James Madison Papers

From James Madison to Edmund Randolph, 16 July 1782

To Edmund Randolph

RC (LC: Madison Papers). Docketed by Randolph, “July 16. 1782.” The cover is missing. What may have been a brief complimentary close and signature are too faded to be legible. The italicized words are those written by JM in cipher, except in the one instance mentioned in n. 10. For the passage which he encoded in the Lovell rather than the official cipher, see n. 27. Many years after writing the letter, JM or someone at his bidding indicated by brackets that the first two paragraphs should be published in the first edition of his papers, but the letter appeared in that compilation with only the last two paragraphs omitted. The passage in the Lovell cipher was not decoded (Madison, Papers [Gilpin ed.] description begins Henry D. Gilpin, ed., The Papers of James Madison (3 vols.; Washington, 1840). description ends , I, 149–52).

Philada. July 16th. 1782

Dear Sir

Notwithstanding the defensive professions of the Enemy they seem to be waging an active war agst. the post riders. The mail for the Eastward on wednesday morning last shared the same fate which the Southern mail did a few weeks ago and it is said from the identical villains.1 This operation has with drawn them from their Southern stand, and secured the arrival of the mail which brings your favor of the 5th. inst:2 I fully concur in the change of cypher which you suggest and understand the reference for a key-word.3 I have been in some pain from the danger incident to the cypher we now use. The enemy I am told have in some instances published their intercepted cyphers. On our first meeting I propose to prepare, against another separation, a cypher framed by Mr. Livingston4 on a more en[lar]ged and complicated plan than ours, of which he has furnished me several blank printed copies.

Your computation of the numbers in Virga. tallies very exactly with one transmitted by Mr. Jefferson in an answer to several queries from Mr. M—s. It is as accurate as the official returns to the Executive of the militia would admit. His proportion of the fencibles to the white souls is stated precisly as your computation states it.5

You will continue your information on the case of the flag and send me the acts of the Legislature as fast as they are printed.6 Will you be so good also as to obtain from the Auditors a state of the balance due on the principles established by law, and let me know when & how it is to be applied for? as also what chance there is of obtaining a regular remittance of future allowance?7

Genl. Washington & Ct. Rochambeau met here on saturday evening. The object of their consultation is among the arcana of war.8

A dispatch from the Commander in cheif communicated to Congress yesterday a late correspondence between him & Genl. Carlton, principally on the subject of two traitors who under the cover of a flag of truce exposed themselves to arrest in New Jersey, and had sentence of death passed upon them. Genl. Carlton among other observations on the Subject, says that “In a civil war between people of one empire, there can during the contest, be no treason at all”—and asks a passport for Genl. Robinson & Mr. Ludlow to confer with Genl. W. or persons appointed by him, & to settle arrangements on this idea. Gel. W. declines the conference observing that the proposed subject of it is within civil resort. Whereupon Genl. Carlton asks—Am I to apply to Congress to admit persons to conferences at Philada.? can any deputation be sent by Congress to your camp to meet persons appointed by me? or will you Sr. undertake to manage our common interest?9 The drift of all this need not be pointed out to you. As a counterpart to it, the British Genl. proposes, in order to remove all objection to an exchange of Soldiers for seamen, that the latter shall be perfectly free; and the former subject to the condition of not serving agst. the 13. Provinces for one year, within which period he is very sanguine that an end will be put to the calamities of the present[?] war.10

The same despatch informs Congress that a party of the Enemy have lately made a successful incursion upon the settlements of Mohawk, have reoccupied Oswego, and are extending themselves in to the Western Country.11 However little these movements may coincide with a defensive plan, they coincide perfectly with ideas which will not fail to be urged at a pacification,12 Messrs. Montgomery & Root returned yesterday from their Eastern deputation. They have not yet made their report.13 The former complains that several of the States are appropriating the taxes which they lay as their quota of the eight million14 to internal uses—He owns that the knowledge he has obtained of the case15 has changed his mind on that head and that if the ground was to be trodden over again he should take a very different part in Congress.16 He adds that the current opinion is that a vessel arrived at Quebec brings a royal charter for Vermont.17 that the people there are in much confusion and many of them disposed to reunite with N——Hamshire. A letter to Mr. Livingston from Mr. Livermore18 corroborates this good news. It imparts that a very unexpected turn had taken place in the temper of the people between the river and the ridge19 that they were petitioning New Hamshire to be restored to that state and that measures would be taken in concert with New York for that purpose.20 The revolution in the sentiments of M——g——y21 may be owing in part to the new relattion in which Pennsylvania stands to Connecticut which he says is governed on this occasion by interested individuals.22 The controversy between Pena. & Connecticut will I suppose be now resumed & put into a course for decision, the return of Mr. Root having removed the cause which suspended it.23

