James Madison Papers

From James Madison to Edmund Randolph, 11 September, 1782

To Edmund Randolph

RC (LC: Madison Papers). On the cover JM wrote, “J. Madison Jr Sepr. 11. 1782” and “The Honbl Edmund Randolph Esqr. Virginia Richmond.” Docketed by Randolph, “James Madison Sepr. 11. 1782.” Randolph used one flap of the cover to make notes about the evidence presented at the trial of “the Man who is charged with the Murder of Capt. Knott.” See 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, 318 n.; Randolph to JM, 5 October 1782.

Sepr. 11th., 1782

My dear Sir

By a gentleman1 who setts off in a few minutes I send the paper of this morning containing the British Kings Speech at the prorogation of the Parliament.2 A Vessel which left the Texel on the 28th. of July is in the river. She brings despatches and a valuable cargo of goods for the army.3 The despatches will be read to day in Congress.4 The Capt: who brings them up relates that the Quebec fleet was certainly taken & that the combined fleets were in pursuit of another large fleet supposed to be destined for America,5 that the Dutch fleet of 22 Sail has departed from the Texel on a cruise in the North Seas,6 that the British fleet under Ld. Howe in the Channel was shut up in port,7 that the news from the E. Indies had been contradicted,8 that the late revolution in the B. administration had put an end to all discourse about peace, that Mr. Adams was at the Hague and had never been to Paris.9 I regret that I am obliged to substitute the oral accounts of the Capt for the authentic accts. he brings from Mr. Adams. My next will be more satisfactory.10 Adieu

J M.

1Possibly John Sansum (d. 1784), returning to South Carolina, whence he had borne dispatches from the governor to the delegates of that state in Congress (South Carolina Historical and Genealogical Magazine, XIX [1918], 109; XXVII [1926], 70; Burnett, Letters description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress (8 vols.; Washington, 1921–36). description ends , VI, 469). See also JM to Randolph, 10 September 1782, n. 22.

2The Pennsylvania Gazette of 11 September noted that in his address to Parliament on 11 July, upon its prorogation until 3 September, King George III had thanked the members for “anxiously opening every channel for the return of peace; and furnishing with no less vigilance, the means of carrying on the war, if that measure should be unavoidable.” The king also declared that he would continue to treat for “reconciliation and amity with the Colonies.” This statement endorses JM’s remark later in the present letter that “the late revolution in the B. administration had put an end to all discourse about peace.” See also JM to Randolph, 10 September 1782, and n. 33.

3Captain Smedley docked his ship, the “Heer Adams,” at Philadelphia on 11 September (Pennsylvania Packet, 12 September 1782). Among the “public goods” in her cargo, valued at £22,677 sterling, was clothing, which had been purchased by Lieutenant Colonel John Laurens in Holland, “too fine for the Soldier’s use.” Robert Morris proposed to sell it “for Account of the Public” (NA: PCC, No. 137, I, 757; 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, 112, n. 6; 407–8).

5See Virginia Delegates to Harrison, 3 September, and n. 4; Pennsylvania Gazette, 11 September; Pennsylvania Packet, 12 September 1782.

6See 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, 430, n. 8. The Pennsylvania Packet of 12 September noted that a Dutch fleet of nineteen sail had left the Texel on 8 July to cruise in the North Sea. In reality, the mission of the fleet was to convoy merchantmen, bound for the East and West Indies, northward beyond the range of probable interception by British men-of-war. Having done so, the fleet returned safely to the Texel late in August (W. M. James, British Navy in Adversity, p. 370).

7The Pennsylvania Packet of 12 September 1782 included an erroneous report from Paris, dated 14 July, that a British fleet of twenty-five vessels commanded by Admiral Richard Howe (1726–1799), Viscount Howe, had been “bottled up” in Portsmouth by French and Spanish men-of-war. On the contrary, the Admiralty had “ordered Howe to proceed to sea” to protect the “great Jamaica convoy,” expected soon to reach the English Channel under escort of a 90-gun ship and three frigates commanded by Admiral Sir Peter Parker. Upon sighting the Franco-Spanish force of thirty-six ships on 12 July, Howe skillfully outmaneuvered his formidable enemy without precipitating a battle. Although he failed to make liaison with Parker, a heavy gale forced the enemy fleet to cease cruising at the entrance of the Channel long enough to enable the convoy to slip through in safety. Having been apprized of this good fortune, Howe returned to his base at Spithead by 14 August. About two weeks earlier the French and Spanish ships had separated and returned to Brest and Cadiz, respectively (W. M. James, British Navy in Adversity, pp. 355, 368–70).

8Reporting what JM no doubt had heard the day before, the Pennsylvania Packet of 12 September stated that, according to a letter written on 14 February 1782 aboard the French man-of-war “Sphinx” at Trincomalee, Ceylon, the French had forced the British to surrender that port after capturing four of their ships of the line and taking their commander, Vice Admiral Sir Edward Hughes, a prisoner. This wholly inaccurate news “contradicted” the more authentic report which JM had mailed to Randolph and Pendleton on 23 July 1782 (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, 432; 433, n. 7; 434). On 17 February Hughes had fought an inconclusive but costly battle off the coast of Ceylon with the stronger fleet commanded by Vice Admiral Pierre André de Suffren Saint-Tropez. Trincomalee remained in British possession for another six months (W. M. James, British Navy in Adversity, pp. 386–89).

9The negotiation of a treaty of commerce between the United States and the Netherlands delayed John Adams’ arrival in Paris as one of the American peace commissioners until 26 October 1782 (Wharton, Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence description begins Francis Wharton, ed., The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States (6 vols.; Washington, 1889). description ends , V, 838).

10At the end of this sentence is a bracket, placed there many years later by JM, or at his direction, to indicate that he wished this letter included in the first edition of his writings. See Madison, Papers description begins (Gilpin ed.). Henry D. Gilpin, ed., The Papers of James Madison (3 vols.; Washington, 1840). description ends (Gilpin ed.), I, 168.

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