James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Edmund Randolph, 16 August 1782

From Edmund Randolph

RC (LC: Madison Papers). In Randolph’s hand but lacks signature, cover, and docket. The words in italics are those encoded by Randolph in the official cipher.

Richmond August 16. 1782.

Dear Sir

Your favor of the 5th instant remained impenetrable in a great measure, from our misapprehension of the new cypher.1 I wish that the stimulus, administered in the close of it, had also been among the inscrutable arcana, until I had expiated in my own eyes the delinquency of two weeks.2 But I trust, that the inevitable cause of the omission which I mentioned last week, will have excused me in yours before the receipt of this letter. Shd. I fail to write by any post, wait until the succeeding one, before you believe, what never shall be believed with justice to my feelings, that I am unmindful of your friendly attention.

As to the great fulcrum of life in the extravagant city of Phila. I can add nothing to what I assured you of in my last: except that I expect to be able by a discount to negotiate your warrants on the auditors. But the tardy hand of the collector damps my hope of remitting to you from the treasury.3

The information, which I have hitherto transmitted to you,4 concerning the ardor of the british to diffuse their merchandize, has been confirmed by a late example. A flag was sent from hence to New-York, and it is believed, nay it is certain, altho’ it cannot be proved, that she returned home, well stocked with goods.5 Offences of this sort are not, I fancy, comprehended within any law of our own state, nor of the U. S. But as the seller would fail in his purpose, if buyers were wanting, it may not disgrace the wisdom of congress to recommend something on this subject.6 On the contrary, may not the constant repetition of your abhorrence of british manufacturers, whensoever a fair occasion shall offer itself, support the views, which you first had in recommending laws against their introduction.7

The captain of this same flag has also brought back some of the proscribed citizens of this commonwealth. Here too penalties are silent.8 The next assembly will probably cure the defect: but in what manner it is difficult to say.9 For should ever a british subject land in any other state, and acquire the rights of citizenship, we cannot refuse his admittance here, unless we oppose the confederation.10 Perhaps, however, congress have entered into some explanation of this part of their constitution, so as to reconcile it with our particular law. You recollect that the affair was agitated in the winter. I wish to know the report of the committee on it.11 We may indeed punish the captain for shipping these citizens on board at New-York and bringing them immediately from thence:12 but of what avail will this be, if they may be landed at South-Quay, inaugurate themselves into citizenship before a magistrate of N. Carolina; and return on board immediately for Virginia, or even travel hither by land?13 Have you ever heard in Philadelphia a report, which has been whispered here, and the truth of which I cannot assent to, concerning the unpopularity of General Green with his army? It is supposed to have arisen from a dispute with an officer of rank; in which words of intem[perance?]14 and abuse fell from the mouth15 of this prudent man.16 Nothing could have occasioned this unguarded conduct but an unparralleled and as-yet-incredible revolution in his temper. I know him personally and from hence I argue the impossibility of the event. Should it be true, and some future occasion call for a repetition of the sufferings of his army under hunger and nakedness, their17 former fortitude may yield to the impressions of discontent

The governor will, I suppose, mention in his public letter to the delegation the appointment of commissioners by General Greene to accommodate all differences with the southern Indians. We were interrupted in our conversation on this subject; but I conjecture (perhaps however without sufficient grounds) that the settlement of limits will be a great object18 You may learn a fuller account of this matter from your co-assessors from South Carolina.19

By a friend, who left Williamsburg on sunday last, I am informed of the dangerous illness of my inestimable aunt. I fear, when I compare her age, her disorder, and the violence of the present attack together, that I shall be soon deprived of a second mother, and a relation having equal affection and partiality for me as if she had been connected with me by the nearest ties of blood.20 This loss should it happen may produce a new arrangement in my affairs: and give a new turn to my resolution with respect to my return to congress. But of this you will shortly hear more.

I forgot to say, when I spoke of money, that if I can procure a draught upon Phila. from Colo. Clarke, who will be here in a few days21 I will destroy the necessity of your drawing on me as I mentioned in my last letter.22

Adieu.

4See 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, 394–95; 397, n. 3; 422–23; 425, n. 9; Randolph to JM, 6 August 1782.

5So many flag-of-truce vessels were engaging, or were believed to be engaging, in selling goods of British origin to citizens of Virginia during the summer of 1782 that the particular ship to which Randolph referred cannot be identified.

