James Madison Papers

Virginia Delegates to Benjamin Harrison, 4 June 1782

Virginia Delegates to Benjamin Harrison

RC (Virginia State Library). Written by Theodorick Bland, except for JM’s signature. Docketed, “1782. June 4th.”

Philadelphia June 4th 1782


Our last of the 28th. Ultimo informed your Excelly. fully of the State of News at this place,1 Since which nothing material has happened, except what the enclosed News Paper contains.2 There yet remains some doubt relative to the event of the Action of the two fleets in the West Indies. Accounts from Martinique by different Channels and of a late date, appearing to render it dubious, whether Rodneys letter is spurious or real, we confess however, we have no expectation of its being the former; Yet there is great room to believe that the remainder of the French fleet will form a Junction with the Spanish at Cape François and that the Combined fleets will have a decided Superiority in the West Indies, which will enable them to proceed with the Expedition against Jamaica.3

We find in a Report, the Superintendt. of Finance has made to Congress the Substance of his letter to you on the Subject of Stores,4 and have Since had a Communication with the minister of France5 on that Subject, who, informs us he answerd your letter, to him, relative thereto, and he hopes satisfactorily, but requested us to acquaint your Excelly., “that the Misfortune which the Count de Guichens Convoy had met with,6 rendering it very difficult, for the Ministry to procure transports for the Supply of their own fleets and Armies and to bring out the Supplies orderd for the United States, he feard it would not be practicable to send out those which had been purchased for the State of Virginia in any short time.[”] He gave us to Understand that the transfer of the Debt from the State of Virginia to the United States had been a Misunderstanding of the Ministry, or some of the Under offices, & that it would be revoked and accommodated to all parties. we think however it would not be imprudent in the State of Virginia (if they wish soon to have those Stores[)], to provide transports for them and to obtain the same Convoy as those Vessels which are to bring out those belonging to the Un: States.

The Count de Beniousky having, renewd to us, an offer which has been made to Congress and not accepted as will be seen by the Enclosed papers No. 1, 2, 3, 4, & 5.7 We thought it a matter of too much Consequence not to transmit to your Excelly. which we have done, with copies of all the Papers, relative thereto, as above mentiond, which have been before Congress. It will rest with your Excelly. to consider the propriety of taking the Sense of the Legislature thereon. The terms offerd in the Paper No. 4 refer’s to those which have been made to Congress, which Yr. Excelly. will See in the Paper No. 1, and an explanation thereof in No. 2 after having been remarked upon by Genl. Washington. We have only to add on this Subject that the Gentleman who makes the offer does it as an Individual. That he is a Polish Nobleman and a near relation to the late Count Pulasky.8 That a part of the troops he offers, and many of the officers (as he informs us) are such as have followd his fortunes in the Partition of that Kingdom. That Banishd from his own Country9 he professes a desire to become (with his followers) a Citizen of some one of these United States that he has recommendations, from the French Ministry, to their Minister here and has had his Countenance.10 The Rejection of his offer to Congress arose from a doubt in two or three of the States concerning the Propriety or policy of their being accepted by Congress. It is his desire that the offer made by him—if not accepted—may be kept as secret as possible, and that the answer thereto may be transmited, through us,11 with all possible expedition as he will be under a necessity of departing for Europe in the Course of three or four Weeks from this date—either to put himself in a state to Execute his proposals, or to take other steps with his troops, which are now in the Imperial Service,12 and will shortly be at his own charge—his desire of Secrecy and the Expedition with which Mr. Webb13 informs us he will travel has induced us to prefer a Conveyance by that Gentn. to one by the Post on this occasion.

Since Writing the above Genl. Washington has informd Congress in a letter read yesterday, that he had received intelligence of some movements of the Enemy at New York which indicate a considerable embarkation, as upwards of 80 transports, under a strong Convoy had fallen down to the Narrows—in order as was supposed to take in a large body of troops—that the whole of the Regular troops had been reviewd—and a very large proportion of them were under Marching orders, for what purpose not known.14 we Submit to Yr. Excelly whether it would not be prudent, at least to be on our Guard notwithstanding the delusive appearances lately held out, at least not to relax in any preparations for carrying on the War.

The last post brought us no letter from Yr. Excelly[.] with the most perfect respect we are

Yr. Excellency’s Most obedt. Humbe Serts

Theok. Bland Jr.

J. Madison Jr.

2Probably the Pennsylvania Packet of 1 or 4 June 1782.

