Virginia Delegates to Benjamin Harrison
RC (Virginia State Library). Written by Theodorick Bland, except for the signatures of JM and Arthur Lee. The last (fourth) page of the letter is docketed, “Letter from Delegates Augt 13th 1782.” Filed with the letter is its enclosure—a copy of a letter of 12 August from Secretary at War Benjamin Lincoln to Bland. This and the delegates’ letter were placed, after receipt, in a paper wrapper bearing the docket, “Virga Delegates [deleted] Letter Augst 13 [deleted] 82 Augt 13th Augt 12th 1782. Concerning the order from the War Department to Mr Guion to remove Stores from York Town. Letter from B Lincoln Secty of War to Theo. Bland.” For “Mr Guion,” see n. 2.
Philadelphia Augt. 13th 1782
We have been honord with your Excelly’s of the 1st Augt. 1782.1 We have taken the liberty of conversing with the Secy. at War on that part of your letter, concerning the Works at York Town. That Gentn: expressd his surprise at the misinformation, you must have receivd of his Conduct in the affair, and with a wish to undeceive you has favord us with a Copy of the instructions, he gave concerning the Works together with a letter, addressd to us on the Subject, both which, we have the honor of enclosing to your Excelly.2
No Material event has taken place Since we had the Honor of writing to your Excelly. by Express, when we informd you of a letter received from Sr. Guy Carleton and Admiral Digby, directed to Genl. Washington, Containing information “that Mr. Grenville was actually commissiond as plenipo: for adjusting a Plan of a Peace with the Belligerent powers, and was actually at Paris when the packet saild, and that the King of Great Britain had orderd his ministers to instruct him to offer Independency to the thirteen Provinces in the first Instance, and not as a condition of the treaty, relying however with Confidence that the Property of the Loyalists would be restored to them in America.”3
What may be the Issue of the negotiation for a Peace, which we have every reason to believe is now on the Tapis, we will not venture to predict. But we cannot help thinking, that the Preliminary offer above mentiond, however it may be intended by England, will have a favorable effect on our affairs, as it seems to remove the Principal Barrier, which has hitherto prevented some of the powers of Europe from recognizing us as an Independent Nation—viz the Apprehension of giving Umbrage to England, by such an Interference, where by they wd. have departed from their Neutral & Mediatorial Characters.6
We are Informd, that great confusion prevaild among the Tories within the Enemies lines, immediately on the news, above Mentiond, transpiring, and it is not improbable but that the forment it has occasiond among them, may end in Measures by no means advantageous to our Enemies.7 The American Army continues at its former Station,8 the French at Baltimore,9 and the Fr: Fleet under the Command of the M: de Vaudreuil off this Coast,10 where he waits to protect the trade and to afford a Convoy to such Vessels as may be ready to sail in a short Time, of which Your Excelly. has no doubt been apprized, by the French Admiral.11
It is with pleasure we inform Your Excelly. that an atrocious and dangerous band of Robers, some of whom have been concernd in robbing the two last mails that were taken, and in various other enormities, have been secured in this and the neighbouring states, to the Amount of above thirty, and are now in close Goal.12 this we hope will give security to future communications as tis said nearly the whole of those concernd, who formd a line from N: York to Maryland have been discoverd and taken. We doubt not of your Excellency’s having receivd satisfactory accounts of the Evacuation of Savannah of which Congress receivd yesterday Authentic information.13
we have the Honor to be Yr. Excey’s most obedt. & very Humb: svts
J. Madison Jr
Theok. Bland Jr.