In the beginning of this month Committees were appointed in pursuance of a previous Resolution for such an appointt. every half year to examine into the proceedings of the several executive departments & make report to Congress. This plan was adopted not only to discharge the general duty of Congress & to satisfy their constituents, but also that[?] such reports might shelter in some degree faithful officers from unmerited imputations & suspicions, as well as expose to just censure those of an opposite character.24 For reasons which will occur to you Doctor Le[e] wa[s] [se]n[t] into the department of Finance.25 The [Do]cto[r] is endeavouring I am told Contrary to the object in view to go into an investigation of the cont[r]ac[t]s in trade allowed by Congress. All the movements of D[o]cto[r] are pointed directly or circuitously either to Moris o[r] Franklin26 This cypher I find is extremely tedious & liable to errors.27

Genl. Carlton in his letter to Genl. Washington above quoted, says with respect to Lippincut only that the Ct. has passed their judgment and that as soon as the length of the proceedings would admit, a copy should be sent to him.28 It is inferred that this murderer will not be given up, and consequently a vicarious atonement must be made by the guiltless Asgill.29

Our expected news from Mr. Adams is not yet arrived,30 nor any news whatever from Europe. The same continues to be the case with [respect?] to the W. Indies. The reports for several days have turned on the evacuation & burning of Charleston.31 If there be any truth in either of them, you will have heard a confirmation before this reaches you. The former is as probable as the latter is otherwise, unless it may have been the effect of chance, or the hand of some desperate refugee.

You never touch on the time of your visit to us, a point on which I am you know not a little anxious. Mr. Jones is detained I perceive by a mode of supply from Mr. Ross which has only a retrospective efficacy.32

1See JM to Pendleton, 16 July 1782, and n. 2.


3See Randolph to JM, 5 July 1782, and nn. 17, 18, and 19.

4Robert R. Livingston. Which of the several codes used by the secretary for foreign affairs in 1782 was given to JM has not been determined (Wharton, Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence description begins Francis Wharton, ed., The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States (6 vols.; Washington, 1889). description ends , V, 53, 74, 405, 460). In a letter of 20 August 1782 to Randolph, JM stated that the four sheets of “the printed cypher of Mr. Livingston,” being too large to go by the postrider, could not be sent until a “private conveyance” became available (LC: Madison Papers). JM and Randolph did not employ this code in their correspondence later in 1782.

5See Randolph to JM, 5 July 1782, and nn. 13 and 14. In response to a query from Barbé-Marbois (“M—s”), Jefferson had estimated the “Whole Militia of the State” of Virginia in 1780–1781 as 49,971. In 1782 he believed that there were 296,852 “free inhabitants” and 270,762 slaves in the state (Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia, ed. by William Peden [Chapel Hill, N.C., 1955], pp. 82–90).

6See Randolph to JM, 5 July 1782, and n. 3.

7See Jones to JM, 25 June 1782, and n. 9.

8JM was misinformed. See Virginia Delegates to Harrison, 16 July 1782, and n. 7.

9See JM to Pendleton, 16 July 1782, and n. 6. Carleton hoped that he might negotiate directly with Congress, separate the United States from France, and keep the “Provinces” within the British Empire.

10See Virginia Delegates to Harrison, 16 July 1782, n. 9. JM underlined rather than coded the italicized passage in this sentence. He suggested the “drift” of Carleton’s tactics by emphasizing that the general had used the word “Provinces,” not “States.”

