James Madison Papers

From James Madison to Edmund Pendleton, 25 June 1782

To Edmund Pendleton

RC (New York Public Library). Docketed by Pendleton, “James Maddison Jr. Esq June 25th. 1782.” The cover is missing.

Philada. 25th. June 1782

Dear Sir

Your favor of the 17th. escaped the accident which befel that of the preceeding week.1 The loss of the mail is the more regretted as we now understand that a packet from N.Y. to England, which had been intercepted & carried into N. Carolina, made a part of it.

No authentic account of the fleet which sailed from N.Y. is yet come to hand.2 The prevailing & I fancy the true conjecture now is that it contained a parcel of miserable Refugees who are doomed to exchange the fancied confiscations of their countrymen for the bleak & barren settlement in Nova Scotia or Penobscot.3

The illicit trade with N.Y. has under the auspices of the new system of the Enemy, been carried to such an extent, that the interposition of Congress in some form or other seemed to be called for. The only form which seemed to consist with constitutional propriety, was a renewal of their exhortation to the States, to exert their utmost legislative skill in suppressing it by land; & to impress on people the fatal effects of a continuance of it, and the necessity of their patriotic cooperation with the public measures in bringing transgressors to due punishment.4 This trade is also carried on by water, under collusive captures of Vessels from N.Y. by little vessels fitted out on the neighbouring Coasts. The remedy for this part of the evil is more within the authority of Congress, and an application of it is now agitating.5 Nothing can prevent the evil by land but a voluntary combination among the people at large to find out & prosecute the authors of it. How far this will take place is uncertain. As it is dictated by the interest of the army, and of the Farmers, who feel the loss of the specie which goes to the Enemy, and by the fair traders who are undersold by the smugglers; as well as by every principle of Duty,6 some efforts may justly be expected.

Congress have received no letters of very late date from Mr. Adams, but there is a private letter here of the 11th. April, in which he informs his correspondent, that all the Provinces except two had with astonishing unanimity & rapidity decided in favor of a connexion with the U. States; and that no doubt was entertained that the remaining two would in a few days follow the example of the others. Some Gazettes of later date have reduced the exception to a single province.7 Upon the whole we have suffi[ci]ent ground to expect in a little time, a full & formal recognition of our Independence in that quarter. Their public councils are stimulated much by the zeal of the Merchants, who fear that unless commercial stipulations are speedily concluded, a peace with Britain8 may place their trade under a disadvantageous competition with that both of England & of France.9

I am Dr Sir with sincere regard Yr. obt friend & Servt.

J. Madison Jr.

The Gazette of this morning10 is so barren that I thought it wd. be less interesting that11 one of wednesday last, which contains a very singular production of the American Loyali[s]ts.12

1Pendleton’s letter, probably dated 10 June, may have been in the mail intercepted in Maryland on 15 June (Report on Mail Robbery, 19 June, n. 3; Pendleton to JM, 1 July 1782).

2See Virginia Delegates to Harrison, 4 June 1782, n. 14. JM mentioned this matter in his letter of 11 June to Randolph (q.v.) and probably wrote to the same effect on that day to Pendleton.

3Under orders from General Clinton, a British force from Nova Scotia in June 1778 had taken “post on the River Penobscot, by way of securing a place of reception and a permanent establishment in the Province of Maine for the King’s loyal American subjects who had been driven from their habitations and deprived of their property by the rebels” (William B. Willcox, ed., American Rebellion, pp. 134–35). On 23 May 1782 Sir Guy Carleton directed the evacuation, with all possible secrecy, from Savannah and St. Augustine of as many civilian Loyalists as wished to depart with the British garrisons (Historical Manuscripts Commission, eds., Report on American Manuscripts in the Royal Institution of Great Britain [4 vols.; London, 1904–9], II, 494), but no mass movement of Loyalists from New York was to take place until after the signing of the peace treaty in 1783.

6Following this comma, JM crossed out about four words so heavily that they are illegible.

8“Britain” is followed by a heavily inked-out passage of perhaps five words which cannot now be read.

10The Pennsylvania Packet of 25 June 1782.

11JM obviously meant to write “than.”

12The Pennsylvania Gazette of 19 June reprinted from the London Chronicle of 9 March 1782, “The humble and dutiful declaration and address of his Majesty’s American loyalists To the King’s Most Excellent Majesty, to both Houses of Parliament, and the People of Great Britain.” After stressing their unfaltering allegiance in spite of the loss of property and other severe hardships to which they had been subjected, the petitioners devoted most of their lengthy memorial to a criticism of British military policy on three principal grounds: (1) for stationing Loyalist soldiers far from their homes or merging them into the British regular army; (2) for successively occupying and evacuating one American city after another—a “desultory manner” of waging war which could not subdue the rebels but merely incited them to inflict harsh punishments upon the Loyalists in those cities; and (3) for not recognizing that a maintenance of naval superiority in American waters would speedily crush the rebellion. The memorial closed with an affirmation that “our cause is the cause of legal and constitutional government throughout the world.” In view of this fact, the petitioners believed that if European monarchs were appealed to for aid, they would assist Great Britain in her hour of great need.

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