James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Edmund Pendleton, 1 July 1782

From Edmund Pendleton

Tr (LC: Force Transcripts). Addressed to “The Honble James Madison Esqr Philada.” Another copy made from the manuscript is in the Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society, 2d ser., XIX (1905), 157.

Virginia July 1st 1782

Dear Sir

I am sorry to find by yr favr of the 18th past1 that the Southern Mail had been made prize of, & probably carried to New York. I don’t remember the contents of my letter,2 but dare say it can produce no Injury Public or personal, unless it be such to myself to be detected, by those not so Indulgent as my friend, in being a dul[l] unmeaning Correspondent. If it had contained Asperity of expression towards them,3 I had been the more pleased with it[;] however such as it is let them make the most of it.

Nothing amazes me so much as that we should be so long without a certain official Account of the Engagement in the West Indies,4 about which people here continue divided in Opinion, and the event is the frequent subject of Wagers; we are told that Mr Harrison, yr Commercial Agent in that quarter, is lately arrived, and no doubt brings some Account which may be depended on.5 They tell us a strange story from Baltimore that after the junction of the French & Spanish Fleets at Hispaniola, they again seperated & were gone no one could say wither.6

I can’t say whether our Assembly have adjourned, no[r] what they have done? They were to have ended their Session on Saturday, but did not I believe.7 I fancy they have pass’d a law for raising our men, most other important Bills I am told are put off ’till next Session.8 We have had [a]9 long drought, yet our Corn has suffered less than we expected. I am

Dr Sr Yr affe friend

Edmd Pendleton

1Although this letter has not been found, its contents very likely resembled those of JM to Randolph, 18 June 1782 (q.v.).

2Pendleton probably wrote his intercepted letter about 10 June 1782.

3That is, the enemy.

4The Battle of the Saints. See JM to James Madison, Sr., 20 May 1782, n. 4. If Pendleton expected the court of Versailles or Congress to issue an “official” statement, he was destined to be disappointed. The first “official” allusion to the defeat seems to have been made by La Luzerne to a committee of Congress on 23 September 1782 (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIII, 594, 596–603; Wharton, Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence description begins Francis Wharton, ed., The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States (6 vols.; Washington, 1889). description ends , V, 757–62).

5Richard Harrison (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, 53, n. 2) had been a merchant in Martinique and also commercial agent there, from 1776 to 1778, for Virginia and Maryland (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 , I and II, passim; W. H. Browne et al., eds., Archives of Maryland, XXI, passim). In the summer of 1779, as a partner in, and foreign representative of, a mercantile firm based at Alexandria, Va., and Port Tobacco, Md., Harrison settled in Cadiz (I[saac] Minis Hays, ed., Calendar of the Papers of Benjamin Franklin in the Library of the American Philosophical Society [5 vols.; Philadelphia, 1906–8], II, 90, 128; IV, 300, 323; Pennsylvania Packet, 22 November 1781; Curtis Carroll Davis, The King’s Chevalier: A Biography of Lewis Littlepage [Indianapolis, 1961], pp. 43–44, 113). Pendleton had been misinformed about Harrison’s return to the United States. Harrison’s letters of 7 January, 20 February, 24 April, and 19 August from Cadiz leave no doubt that he was still in Spain (NA: PCC, No. 92, fols. 393–410).

6Pendleton’s meaning would have been clearer if he had begun the sentence by writing, “A strange story from Baltimore informs us.” See Pendleton to JM, 20 May, n. 10; 17 June 1782, n. 4.

8See Randolph to JM, 20 June, and n. 48; 5 July 1782. Although Pendleton undervalued the achievement of the General Assembly at its May 1782 session, “important Bills” reforming the tax system would await enactment until the legislature reconvened in October of that year. See Hening, Statutes description begins William Waller Hening, ed., The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia, from the First Session of the Legislature, in the Year 1619 (13 vols.; Richmond and Philadelphia, 1819–23). description ends , XI, 112–29, 140–45.

9This word is taken from the version in the Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society. Either Pendleton or Peter Force’s clerk inadvertently wrote “no” instead of “a.”

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