11Washington included this news in his letter of 9 July to Congress (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, 405). During the summer of 1782 Joseph Brant, leading about five hundred Indians, again ravaged the Canajoharie and German Flats (now Herkimer) neighborhoods of the Mohawk Valley (Francis Whiting Halsey, The Old New York Frontier [New York, 1913], p. 309). Following General John Burgoyne’s surrender in the autumn of 1777, the British had abandoned Fort Oswego at the confluence of the Oswego River and Lake Ontario. They briefly reoccupied the post two years later and once again garrisoned it and strengthened the fortifications in the spring of 1782 (Crisfield Johnson, History of Oswego County, New York [Philadelphia, 1877], p. 40; Jean N. McIlwraith, Sir Frederick Haldimand [Toronto, Canada, 1910], p. 157).

12Following this comma, JM may have written five or six additional words to complete the sentence. If he did, they have entirely faded except for a few ink dots and lines. The passage comes at the bottom of the second page of this four-page letter. Without indenting, he began the third page with “Messrs.” He probably expected Randolph to infer that, by “extending themselves in to the Western Country,” the British hoped to keep the friendship and trade of the Six Nations of the Iroquois and to retain the region after the war, if the peace negotiators applied the principle of uti possidetis in defining boundaries.

15After this word, JM inadvertently repeated 94, the cipher for “of.”

16Although leaving the impression that Joseph Montgomery had changed his mind about how states should use their income from taxes, JM probably meant that the delegate from Pennsylvania had become an opponent rather than an advocate of admitting Vermont as a state (Burnett, Letters description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress (8 vols.; Washington, 1921–36). description ends , VI, 450, 501; JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXII, 108–14). See n. 22, below.

17By using 213, the figure for “van,” rather than 619, standing for “ve,” JM erroneously coded this word. Although “the current opinion” appears to have been in error, the refusal of Congress to recognize the independence of the “state” of Vermont and heed its request for admission to the Confederation had led influential Green Mountain men to resume negotiations with British agents in Canada.

Lord George Germain still hoped to convert Vermont into a royal province, but, probably with good reason, Sir Frederick Haldimand, governor and commander-in-chief of Canada, suspected that “Governor” Thomas Chittenden, Ethan and Ira Allen, and their colleagues were manifesting a willingness to place Vermont under King George III merely as a strategic move to prevent an invasion by the British and to force concessions from New York, New Hampshire, and Congress. Haldimand’s faint hope of success almost completely disappeared in June 1782, when he received orders to suspend all offensive operations (Collections of the Vermont Historical Society, II [Montpelier, Vt., 1871], 198–99, 230, 263–68, 273–76, 283–86, 288–89; Hiland Hall, The History of Vermont, from Its Discovery to Its Admission into the Union in 1791 [Albany, N.Y., 1868], pp. 360–61, 366–78, 398–402).

18Not found. Both Robert R. Livingston and Samuel Livermore, chief justice of the Superior Court of New Hampshire, favored an “equitable solution” based upon the premise that “it was wrong to attempt to govern people against their will” (George Dangerfield, Chancellor Robert R. Livingston, p. 118; Motion Concerning Documents on Vermont, 3 April 1782, editorial note).

19That is, the watershed in Vermont dividing streams flowing into the Connecticut River on the east from those flowing into Lake Champlain, Lake George, or the Hudson River on the west.

20For the background of the Vermont, or New Hampshire Grants, controversy, see JM to Pendleton, 22 January, and nn. 5 and 6; 7 February, n. 4; 2 April, and n. 2; 23 April, and n. 7; Motion Concerning Documents on Vermont, 3 April, and editorial note, and nn. 5, 6, 8; Motion on Letter of Vermont Agents, 20 April, and n. 3; JM to Randolph, 23 April; 1 May, and nn. 15 and 16; Observations Relating to the Influence of Vermont and Territorial Claims, 1 May 1782, and n. 6.

In the spring of 1782 Vermont residents of four towns on the west bank of the Connecticut River made known their desire to submit to the jurisdiction of New Hampshire, and residents of three towns west of the Green Mountains manifested their readiness to acknowledge the authority of New York. There was “much confusion” because each of the “seceding” groups was opposed by many of their neighbors as well as by the “legislature” of Vermont, which on 13 June 1782 passed “an act for the punishment of conspiracies against the peace, liberty and independence of the state.” In October, after the opposition of the three western towns had been quelled by armed force, the Superior Court of Vermont severely punished the leaders of “the Yorkers.” On 21 June 1782 the New Hampshire General Assembly discouraged the discontented memorialists in the eastern Vermont towns by agreeing to heed their plea only if the “generality of the Inhabitants” east of the “heighth of land” expressed a desire to re-declare their allegiance to New Hampshire, and if that state and New York could amicably divide Vermont between them (Hiland Hall, History of Vermont, pp. 392–97; Collections of the Vermont Historical Society, II, 270–74, 277–78, 286–87, 295–99; Nathaniel Bouton et al., eds., New Hampshire Provincial and State Papers, VIII [Concord, 1874], 943).

