James Madison Papers

From James Madison to Edmund Pendleton, 23 July 1782

To Edmund Pendleton

RC (New York Public Library). Docketed by Pendleton, “James Madison Esqr. July 23d. 1782.” Cover missing.

Philada. 23. July. 1782.

Dear Sir

The sterility of my late correspondence will be compensated by the contents of the inclosed paper,1 which besides other interesting particulars sufficiently confirms the recognition of our Independence by the States General.2 Among the numerous good consequences of this event to us I wish the people of Virginia not to be inattentive to its influence on the value of their staple,3 which it is probable will be an immediate object of speculation.4 Other particulars not yet republished from the foreign papers are the capture of 1 if not 2. French 74s. with a number of transports on their way to the E. Indies, by Admiral Barrington5—the capture of a British Frigate, with some transports by a Dutch ship of war6—the capture of the rich island of Ceylon from the Dutch by Admiral Hughs, & of Negapatam another of their important possessions on the coast of Coromandel, with two ships richly laden with oriental productions.7

The language of the New Ministry is not a little novel & extraordinary. They seem to consider themselves as they really are, the creatures of the people, not of the crown and address their whole conduct to the temper of the former, with as much assiduity as their predecessors did to the latter. The popular & oeconomical principles which they urged out of office, are the basis of their plans in office. They are excluding contractors &c from the legislature—abolishing sinecure appointments—pruning the civil list—arming the Militia and even patronizing a scheme of equal representation. In the last particular they met with great obstacles & Mr. Fox had the mortification to find himself in a minority on the question for appointing a committee to bring in plan for the purpose.8

Ireland is reaping a large share of the harvest produced by our labours. Besides a free trade & a free legislation, the shackles are taken off the poor Catholicks in the articles of their religious worship & the tenure of real property.9

Genl. Washington is still here.10 My last contained all the information I can give you relative to Lippencut & Asgil, Carlton preserves his taciturnity.11 It is said that a fleet of transports is just arrived at the Hook, and that they have troops on board. This has brought to life again the supposed evacuation of Charleston.12


1Not found, but probably the Pennsylvania Packet of 20 or 23 July 1782.


4See JM to Pendleton, 9 July 1782, and n. 3.

5On 20 April 1782 in the Bay of Biscay Captain John Jervis, commanding the 80-gun “Foudroyant,” a ship in the fleet of Vice Admiral Samuel Barrington (1729–1800), captured the 74-gun “Pégase.” On 23 April the 90-gun “Queen,” commanded by Captain Sir Frederick Lewis Maitland, forced the 64-gun “Actionnaire” to strike her colors. Ten other vessels in the French convoy, which was bound for Mauritius and the East Indies, were also taken (William L. Clowes, Royal Navy, IV, 80–83, 114; Pennsylvania Journal, 20 July; Pennsylvania Packet, 30 July 1782).

7JM appears to have heard a distorted version of a letter, written in Madras on 13 October 1781, from which the Pennsylvania Journal published an excerpt on 24 July 1782. Although JM may have seen the entire dispatch, the excerpt states only that Sir Eyre Coote, having defeated Haidar Ali, planned to lay siege to Arcot, and that the fleet of Vice Admiral Sir Edward Hughes (ca. 1720–1794), in co-operation with British troops, intended to invest the Dutch garrison at Negapatam, about 160 miles south of Madras on the Coromandel Coast of India. Although the British had captured Negapatam in November 1781 and forced the Dutch at Trincomalee, Ceylon, to surrender about two months later, their operations on land and sea during 1782 were either unsuccessful or, at best, indecisive. They were driven by the French from Trincomalee on 31 August 1782 (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, 469).

8See JM to Randolph, 14 May 1782, n. 2. There was acute rivalry in the ministry of the Marquis of Rockingham between the joint secretaries of state—the Earl of Shelburne, who had domestic matters as his principal province, and Charles James Fox, whose sphere of administration was foreign affairs. JM’s summary of the policy of the ministry exaggerates the extent of the reforms. Ten days after Rockingham’s death on 1 July, Shelburne became head of the government and Fox resigned (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, 457, 459–62).

9See JM to Randolph, 2 July 1782, n. 9. Late in May 1782 the Irish Parliament repealed Poynings’ Law of 1495, which had barred that legislature from convening or passing any legislation, except money bills, without the prior consent of the King in Council. Early in June the British Parliament repealed a statute affirming the right of Great Britain to legislate for Ireland and forbidding the Irish House of Lords to interfere with the judgment of Irish courts. Upon presenting a Declaration of Rights for the third time to the Parliament of Ireland on 16 April 1782, Henry Grattan had accompanied his eloquent affirmation of loyalty to Great Britain with the words: “Shall the colonists of America be free and the loyal people of Ireland slaves? No—I know the gentlemen of this country too well. I know they won’t submit” (Pennsylvania Journal, 24 July 1782). The Pennsylvania Packet of 27 July reported that on 4 May 1782 the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland had proclaimed, by authority of the King in Privy Council, that Irish Catholics thenceforward could have their own schools and possess landed estates. During the ministry of Lord North, many but not all of the restrictions on Irish trade had been removed.

10See Virginia Delegates to Harrison, 16 July, n. 7. Returning from Philadelphia, Washington reached his headquarters at Newburgh, N.Y., in the evening of 27 July 1782 (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, 438).

11See JM to Randolph, 1 May, nn. 17 and 18; JM to Pendleton, 16 July 1782. The Pennsylvania Journal on 20 July 1782 reported as almost certainly authentic the news that the British court-martial had acquitted Lippincott.

12See Virginia Delegates to Harrison, 16 July, and n. 8; JM to Pendleton, 16 July 1782. Twenty-eight “sail of victuallers from Cork,” convoyed by two British frigates, had arrived in New York Harbor on 18 July (Pennsylvania Packet, 27 July 1782).

Index Entries