James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Edmund Pendleton, 9 September 1782

From Edmund Pendleton

Tr (LC: Force Transcripts). Addressed to “The Honble James Madison jr Eqr   Philada.” At the top of the left margin of the first page of the transcription, the copyist wrote “MSS [M]cGuire’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. The first three paragraphs from the original manuscript were also published in the Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society, 2d ser., XIX (1905), 163. Except for its last sentence, the third paragraph of the original was printed in Stan. V. Henkels Catalogue No. 694 (1892).

Virga. Septr 9th 1782

Dr Sir

If the feelings of all my countrymen were as much wounded as mine are by your situation hinted at in yr favr of the 27th past you would soon be in one more agreable to yrself & honourable to yr Countrey.1 I can say no more on the hated subject.

Since my last we have Intelligence that my nephew’s slave was recovered & confined in Baltimore Goal. A Messenger is gone for him, who I hope will be more successful in getting him home than former ones were. I fear my last may have given you some unnecessary trouble as to him, tho’ Yr Interposition may have proved serviceable to others.2

The embarkations for Canada from Charles Town & New York lately Announced in yr papers, have opened a new train of Conjecture, upon a probable intention of Genl. Washington to march into that Countrey, and many others3 wch I won’t trouble you with. In the mean time I cant help feeling compassion for the poor repentg Refugees at New York, & which4 they may experience as much Lenity as is consistent with Justice & the general good of the States; No doubt the Inhabitants of Jersey must possess the keenest resentment for the loss of their near & dear relatives, and injury to their property,5 but as it is the common calamity of War, and the former will not admit of Specific restitution or compensation; there is more magnanimity in forgiving it than in revenging, upon persons now in our power, what perhaps they did not perpetrate. As to the latter, something by way of fine in the mode of South Carolina, so as to bear upon their property, might not be unreasonable.6 I am very sorry to observe the Pennsylvania Assembly entering so early a Caveat against the restitution of confiscated property, Influenced no doubt by the Magnitude of the Proprietory Interest, and the Estates of some fat Dons,7 and perhaps their Mercantile Interest may not lead to Peace at all.8 But great as the Value of those Estates may be, I am persuaded the continuance of the War for a short time, would in point of Expence and in the diminution of Proffit to be expected from a free & general trade over ballance it. I mean to the people in Genl.—some individuals perhaps one9 their mushroom growth to the War, & must die with it.

I am sorry to hear our friend Mr Jones, his Lady & Son are unwell. I hope the Northern Air, as he is prudently retired from the City, will soon recover them.10 pray present them my Complts.

I have just heard of a successful engagement our Army have had with the British & Indians near Pitsburg, but not the Particulars.11

A returning drought has in a great measure defeated the hopes respecting our Crop of corn, raised by a fine rain about 3 weeks agoe, & that crop, as well as tobo will be short.12 I am

Dr Sr Yr very Affe & obt Servt.

Edmd Pendleton

1JM’s letter of 27 August to Pendleton has not been found. In it JM apparently “hinted at” his financial embarrassment, owing to the inability of Virginia to pay his long overdue salary. See Virginia Delegates to Harrison, 27 August; JM to Randolph, 27 August 1782.

2See Pendleton to JM, 19 August, and 2 September 1782. In his missing letter of 27 August to Pendleton, JM probably mentioned seeking the good offices of Barbé-Marbois and Lieutenant Colonel John Jameson (JM to Pendleton, 3 September; 24 September 1782, and n. 2). Pendleton seems to have concluded that although his nephew had recovered his property without JM’s help, the “Interposition” by a leading member of Congress might sufficiently impress French army officers to make other fugitive slaves available to their owners. 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, 397, n. 7; 399.

3Pendleton probably had read the Pennsylvania Packet of 31 August 1782, which told of Hessian troops and “British grenadiers” embarking at New York City for Quebec. See also Bernhard A. Uhlendorf, trans. and ed., Revolution in America: Confidential Letters and Journals, 1776–1784, of Adjutant General Major Baurmeister of the Hessian Forces (New Brunswick, N.J., 1957), p. 522.

The march of Rochambeau’s forces northward to join Washington’s army; the shift from Newburgh on 31 August of Washington’s headquarters and all his troops, except the garrison at West Point and two regiments on the frontier, to the eastern shore of the Hudson River, and southward to Verplanck’s Point; and the arrival of Vaudreuil’s fleet in Boston Harbor, aroused much speculation about the purpose of these movements. In fact, Washington had no offensive operation in mind, either against the British in Canada or in New York City. He knew that the enemy was strengthening its Canadian garrison, but he refused to credit rumors of an early invasion of the United States from that province. See Virginia Delegates to Harrison, 13 August, n. 10; 27 August, n. 3; 1 October, n. 2; Randolph to JM, 30 August, n. 21; JM to Pendleton, 3 September, n. 13; 15 October 1782; Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington description begins John C. Fitzpatrick, ed., The Writings of George Washington, from the Original Sources, 1745–1799 (39 vols.; Washington, 1931–44). description ends , XXV, 93–96, 100, 107, 115–16, 121.

4Pendleton probably wrote “wish,” the word used in both the Henkels and Massachusetts Historical Society versions. See headnote. Although the Pennsylvania Packet of 27 and 31 August mentioned the distress of the Loyalists in New York, Pendleton’s comment about them may have been suggested by something which JM wrote in his missing letter of 27 August. See JM to Randolph, 13 August 1782, n. 6.

7In the Pennsylvania Packet of 27 August, Pendleton probably had noted a resolution adopted unanimously by the Pennsylvania General Assembly three days earlier. This resolution pledged the General Assembly not to restore the political prerogatives of the former proprietors or their properties confiscated by the provisions of “An Act for vesting the estates of the late proprietaries of Pennsylvania, in this commonwealth,” passed on 27 November 1779 (Burton Alva Konkle, Benjamin Chew, 1722–1810, Head of the Pennsylvania Judiciary System under Colony and Commonwealth [Philadelphia, 1932], pp. 198–200). By “Dons” Pendleton meant “grand personages.”

8Pendleton seems to mean that influential patriots of Pennsylvania who were profiting richly either from wartime smuggling, engrossing, and trading with the enemy or from the confiscation of Loyalists’ estates, or from both, would resist the making of peace so as not to lose these sources of income.

9Pendleton probably wrote “owe,” as shown in the Massachusetts Historical Society version.

11Pendleton had been misinformed. On 3 September 1782, General William Irvine, commanding the garrison at Fort Pitt, wrote to Governor Harrison, “Since the 1st of August everything has been perfectly quiet, & the people have in a great degree got over their panic” (James A. James, ed., George Rogers Clark Papers, 1781–1784, pp. 110–11).

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