21Joseph Montgomery.

22See JM to Randolph, 2 July 1782, n. 22. The Susquehannah Company of land speculators was organized in Connecticut in 1753. They based their claim to a large area in northeastern Pennsylvania upon the boundaries of Connecticut as defined in its colonial charter and upon a purchase of land from the Six Nations of the Iroquois. Among the prominent members of the company in 1782 were Eliphalet Dyer and Jesse Root, who were delegates from Connecticut in Congress (Pennsylvania Archives description begins Samuel Hazard et al., eds., Pennsylvania Archives (9 ser.; 138 vols.; Philadelphia and Harrisburg, 1852–1949). description ends , 2d ser., XVIII, 2–4, 22, 102). For the genesis of the company, see Julian P. Boyd, ed., The Susquehannah Company Papers (4 vols. to date; Ithaca, N.Y., 1962–), I, lviii–lxxxix.

If the company achieved its purpose, the area of its claim would be transferred from the jurisdiction of Pennsylvania to that of Connecticut, or even be accorded separate statehood. In the face of this threat, Montgomery reversed his position on Vermont’s similar effort to gain separate identity at New York’s and New Hampshire’s expense. See n. 16, above. In 1786 Ethan Allen came to the Wyoming Valley and allegedly declared that “with one hundred Green Mountain Boys, and two hundred Rifle men he could make that a new State in defiance of Pennsylvania” (Pennsylvania Archives description begins Samuel Hazard et al., eds., Pennsylvania Archives (9 ser.; 138 vols.; Philadelphia and Harrisburg, 1852–1949). description ends , 2d ser., XVIII, 109; Edmund C. Burnett, The Continental Congress, p. 649).

23See JM to Randolph, 2 July 1782, and n. 22.

25See JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXII, 370. Arthur Lee was a member of the committee, under James Duane’s chairmanship, “to enquire fully into the proceedings of the department of Finance, including the several branches of the same.” See Report on Congressional Inspection of Departments, 17 June 1782, editorial note.

26For Arthur Lee’s enmity toward Benjamin Franklin, see JM to Pendleton, 23 April, n. 10; Randolph to JM, 16–17 May 1782, and nn. 13 and 17.

27In using the Lovell cipher to encode the thirteen italicized words in this paragraph, JM made eleven alphabetical errors. See Randolph to JM, 5 July 1782, and nn. 19 and 20. A copy of the key to this code is in the University of Virginia Library.

28Carleton’s letter, from which JM “above quoted,” had been written on 20 June. In the present paragraph JM is referring to Carleton’s letter of 7 July, informing Washington that Lippincott’s court-martial had been held but not divulging its outcome (NA: PCC, No. 152, X, 631). With his dispatch of 9 July to Congress, Washington had enclosed copies of Carleton’s two communications (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXII, 388 n.).

29For the affair of Lippincott, Huddy, and Charles Asgill (ca. 1762–1823), see JM to Randolph, 1 May and n. 17. JM borrowed from Christian theology the phrase “vicarious atonement,” meaning that Christ by his death on the cross had paid the penalty for the sins of all men.

30See Virginia Delegates to Harrison, 25 June and n. 3; JM to Lee, 25 June 1782, and n. 3. On 29 August 1782 Livingston wrote to John Adams, “Near five months have elapsed since I have been favored with a line from you” (Wharton, Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence description begins Francis Wharton, ed., The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States (6 vols.; Washington, 1889). description ends , V, 677). Adams had written faithfully, but his dispatches had been delayed in transmission. Thus Congress lacked official word from him that the States-General of the Netherlands had recognized the independence of the United States on 22 April 1782. See JM to Randolph, 23 July 1782.

32This comment indicates that JM had received Jones’s letter of 8 July (q.v. and its n. 2). See also Jones to JM, 16 July 1782.

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