James Madison Papers

From James Madison to Edmund Randolph, 30 July 1782

To Edmund Randolph

RC (LC: Madison Papers). Docketed by Randolph, “July 30. 1782.” Cover missing. The italicized words are those written by JM in the Lovell cipher.

Philada. 30th. July 1782

My dear Sir

I was not mistaken in my intimation that an attack would be made on the last commission and instructions relative to peace[.]1 on Wednesday last the motion was made by M—r Lee and seconded by Bland at first but afterwards by a member from Mas: the rule for reconsid—n so requiring.2 Not a word was said against the [word] underscored in the third line.3 The arguments on the other point were drawn from a source which need not be pointed out to you.4 An adjournment arrested the debate[.] An intended renewal was announced but has not yet taken place.5

I have found means hitherto of parrying the attack on the notes of Morris[.]6 My colleagues have repeatedly pressed the necessity of an act of congress for ratifying the convention on that subject between him and the assembly ostensibly for the security of the latter, but really to bring the subject before congress—At present Bland seems to decline the object as having an ill tendency7

If any mail has failed to bear witness to my punctuality, It has not been caused by any default in me. I am the more at a loss to account for such a miscarriage, as it does not appear that any outrage has been repeated on the post.8 I shall notify the fact to the Postoffice here, and think it will not be amiss for you to urge an investigation upon the Post Master at Richmond.9

The letter inclosed in your favor of the 18th. from Docr. Carter has been sent to the Auditors.10 As far as my attention may be necessary, his case will recieve it.

A Capt: of an American Vessel is just come up with an account of the arrival of a French fleet off the capes of Chesapeak, with a body of Troops on board.11 Many persons are so sanguine as to expect that this armament is destined agst. New York and that it will immediately possess itself of the Harbour of that place, before the arrival of a superior enemy can prevent it. Altho’ the troops on board seem to favor such a conjecture, there are improbabilities which with me outweigh that circumstance.12

I am not enabled to make any addition to the intelligence from the Netherlands conveyed in my last.13 You will find by the inclosed paper that a Vessel is arrived at Boston from France, which brings some loose accounts. private letters tell us that Majr. Franks was a passenger in her.14 From him we shall probably receive further advices with respect to Europe in general, and ample ones from Madrid. I add to the paper of this morning two others of prior date which detail some interesting proceedings in the B. & I. Parliaments not published in the paper transmitted by last post.15 Some paragraphs of the Courier de L’Europe contained in neither of them, make it very probable that the New Ministry have been feeling the pulse both of Dr. F. & the Ct. of France.16 We are very much surprised that none of these important transactions should yet have come officially either to Congress or to the Chevr. de la Luzerne.17

My situation obliges me to remind you of my late request touching pecuniary matters.18 If the interposition of your endeavors shall be necessary, to hasten a supply, it will I assure you be a very acceptable instance of your friendship.

2As recorded by Thomson in his “Debates,” p. 64, Bland’s second on 24 July of Arthur Lee’s motion to reconsider was declared to be out of order, because Bland “had acknowledged he had voted agst the instructions.” Thereupon, “after sometime,” Jonathan Jackson of Massachusetts “gave it his second.”

3In the third line of the manuscript, JM underscored the ciphers for the word “commission.” See the second and third sentences of JM’s Comments on Instructions to Peace Commissioners, 24 July 1782, for his stress upon the inconsistency between the wording of Lee’s motion and Lowell’s and Bland’s speeches supporting it.

4The “other point” was the adoption, by a vote of fewer than nine state delegations, of an amendment to the proposed instructions to the peace commissioners. See Comments on Instructions to Peace Commissioners, 24 July 1782, and nn. 5, 6. By “source,” JM may have meant Arthur Lee.

5Ibid., n. 9. Although neither the printed journal nor Thomson’s “Debates” mentions an announcement of intention to resume the debate, a motion by John Lowell on 2 August 1782 confirms the accuracy of JM’s remark (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXII, 428).

6JM apparently refers to Robert Morris’ notes, mentioned earlier in this volume (Virginia Delegates to Harrison, 19 March, and n. 1; Randolph to JM, 20 June, and n. 42; JM to Randolph, 23 July 1782).

7See Randolph to JM, 16–17 May, n. 18; 20 June 1782, n. 42. In a letter of 30 April, Morris had promised to accept his notes “at the treasury of the United States in discharge of any debt due from Virginia.” Consequently, on 1 July 1782, the General Assembly in its “permanent revenue” law, erroneously citing Morris’ letter as of 29 April, declared that the notes would be receivable in payment of taxes (MS in Continental Congress Papers Collection, Virginia State Library; 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, 68–69). The journals of Congress furnish no evidence that Bland and Lee had “pressed” Congress to ratify the agreement.

