James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Edmund Pendleton, 8 November 1782

From Edmund Pendleton

Tr (LC: Force Transcripts). Addressed to “Honble Mr. Madison.” In the left margin at the top of the transcription, the clerk wrote “MSS McGuire’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 in the Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society, 2d ser., XIX (1905), 166–67.

Richmond, Novr 8. 1782

My Dear Sir

Yr favr of the 29th past gave me equal pleasure with one from our friend Mr Jones, in every other respect but that of the cause, his Indisposition, which I feel sensibly as a friend & Citizen, & hope it may soon be removed.1 The certain Account we have of the evacuation of Charles Town, seems to have wiped away the Impression intended to be made by Rivington’s Publicatns of a Vigorous prosecution of the American War, being resolv’d on in the British Cabinet, & seems to carry things to their former State, indicating a direction of their Force agt our Allies in the West Indies, or perhaps it may be meant to make a great Naval Effort, in meeting the Combined Fleets in the Neighbourhood of Gibraltar.2 I wish they would be quiet & let the Negotiations go on, as Mr Fitzherbert’s commission will certainly include Us, if they choose to make it so. (as I think they will if the Campaign ends without material alteration in the State of affairs amongst the Belligerents) tho’ it is couched in such Terms as may let them out of that Interpretation if any unlucky event to Us, should turn up in their favr.3

I was particularly obliged by yr observation wch destroy’d the credibility of the supposed letter from the Hague of 17th of August, since the Mercantile Intr appear’d to have seized that story wth Avidity as an additl. Circumstance, placing the prospect of Peace as at a great distance.4

Our legislature remain yet unform’d, there wanting three Members of the Delegates today to make a House, wch he5 thought will be compleated tomorrow.6 Whether from their long, disagreeable, useless Attendance, or from what other cause, I know not, but they seem out of humor, & talk of Impeachments of the Executive7—& of censures on Dr L. the name of that Gentn constrains me once more to say, that tho’ I was misinform’d as to the first Account of his letter, yet I was equally or perhaps more so, in the Accot I mentd to Mr Jones, tho’ I had it from a Gentn I thought I could depend on.8 thus much I thought it my duty to say, lest you or Mr Jones should entertain an opinion from my last letter unfavourable to my Judgmt or Principles, & will give neither any more trouble on the Subject.

The great constitutional question, as it was called in our papers, & wch I explained in my last to Mr Jones,9 was determined in the Court of Appeals by 6 Judges against two, that the Treason Act was not at Variance wth the Constitun but a proper exercise of the Power reserved to the Legislature by the latter, of directg. in what other cases besides that of Impeachments by the House of Delegates, the Executive should be restrain’d from Pardoning, including in it the power of directg the mode of Pardon in all such Cases, provided such mode should necessarily involve the Consent of the House of Delegates which it was thought preserved the Spirit of the Constitution & was the best Interpretation wch the Inaccurate words of the Constitution would admit of; consequently it stands as the opinion of the Judiciary here that a Traitor can’t be pardon’d but by the Consent of both Houses of Assembly.10 I am

Dr Sr Yr mo. Affe & obt Servt

Edmd Pendleton

1See JM to Pendleton, 29 October; 5 November. Pendleton meant that JM’s letter was a welcome substitute for the one Jones had been unable to write.

2See JM to Pendleton, 29 October 1782. Pendleton may have seen the letter of 24 October 1782 to Governor Harrison from General Greene, who stated, “The Enemy still hold Charlestown, but it is expected they will be gone in a fortnight or less” (Calendar of Virginia State Papers description begins William P. Palmer et al., eds., Calendar of Virginia State Papers and Other Manuscripts (11 vols.; Richmond, 1875–93). description ends , III, 353–54; Journals of Council of State, III, 169). Pendleton’s optimism exceeded that of the governor, who on the same day was writing gloomily about the military outlook (Harrison to Virginia Delegates, 8 November 1782, and n. 2). If Pendleton reflected in his comments what he had read in the Virginia Gazette description begins Virginia Gazette, or, the American Advertiser (Richmond, James Hayes, 1781–86). description ends of 2 November, the item assuring that the enemy would evacuate Charleston by 12 November 1782 impressed him more than the report which seemingly confirmed a statement in Rivington’s Royal Gazette of New York City that “the most vigorous war is to be resumed against America” by the British. See also JM to Pendleton, 3 September, n. 4; 15 October, n. 10; Virginia Delegates to Harrison, 1 October 1782, n. 2.

3Being in Richmond for the sessions of the superior courts, Pendleton may have been shown the copy of Alleyne Fitzherbert’s commission, which the Virginia delegates had enclosed in their dispatch of 22 October 1782 (q.v., and n. 3), or the abbreviated copy which JM incorporated in his letter to Randolph on the same day (q.v., and nn. 3–9). See also JM to Pendleton on that day.

4Pendleton’s “Mercantile Intr” apparently reflected JM’s expression, “Stock Jobbers” in his letter of 29 October 1782 to Pendleton (q.v., and n. 10). Both men were of the opinion that the fictitious account of a great naval victory off the coast of India had been concocted by merchants who sought, by convincing potential customers that peace was far in the future, to continue selling goods at inflated prices. The naval victory was reported in the Virginia Gazette description begins Virginia Gazette, or, the American Advertiser (Richmond, James Hayes, 1781–86). description ends of 9 November 1782.

5Pendleton probably wrote “tis” as in the version printed by the Massachusetts Historical Society. See headnote. If “he” was accurately transcribed, the reference may be to John Tyler, Sr., the speaker of the House of Delegates.

8For writing the “letter,” Arthur Lee was deemed by his political opponents to deserve the censure of the House of Delegates. See Randolph to JM, 5 October, and n. 4; 29 November and 13 December; Pendleton to JM, 14 October 1782, and n. 13.

9On 21 October (David John Mays, ed., Letters and Papers of Edmund Pendleton [2 vols.; Charlottesville, 1967], II, 411).

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