3See Virginia Delegates to Harrison, 14 May, n. 14; and 28 May, and n. 1; Ambler to JM, 18 May, and n. 6; JM to Madison, Sr., 20 May, n. 4; Pendleton to JM, 20 May, nn. 8 and 10; JM to Lee, 28 May 1782, and n. 11; Journals of the Council of State description begins H. R. McIlwaine et al., eds., Journals of the Council of the State of Virginia (3 vols. to date; Richmond, 1931——). description ends , III, 105.

4See Virginia Delegates to Harrison, 24 January, and nn. 1, 2, 4, 5; Virginia Delegates to La Luzerne, 24 January; Randolph to JM, 10 May, and n. 21; Harrison to Virginia Delegates, 11 May, and n. 1; and 22 June 1782.

5La Luzerne.

7See Report on Bieniewsky’s Proposal for a Legionary Corps, 29 May, and editorial note; and Bieniewsky to Virginia Delegates, 31 May 1782. The four documents copied and numbered by Bland, and enclosed in the present letter, were (1) “Composition of Squadrons & companies to form corps”; (2) “Explanation of the Proposals of Ct. de Beniousky translated”; (3) “Copy of the Report of a Comme. of Congress, to whom was referrd the letter of Count Beniousky &.c. &.c.”; and (4) “Translation of Proposals from Count de Beniousky to the Honble. James Madison & the Honble. Theok: Bland delegates in Congress from the State of Virginia.” Bland also enclosed and probably intended to mark “No. 5,” an unnumbered “Copy of a letter from General Washington to Count Beniousky,” 27 April 1782. These documents are filed with the Virginia delegates’ dispatch in the Virginia State Library. See Harrison to Virginia Delegates, 22 June 1782.

8See Report on Bieniewsky’s Proposal for a Legionary Corps, 29 May 1782, editorial note. In his Memoirs and Travels (1790), I, 17, 27, Bieniewsky referred to Pulaski as an “old friend” and “companion.” Count Casimir Pulaski (ca. 1748–1779) was a Polish refugee whom Congress commissioned as a brigadier general of cavalry on 15 September 1777 (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , VII, 745). Until he was mortally wounded on 9 October 1779 during the siege of Savannah, he served with distinction in the American army.

9The first partition of Poland, depriving it of about one-third of its territory and population, had been concluded on 5 August 1772 by Catherine the Great of Russia, Frederick the Great of Prussia, and Maria Theresa of Austria (Cambridge Modern History description begins A. W. Ward, G. W. Prothero, Stanley Leathes, eds., Cambridge Modern History (13 vols.; Cambridge, England, 1902–12). description ends , VI, 669). In his letter of 5 May 1782 to the president of Congress, Bieniewsky did not claim to have opposed this partition actively. He merely stated that “after the Desolation and Division of my Country, I offered my Services to France, where I was favorably received” (NA: PCC, No. 78, IV, 299).

10Used in the sense of aid or endorsement.

12The service of Joseph II, Holy Roman Emperor.

14Washington’s letter of 28 May, read in Congress on 3 June 1782, had three enclosures telling of the military preparations under way in New York City (NA: PCC, 152, X, 571, 575, 577, 579; Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington description begins John C. Fitzpatrick, ed., The Writings of George Washington, from the Original Sources, 1745–1799 (39 vols.; Washington, 1931–44). description ends , XXIV, 295; JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXII, 315 n.). His informants had been misled by two occurrences at the British headquarters. On 20 and 21 May General Carleton had reviewed all the troops in New York City and on Long Island. On 28 May about thirty transports, convoyed by two frigates, left New York Harbor for Martha’s Vineyard to “take on board four thousand head of cattle and an even greater number of sheep, which have been gathered together on the island from Connecticut and sold to our commissaries through go-betweens” (Bernhard A. Uhlendorf, trans. and ed., Revolution in America: Confidential Letters and Journals, 1776–1784, of Adjutant General Major Baurmeister of the Hessian Forces [New Brunswick, N.J., 1957], pp. 505, 509). Early in June residents of Connecticut along the north shore of Long Island Sound observed this convoy sailing toward the east and concluded that as many as 4,000 British troops must be aboard the transports (Virginia Gazette description begins Virginia Gazette, or, the American Advertiser (Richmond, James Hayes, 1781–86). description ends , 22 and 29 June 1782). On 24 June in a letter to La Luzerne, Washington remarked: “The Enemy, from the best intelligence I get from New York, have made no detachment; things remain there in Statu quo; they seem to be suspended, and are waiting for orders from their Court; which I hear they anxiously expect” (Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington description begins John C. Fitzpatrick, ed., The Writings of George Washington, from the Original Sources, 1745–1799 (39 vols.; Washington, 1931–44). description ends , XXIV, 381).

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