James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Edmund Pendleton, 26 August 1782

From Edmund Pendleton

Tr (LC: Force Transcripts). In the left margin at the top of the transcription the clerk wrote “MSS [Mc] Guire’s.” 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 , I, xxii, xxiii. Another copy of the original is printed in the Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society, 2d ser., XIX (1905), 160–61. Brief extracts from the first and fourth paragraphs of the original manuscript are in Stan. V. Henkels Catalogue No. 694 (1892).

Virga. Aug. 26th 1782

Dear Sir

Your favr. of the 13th1 gives great hope that Peace is approaching fast. There are some circumstances unfavourable, such as the Attention in the Exchange of Prisoners to their soldiers being at liberty to serve agt our Allies immediately, & against America after a year,2 and Genl. Carleton’s Declarations convey an Idea so flatering as to create Suspicion of their Sincerity.3 Yet the terms, after the voluntary recognition of our Independence, appear such as might be reasonable to all Parties. for as to Our part, as an individual, I declare my sentiments not to hesitate in restoring the confiscated property,4 either upon the ground, of Mistake in the Original measure,5 or that the value of them bears no kind of proportion to the inconvenience of continuing the War: even the expence and disappointments in trade would soon exhaust that Subject, but I consider the life of one valuable Citizen as greatly overballancing the whole of it. It would therefore be my opinion to be as prompt in our Concession to this, as Britain was in yielding the great Point,6 and as to the fishery I suppose we do not require more than is offered7—so that if our Allies are Satisfied, I se[e] nothing in the whole prospect to interrupt the Negotiation or prevent its conclusion; however we should never loose sight of the caution impressed by the experience of all Ages, to increase rather than relax our preparations for War to the last period of the Treaty.

We have been amused for some days with a Report of a large Fleet in our Bay & a heavy Cannonade on their Entry, which is said by others to be without foundation—how it is I can’t determine, nor was it ever said whether they were friends or Enemies:8 three or four British deserters have appeared on James River; Listed several slaves whom they armed from a Magazine in Goochland & then set fire to it. We have caught one of the slaves who says they intend to destroy other Magazines, A Party is after the whole & ’tis hoped they may be taken soon.9

It is my Opinion that it would be wisdom on the part of Britain to yield Canada as a 14th Member of the Union, since the event at some future period is more than probable, and a War may precede it; yet I cannot but consider the Spontaneous hinting of it [in]10 the manner it has been done, as having a deep, insideous intention on our Integrity—to decide what would be right on that head in the Treaty, independent of the Interest of the contracting powers, would seem to be to leave it to the Canadians to choose the party they would be annexed to.11

I am much obliged, and so is my Nephew, by yr Attention to his Runaway; his Overseer has been out these 10 days in pursuit of him & is not return’d, He was certainly with the French Army at Baltimore, where I hope the Overseer will reclaim him.12

We have had some fine rains which have done much good, but were partial & leave many parts of the state in distressful apprehensions of the want of bread.13 I am

Dr Sr Yr Affe & obt

Edmd. Pendleton

1Although this letter of 13 August to Pendleton has not been found, JM apparently wrote about the prospect of an early peace as in his letter to Randolph and in the Virginia delegates’ dispatch to Governor Harrison on the same day.

5The “Original measure” was an ordinance of the Virginia convention passed on 20 January 1776, as amended by an ordinance of 4 July 1776, decreeing that “free” Virginians adhering to the enemy should “forfeit” all their “estates, real and personal, to the use of the commonwealth” (Proceedings of the Convention of Delegates, Held at the Town of Richmond … Virginia … December, 1775 … and Afterwards … in … Williamsburg [Williamsburg: Purdie, 1776], p. 104; Proceedings of the Convention of Delegates, Held … in the City of Williamsburg … May, 1776 [Williamsburg: Purdie, 1776], pp. 180–81; 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 , IX, 101–7, 130–31). Although subsequent statutes during the war treated the Loyalists themselves more and more harshly, their wives, widows, or children were given increasing assurance by this same legislation that, following the peace treaty, they might in their own names recover the real property which had escheated to the Commonwealth in punishment of treasonable husbands or parents. See ibid., IX, 130–32, 168, 377–80; X, 66–67, 92–93, 153–56, 201–2, 387–88; XI, 81–82.

6That is, the independence of the United States.

7Unless JM’s missing letter of 13 August (n. 1, above) had commented upon the fisheries’ issue in the peace negotiations, Pendleton’s remark probably reflected his reading in the Virginia Gazette description begins Virginia Gazette, or, the American Advertiser (Richmond, James Hayes, 1781–86). description ends of 17 August of an erroneous report, dated 28 May, from London, that “England on her part will equally divide with” the United States “the fisheries of Newfoundland, and New England.” See Pendleton to JM, 19 August 1782.

9Pendleton’s source of information is unknown. The Virginia Gazette description begins Virginia Gazette, or, the American Advertiser (Richmond, James Hayes, 1781–86). description ends of 24 August 1782 noted that a force of militia was pursuing a “corps of banditti,” comprising fugitive slaves led, “it is thought, by some white emissaries from the enemy,” who on the seventeenth had robbed “sundry inhabitants” of Fluvanna County and destroyed there a “small magazine of powder.” Fluvanna and Goochland are adjoining counties west-northwest of Richmond, with the James River as their southern boundary. The court records of these two counties furnish no evidence of the prosecution of “banditti” in 1782. Most of the records of the General Court for that year have been destroyed.

10Peter Force’s copyist probably omitted this word. It is in the copies printed by the Massachusetts Historical Society and by Henkels. See headnote.

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, 443; 444, n. 14; JM to Pendleton, 6 August, and n. 5; Pendleton to JM, 19 August 1782.

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