P.S. Since writing the above find that the Publication therein mention, is not yet in the Paper but shall endeavor to procure a Copy of it.14
2. See Calendar of Virginia State Papers description begins William P. Palmer et al., eds., Calendar of Virginia State Papers and Other Manuscripts (11 vols.; Richmond, 1875–93). description ends , III, 224–26, for the instructions of the secretary at war on 20 July 1782 to Captain-Lieutenant Isaac Guion (d. 1823) of New York City. Guion, a militiaman at least as early as April 1775 and in continental service by March 1776, was in the infantry and artillery until he was discharged in June 1783. He reentered the army in 1792 and retired ten years later as a major of the Third Regiment, United States Infantry (Collections of the New-York Historical Society, XLVIII (1915), 509; Heitman, Historical Register Continental description begins F. B. Heitman, Historical Register of Officers of the Continental Army during the War of the Revolution (Washington, 1914). description ends , p. 265; JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , VII, 589, 632; Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States of America, I [Washington, 1828], 114, 116, 387). Lincoln ordered Guion, as soon as the French were ready to evacuate Yorktown, to ship from there, under the convoy of French vessels, all “the Artillery and stores” of the United States to Head of Elk in Maryland. In his letter of 12 August 1782 to Bland, Lincoln disclaimed any authority over the commander of the French troops left by Rochambeau at Yorktown, denied issuing orders “to destroy the works” there, and hoped that Governor Harrison, by showing to the French commander a copy of the instructions to Guion, would make amends for his “very precipitate” action (Calendar of Virginia State Papers description begins William P. Palmer et al., eds., Calendar of Virginia State Papers and Other Manuscripts (11 vols.; Richmond, 1875–93). description ends , III, 260; Harrison to Virginia Delegates, 1 August, and n. 2; 23 August 1782).
4. That is, to offset the erroneous impression which unwary patriots might have gained from reading the Carleton-Digby letter in the Pennsylvania Packet of 10 August and in other newspapers. See JM to Randolph, 9 August 1782. Arthur Lee, on behalf of the committee of Congress assigned to consider the dispatch, submitted on 12 August an acceptable report. It denied “that Congress have received authentic communications upon the subject of an approaching peace” from the American peace commissioners. After pointing out that the Carleton-Digby letter was too “inexplicit” to warrant any “public measure,” Congress resolved “That it be, and it is hereby, recommended to the several states in the union, not to remit of their exertions for carrying on the war with vigor, as the only effectual means of securing the settlement of a safe and honorable peace” (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIII, 462–63). For a part of the background of the committee’s report, 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, 440–41.
5. See n. 14.
6. The powers that were both “Neutral & Mediatorial” were Austria and Russia. 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; 176, n. 12; 180–81; 281, n. 12; 388, n. 11.
7. The Loyalists feared for the safety of their persons and their property upon hearing that Parliament was about to recognize the independence of the United States and that General Carleton had received orders to prepare to evacuate his troops from New York City and its vicinity. For the alarm of the Loyalists there and their anger because, after sacrificing so much, they appeared to be of slight concern to the British government, see Pennsylvania Journal, 10 and 13 August; Pennsylvania Packet, 13 August 1782; and Thomas Jefferson Wertenbaker, Father Knickerbocker Rebels: New York City during the Revolution (New York, 1948), pp. 250–53.
8. That is, chiefly along the Hudson River, north and west of New York City. Washington’s headquarters were at Newburgh, N.Y.
9. Rochambeau’s army began to move north from Baltimore on 23 August (Acomb, Journal of Closen description begins Evelyn M. Acomb, trans. and ed., The Revolutionary Journal of Baron Ludwig von Closen, 1780–1783 (Chapel Hill, N.C., 1958). description ends , p. 227).
10. This information was out of date. The fleet of Vice Admiral Louis Philippe de Rigaud, Marquis de Vaudreuil, had reached Boston Harbor on 10 and 11 August, but this news would not be known in Philadelphia until the twentieth of that month (Pennsylvania Packet, 20, 22, and 27 August 1782). See also 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, 447, n. 8.
11. The delegates were mistaken. See Harrison to the Virginia Delegates, 23 August 1782.
12. The Pennsylvania Journal of 7 August and the Pennsylvania Packet of 10 August 1782 reported the capture of bands of brigands who had been robbing homes, travelers, and occasionally the mails in Bucks County, Pa., in northeastern New Jersey, and in the lower Hudson River Valley in New York. 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, 354, n. 4; 415, and n. 2.
13. Major General Nathanael Greene’s dispatch of 14 July to the president of Congress, reporting the evacuation of Savannah two days before, was read in Congress on 12 August 1782 (NA: PCC, No. 155, II, 499–503).
14. The resolutions of Congress and the Carleton-Digby dispatch appeared in the Pennsylvania Journal of 14 August and in the next day’s issue of the Pennsylvania Packet. Harrison’s acknowledgment of 23 August makes clear that a handwritten or newspaper copy of the documents accompanied the present letter or that the governor saw another copy of them before their publication in either the Virginia Gazette description begins Virginia Gazette, or, the American Advertiser (Richmond, James Hayes, 1781–86). description ends or the Virginia Gazette, and Weekly Advertiser, both of 24 August 1782.