James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Edmund Randolph, 5 May 1782

From Edmund Randolph

RC (LC: Madison Papers). The letter is not signed, but it is in Randolph’s hand. Addressed to “The honble James Madison jr. of congress Philadelphia.” Docketed by JM, “May 5. 1782.”

Richmond May 5. 1782.

Dear sir

Your flattering urgency for my return, contained in your favor of the 23. Ulto. was answered by anticipation in my letter of last week.1 I still adhere to the same inclination to revisit you.

By the next post, I will remit a draught for the 20£.2 In the meantime should you wish an earlier payment, apply to Mr. Hollingsworth for the profits of two hogsheads of tobo, sent by Mr. Coan, the Jew in this town, to his care for my order.3

Mr. Jefferson has been forced into the legislative service of the country: and some other counties impressed by the embarrassment of the times, have elected the most able men, altho’ they did not offer themselves.4

I have stumbled upon a treasure of Virginian antiquity. The office of the clerk of the General court5 has furnished me with the proceedings of the treasurer and company; prior to the dissolution of the charter.6 Perhaps this clue will lead to something pointed. Many records, subsequent to that period, but before the revolution in 1688, do also exist. The rumor increases concerning the revival of paper money: but the particular qualities to be attributed to it are still within the breast of its patrons.7

There was a desideratum in your letter, respecting Mr. Dana. I wish to learn, what antidote was prepared by your report on the letters, committed on the morning of my departure, to the fury of that gentleman.8

We hear nothing, worthy of your attention. The next week (Monday being the first day of the session)9 will certainly generate news.

yrs. mo. sincerely.

1See JM to Randolph, 23 April 1782. Since the letter of Randolph to JM of 26 April is irrelevant, Randolph either wrote to him “last week” another letter, now missing, or should have cited his letter of 19 April (q.v.).

2See Randolph to JM, 11–13 April, and 16–17 May 1782. See also Account with Randolph, ca. 1 May 1782, and editorial note.

3Probably Levi Hollingsworth, a Philadelphia merchant and business acquaintance of JM (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 , II, 98, n. 3), and Jacob I. Cohen (1744–1823) of the Richmond mercantile firm of Isaacs, Cohen & Co. (Virginia Gazette description begins Virginia Gazette, or, the American Advertiser (Richmond, James Hayes, 1781–86). description ends , 22 June 1782). Cohen had emigrated to Pennsylvania from Bavaria in 1773. Removing to South Carolina, he fought as a volunteer against the British. In 1780 he settled in Richmond, where in 1790 he served as city recorder and in 1795 as a member of the common council. He moved to Philadelphia in 1806 and remained there until his death (Isaac Landman, ed., The Universal Jewish Encyclopedia [10 vols.; New York, 1939–43], III, 233–34).

4See Pendleton to JM, 15 April 1782, and n. 14. Jefferson’s refusal to serve posed the constitutional issue of his right to disregard the will of the voters of Albemarle County, even though he had not declared his candidacy. The issue was not settled. Officially he continued to be a delegate during the May and October sessions of the legislature in 1782, but he did not take his seat, and a majority in the House of Delegates in May apparently rejected a proposal to have the sergeant at arms compel him to attend (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 , VI, 174–75, 179, 183–87; Randolph to JM, 16–17 May 1782). As already mentioned, the General Assembly on 1 June 1782 named Jefferson to a committee to draft a defense of Virginia’s title to its western lands. His participation in the work of this group was meager at best (JM to Randolph, 1 May 1782, n. 7; 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 , VI, 189, 652–54).

Among the notable members of the Virginia House of Delegates in the May 1782 session were Patrick Henry, Arthur Lee, Richard Henry Lee, John Marshall, James Monroe, Thomas Nelson, John Page, David Ross, Meriwether Smith, and John Tyler. Gentlemen of similar ability in the Senate included Archibald Cary, William Fitzhugh, David Jameson, and Henry Lee (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).

5John Brown (1750–1810) of Richmond was appointed clerk of the General Court in 1781. Thereafter until his death he served almost continuously as clerk of the state District Court of Richmond and of the Virginia Court of Appeals. During many of these years he was also a successful merchant (Samuel Bassett French Papers, p. 716, and photocopy of Register, 1662–1797, of the Bruton Parish Church, Williamsburg, Va., MSS in Virginia State Library; Virginia Argus [Richmond], 2 November 1810).

6The records of the treasurer and the Virginia Company of London which Randolph saw were probably burned in the Richmond fire of 2–3 April 1865 (H. R. McIlwaine, ed., Minutes of the Council and General Court of Colonial Virginia, 1622–1632, 1670–1676 [Richmond, 1924], p. v).

7The session of the Virginia General Assembly of May 1782 enacted no law either to issue more paper money or to revive the legal-tender quality of earlier emissions (Pendleton to JM, 28 January, n. 11; Randolph to JM, 10 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 , XI, 9–103).

8The meaning of this sentence would have been clearer if Randolph had placed “to the fury of that gentleman” immediately after “antidote.” See JM to Randolph, 23 April, and n. 14; 14 May; Motion on Instructions to Dana, 27 May 1782.

9The Virginia General Assembly convened on 6 May but the House of Delegates did not have a quorum until nine days later (Minute Book, House of Delegates, May 1782 description begins Minute Book, House of Delegates, May 1782, MS in Virginia State Library. description ends , pp. 43, 44).

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