James Madison Papers

From James Madison to James Madison, Sr., 20 May 1782

To James Madison, Sr.

RC (LC: Madison Papers). Addressed to “Col: James Madison Orange County Virginia[.] Favd. by Capt M. Walker.” Probably late in his life, JM, or John C. Payne, whose handwriting greatly resembled JM’s, wrote “(Biographical.)” above the salutation and “Madison, Jr” above the date line on the first page.

Philada. May 20th. 1782

Hond Sir

Having written a letter1 and inclosed with it a large collection of Newspapers for you which was to have been carried by Mr. J. Smith,2 but which I have now put into the hands of Capt: Walker,3 whose return will be quicker, little remains for me to add here. Our anxiety on account of the West India news published at New York is still supported by contradictory reports and conjectures. The account however to which Rodneys name is prefixed renders our apprehensions too strong for our hopes. Riving[t]on has been very bold in several of his spurious publications, and at this conjuncture might venture as far to serve a particular turn as at any. But it is scarcely credible that he would dare or be permitted to sport with so high an official name.4

If Mr. Jefferson will be so obliging as to superintend the legal studies of Wm. I think he cannot do better than prosecute the plan he has adopted. The interruption occasioned by the Election of Mr J. altho’ inconvenient in that respect, is by no means a decisive objection agst. it.5

I did not know before that the Letters which Mr. Walker6 was to have carried last fall had met with the fate which it seems they did. I shall be more cautious hereafter. The papers missing in your list were I presume[,] for I do not recollect, contained in them.

The short notice does not leave me time to obtain the information you ask as to Stills. I have never heard of Iron Stills being cast here, nor do I know the price of Copper ones.7

If Continental money passes here at all it is in a very small quantity, at very great discount, and merely to serve particular local & temporary ends.8

It has at no time been more difficult for me to fix my probable return to Virga. At present all my Colleagues have left Congress except Col. Bland,9 and it is a crisis which calls for a full representation from every State. Anxious as I am to visit my friends as long as I sustain a public trust, I shall feel a principle which is superior to it. The state of my finances also, unless the Assembly shall make a different provision for the Delegation from what has hitherto been in force,10 will be a serious bar to my removal from this place. I shall I believe be under the necessity of purchasing a carriage of some kind besides discharging considerable arrears, & where the means for effecting either are to be found is totally without my comprehension.

Capt: Walker tells me you have a [colt?]11 which you propose to reserve for a Stu[d.] If he be not very fine, I should be exceedi[ngly gra]tified in his being prepared for the saddle. [Neither] of the Horses I have here is fit for that use, [in?] that both of them are growing too old f[or] further use of any kind. With my very affectio[nate] regards for all the family

I am yor. dutiful son

J. Madison Jr.

1Neither this letter nor those letters mentioned in the third paragraph have been found.

2Possibly Jeremiah Smith (ca. 1738–1801), a resident of James Madison, Sr.’s, tax district in Orange County (John Frederick Dorman, comp., “Orange County, Virginia, Will Book 2, 1744–1778” [reproduced from typewritten copy, Washington, D.C., 1961], p. 59; Orange County, Va., Personal Property Tax Books, 1800–1801, MSS in Virginia State Library).

3Captain Merry Walker (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, 208, n. 5).

4Copying from the so-called “Mr. Rivington’s Royal Lying Gazette” of 13 May 1782, the Pennsylvania Packet published five days later what purported to be Admiral Rodney’s account of his “total defeat” of the French squadron in the Battle of the Saints, including the sinking of the “Diadème,” and the capture of five other men-of-war, of which one was the “Ville de Paris,” the Comte de Grasse’s flagship. See Ambler to JM, 18 May 1782, n. 6.

6Probably James Walker, who had also carried letters and packages back and forth between JM and his father in March 1782 (JM to James Madison, Sr., 30 March 1782). No letter from JM to his father written after 1 August 1781 and before 12 February 1782 has been found.

7In the Pennsylvania Journal of 8 May 1782, Kaighn and Attmore, whose store was on Front Street near Arch Street, Philadelphia, advertised to sell at an unspecified price, “A new Copper Still containing 51 gallons, with a Worm.” No mention of iron stills has been found among the hardware for sale by Philadelphia merchants during the first six months of 1782.

11The brackets enclosing this word and the other words or parts of words in this paragraph signify that the right-hand margin of the manuscript is missing.

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