James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Edmund Pendleton, 13 May 1782

From Edmund Pendleton

Tr (LC: Force Transcripts). Addressed to “The Honble. James Madison Esqr. Philada.” Another copy, taken from the original, is printed in the Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society, 2d ser., XIX (1905), 151–52.

Virga May 13th 1782

My Dear Sir

The last of yr favrs I have to acknowledge is that of April the 23d., a subsequent one I missed hitherto, as I was not return’d from Richmond when the Post rider pass’d my House & he carried it there, but I had left that place before his arrival, & must wait his return for the pleasure of receiving it.1 I am however in more anxiety for your next, as I expect in that a confirmation of a piece of News Which has been brought from your City that has almost intranced Us; No less than Our darling Independancy having been acknowledged by Parliament;2 a measure so pleasing and important, & at the same time so unlook’d for at this juncture, when the Ministry had Menaced a more Vigorous prosecution of the War than ever, that we scarce can give credit to repeated Assertions of its reality, by several credible Passengers from thence, and I must wait two days more ’til I shall have from you an Account I can depend on. If it be so, and a general Peace not in Treaty, it will become Us to be on our guard, since they must mean, whilst continuing the War against our good Ally, to trie every Art of Corruption to detach Us from them, and endeavour to seduce Us into a Seperate Peace, a more certain destruction than their Arms could ever have brought upon Us;3 But on this head I am not uneasy, since it being impossible that any friend to America can make a proposition of that sort, I hope the Uttering such a Sentiment, will be considered as marking the author for an Enemy, and stop his influence.

Whether this great event has taken place or not, Our Eyes must be turn’d to the West Indies, as the great Theatre for playing this Campaign; whether it will be real Tragidy which may decide the fate of the War, Or a Repetition of the Farce acted for two or three seasons in the British channel,4 time must decide; in the former case we have much to hope from the Superiority of our Allies.5

I left Richmond   had appeared, which number   79 are   Jeffer6

1When Joseph Jones and JM were together in Congress, they alternated in writing to Pendleton every week. During Jones’s absence from Philadelphia between 2 May and 4 September 1782, Pendleton expected a weekly letter from JM (JM to Randolph, 9 April, n. 6; Pendleton to JM, 15 April 1782). JM probably tried to fulfill this expectation, but much of the correspondence is lost, including JM’s letter of ca. 30 April. JM’s letter of 7 May would not have reached Edmundsbury by the time Pendleton wrote the present letter. See Pendleton to JM, 20 May 1782, and n. 1.

4Pendleton’s choice of the word “Farce” is well sustained by W. M. James in his three chapters devoted to the naval operations of the French, Spanish, and British squadrons in “European Waters” between 1779 and the close of 1781. Although the opposing fleets frequently maneuvered in the English Channel, and especially off the southern coast of England, they succeeded in avoiding any major, and almost any minor, engagement during that period (W. M. James, British Navy in Adversity, pp. 170–86, 243–51, 301–15).

5See Randolph to JM, 10 May 1782, and n. 15. Peter Force’s clerk found the manuscript of this letter so much mutilated below this paragraph that, after writing the few words which remained, he made the bracketed comment, “the rest of the Page torn off.”

6If in this paragraph Pendleton mentioned leaving Richmond before the House of Delegates had a quorum, he should have given 76 rather than 79 as the minimum number of delegates (150 in all) required to make a house (Minute Book, House of Delegates, May 1782 description begins Minute Book, House of Delegates, May 1782, MS in Virginia State Library. description ends , p. 44). Perhaps he added that Jefferson, although elected by the voters of Albemarle County, had written to the speaker of the House of Delegates on 6 May, stating, “I do not accept of the appointment” (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, 179; JM to Jefferson, 16 April, and n. 15; Randolph to JM, 5 May 1782, n. 9).

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