6Randolph evidently was confining his observation to water-borne traffic with the enemy. Congress on 21 June had adopted JM’s proposal that each state should be urged to prohibit this trade by land. About two days before this request was known in Richmond, the General Assembly had forbidden commerce of this sort but suspended the enforcement of the statute until the other states should take similar action. Congress on 17 July 1782 also had banned trade with the British under the guise of “collusive captures on the water” (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, 342; 351–52; 353, nn. 8 and 11; 398–99; 412).

7Ibid., III, 338–39; 339, nn. 2 and 3; IV, 350; 369; 371–72; 404.

8See n. 5, above. In a letter of 30 July, Governor Harrison asked Randolph whether these “Enemies” and the ship captain who had brought them back to Virginia were indictable under any law of the state. On 5 August 1782 Randolph replied that if “Enemies” meant “persons suspected of treason, it seems allowable that a flag may bring them to the country. They are citizens supposed to be innocent until conviction, and are at liberty to risque themselves upon a trial for life or death.” Randolph added that a citizen of Virginia who owned and accompanied his flag-of-truce ship to and from New York City was not culpable under any law of Virginia unless he could be shown to have rendered “some aiding or comforting” to the enemy while on the voyage (McIlwaine, Official Letters description begins H. R. McIlwaine, ed., Official Letters of the Governors of the State of Virginia (3 vols.; Richmond, 1926–29). description ends , III, 284; 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, 250–51).

9For the attention given to this matter by the Virginia General Assembly during the session of October 1782, see Report on Peace Negotiations, 4 October 1782, n. 5.

10Article IV of the Articles of Confederation guaranteed that the “free inhabitants” of one state shall “be entitled to all privileges and immunities of free citizens in the several states,” with “free ingress and regress to and from any other state,” and that “Full faith and credit shall be given in each of these states to the records, acts and judicial proceedings of the courts and magistrates of every other state” (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XIX, 214–15).

11On 26 June 1779 the Virginia General Assembly had adopted “An act declaring who shall be deemed citizens of this commonwealth.” This statute declared that “The free white inhabitants of every of the states, parties to the American confederation, paupers, vagabonds, and fugitives from justice excepted, shall be entitled to all rights, privileges, and immunities of free citizens in this commonwealth, and shall have free egress and regress to and from the same” (Journal of the House of Delegates description begins Journal of the House of Delegates of the Commonwealth of Virginia; Begun and Held at the Capitol, in the City of Williamsburg. Beginning in 1780, the portion after the semicolon reads, Begun and Held in the Town of Richmond. In the County of Henrico. The journal for each session has its own title page and is individually paginated. The edition used is the one in which the journals for 1777–1786 are brought together in two volumes, with each journal published in Richmond in 1827 or 1828, and often called the “Thomas W. White reprint.” description ends , May 1779, p. 70; 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 , X, 129–30).

On 22 August 1781 a committee had advised a clarification or “execution” of the Articles of Confederation in twenty-one listed respects, including a description of “the privileges and immunities to which the citizens of one State are entitled in another” (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXI, 894–96). Congress deferred acting on this part of the committee’s report until 14 February 1782, when John Morin Scott was named chairman of a committee, comprising five delegates, including Joseph Jones of Virginia, “to extend in detail for the consideration of Congress” the “privileges and immunities” and other provisions of the Articles of Confederation. This committee was discharged on 28 April 1783, apparently without ever rendering a report (NA: PCC, No. 186, fol. 13). See JM to Randolph, 27 August 1782.

12Under the laws of Virginia of 14 July 1780 and 23 June 1781, a ship captain who knowingly transported Loyalists to the Commonwealth might be prosecuted as their accomplice and, if convicted, subjected to a long term in prison, and/or a heavy fine (Journal of the House of Delegates description begins Journal of the House of Delegates of the Commonwealth of Virginia; Begun and Held at the Capitol, in the City of Williamsburg. Beginning in 1780, the portion after the semicolon reads, Begun and Held in the Town of Richmond. In the County of Henrico. The journal for each session has its own title page and is individually paginated. The edition used is the one in which the journals for 1777–1786 are brought together in two volumes, with each journal published in Richmond in 1827 or 1828, and often called the “Thomas W. White reprint.” description ends , May 1780, p. 89; May 1781, p. 32; 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 , X, 269, 414).

13South Quay was in Nansemond County on the Blackwater River within a short distance of North Carolina.

14Randolph most likely intended to encode “intemperance” but failed to include enough ciphers.

15Randolph wrote the cipher for “more” rather than the two ciphers 737 and 89 which together stood for “mou.”

