James Madison Papers

From James Madison to Edmund Randolph, 12 November 1782 (first)

To Edmund Randolph

RC (LC: Madison Papers). Addressed to “The honble Edmund Randolph Esqr. Richmond.” Franked, “J Madison Jr.” Docketed by Randolph, “J. Madison Nov: 12. 1782.” On the cover, in Randolph’s hand, are also two parallel columns of small numbers. The left column is headed “Betsy” (Mrs. Edmund Randolph) and the other, “E. R.” Probably they were opponents in a household game for which Randolph kept the score.

Philada. Novr. 12th. 1782

My dear Sir

My letter by the last post & subsequent one by Col: Bassett,1 leave me nothing to add by this mail but that a Vessel is arrived at Boston after a short passage from France from which it is propagated that late in Sepr. Lord Howe had not sailed from the Channel & that he had assembled not more than 34 Ships.2 I am told that the Gentleman who brings this information from Boston has also letters for the President or the Secy. of For: Affairs. Should this be the case, & the letters contain proper subjects of communication, I shall not probably be able to collect them before it will be necessary to seal this.3

Mr. Jones has considerably recovered since my last, but not without a slight intermediate relapse.4 Col. Bland proposes to set out in a few days for Virginia on private business which he expects will detain him some weeks.5 Your answer to my last or the preceding one I forget which will give some rule I hope for my expectation of your company. Your favr. recd. yesterday did not contain the promised Cypher, which I impute to the monopoly which the Courts have of your time.6 If Mr. Pendleton should not have left Richmond be so good as to tell him that I have executed the commission recd from him and that the object of it will be conveyed in Mr. Jones’ letter of this date to Caroline,7 but that the note of Mr. Morris was condemned by Mr. Swanwick as counterfeit & returned upon me.8 The note is also inclosed in Mr. Jones’ letter.

I am yrs. affecy.

J. Madison Jr.

1See JM to Randolph, 5 November; 10 November 1782. From 1777 until his death, Burwell Bassett (1734–1793) of Eltham, New Kent County, was a senator in the Virginia General Assembly. He also had been a prominent member of the House of Burgesses from 1762 to 1775 and of the conventions of 1774 and 1775 (Lyon G. Tyler, ed., Encyclopedia of Virginia Biography, I, 181; William G. and Mary Newton Stanard, comps., The Colonial Virginia Register [Albany, 1902], pp. 161–207, passim; 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. 5–36, passim). In Virginia during the Revolution he frequently transacted business for his brother-in-law, George Washington (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 , XIII, 163, 180–82; XIV, 431; XVII, 90–92, 412–13). Bassett had been a colonel of militia.

2The ship “Alexander” had sailed from Lorient on 1 October and reached Boston Harbor on 5 November. Mail carried by the vessel arrived in Philadelphia six days later (Pennsylvania Packet, 12 November; Pennsylvania Gazette, 13 and 20 November 1782). For the breaking of the Franco-Spanish siege of Gibraltar by the British fleet under Admiral Lord Howe’s command, see JM to Pendleton, 15 October 1782, n. 10. Howe had left Spithead on 11 September but was delayed by adverse winds and fog from completing his mission until mid-October (W. M. James, British Navy in Adversity, pp. 372–76).

3The mail delivered by the unidentified “Gentleman” included John Adams’ long-overdue dispatch of 19 March, with a 28 April postscript, to Robert R. Livingston, and Charles G. F. Dumas’ dispatch of 9 July, with 16 July and 7 August postscripts, also to Livingston (NA: PCC, No. 93, I, 83–85; Wharton, Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence description begins Francis Wharton, ed., The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States (6 vols.; Washington, 1889). description ends , V, 246–65). Although unnoted in the printed journal, they were submitted to Congress on 12 November (NA: PCC, No. 185, III, 48). Being almost wholly devoted to a narrative of occurrences in the Netherlands, these communications required no action by Congress.

4See JM to Randolph, 5 November 1782. Jones resumed his seat on 18 November, following a recurrence of his illness which, judging from the tallied votes in Congress, had prevented his attendance for at least three weeks (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIII, 669, 690, 694, 696, 714, 719, 726).

5Leaving Philadelphia on 15 November to return to Virginia, Theodorick Bland was not in that city again until about 22 January 1783. See Virginia Delegates to Harrison, 19 November 1782; JM to Randolph, 22 January 1783 (Madison, Papers description begins (Gilpin ed.). Henry D. Gilpin, ed., The Papers of James Madison (3 vols.; Washington, 1840). description ends [Gilpin ed.], I, 111); 28 January 1783 (LC: Madison Papers).

6See Randolph to JM, 26 October, and n. 8; 2 November. For JM’s expression of “hope” and Randolph’s response to it, see JM to Randolph, 29 October, and n. 17; Randolph to JM, 22 November 1782.

7See Pendleton to JM, 28 October, n. 7. The “commission” was probably the purchase of “4 yds good gold lace,” requested by Pendleton in his letter of 19 August 1782 to JM (q.v.). See also Pendleton to JM, 25 November 1782, and n. 1. Jones’s letter, addressed to Pendleton at his estate of Edmundsbury in Caroline County, is in the New York Public Library. The portion of the letter printed in Burnett, Letters description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress (8 vols.; Washington, 1921–36). description ends , VI, 540, does not include his reference to this transaction.

8See Pendleton to JM, 19 August 1782. John Swanwick (1740–1798), whom Robert Morris had appointed to be “cashier” in the Office of Finance, was often called the “Treasurer to the Superintendent of Finance,” a position created by Morris rather than by Congress (Clarence L. Ver Steeg, Robert Morris, p. 81). Swanwick was also the continental receiver of taxes in Pennsylvania (Elmer James Ferguson, The Power of the Purse: A History of American Public Finance, 1777–1790 [Chapel Hill, N.C., 1961], p. 136). As a partner in the merchant-banking firm of Willing, Morris, and Swanwick after the Revolution, he accumulated a considerable fortune. Influential in the activities of the Democratic Society of Pennsylvania, Swanwick became in 1795 the first anti-Federalist congressman from Philadelphia. He was reelected the next year (Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, II [1878], 313; LX [1936], 385, 386; LXI [1937], 252, 396; LXII [1938], 336 n.).

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