James Madison Papers

To James Madison from William Sharpe, 25 May 1782

From William Sharpe

RC (LC: Madison Papers). Docketed by JM, “Sharpe Wm. May 25. 1782.”

My own seat1

May 25th. 1782

Dear Sir

Your very obliging letter of the 21st. Jan’y2 did not come to hand until late last month

We have at length had a session of the General assembly,3 Messers. Nash, Hawkins, Blount & Docr. Williamson are appointed delegates for this State. I expect two of them will be with you in a few days. I am deeply impressed with the importance of keeping up a constant representation in Congress especially from the southern States, and flatter myself that N.C. will not be found a delinquent again.4

The affairs of our government are inconceivably deranged and it will be a work of some time to regulate them. We are about to raise every twentieth man of the effective militia for eighteen months in order to compleat our quota of continental troops.5 Commerce, the source of industry, wealth and power, is in a great measure fled from us, therefore our revenue will be small.6

We owe our citizens an immense unfunded debt and in short all public credit at an end.

The precious metals in the interior and back parts of this State are but barely visible, under these circumstances it was impossible to lay a tax which would be a sufficient fund to give credit to Mr. Morris’s proposed notes.7

We are making a great effort to have our accounts liquidated and ready to open a very large account against the united states and thereby fill up the chasm on the credit side of their books.8

For further details, I beg leave to refer you to our delegates.

I expect this will be handed you by Capt. Caldwell9 who lives near me, and hope you will write me a long letter by him, full of news great and small, forriegn and domestic, every line of it will be read with the greatest avidity. I want nothing but intelligence to make me happy.

Now my dear sir let me intreat you to present my best compliments, my heartiest wishes to Mrs. House, Mrs. Trist, Master Browse and such gentlemen of our family as are in the city10—be pleased to accept the same yourself from

Dear Sir    Your most Obt. Humble Servant

Wm. Sharpe

1Near Statesville, now the county seat of Iredell County, N.C.

2Not found.

3From 16 April to 18 May 1782 (Walter Clark, ed., State Records of North Carolina, XVI, 1–177). William Sharpe (1742–1818), who had been a delegate in Congress from 1779 to 27 October 1781, was a representative of Rowan County in the House of Commons of the North Carolina General Assembly in 1781 and 1782 (ibid., XVI, 156).

4The General Assembly had elected Abner Nash, William Blount (1749–1800), and Hugh Williamson (1753–1819), and re-elected Benjamin Hawkins (1754–1816) on 13 May 1782 (ibid., XVI, 89–91, 94–95). Williamson and Blount took their seats in Congress on 19 and 22 July, respectively, Nash on 4 November, and Hawkins on 21 December (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXII, 401, 404; XXIII, 708, 823). North Carolina was unrepresented in Congress from 4 March to 19 July 1782 (Harrison to Virginia Delegates, 12 April 1782, n. 4). For about six months preceding 4 March 1782 North Carolina had been unable to cast an effective vote, because only Hawkins occasionally was present. In his missing letter to Sharpe, JM probably urged him to persuade the General Assembly of his state to dispatch a delegation to Congress. For absenteeism from Congress, see Motion Urging States To Send Delegates to Congress, 27 May 1782.

5See the “Act for Raising Troops To Complete the Continental Battalions of this State,” passed during the April session at Hillsborough (Walter Clark, ed., State Records of North Carolina, XXIV, 413–17).

6Of the four general laws relating to revenue enacted by the April session, “An Act for ascertaining what property in this State shall be deemed Taxable property, the method of assessing the same, and collecting Public Taxes,” was directed toward encouraging commerce (ibid., XXIV, 429–34).

7Sharpe refers to the promissory notes signed by Robert Morris and given in exchange for goods or services furnished to agencies of Congress. The notes were negotiable and circulated as money. See ibid., XXIV, 446; Virginia Delegates to Harrison, 19 March, n. 1; Randolph to JM, 20 June 1782, n. 42.

8The “great effort” was exemplified by the law for “establishing a Department for Adjusting and Liquidating the Public Accounts of this State” (Walter Clark, ed., State Records of North Carolina, XXIV, 442–44).

9Captain (later Colonel) Andrew Caldwell (1753–1828), a son-in-law of William Sharpe, was of the North Carolina militia and represented Iredell County (formed from Rowan County in 1788) in the House of Commons of the General Assembly in 1806–1808 and 1810 (Lineage Book of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution, CXXXIV [1933], 221; Jethro Rumple, A History of Rowan County, North Carolina [Raleigh, 1929], p. 223; James S. Brawley, The Rowan Story, 1753–1953: A Narrative of Rowan County, North Carolina [Salisbury, N.C., 1953], p. 112).

10See 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, 92, n. 8; Randolph to JM, 16–17 May 1782, n. 28.

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