James Madison Papers

From James Madison to Edmund Randolph, 10 December 1782

To Edmund Randolph

RC (LC: Madison Papers). In JM’s hand but lacks complimentary close and signature. Cover franked by “J. Madison Jr” and addressed by him to “The Honble Edmund Randolph Esqr Richmond.” Docketed by Randolph, “The Honble J. Madison Decr. 10. 1782.” Words italicized are those written by JM in the official cipher.

Philada. 10th. Decr. 1782.

My dear Sir

The Assembly of Penna. have with much difficulty been prevailed on to desist from a plan in which a part of the Requisition of Congress allotted for other uses was to be appropriated to their citizens creditors of the U.S.1 The consequences apprehended by Congress from such an example, and the probability that the plan will be renewed at the next meeting unless some intermediate provision be made for the credit of2 the U.S. have produced two Resolutions 1st. an instruction to the Superintendt. of Finance to represent to the States the pernicious tend[ency of su]ch3 unconstitutional appropriations; 2dly. a deputation of Mr. Osgood, Mr. Mifflin & Mr. Nash to enforce on Rhode4 the impost of 5 PrCt. The latter Resolution besides its tendency to the immediate end5 proposed by the first, was called for* the general pressure of our necessities6 Our official letter incloses these Resolutions to the Executive, and hazards some very free and alarming remarks for the legislature directly pointing to a fuller compliance with the impost7 I have added a private letter to the Governor8 which is still more explicit & pointed on the subject. In the present situation of our affairs, we did not think less would justify us to ourselves or to our Constituents.

Mr. Harrison at Cadiz has advised the Secy. of Foreign Affairs9 that the British fleet under Admiral Howe had effected the relief of Gibralter, by decoying the combined fleets from their station, & throwing in succours, before the weather would allow the latter to regain it. He says the British fleet on its return was pursued by the Combined fleet.10 The Vessel by which this letter came reports that she passed through the Combined fleet after she left Cadiz, and that two Spanish ships had been lost, one having fallen into the hands of the Enemy & the other chased on shore by them.11 Mr. Harrison adds12 as a more welcome article that a detachment of Frigates &c which had been sent from Cape Francois for the demolition of the British Factories on Hudson’s

Bay had arrived in Europe with a report of complete success, having destroyed & taken effects to the value of half a million Sterlg.13

The Secy. of F.A. has resigned his office in form, but will continue to act for the present month, to prevent an interregnum in the department. The 19th. instant is fixed for the choice of a Successor. No one has yet been put in nomination.14

By Mr. Jefferson’s letter to the Office of F.A. and a private one to myself, he may be expected here about the end of this month.15 It is improper therefore to address any thing to him.

The Grand Committee have had another meeting on the subject mentioned in a late letter. The scheme of Mr. Fitz—n’s was adopted with the rates of depreciation left blank The ideas on this point varied from forty to one hundred and fifty and upwards for one16

2Between “credit” and “of,” JM canceled “in this respect.”

3At this place in the manuscript, the writing has faded to the point of illegibility. The bracketed passage is taken from Madison, Papers description begins (Gilpin ed.). Henry D. Gilpin, ed., The Papers of James Madison (3 vols.; Washington, 1840). description ends (Gilpin ed.), I, 488.

4JM omitted “Island.”

5This word is written over and cancels “object.”

6Although 51 was the cipher for “es,” JM wrote 47, symbolizing “ed.” Immediately after “for,” he should have written “by” or its cipher, 160.

8This letter is missing, but Governor Harrison acknowledged it in his letter of 4 January 1783 to JM (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, 420–21).

9JM interlineated “at” above a deleted “from.” Richard Harrison’s letter of 25 October to Robert R. Livingston (NA: PCC, No. 92, fols. 411–13) had been carried by a ship which docked in Boston on 24 November. Most of the letter, unidentified as to its writer or recipient, appeared in the Pennsylvania Journal of 11 December and in the Pennsylvania Packet of the next day.

10JM omitted mention of Harrison’s further comment that there was little expectation that the combined Franco-Spanish fleet would overtake Admiral Lord Howe’s command. Harrison also reported that the French auxiliaries and a battalion of Spanish troops, which had participated in the siege of Gibraltar, were already in winter quarters at Cadiz. See JM to Pendleton, 15 October, n. 10; to Randolph (first letter), 12 November 1782, n. 2.

11Pennsylvania Packet, 10 December 1782. A gale drove one Spanish ship of the line ashore at Algeciras, while another, the “St. Miguel” of seventy-two guns, was beached at Gibraltar and forced to surrender to the British (W. M. James, British Navy in Adversity, p. 375).

12Immediately before “adds,” JM canceled “further advises that.”

13Harrison’s dispatch (n. 9, above) stated the value to be ten million livres. Vice Admiral Vaudreuil dispatched Captain Jean François de Galaup, Comte de La Pérouse (1741–ca. 1788), from Cap Français, Haiti, with three warships, armed with a total of 146 cannon and about 250 troops, to reduce the posts of the Hudson’s Bay Company. Between 8 August, when La Pérouse anchored off the mouth of the Churchill River, and the end of that month, he partially demolished the stone bastion known as Fort Prince of Wales and burned the wooden buildings of the company’s factory at York. In these operations he was almost unopposed. After an arduous voyage, during which his command was decimated by scurvy and other diseases, La Pérouse and his spoils-laden ships reached Cadiz shortly before Harrison wrote to Livingston. La Pérouse estimated that he had destroyed or captured property worth between ten and eleven million livres. The company acknowledged a loss of from seven to eight million livres but, contrary to La Pérouse’s expectation, was not forced into bankruptcy (E[dwin] E. Rich, The History of the Hudson’s Bay Company, 1670–1870 [2 vols.; London, 1958–59], II, 84–89, 265). La Pérouse is best remembered for his explorations, beginning in 1785, along the northwest coast of North America, Kamchatka, Japan, the Philippines, and Australia—a voyage which ended, probably in 1788, with the loss of his ships and his own life on Vanikoro Island in the New Hebrides archipelago.

14See Notes on Debates, 28 November, and nn. 2, 4; 2 December 1782; JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIII, 759.

15See Jefferson to JM, 26 November; JM to Randolph, 2 December, n. 4. For Jefferson to Livingston, 26 November 1782, see 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, 206.

Authorial notes

[The following note(s) appeared in the margins or otherwise outside the text flow in the original source, and have been moved here for purposes of the digital edition.]

* I make use of the Official Cypher as more familiar & equally proper here.

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