James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Edmund Randolph, 8 November 1782

From Edmund Randolph

RC (LC: Madison Papers). Unsigned but in Randolph’s hand. Addressed by him to “The honble. James Madison jr. esq of congress Philadelphia.” Docketed by JM, “Novr 8. 1782.”

Richmond Nov: 8. 1782.

My dear sir

The house of delegates was within two members to day of a sufficient number to proceed to business.1

Among the reformations, suggested in my last letter but one, the foremost will probably be some attack on those debtors to british subjects, who have lodged depreciated money in the treasury for the discharge of their british debts. But In what form it will be made, I cannot easily discover; since these deposits in the public coffers were sanctified by an act of the legislature. Perhaps the only successful one will be, to use these payments, as arguments of a mind, not strongly fortified by ideas of propriety and justice.2

I have my suspicions, that attempts are in agitation to shake the seat of the g——v——r. The period of reelection is at hand.3 He, I am informed, has commuted his british debts in the mode, warranted by the law. Insinuations from this source may serve as a preface to some accusation more direct. For the term “impeachment” is truly familiar with us at present, and the council are said to be marked out as victims, in order to cover perhaps the question of his conduct.4

I begin to believe, that Mr. Henry will not come to this session:5 and Mr. Jefferson is irrevocable in his repugnance to do so; altho’ the house have sent for him, and he is now within six miles of the town. The cause of his being thus near is his attendance on his children, whilst under inoculation. I draw from this circumstance, an opinion, that he is fitting them for an European climate. Whether my conjecture be right or not, I shall certainly soon endeavour to know from himself, and inform you of the result of inquiry.6

The judges of the court of appeals avoided a determination, whether a law, opposing the constitution, may be declared void, in their decision of Saturday last. You will recollect the point to which I allude. There surely was prudence in the path, which they took. But I doubt not, that to any but lawyers the construction, by which the two were reconcile[d,] would appear unintelligible. As soon as I have state[d] the case in full, you shall receive a copy.7

I will now enable you, as far as I can, to furnish the American Calendar with the officers of general jurisdiction.8 If I offend in ranking them, I offen[d] thro’ ignorance of etiquette.

Governor. His excellency Benjamin Harrison

Council { The honble
Samuel Hardy
Sampson Matthews }
Beverly Randolph
Thomas Lomax
{ James Monro
Meriwether Smith and
Robert Lawson9

N.B.   there is a vacancy in the council by the resignation of t[he] honble John Banister.10

You must class the delegates to congress11 yourself. I know not where to place them.

Speaker of the senate: The honble Archibald Cary.12

Speaker of the house of delegates. The honble John Tyler.13

Judges of the high court of Chancery

The honble

Edmund Pendleton14

George Wythe15 and

John Blair.16

Judges of the general court.

The honble

Paul Carrington17

Bartholomew Dandridge18

Peter Lyons19

William Fleming20 and

James Mercer.21

Judges of the admiralty

The honble

Benjamin Waller22

Richard Cary23 and

James Henry.24

N. B.   These Judges together compose the dernier judiciary resort.25

If Mr. Ambler’s26 office of treasurer, and mine of A. G. come within the scheme, you can add them.27

I have at last received a letter from Colo. Geo: Mason protesting against an Union with the committee on western territory in the character of a member; altho’ he is ready to contribute his aid privately.28

2See 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, 361, n. 39. The statute of the Virginia General Assembly which encouraged each of her citizens owing money to a British subject to wipe out the debt by paying its amount into the treasury of the state included no stipulation that the debtor must tender the real rather than the face value of his obligation. Consequently, because paper currency had greatly depreciated in relation to specie, the debtor was legally but not morally justified in discharging his liability with money almost worthless in the market place. On the other hand, by so doing he circumvented the obvious intent of the statute to provide a considerable public income. Although a law of the General Assembly enacted on 28 December 1782 sought to prevent certain subterfuges and frauds which had been practiced by unscrupulous persons in connection with these debts, the form of attack did not touch upon the aspect of the subject Randolph mentioned (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. 91; 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 , XI, 176–80).

