James Madison Papers

Benjamin Harrison to Virginia Delegates, 14 December 1782

Benjamin Harrison to Virginia Delegates

FC (Virginia State Library). In the hand of Thomas L. Savage. Addressed to “Virginia Delegates in Congress.”

Virginia Richmond 14th. Decem: 1782.


You have Mazzeis Letter which was left out of mine by mistake now enclosed. I am anxious to know what he has written to Mr. Adams as he seems to think it a Matter of some Consequence to America.1 I congratulate you on the good news you will find in the enclosed paper, which I think may be depended on as it not only comes from the Capt. of the Vessel, but from a passenger well know[n] to many Gentlemen here who all report him a Man of truth, twenty odd of the prizes had arrived before he sail’d in the single port of Lorient which he left the 26th. of October2 Gibralter was not then taken, tho’ the news of that event was expected every day. The last account recd. at Lorient of the British fleet was that they were off Capt. Finestre on their way to Gibralter.3 I am &c.

B. H.

2The “Man of truth” may have been George Anderson, whose trading ventures took him to France and Spain. 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, 33; 34, nn. 1, 4. Harrison probably enclosed the Virginia Gazette description begins Virginia Gazette, or, the American Advertiser (Richmond, James Hayes, 1781–86). description ends of 14 December 1782. This newspaper reported that “Capt. Goffigan,” who “lately” had docked his ship at Norfolk, brought news from Lorient of “privateers” arriving there “with no less than twenty” prizes of British merchantmen from the “Jamaica fleet.” The captain further stated that the 74-gun “Ramillies” and two other men-of-war convoying this “fleet” had foundered in a heavy gale, which had occurred near the Newfoundland Banks on 17 September. The captain possibly was Ralph Goffigon (d. 1798) of Portsmouth and Norfolk County (Norfolk County Court Records, Will Book 3, pp. 206–7, microfilm in Virginia State Library).

On 14 January 1783 the Pennsylvania Packet included the following summary from the London Evening Post of 12 November 1782. The convoy originally comprised 103 cargo vessels escorted by ten ships of the Royal Navy. Sixty-two of the former had reached port; nine had sunk; fourteen were still missing; and thirteen had been captured by the enemy. Of the warships, five weathered the storm but were severely damaged; the “Ramillies” had foundered; and four were still missing. Of the last, one had left the convoy before the gale; one foundered, and the fate of the remaining two was unknown (Wm. L. Clowes, Royal Navy, IV, 86–88). See also Virginia Delegates to Harrison, 17 December 1782.

3See JM to Pendleton, 15 October, and n. 10; JM to Randolph, 12 November 1782 (first letter), and n. 2. Cape Finisterre is the westernmost headland of Spain.

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