By “ill tendency” Bland may have meant “bad politics.” The Virginia General Assembly might view with displeasure an unsuccessful effort by the delegates, acting without instructions, to have Congress ratify what in effect was a contract between Morris and the Assembly. On the other hand, ratification of the “contract” by Congress probably would offend Bland’s and Lee’s usual allies, the delegates from Massachusetts, because the depreciation of Morris’ notes in that state was subjecting them to attack (Clarence L. Ver Steeg, Robert Morris, pp. 118–19).

Many years later JM or someone at his bidding designated, by the use of brackets, the first two paragraphs of this letter for publication. Although JM’s directive was heeded in Madison, Papers (Gilpin ed.) description begins Henry D. Gilpin, ed., The Papers of James Madison (3 vols.; Washington, 1840). description ends , I, 155–56, Gilpin was unable to decode the ciphers. Gilpin further erred by including in the letter the final two sentences of the seventh paragraph and all of the eighth paragraph of JM’s dispatch of 16 July 1782 to Randolph.

8See Randolph to JM, 18 July 1782, and n. 14.

9The postmaster at Richmond was James Hayes, Jr., the publisher of the Virginia Gazette, or, the American Advertiser.

10See Randolph to JM, 18 July 1782, and n. 15. The auditors were William Geddes, William Govett, and John Dyer Mercier (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXII, 60, 260).

11See Virginia Delegates to Harrison, 30 July 1782, and n. 8. The “Capt:” was probably Charles Lyon, who had been a Philadelphia shipmaster at least as early as 1750 and had registered his brigantine “Nancy” in that city in 1774 (Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, XXV [1901], 123; XXVIII [1904], 488). Sailing under the protection of the French fleet from Haiti to the Chesapeake Capes, he had disembarked at Baltimore and proceeded overland to Philadelphia, arriving there on 29 July (Pennsylvania Journal, 31 July 1782).

12Among the “improbabilities” may have been the unlikelihood, because Rochambeau’s troops were still in Maryland and Washington’s army along the lower Hudson River was weak, that the French fleet would endeavor to control New York Bay with no prospect of receiving effective support from the land. As late as 6 August 1782 Washington had not heard officially of the French fleet’s arrival off the American coast (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, 473, 497).

14The Pennsylvania Gazette of 30 July 1782 reported the arrival at Salem, Mass., on 16 July of the ship “Thomas” after a month’s passage from Nantes. David Salisbury Franks (ca. 1740–1793), a native of Philadelphia, was a merchant in Montreal when the city was captured by the Americans in 1775. He entered the continental military service and eventually became a lieutenant colonel. At Robert Morris’ request, Washington in July 1781 granted Franks an indefinite leave of absence to enable him to carry secret dispatches to John Jay in Madrid. After further service as a member of Benjamin Franklin’s staff, Franks embarked in mid-June 1782 for the United States as a courier to Congress. In 1784 he bore to the American commissioners in Europe a copy of the definitive peace treaty with Great Britain ratified by Congress. Thereafter he served for three years in successive consular and diplomatic posts until his straitened finances necessitated his return home. His subsequent efforts to secure a federal appointment were unsuccessful. For at least two years before his death in Philadelphia from yellow fever he was an assistant cashier of the Bank of North America (Hersch L. Zitt, “David Salisbury Franks, Revolutionary Patriot [c. 1740–1793],” Pennsylvania History, XVI [1949], 77–95; Publications of the American Jewish Historical Society, I [1893; 2d ed., 1905], 76–86; IV [1896], 81–87; X [1902], 101–8).

15Besides the Pennsylvania Packet of 30 July, JM may have sent Randolph the issue of that paper of 25 July, the Pennsylvania Journal of 24 and 27 July, and the Pennsylvania Gazette of 24 July 1782. These all printed extracts of debates in the British or Irish Parliament on various dates between 22 March and 10 May 1782.

16JM was referring to an unidentified issue of the Courier de l’Europe, published in London, 1781–1788. The Pennsylvania Journal of 24 July told of a British agent in Paris engaged in conversations with Franklin, while the issue of 31 July of the same newspaper mentioned other British agents meeting with John Adams and Henry Laurens in The Hague.

17Congress did not hear from Jay until 2 August; from John Adams until 11 September; from Franklin until 17 September; and from La Luzerne, communicating information sent to him by Vergennes, until 24 September. These dispatches vary in their dates from 9 April to 5 July 1782 (NA: PCC, No. 185, III, 36, 41, 42, 43; 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, 597).

18See JM to Randolph, 16 and 23 July 1782.

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