From Edmund Pendleton
Tr (LC: Force Transcripts). Addressed to “The Honble. James Madison Esq Philadelphia.” Another copy, also taken from the original manuscript, is in the Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society, 2d ser., XIX (1905), 150–51.
Virga. April 22d. 1782
Taking up the Pen to acknowledge the receipt of yr favr of the 9th an Idea struck me that I had written to you last week,1 again transgressing the rotine which intitled Mr Jones to that letter; should it have been so, & he then & yet remaining in Phila.,2 pray present him my Complts and tel him it was the unintentioned defect of a bad memory; perhaps I ought rather to appologize to you for giving you more trouble than was your share.
I am sorry fortune sent the Frigate into Rhode Island instead of the Chesapeak, as her Cargoe is a scarce Commodity here, however her escape & safe arrival any where, is matter of joy, as is the Account of her companions from Brest, of whom I think we shall soon hear something agreable.3 The discovery of a mistake in the Capitulation of Brimstone hill pleased me much, as the Copy I first read, corresponding with that of the Spaniards in Florida,4 struck me with Astonishment, which almost shook my faith & confidence in our noble Ally, which their liberal & generous conduct however preserved, & made me suppose some latent cause had produced it, rather than an intention to let them loose upon us, to whom they had given so very material Assistance, if the omission was a designed fraud at New York, it was a Cobweb Artifice of an hour, too Contemptible almost for Hottentots.5
I am glad the trade intended to be commenced under cover of Flags to supply the Prisoners, is so early detected; I believe it was pretty extensively carried on here formerly at Charlottesville & tended to poison the minds of the people in that neighbourhood by the circulation of those charms, Specie & British goods.6 pray what is the effect of the discovery? does it forfeit the Vessel & whole Loading; or only the unlicensed goods? Or rather do Congress mean to insist on the former, which I fancy the laws of Nations intitle them to, or be content with the latter.7 perhaps I say Congress improperly, since it may be the State of Pennsylvania, who are to determine upon it. It may be well, should any come here, to have Uniformity in the decisions upon the Subject Governor Rutledge & Colo Jervais, passing lately to Congress,8 I am told have contradicted the Reports of the evacuation of Charles Town9—from them you’l have had an Account of things in that Quarter, about which we have had many conjectures & dreams, the amusements of a day.
Mr Jacqlin Ambler is our Treasurer in the room of Colo Brooke.10 empty as the strong Box is I am told there was a warm contest for this office, and Mr George Webb is much chagrined11 at the disappointment of his Nephew Mr Foster Webb, a clever youth in business, but too young for the dignity & importance of that office.12 Mr Ambler is well esteem’d & I think will be confirmed by the assembly. some elections, since my last, seem to mend the Representation, which I hope will be better than I then feared.13
You’l probably hear that in Caroline we have chosen a Tory & other epithets added to it, in Mr Gilchrist14 of Port Royal. He is a Scotch man, “the very head and Front of his offence hath that extent, no more”15 against which we have only to Urge in our justification that he came from that Countrey a Youth, has been in Caroline upwards of 40 years. Married & realised all his property (which is very considerable) in the county, & for upwards of 30 years has been an [active], Vigilant & upright Majestrate, as well as of irreprochable life [in]16 the Character of a private Citizen, which 19/20ths of the County (foolishly it seems) thought sufficient to purge the Sin contracted by his birth in that hostile Countrey. I am
Dr Sr Yr affe friend
4. See 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, 196–97; 197, n. 3.
6. See ibid., and n. 5; Ambler to JM, 20 April 1782, n. 4. Pendleton is referring to the period from January 1778 to November 1780, when the headquarters of the British army had provided the convention troops interned at Charlottesville with specie and supplies. On 27 March 1779 Jefferson estimated that this source was adding “30,000 dollars a week at the least” to the “circulating money” of the Charlottesville neighborhood (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 , II, 238).
7. See Harrison to Virginia Delegates, 23 March, and nn. 1 and 2; Randolph to JM, 19 April 1782, and nn. 3 and 6. On 17 July 1782 Congress adopted “An Ordinance More Effectually to Prevent Illicit Trade With the Enemy” stipulating that vessels engaged in this “pernicious commerce” should, with their cargoes, be “condemned as lawful prize, to the use of the state” in which the trial was held (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXII, 392–93). See also Report on Illicit Trade, 19 June 1782.
8. John Rutledge re-entered Congress on 2 May, but John Lewis Gervais (ca. 1741–1798) delayed taking his seat until 1 July 1782 (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXII, 233, 360). A native of France, Gervais had reached Charleston, S.C., in June 1764, carrying a letter of introduction to Henry Laurens. Nine years later, when he married Mary, a daughter of the merchant John Sinclair, Gervais was a planter as well as a partner in a mercantile firm. In 1775, 1776, and 1781 he shared in the activities of the council of safety and of the provincial convention and congress. Besides being a continental deputy paymaster general in 1778 and 1779, he was a continental commissioner for purchasing rice in the following year. He served in the Senate of his state in 1781 and 1782 and remained politically prominent thereafter (South Carolina Historical and Genealogical Magazine, XXI , 14, n. 40, 65, n. 44; XXVI , 208, n. 46; XXVII , 1, n. 1; JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XII, 1027; XV, 1123; XVI, 16, 283, 315).
9. See Virginia Delegates to Harrison, 19 March 1782, n. 2. If Baron Ludwig von Closen’s journal is a trustworthy source, Governor Harrison repeated at Williamsburg on 27 April the assurance given him by former Governor Rutledge that the British had evacuated Charleston (Acomb, Journal of Closen description begins Evelyn M. Acomb, trans. and ed., The Revolutionary Journal of Baron Ludwig von Closen, 1780–1783 (Chapel Hill, N.C., 1958). description ends , p. 195). Either Harrison misunderstood Rutledge or, more likely, Closen misunderstood Harrison.
11. On 22 April there were four shillings in the “strong Box” (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). Pendleton probably wrote “chagreen’d,” the spelling used in the copy of the letter in the Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society.
12. Foster Webb, Jr. (1756–1812), was twenty-six years old. His ambition to be treasurer apparently was spurred by his uncle, who had held that office from January 1777 until his resignation in December 1779. When the present letter was written, George Webb was a member of the Council of State (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 , I, 316; III, 77; 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 , II, 81).
13. See Pendleton to JM, 15 April 1782; also 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, 73–74; 74, n. 6.
14. Robert Gilchrist (ca. 1720–1803), a prominent Port Royal merchant since 1744, represented Caroline County in the House of Delegates in 1782 and 1783. He had been sheriff of the county in 1759 and a coroner two years earlier. For almost all of the period from 1744 until the close of the Revolution he was a magistrate of the county court. During much of this time one of his fellow justices was Edmund Pendleton, whom he also named an executor of his estate. Although Gilchrist had opposed taxation of the colonists by Parliament, thereby incurring the disfavor of Governor Botetourt, he likewise had offended some of the more ardent Whigs in 1774 by refusing to serve on the county’s Committee of Safety (T. E. Campbell, Colonial Caroline, pp. 115, 122–23, 160, 174, 182, 206, 227, 234, 269, 347, 357, 359, 389–91; 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, 17; Caroline County Court Records, Order Book, 1802–1804, p. 283, microfilm in Virginia State Library).
15. Shakespeare, Othello, Act 1, scene 3, lines 80–81:
The very head and front of my offending
Hath this extent, no more.
16. The bracketed words here and earlier in the sentence are taken from the version of the letter in the Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society as replacements for “action” and “as,” respectively, in the Force transcript.