James Madison Papers

From James Madison to Edmund Randolph, 5–6 August 1782

To Edmund Randolph

RC (LC: Madison Papers). Docketed by Randolph, “Js. Madison Aug 5–6. 1782 contains Lovell’s cypher.” Words italicized in the first paragraph were written in James Lovell’s cipher, those following “Augst. 6th.” in the official cipher. For the use of these codes, see Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (5 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , IV, 148, n. 9; 398, nn. 17–20.

Phla. Aug: 5th. 1782

Dear Sir

Fra[n]ks1 has arrived with a long letter from Jay2 being a sequel of the insulting delays disappointments and tergiversations which form the history of his mission. To make our mortification complete he was finally suffered to protest the bills of Congress tho the amount did not exceed twenty five thousand ster——g. The blame of this [s]eemed3 justly to fall in part on France who probably meant to make that display of her importance to the U. S.4 This circumstance with some other passages in Jays letter which cannot be here recited,5 were fresh leaven to the antigallic ferment and revived the motion lately mentioned to you. It was again suspended by an adjournment but will be renewed and pressed to a decision.6 from the present temper of congress I infer that the decision if not reversive of the power given to France in the negotiation of peace will denote such a degree of discontent and distrust as will greatly impair the confidence on the side of our ally and may if discovered inspire the enemy with new hopes from a protraction of the war. It is very probable that this affair will eventually be adjusted on some middle ground. The venom against France will not be assuaged without some such expedient.

We are still without official information both from Mr. Adams, relative to the negociations with the States General,7 & from Docr. Franklin relative to advances made by the British Ct. at Versailles towards a general negociation.8 That such advances have been made may be inferred not only from private reports, but from repeated paragraphs in European papers.9 Whether they be sincere or insidious may be another question.

Augst. 6th.

A letter of the 14th. of May has come to hand from Mr. Jay in which he says that he is called to Paris by doctor Franklin.10 This call can only be in his capacity of minister for peace and in consequence of a prospect if not commencement of negotiations. He says nothing on the subject himself, but refers to intelligence which he take’s for granted would previously arrive from Paris.11 He congratulates [Mr. Liv]ingston on the acknowlegement of our independence by the united provinces. This is the first official evidence of that event.12

The Committee as a member of which you prepared a certain report was yesterday augmented to five and filled up.13 The present composition of it promises a speedy and favorable report. The middle states are rendered apparently very ductile by their fears of a coalition between the eastern and southern in a change of the instructions for peace.14

Mr. Mon[t]gomery has given notice to Congress of his intention to call for the report on the case of Vermont and to lay before them such information as he has acquired.15

The French squadron which lately appeared off the Capes of Chesepeak are now off those of Delaware. The Ultimate destination of it is only a subject of conjecture.16 There is I believe no reason to expect more than en passant17 advantages from it.

In several of my late letters both to you & Mr. Ambler I have, intimated the necessity of some pecuniary remittances and asked your friendly attention to that subject.18 Will you give me leave to repeat this request?

Mr. Jones’s letter by yesterday’s post informs me of his purpose of visiting Philada. forthwith.19 Besides the pleasure I take in gratifying you with every interesting communication I must own that some of the particulars mentioned above are meant to hasten if possible a like purpose in yourself.20

You will21 be able to distinguish the paragraphs in which each cypher is used without my specification of them.

1For Major David Salisbury Franks and his mission overseas, see Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (5 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , IV, 448; 450, n. 14.

2The dispatch of 28 April 1782 to Robert R. Livingston, secretary for foreign affairs (Wharton, Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence description begins Francis Wharton, ed., The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States (6 vols.; Washington, 1889). description ends , V, 336–77). See also Comments on Instructions to Peace Commissioners, 2 August 1782, ed. n.

3JM inadvertently wrote the cipher for “t” rather than “s.”

4In the dispatch of 28 April 1782, Jay told of his many financial embarrassments between October 1781 and 26 March 1782. Thanks to credit supplied by Benjamin Franklin, loans from a banker in Madrid, and about $26,000 from the court of Spain, Jay had succeeded in paying on time, month by month through February 1782, the bills drawn against him by Congress, even though, as each due date approached, he feared lest enough money would not be available. The crisis came in March when neither the Spanish court nor the banker would supply more funds, and when Franklin was obliged to write that his resources were exhausted, because the royal treasury of France refused to make further loans or gifts. For these reasons, Jay on 16 March was under “the mortifying necessity of protesting a number of bills which were then payable,” amounting to less than £25,000. Ten days later he received a letter from Franklin bearing the good news that France at last had promised the United States six million livres “for this year.” Thus Jay was enabled to pay “the residue of my debts here, as well as such of the protested bills as may be returned for that purpose.”

JM’s surmise that France had delayed granting the new loan in order to make a “display of her importance to the U. S.” may reflect his reading of Jay’s comment that “there are many reasons that induce me to think that France does not in fact wish to see us treated as independent by other nations until after a peace, lest we should become less manageable in proportion as our dependence upon her shall diminish” (Wharton, Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence description begins Francis Wharton, ed., The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States (6 vols.; Washington, 1889). description ends , V, 359; also 336–37, 349, 360–61, 364, 366–70).