3Article IX of the Virginia Form of Government provided for the annual election of a governor “by joint ballot of both Houses” of the Virginia General Assembly. His tenure was limited to no “longer than three years successively” (ibid., IX, 115). First elected in November 1781 (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 , III, 320, and n. 2), Harrison was thus eligible for two more terms. In response to a resolution of the House of Delegates on 14 November requesting a report about the enforcement of the revenue laws, he five days later submitted “the Journals of the whole proceedings of the Executive” during his governorship. Concerning the delegates he wrote, “It will ever be my pleasure to make them fully acquainted with the most minute Transactions of my Administration” (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. 14; 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, 379, 381). For his reelection on 20 November 1782, see 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. 26; Pendleton to JM, 25 November 1782.

4Certain assemblymen may have been further irritated or alarmed by Harrison’s attempt to garrison Fort Pitt without authority in law (Harrison to Virginia Delegates, 23 August 1782, and nn. 8–11). Thomas Lomax and James Monroe were the members of the Council of State who had shared in advising him on that occasion and were still serving (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, 134). See Ambler to JM, 12 October, and n. 6; Pendleton to JM, 25 November 1782; n. 9, below.

5See Randolph to JM, 24 August 1782, and n. 16.

6See ibid.; 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, 209, n. 4; JM to Randolph, 30 September, and nn. 6, 7, 8; Randolph to JM, 2 November; 22 November; 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, pp. 4, 7. Jefferson was at Ampthill, the estate of Archibald Cary in Chesterfield County, south of Richmond (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 , III, 162, n. 3; Jefferson to JM, 26 November 1782).

7See Randolph to JM, 26 October, and nn. 9, 10; Pendleton to JM, 28 October, and n. 6; 8 November 1782. Press of business prevented Randolph from even partially fulfilling his promise until 7 March 1783 (Randolph to JM, 7 March 1783, LC: Madison Papers). In LC: James Madison Papers, vol. 91, are eleven pages of what Randolph called a “first rude sketch” summarizing at least a considerable portion of his argument before the Court of Appeals in the “Case of the Prisoners.”

9In the left margin of this list, Randolph placed two braces which meet under the name of Thomas Lomax. These separate the councilors who had been elected in 1781 from those elected in 1782. In the right margin, Randolph placed a brace enclosing the names from Sampson Mathews (1737–1807) through Robert Lawson. To the right of this brace, he wrote and deleted “esquires.” By not including Samuel Hardy within the brace, Randolph may have meant that, having been elected in June 1781, he was the senior in tenure and hence president of the council and lieutenant governor of Virginia. For Hardy, 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, 429, n. 3; 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 , May 1781, p. 15; 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 , II, 348. Mathews, Beverley Randolph (1744–1797) of Green Creek, Cumberland County, and Lomax had been elected in November 1781 (ibid., III, 1, 12; 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 1781, p. 23). See also 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 , III, 329, n. 3; IV, 137, n. 2. Monroe, Smith, and Lawson had been elected in June 1782 (Minute Book, House of Delegates, May 1782 description begins Minute Book, House of Delegates, May 1782, MS in Virginia State Library. description ends , pp. 63, 83; 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, 104, 143, 145). See also for Monroe, 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, 154, n. 14; for Smith, ibid., II, 40, and n. 2; for Lawson, ibid., II, 170, n. 7; IV, 272, n. 1.

10John Banister (1734–1788) of “Hatcher’s Run” near Petersburg, Va., was a lawyer and planter who had served in the House of Burgesses frequently between 1765 and 1775, in the conventions of 1775 and 1776, in the House of Delegates for five annual terms between 1776 and 1783, and as a delegate in Congress, 1778–1779. Elected to the Council of State in June 1782, he attended seventeen of its fifty-four meetings between 3 July and 17 October and resigned early in November of that year. On 20 November the General Assembly chose John Marshall to fill the vacancy (Minute Book, House of Delegates, May 1782 description begins Minute Book, House of Delegates, May 1782, MS in Virginia State Library. description ends , p. 63; 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, 116, 158, 171; 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, pp. 21, 27). See also Pendleton to JM, 25 November 1782, and n. 5.

