering and Charles W. Upham, The Life of Timothy Pickering [4 vols.; Boston, 1867–73], I, 310–11; 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 , II, 567–68, 572–73, 652, 668–69; III, 118). By providing a market for tobacco and thus serving to lessen the outflow of Virginia’s meager supply of specie, the arrangement appeared to be advantageous to the Commonwealth. Yet even before the flag-of-truce ships arrived early in May, Governor Harrison deemed “indispensably necessary” to “the honor” and “security” of the state that the “great Irregularities,” of which these vessels often had been guilty, be prevented by a strict limitation upon where they could dock and what cargo they could discharge or load (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, 34, 41, 85; 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, 223). The constitutional issues complicating the general problem soon elicited comment from JM. See JM to Randolph, 28 May, and 29 May 1782.

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