5Probably encoding the pertinent “passages” would have consumed more time than their relative unimportance merited.

6See Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (5 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , IV, 435; 436–37; 438, n. 3; Comments on Instructions to Peace Commissioners, 2 August 1782, ed. n., and nn. 3, 4. Arthur Lee’s letter of 6 August to Samuel Adams well illustrates the attitude of a prominent anti-Gallican (Burnett, Letters description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress (8 vols.; Washington, 1921–36). description ends , VI, 428–30).

7See Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (5 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , IV, 364, n. 3; 431, n. 6.

8Franklin’s dispatches of 25 and 29 June, in which he told of a British envoy in Paris fully empowered to negotiate a peace, were read in Congress on 17 September 1782 (NA: PCC, No. 185, III, 42; Wharton, Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence description begins Francis Wharton, ed., The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States (6 vols.; Washington, 1889). description ends , V, 510–13, 533–35).

9See Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (5 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , IV, 448; 450, n. 16. Madison probably was referring to extracts from European papers published in the Pennsylvania Journal of 31 July and 3 August, and the Pennsylvania Packet of the latter date. From these, which reported overseas news dating as recently as 28 May, JM could gather that in April and May the ministry of Charles Watson-Wentworth, Marquis of Rockingham, had sent Richard Oswald to Paris to parley with Franklin, and, in the latter month, Thomas Grenville to negotiate with Charles Gravier, Comte de Vergennes, and unofficially with Franklin. Oswald was the agent of William Petty, Earl of Shelburne, who administered home, Irish, and colonial affairs in that ministry, while Grenville was commissioned by Charles James Fox, who was in charge of foreign relations. See Samuel Flagg Bemis, The Diplomacy of the American Revolution (2d printing; Bloomington, Ind., 1957), pp. 193–205; W. Stitt Robinson, Jr., ed., Richard Oswald’s Memorandum (Charlottesville, 1953), pp. 39–42.

10In this letter, which was read in Congress on 2 August, Jay informed Robert R. Livingston that he would leave Madrid for Paris “in about five days.” He did not reach his destination until 23 June 1782 (Wharton, Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence description begins Francis Wharton, ed., The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States (6 vols.; Washington, 1889). description ends , V, 417, 517).

11See n. 8, above.

12See Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (5 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , IV, 364, n. 3; 431, n. 6.

13Ibid., IV, 4, headnote; 17, n. 30; 342, n. 1. On 5 August the matter of the Newfoundland fisheries in relation to the peace commissioners’ instructions, upon which Randolph had reported on 22 January 1782, was revived by a motion of Theodorick Bland, seconded by Jonathan Jackson of Massachusetts (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXII, 43–45, 429, 482–521). Although Congress referred the motion to the original committee, its personnel had been reduced to Joseph Montgomery (Pa.), since Daniel Carroll (Md.), who had been its chairman, and Randolph were not in Philadelphia (Burnett, Letters description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress (8 vols.; Washington, 1921–36). description ends , VI, xlv, 1, liii). Congress therefore reconstituted the committee by joining James Duane (N.Y.), JM, Samuel Osgood (Mass.), and Hugh Williamson (N.C.) with Montgomery (NA: PCC, No. 186, fols. 10, 47). See Comments on Instructions to Peace Commissioners, 8 August 1782.

14JM apparently meant that the delegates of the Middle States feared that a New England—southern coalition, seeking to add to the peace-terms ultimatums the freedom to fish in Newfoundland waters and to navigate the Mississippi River, would continue long enough to effect an acceptance by Congress of Virginia’s offer to cede her land claims north and west of the Ohio River. See Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (5 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , IV, 5–7.

15Mention of Joseph Montgomery’s “notice,” if written, has not been found in the official papers of Congress. A possible explanation of his action is suggested in Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (5 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , IV, 420, n. 16; 421, n. 22. His determination to bring the Vermont issue again to the fore may have been in some degree a political maneuver to split the New England—southern states coalition, mentioned by JM and in n. 14, above. Montgomery probably had gleaned his “information” while on his mission to the governments of the New England states in June and early July to urge, on behalf of Congress, that they meet its financial requisitions (ibid., IV, 270, n. 2; 418).

16Ibid., IV, 446; 447, n. 8; 448; 449, n. 12.

17JM underlined the ciphers for this expression.

18See Ambler to JM, 3 August 1782, and n. 3.

19Joseph Jones’s letter of 22 July. He reached Philadelphia on 25 August 1782, after an absence of nearly four months (Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (5 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , IV, 179, n. 10; JM to Randolph, 27 August 1782).

20Although JM evidently meant that Randolph should imitate Jones’s example by returning to Congress, Randolph interpreted JM’s sentence as a gentle reproof for not writing more often. See Randolph to JM, 16 August 1782.

21Three or four words, deleted too completely to be read, follow “will.”

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