James Madison Papers

Virginia Delegates to Benjamin Harrison, [ca. 20] August 1782

Virginia Delegates to Benjamin Harrison

RC (Virginia State Library). Written by Theodorick Bland, except for the signatures of JM and Arthur Lee. Lacks cover and docket. Both the contents of this letter and the delegates’ practice of writing weekly to the governor on Tuesday, the post day, make it probable that 20 August is the correct date.

Philadelphia [ca. 20] Augt. 1782


We have been duely hond. with your Excellys of the 8th Inst.1 Since our last2 such a dearth of Intelligence has prevaild that not one Circumstance worth relating has reachd this place or Congress from Europe or elsewhere. We have only to Inform your Excellency that among the Prisoners arrived at this Place from Mill & Fortune Prisons in England (from whence all the American Marine Prisoners have been sent to America)3 were about forty belonging to our state who have applied to us for relief [.] Yr. Excellency well knows that no provision has been put into our power for such purposes; which are very frequently occurring, notwithstanding we have frequently urged the Policy and necessity of it.4 On this occasion, both policy & Humanity have dictated to us to endeavor to procure by a draught on the treasury of Virginia to the amount of about thirty Pounds Pensylvania Currency, which we hope will be honord,5 and for which we hope we shall stand exculpated, when tis considerd that inattention to this usefull body of men in their distress might deprive the commerce of the State of their Services, of which it at present stands so much in need. we have the Honr. to be most respectfully,

Yr. Ecellys. Most obedt. Servts.

Theok: Bland Jr.

J Madison Jr

A Lee.


3One flag-of-truce ship on 15 August, and another three days later, had docked at Philadelphia, bringing a total of about 330 American naval prisoners from Mill Prison in Plymouth, and Forton Prison near Portsmouth, England (Pennsylvania Packet, 15 August; Pennsylvania Journal, 21 August 1782). On 15 August Congress had provided for rations to be issued to the men and directed Benjamin Lincoln, secretary at war, to arrange with the Pennsylvania Executive Council to have them quartered in the Philadelphia barracks (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIII, 469, and n. 2). Between 11 and 21 August about seven hundred more captive seamen from Mill and Forton prisons reached Massachusetts ports in three flag-of-truce vessels (Pennsylvania Packet, 27 August, 3 and 5 September 1782).

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 , III, 49, 259.

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