James Madison Papers

Virginia Delegates to Benjamin Harrison, [10 December] 1782

Virginia Delegates to Benjamin Harrison

MS (Virginia State Library). Extract of letter in the hand of Thomas L. Savage. Docketed in an unknown hand, “Letter from Virginia Delegates in Congress to the Governor 1782.” Both the retained copy, if any, and the recipient’s copy of the complete letter are missing. The style of the letter strongly suggests that JM was its author. For subjects probably taken up in the dispatch, but not mentioned in the present extract, see Harrison to Virginia Delegates, 21 December 1782, and n. 5.

[10 December 1782]1

The public Creditors have for sometime past been extremely urgent for some effectual & permanent provision in their favor; and seeing but little prospect of obtaining it from the United States are turning their applications to their own States. Those who are Citizens of Pennsylvania in particular have adopted this policy and the Legislature having recd. no Satisfactory answer to two Memorials presented to Congress in their favor have been on the point of appropriating to their use a part of the requisition of Congress allotted for more essential Objects. Should such a measure be resorted to by one State it would probably be received by the Others as a Signal to take care each of its separate interest. The Effects of such a Step on the Union itself, on the Common Defence, on our national Character and on the Councils of the Enemy need not be traced.2 The apprehension of them by Congress produced the inclosed Instructions to the Superintendant of finance.3 The resolution which follows deputing three of their Members to Rhode Island to enforce the impost of 5P Ct. was thought a precausion no less essential.4 For besides the tendency of this Fund if vested in the United States to prevent undue appropriations by the States we find by Melancholly experience that the annual contributions of the States if left to the entire appropriation of Congress are not only unequal to the annual expence but unequal in point both of amount & punctuality to the interest of the annual expence.5 Unless some more effectual provision therefore be made for public credit every one must preconceive the dangers and perplexities which await us. The enemy already take courage from the prospect and the little progress made by Mr. Adams’s Loan between his Letter in June & his last in August makes it probable that the attention of our friends has also been drawn to this subject.6 Indeed their disposition to lend at all can only have resulted from an ignorance of our affairs which the enemy would take care should not be of long continuance. How far the repugnance of Rhode island to the impost will yield to these considerations is uncertain, as it is how far they will further reconcile to that measure the States which have but partially acceded to it7 Our Duty however requires that we should submit them thus—thro’ your Excellency to the Judgment of our constituents.8

1Harrison’s dispatch of 21 December to the Virginia delegates (q.v.) states that the letter from which this extract was copied bore the date of 10 December 1782. The governor had this extract made to submit to the House of Delegates. See his letter of 20 December 1782 to Speaker John Tyler (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, 409).

2For the issue presented to this point in the extract, see Notes on Debates, 20 November, and nn. 1, 2, 8; 4 December, and nn. 19, 23, 26, 29; 6 December 1782.

3The enclosures mentioned here and in the next sentence were a copy, attested by George Bond, of the resolutions summarized in Notes on Debates, 6 December 1782, and n. 27 (q.v.; also JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIII, 771).

4George Bond’s attested copy ended with the names of the three delegates in Congress who were deputized to proceed to Rhode Island. See Notes on Debates, 6 December 1782, and nn. 29, 33, 34.

5See 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, 255, n. 3; 269–70; 307, n. 9; JM to Randolph, 24 September, and n. 15; 29 October 1782, and n. 12.

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, 392, n. 4; 393, n. 10; JM to Randolph, 16–17 September 1782, and nn. 6, 8. For Adams’ dispatches of 9 June and 18 August, see Wharton, Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence description begins Francis Wharton, ed., The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States (6 vols.; Washington, 1889). description ends , V, 482–83, 665–67; Report on Alliance with the Netherlands, 22 October 1782, and nn. 1, 2.

7See Notes on Debates, 6 December, and nn. 26, 27, 29; Pendleton to JM, 9 December 1782, and n. 13.

8See JM to Randolph, 10 December. Upon receiving from Harrison the present extract and the copy of the resolutions of Congress of 6 December (n. 3, above), the Virginia House of Delegates referred them on 21 December to the “committee of the whole House on the state of the Commonwealth” (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. 76; Harrison to Virginia Delegates, 21 December 1782, and n. 2).

On 28 December, in a letter to General John Peter Gabriel Muhlenberg, Governor Harrison stated that the delegates in Congress had referred in a dispatch to “a Traytor” supposed to be “in or near Winchester.” The present letter probably included this information, because it is not given in their letter of either 3 or 17 December (qq.v.). The alleged traitor was Captain Isaac Ruddell (Ruddle) (1738–1812) of that portion of Fayette County in the District of Kentucky which became Bourbon County in 1786 (Lineage Book of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution, CXV [1930], 222). Captured on 24 June 1780, he was taken to Detroit, where he may have become a friend of the British commandant (William Hayden English, Conquest of the Country Northwest of the River Ohio, 1778–1783; and Life of Gen. Rogers Clark [2 vols.; Indianapolis and Kansas City, 1896], I, 142–43). Upon reaching Frederick County after his release in November 1782, Ruddell was arrested on the information of “some Evil Disposd person” that he was “Enimical to the united States” (James R. Robertson, ed., Petitions of the Early Inhabitants of Kentucky to the General Assembly of Virginia, pp. 168–69). Haled before the justices of peace at Winchester on 21 January 1783 and charged with “Treasonable practices,” Ruddell submitted sufficient proof of his innocence to win acquittal (Frederick County Court Records, Order Book 18, 1781–1784, pp. 107–8, microfilm in Virginia State Library). See also 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, 415; 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, 419; 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, 209; 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 , XII, 677–78.

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