James Madison Papers

From James Madison to Edmund Pendleton, 23 April 1782

To Edmund Pendleton

RC (New York Public Library). Addressed to “The Honble Edmund Pendleton Esqr. Caroline County Virginia.” Docketed by Pendleton, “James Madison Esqr. April 23d. 1782.”

Philada: Apl: 23d. 1782

Dear Sir

We have had here the same reports of the evacuation of Charleston which your letter of the 15. recites, but the wished for confirmation is still wanting.1 That it will take place in the course of the Campaign cannot I think be doubted if the military succours are yielded by the states in any proportion to the call for them & the maritime superiority of our Ally in the W. I. should keep up the apprehensions of the British Garrisons from that quarter. This superiority was for a while somewhat endangered by the arrival of Rodney before the Brest Fleet. It is now said though upon very unauthentic grounds, that the latter with a large reinforcement of land troops is safe at Martinique.2 This augmentation of the French force with that of Spain, to say nothing of the Dutch which is also said not to be contemptible, must submit every thing that is British in that quarter to the mercy of their Enemies.3

We have recd. some communications from Europe, but none of them are of late date. It appears from them that the pride & stubbornness of the British Court had rendered abortive the mediatory purposes of Vienna & Petersburg. Unless therefore the misfortune in Virga. sd. have broken their spirit as well as blasted their hopes, and made them suitors for a renewal of the interposition of these Courts, no immediate expectations can be retained from that quarter.4 Nothing is said with regard to the separate negociation betwe[en] England & Holland. The recapture of the possessions of the latter with other circumstances has so entangled her with France that it will be very difficult for her to accomplish a separate pacification, even if she should be disposed to it.5

Vermont & the Western lands are still the themes which exercise our politics within doors. The Committe to whom the last application of the former to be admitted into the Confederacy was referred have according to expectation, reported that the measure is warranted by the Articles of Union & required by the engagements of Congress to them & expedient in itself.6 The true secret is that the Vote of Vermont is wished for as an auxiliary agst. the Western claims of Virga. Some of the small States may indeed wish for it also as an auxiliary to their party, but no other motive can prevail with D. & M. Some of the E. States which are anxious for the admission of Vermont see this and impede the adjustment of Western boundaries on the ground of the Cessions, lest that event should be followed by a secession of those 2 States.7 The radical impediment however is the influence of the land companies. We have in the course of the week past very sensibly experienced this influence.8 As no answer had yet been given to the Cession of Virga. & the Legislature is shortly to meet, the Delegates thought it proper & accordingly proposed that the determination of Congress on that subject should without delay be come into. Every artifice that could perplex the case was immediately exerted: and it is extremely contingent, whether we shall be able to obtain an explicit answer to our reasonable request. We shall however continue to press it till Congress take some step which will either directly or indirectly, positively or negatively decide on the case & let the State know on what ground it is to form its measures.9

Mr. Lee sets off tomorrow morning in order to be ready for his duty at Richmond. Mr. Jones will follow about a week hence. I regret much that Mr. Randolph’s unnecessary return to Virga. will in consequence expose her vote to the risk of division.10 I shall urge him to face about again & wish for the co-operation of yourself & his other friends. Unless the A-y11 remove his apprehension of pecuniary distress his past experience will it is little to be doubted render him callous to every argument on that subject.

I am Dr. Sir very sincerly yrs. &c.

J Madison

1See Pendleton to JM, 15 April 1782, and n. 10.

2See JM to Pendleton, 9 April 1782, and n. 3.

3See Virginia Delegates to Harrison, 17 April 1782, and n. 2. JM’s comment about the naval strength of the Netherlands in the Caribbean was probably based upon an item in the Pennsylvania Packet of 16 April 1782. Unknown to JM, the British fleet under Rodney had decisively defeated the French squadron commanded by Grasse on 9–12 April 1782 in the Battle of the Saints, fought near the Îles des Saintes. By the close of the engagement Grasse was a prisoner of war, and five French ships of the line had surrendered. Two more struck their colors on 19 April. Five days earlier, in his victory dispatch to the secretary of the admiralty, Rodney mentioned that his own fleet had also “greatly suffered” in “Masts, Sails Rigging and Hulls” (Letter-Books and Order-Book of George, Lord Rodney, Admiral of the White Squadron, 1780–1782 [2 vols.; New York, 1932], I, 358; W. M. James, British Navy in Adversity, pp. 333–44, 348, 354).

4See 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, 197, n. 2; 205, n. 3; Instructions on Peace Negotiations, 7 January 1782, editorial note.

5See JM to Jefferson, 18 March, and n. 7; Virginia Delegates to Harrison, 19 March, n. 8; and JM to Pendleton, 19 March 1782, n. 3. For the expulsion of the British from St. Eustatius by the French, see Virginia Delegates to Harrison, 1 January 1782, n. 5. Early in 1782 the ministry of Lord North, which was being heavily assailed in Parliament because of British reverses in India, the Mediterranean, the Carribbean, and Virginia, sought to redeem itself by enticing France and the Netherlands to make peace separately, and by offering to acknowledge the autonomous status of the united American colonies within the empire. Rebuffed in these efforts, Lord North resigned on 20 March. By the date of the present letter, the Earl of Shelburne, secretary of state for the home office in the new ministry of the Marquis of Rockingham, had sent Richard Oswald to Paris to talk unofficially with Benjamin Franklin about peace terms between Great Britain and the United States. Their first conference was on 12 April (Samuel Flagg Bemis, The Diplomacy of the American Revolution [New York, 1935], pp. 191–95).

7JM meant that, in his opinion, the delegates of Delaware and Maryland (“D & M”) did not support the admission of Vermont to the Confederation in order to add another member to “their party” of small states but to gain the vote of one more state against the acceptance by Congress of Virginia’s qualified offer to cede her western lands. Some of the northern delegates, who supported the aspirations of Vermont, recognized this fact and hence impeded “the adjustment of Western boundaries,” knowing that once they were decided upon, the delegates of Delaware and Maryland, being essentially southern in viewpoint, would oppose the entrance of Vermont into the union.

8JM certainly knew that several of the delegates from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland were prominent members of the Indiana, Vandalia, or Illinois-Wabash companies. For example, Samuel Wharton, a delegate from Delaware but a resident of Philadelphia, was heavily interested in the Indiana and Vandalia companies, while Daniel Carroll, a delegate from Maryland, was a cousin of Charles Carroll, a leading shareholder in the Illinois-Wabash Company (Thomas P. Abernethy, Western Lands and the American Revolution, pp. 37, 54, 122, 239).

10Here JM apparently was not criticizing Randolph for returning to Virginia but merely referring to the opinion expressed by Pendleton in his letter of 15 April (q.v.). For Randolph’s own view of the matter, see Randolph to JM, 19 April, and nn. 8, 9; and JM to Randolph, 23 April 1782, n. 4. From 2 May, when Jones left, until 27 June, when Arthur Lee returned, JM and Bland were the only delegates of Virginia in Congress. During these eight weeks, eighteen roll-call votes appear in the printed journal. On five of these, Virginia’s vote was lost—once because Bland was absent, and four times because he and JM cast opposing ballots. Of the latter, the issue was Vermont on one occasion, while in the other three the financial accounts of Benjamin Franklin were in controversy. Unlike JM, Bland and Lee were hostile to Franklin (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXII, 242, 286, 294–95).

11The General Assembly of Virginia. See Randolph to JM, 19 April 1782, and n. 9.

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