James Madison Papers

Virginia Delegates to Benjamin Harrison, [3 September] 1782

Virginia Delegates to Benjamin Harrison

Printed extract (Parke-Bernet Galleries Catalogue No. 2124 [20 September 1962], p. 30). The letter is described as follows: “Madison, James; Theodoric Bland, and Arthur Lee. A.L.s. by Bland, signed also by Madison as ‘J. Madison Jr.’ and by Lee as ‘A. Lee’; 2 pp. 4to, integral blank leaf docketed on verso; Philadelphia, 3 Sept. 1782; with an erroneous pencil note suggesting that the recipient was Washington. The letter was actually addressed to Benjamin Harrison, Governor of Virginia. Gauzed and faded.” See n. 3, below. In view of the opening sentence of Harrison’s dispatch of 20 September to the delegates (q.v., and n. 1), the omitted portion of the present letter must have included a statement to the effect that they had not heard from him since 26 August, when they received his dispatch written ten days earlier. See Virginia Delegates to Harrison, 27 August, and 10 September 1782.

[3 September 1782]

We must observe, that this Petion,1 tho pretending to be a Copy of an original one, is accompanied with no certificate of its being so; while the Petition is in one hand writting, and the names in four or five different hands, and not written by each subscriber.2 We leave to your Excellency the Propriety of laying it before the next session of Assembly.3

the Western Lands, if ceded to the U S. might contribute towards a fund for paying the debts of those States.4

3With his letter to the speaker of the House of Delegates of Virginia on 21 October 1782, Governor Harrison enclosed the present dispatch and the petition for submission to “the Honorable the Assembly.” The governor added that most of the grievances set forth in the memorial had been “obviated by the Law pass’d the Last Session of Assembly which I hope will silence their Clamours, and defeat the Intentions of their abettors in Philadelphia” (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, 348, 352; Comments on Petition of Kentuckians, 27 August 1782, n. 5). The printed journal of the House of Delegates for the session of October 1782 makes no mention either of the petition or Kentucky, except that the petition appears to have been referred on 10 November “to the committee of the whole House on the state of the Commonwealth” (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 , October 1782, p. 10).

4This fragment anticipates the wording of a grand committee’s report to Congress on 4 September. See JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIII, 545; JM to Randolph, 10 September 1782, and n. 7. In summarizing the topics treated by the delegates in the present letter, the catalogue cited in the headnote states, “They also inform Harrison of the receipt and transmission of resolutions and of rumors of action in the English Channel.” For the nature of, and action by the delegates and Congress on “the resolutions,” see Harrison to Virginia Delegates, 16 August, and n. 4; and Virginia Delegates to Harrison, 27 August 1782.

The Pennsylvania Packet of 3 September 1782 reported that a ship, upon its arrival at Marblehead, Mass., about two weeks before, had brought word of the capture in the English Channel late in June of twenty-two Quebec-bound enemy ships by a combined fleet of forty-six French, Spanish, and Dutch men-of-war. This was a fairly accurate summary of an action on 24 June in which a French and Spanish fleet had taken eighteen vessels from a British convoy on its way to Canada (W[illiam] M. James, The British Navy in Adversity: A Study of the War of American Independence [London, 1926], p. 368).

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