James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Edmund Randolph, 20 September 1782

From Edmund Randolph

RC (LC: Madison Papers). Unsigned but in Randolph’s hand. Cover missing.

Richmond Sep: 20. 1782.

Dear sir

I communicated to the governor that there were letters from Carleton, addressed to him, in the post office of Philadelphia. I find from his conversation yesterday, that he has given the delegation a full account of them.1

I have this day remitted to Colo. Bland 60£. He has 100£ more assigned him upon the sale of some flour.2 This precedent will unquestionably lead to the remittance of an equal sum to his brethren in the delegation,3 and it shall be urged by me with its utmost force. The executive have a large quantity of specifics in hand, but cannot take any arrangement for the sale of them until the assembling of a full board.4

Mrs. Jefferson has at last shaken off her tormenting pains by yielding to them, and has left our friend inconsolable. I ever thought him to rank domestic happiness in the first class of the chief good; but I scarcely supposed, that his grief would be so violent, as to justify the circulating report, of his swooning away, whenever he sees his children.5

I have inquired into the state of Mr. Ross’s funds in Philadelphia. It appears, that altho’ his credit is sound and competent to any occasion, on which he shall exert it, it is not founded on effects in the hands of his correspondent. This circumstance, added to his having abandoned his connection with the public, as commercial agent,6 defeats the hope of inlisting his pecuniary ability into the service of your necessity.

I recommend a very pointed application to the executive for money. Not that I doubt their anxiety for your situation, because I know it to be great. But there is an eloquence, which actual suffering can command, and which is not in the reach of even its friend. Specie is wretchedly scarce here: and perhaps it may require some apology, should the specifics be sold at under value from this cause. This apology, if necessary, will be found in a strenuous representation of your pressure.7

I yesterday read a letter from General Irvine at Fort Pitt, to the commissioner of our war-office. He seems to doubt whether an attempt upon that post will be made, unless congress are possessed of other intelligence, than what has reached him.8

From the south we hear nothing. Our sea-coast does not afford a single event. These will be my complaints until the meeting of the assembly, when you shall have a liberal use of the cypher.9


2For Randolph’s letter of 20 September 1782 to Theodorick Bland, see Charles Campbell, ed., Bland Papers, II, 93. Writing to Governor Harrison, Bland had stated his intention of returning to Virginia unless his acute financial need was relieved (Journals of the Council of State description begins H. R. McIlwaine et al., eds., Journals of the Council of the State of Virginia (3 vols. to date; Richmond, 1931——). description ends , III, 145–46).

3Joseph Jones, Arthur Lee, and JM.

4The Council of State had not had a quorum since 1 August and would not have one until 25 September. For the latter date the journal states, “The foregoing proceedings which have been entered into without the formality of a regular board being read are approved” (Journals of the Council of State description begins H. R. McIlwaine et al., eds., Journals of the Council of the State of Virginia (3 vols. to date; Richmond, 1931——). description ends , III, 131–47; 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, 116). See also Virginia Delegates to Harrison, 1 October; and Ambler to JM, 5 October 1782.

5Mrs. Thomas Jefferson died on 6 September 1782 (Boyd, Papers of Jefferson description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson (17 vols. to date; Princeton, N.J., 1950——). description ends , VI, 196 n., 199 n.). Jefferson’s living children were Martha (Patsy) (1772–1836), Maria (Polly) (1778–1804), and Lucy Elizabeth (1782–1784).

6David Ross, whose chief business correspondent in Philadelphia probably was Peter Whiteside and Company, had been succeeded on 24 May 1782 by William Hay as commercial agent of Virginia. 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, 29, n. 4; 85 and n. 1; JM to Randolph, 3 September 1782.

8The letter from General William Irvine to Colonel William Davies, commissioner of war of Virginia, has not been found. For the action of 17 September taken by the Council of State on Irvine’s dispatch of 3 September 1782 to Governor Harrison, see Harrison to Virginia Delegates, 23 August 1782, nn. 8, 11.

9The Virginia General Assembly was scheduled to convene on 21 October. Randolph foresaw that factionalism would necessitate his transmitting much information about the session to JM in code.

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