16Randolph referred to General Greene’s severe reprimand of James Gunn (1753–1801) of Elizabeth City County, a captain of the 1st Continental Dragoons (Gwathmey, Historical Register of Virginians description begins John H. Gwathmey, Historical Register of Virginians in the Revolution: Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, 1775–1783 (Richmond, 1938). description ends , p. 333), who had disposed of the stallion Romulus for his own gain. This horse, once before a source of contention (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 , III, 62, n. 2), had been impressed again in Virginia for army use, and hence was public property. On 22 June, after Gunn’s action had been upheld by a court of inquiry, Greene referred the matter for review by the Board of War or Congress. On 21 August 1782 Congress upheld Greene and directed him to order Gunn to replace “the horse with another equally good” (NA: PCC, No. 149, I, 583–610; JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIII, 526; George Washington Greene, The Life of Nathanael Greene [3 vols.; New York, 1871], III, 455–56).

After the war, when both of the principals were residents of Georgia, Gunn challenged Greene to a duel because of the reprimand, but Greene declined to accept (ibid., III, 527–29; Theodore Thayer, Nathanael Greene: Strategist of the American Revolution [New York, 1960], pp. 438–39). Gunn served as a senator from Georgia in the Congress of the United States from 1789 to 1801.

17Randolph used 789, the cipher for “ren,” rather than 798, signifying “their.”

18Governor Harrison’s letters to the delegates on 16 and 23 August (qq.v.) do not mention this subject. For General Greene’s commissioners and their abortive efforts in the summer and autumn of 1781 to conclude a durable peace with the Cherokees and Chickasaws, 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 , III, 250, n. 7; 299; 300 n. Late in April 1782 the commissioners engaged in “a talk” with “friendly chiefs of the Cherokees,” who also presented a conciliatory message from “the Chief of the Chikasas.” This parley gave promise of leading to a treaty, provided that “these needy people” were given food, clothing, and ammunition (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, 170–73). Governor Harrison in Council on 22 May directed that Colonel Joseph Martin, the Indian agent of Virginia at the Long Island in the Holston River, work in concert with Greene’s commissioners, and that he be supplied with shirts, cloth, and “500 lb Gun powder,” and on 6 June with “a talk” for delivery to “the Cherokee Nation” (Journals of the Council of State description begins H. R. McIlwaine et al., eds., Journals of the Council of the State of Virginia (3 vols. to date; Richmond, 1931——). description ends , III, 95, 103; McIlwaine, Official Letters description begins H. R. McIlwaine, ed., Official Letters of the Governors of the State of Virginia (3 vols.; Richmond, 1926–29). description ends , III, 244).

On 12 June Governor John Mathews of South Carolina wrote to Harrison asking Virginia to co-operate in “an expedition” to be launched in August against the Indians, “especially the Cherokees,” in retaliation for their “hostile demonstrations” along the frontier from Virginia to Georgia (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, 191). The belated arrival of this dispatch early in August, and the news that Governor Alexander Martin of North Carolina was disposed to join with Mathews, placed Harrison in a quandary. On 8 August he directed that no more of the articles mentioned above be forwarded to Colonel Martin and a week later wrote to him to retain whatever goods he had received, “or at all events the ammunition till you are certainly informed that the dispute with the Carolinas is settled” (McIlwaine, Official Letters description begins H. R. McIlwaine, ed., Official Letters of the Governors of the State of Virginia (3 vols.; Richmond, 1926–29). description ends , III, 291–92, 295–96; Journals of the Council of State description begins H. R. McIlwaine et al., eds., Journals of the Council of the State of Virginia (3 vols. to date; Richmond, 1931——). description ends , III, 133).

20See 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, 162, n. 8. Elizabeth Harrison Randolph (b. ca. 1724), sister of Governor Harrison, widow of Peyton Randolph, and aunt of Edmund Randolph, died late in January 1783 (Randolph to JM, 1 February 1783, in LC: Madison Papers).

21Daniel Clark, agent of Robert Morris (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, 254, n. 4; 266, n. 3). Clark was in Richmond by 20 September 1782, since on or before that day he “presented a Draft for thirty pounds Pennsylvania currency, drawn by our Delegates in Congress, August the 20th in favor of Robert Morris esquire” for money he had advanced to them to relieve “Sundry Citizens of this State lately returned from captivity in Great Britain” (Journals of the Council of State description begins H. R. McIlwaine et al., eds., Journals of the Council of the State of Virginia (3 vols. to date; Richmond, 1931——). description ends , III, 145). See Virginia Delegates to Harrison, 20 August 1782.

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