11In “class” of seniority and length of actual attendance, the delegates to Congress were Joseph Jones, who had served in 1777; JM; Edmund Randolph, who had served briefly in 1779; Theodorick Bland; and Arthur Lee.

12See 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 , III, 162, first n. 3.

13Ibid., IV, 30, n. 2.

14Ibid., I, 164, n. 2; II, 67, n. 1; 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 1778, p. 115; Randolph to JM, 26 October, n. 9; Pendleton to JM, 28 October 1782, n. 6.

15See 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 , II, 51, n. 6; III, 22, n. 3; 81, n. 8; IV, 84, n. 7.

16Ibid., I, 217, n. 2; II, 30, n. 3; 199; 222; III, 161, and n. 2; IV, 138, n. 4.

17Ibid., I, 164, n. 2. Carrington had been elected a judge of the General Court on 23 January and took the oath of office on 2 March 1778 (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 1777, p. 130; 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 , II, 95).

18Bartholemew Dandridge (1737–1785), resident of New Kent County and brother of Mrs. George Washington (Martha Dandridge Custis), served in the House of Burgesses, 1772–1775; in the conventions of 1775 and 1776; in the Council of State, 12 July 1776–8 January 1778; and in the House of Delegates, 1778. The General Assembly elected him a judge of the General Court on 30 May 1778. He continued in this office until his death on 18 April 1785 (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 1777, p. 123; May 1778, pp. 27, 33; Journals of the Council of State, I, 68–503, passim; II, 1–61, passim; III, 438; Swem and Williams, Register description begins Earl G. Swem and John W. Williams, eds., A Register of the General Assembly of Virginia, 1776–1918, and of the Constitutional Conventions (Richmond, 1918). description ends , pp. 6, 7 n.).

19See 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 , III, 160, n. 7; 182, n. 15.

20Ibid., II, 199; 200, n. 8; 222; III, 139.

22See 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, 279, n. 1; 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 , May 1779, pp. 54, 55; Reverend James Madison to JM, 2 August, n. 2; Randolph to JM, 6 August 1782.

23Richard Cary (ca. 1739–1789) of Warwick County had been a member of the Convention of 1776 and of the House of Delegates which met later that year. He served as a judge of the Court of Admiralty from 17 December 1776 to 24 December 1788. On the latter date, because the Federal Constitution delegated admiralty jurisdiction exclusively to the government of the United States, the Virginia General Assembly reassigned Cary to be a judge of the General Court (Lyon Gardiner Tyler, ed., Encyclopedia of Virginia Biography [2 vols.; New York, 1915], II, 8; Swem and Williams, Register description begins Earl G. Swem and John W. Williams, eds., A Register of the General Assembly of Virginia, 1776–1918, and of the Constitutional Conventions (Richmond, 1918). description ends , pp. 2, 357; 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 , May 1779, pp. 58, 59, 66; ibid., October, 1788, p. 120; 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 , X, 101–2; XII, 769–70).

24See 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, 318, n. 1; II, 40; 67, n. 3; 108, n. 13; 221, n. 8; Reverend James Madison to JM, 2 August 1782, n. 2.

25“An act constituting the Court of Appeals,” which became a law on 26 June 1779, created as the highest tribunal in Virginia a bench comprising the “judges of the high court of chancery, general court, and court of admiralty,” any five of whom would “be a sufficient number to constitute the court” (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 , May 1779, p. 70; 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 , X, 89–92). See also Pendleton to JM, 28 October 1782, n. 6.

26Jacquelin Ambler. 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 , II, 31, n. 6; III, 337, n. 7.

27Attorney General. See ibid., II, 30, n. 3. Some of the other officials whom Randolph might have suggested as being “within the scheme” were the auditors of public accounts, the register of the land office, and the solicitor general.

28Ibid., IV, 198, n. 7; 306, n. 3; 395. For Mason’s long letter of 19 October 1782 to Randolph, see Kate Mason Rowland, The Life of George Mason, 1725–1792 (2 vols.; New York, 1892), II, 23–33.

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