James Madison Papers

From James Madison to Edmund Randolph, 6 June 1782

To Edmund Randolph

RC (LC: Madison Papers). Lacks complimentary close and signature but is in JM’s hand. Docketed, “J. Madison. June 6. 1782.” Addressed: “Edmund Randolph Esqr. Richmond. Favd. by Mr. Webb.”

June 6th. [1782]

Dear Sir

Mr. Webb being detained till this morning1 I enclose you the gazette of it. You will find a singular extract from Lord North’s Butchet. The Speech was delivered on the 11th. of March.2 It must have been Mr. Ross’s Contract therefore & not Mr. Morris’s which supplied this article.3 I am just told that the Senate have put their veto on the Resolutions of the H. of Delegates agst. the latter.4 If an existing law however prohibits the exportation, and one branch of the Legislature protests5 agst. the authority of Congress to dispense with it, The Executive will scarcely suffer the Tobo. to be exported. If this matter should terminate in an agreement by Maryland to supply the Tobo. and Virga. should be drained of her money to purchase the Staple of the former, whilst her own Staple is left on her hands — — — — —6 The proviso in the resolutions in favr. of the Contract of the State agent furnishes I find a copious topic for Anti-Virginian Critics.7 It is inconsistent with the laws of the State, with the Ordinances of Congress, with the Treaty with France, with gratitude to our Allies, for Tobo. to be shipped to N.Y by Mr. M.8 for the advantage of the U.S. But [if]9 the identical Tobo. be shipped by Mr. R.10 for the advantage of Virga.11 the inconsistency is done away in the eyes of The House of Delegates of Virginia.12

A New York paper of the 1st. Instant contains so many minute particulars touching the defeat of the French in the W. Indies, taken it is sd.13 from an Official acct. in the St. Lucia Gazette, that Mr. de M——s.14 himself says it is u[seles]s15 any longer to struggle agst. the belief of it.

2The Pennsylvania Packet of 6 June quoted Lord North as saying in the House of Commons, in the course of his speech of 11 March 1782 on the budget, that the capitulant British traders at Yorktown had agreed to exchange their wares for about three thousand hogsheads of tobacco, priced at 2s. 4d. a pound. Lord North proposed to levy a duty of 4d. a pound upon this tobacco when it arrived in Great Britain (Hansard’s Parliamentary Debates description begins William Cobbett, ed., The Parliamentary History of England from the Earliest Period to the Year 1803 (36 vols.; London, 1806–20; continued as Hansard’s Parliamentary Debates). description ends , XXII, 1154–55).

3The evidence available to JM for making this distinction is not clear. Possibly he meant that, although by 11 March Lord North could have heard of the amount of tobacco shipped by Virginia in December 1781 and January 1782 to the British traders to pay for David Ross’s purchases from them on the Commonwealth’s account, the number of hogsheads of tobacco used to settle the continental account with these merchants could not have been known to Lord North when he delivered his speech, because that consignment had not left Virginia. On the other hand, the three thousand hogsheads mentioned by Lord North certainly much exceeded the quantity used by Virginia to pay its debt (McIlwaine, Official Letters description begins H. R. McIlwaine, ed., Official Letters of the Governors of the State of Virginia (3 vols.; Richmond, 1926–29). description ends , III, 93; 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, 34, 41; Calendar of Virginia State Papers description begins William P. Palmer et al., eds., Calendar of Virginia State Papers and Other Manuscripts (11 vols.; Richmond, 1875–93). description ends , II, 571, 633, 668; 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 , XXIII, 375–76, 379, 496; Lee to JM, 16 May, and n. 7; JM to Randolph, 29 May 1782, and nn. 10 and 13).

4See Randolph to JM, 21–24 May 1782, and nn. 3, 6, 8. As Randolph had predicted to JM in his letter of 1 June (q.v.), the House of Delegates was obliged on 4 June to accept the Senate’s amendment of the resolutions (Minute Book, House of Delegates, May 1782 description begins Minute Book, House of Delegates, May 1782, MS in Virginia State Library. description ends , p. 61).

5JM wrote this word over a deleted “denies.”

6JM’s dashes signify that no comment by him was needed to make clear the absurdity of such “an agreement” or its economic injury to Virginia.

8Robert Morris.

9JM began this sentence before the word “identical” by writing “But the If the.” He then crossed out the last two of these words. Clearly he meant only to delete the first “the” and thus to introduce his ironical statement as in the present text.

10David Ross. Probably unknown to JM, William Hay had replaced Ross on 24 May as commercial agent of Virginia (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, 97).

11JM interlineated the next nine words.

12JM wrote the rest of his message in the left-hand margin of the page.

13JM apparently is referring to the 5 June issue of the Pennsylvania Journal and its quotation from an unidentified New York paper, most likely Rivington’s Royal Gazette. An excerpt from Rodney’s dispatch of 15 April about his decisive victory in the Battle of the Saints had appeared “by authority” in an unspecified number of the “St. Lucia Gazette Extraordinary,” which had been brought by a schooner “in 17 days express” to New York City. For the battle, see JM to Madison, Sr., 20 May, n. 4; JM to Lee, 28 May 1782, and n. 11.

14Probably François, Marquis de Barbé-Marbois, secretary of the French legation and consul general of France.

15Upon breaking the seal of this letter Randolph tore the manuscript so that “useless” or some word of about the same length and probably of a similar purport was mostly eliminated.

Index Entries