James Madison Papers

Virginia Delegates to Benjamin Harrison, 24 December 1782

Virginia Delegates to Benjamin Harrison

RC (Virginia State Library). Written by Joseph Jones, except for JM’s signature. Docketed, “Virga Delegates Lr. 24. Decr. 82.”

Phila: 24th. Decr. 1782.


We have no southern mail this week.1 Since our last2 a Frigate from France has arrived in Delaware Bay,3 by her we have Letters from our Commissioners at Paris so late as the 14th. day of Octr. inclosing a Copy of a Com[miss]ion to Mr. Oswald of the 21t. of Sepr. revoking the one granted the begining of the preceeding month in which the States of America were called British Colonies and Plantations. the last authorises Mr. Oswald to conclude a peace or truce with any person or persons duly impowered for the Purpose in behalf of the thirteen united States of America. these new powers were given in consequence of the absolute refusal of our Comrs. to treat under the first Com[miss]ion to Mr. Oswald.4 You will receive a copy of the Commission transmitted to Congress from the Secretary of foreign affairs.5 Some steps have been taken by the Comrs. subsequent to the receipt of these new powers but nothing so determined as to authorise the forming any conclusion, or what may ultimately be the issue of the negociations.6 when we reflect upon The different interests to be considered and the time necessary for their discussion and adjustment, we ought not to entertain too sanguine hopes of a speedy conclusion, even if it should ultimately be a favourable one, on the contrary prudence and sound policy dictate that we pursue with unremitting attention the measures proper for War untill we are certain they are no longer necessary.7 The treaty of Commerce with the seven united provinces of the Netherlands, we have good reason to believe was signed by the parties the 7th. of October, tho’ we have no official authentication of the fact.8 There are accounts that the French forces in the Et. Indies in conjunction with those of Hyder Alli have taken Madras.9 this intelligence however wants official confirmation. we have the honor to be

yr. Excellencys obedt servts.

Jos: Jones.

J Madison Jr

1The southern mail arrived on 24 December after this dispatch was written. See Notes on Debates, 24 December 1782, and n. 16.

5On 23 December Congress directed Robert R. Livingston to send a copy of Richard Oswald’s revised commission to the executive of each state (NA: PCC, No. 186, fol. 76). Governor Harrison probably received his copy on 2 January 1783. See 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, 418, 420.

6In this sentence Jones appears to reflect what Franklin on 14 October 1782 wrote to Livingston. See Notes on Debates, 23 December 1782, and n. 4.

7In a letter of 13 October 1782 to Gouverneur Morris, John Jay remarked: “We may and we may not have a peace this winter. Act as if the war would certainly continue; keep proper garrisons in your strong posts; and preserve your army sufficiently numerous, and well appointed, until every idea of hostility and surprise shall have completely vanished” (Wharton, Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence description begins Francis Wharton, ed., The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States (6 vols.; Washington, 1889). description ends , V, 810). Unknown, of course, to Jones, the provisional articles of peace between the United States and Great Britain had been signed at Paris on 30 November 1782 (ibid., VI, 96–99).

8Signed on 8 October 1782, this “treaty of amity and commerce, and of a convention respecting recaptured vessels” was laid before Congress on 21 January 1783 (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIV, 50). Jones probably read of this treaty and of the capture of Madras, which he mentions in his next sentence, in the Pennsylvania Packet, 24 December 1782.

9This rumor was untrue. During 1782 the British and French fleets fought a series of severe but indecisive battles in Indian waters. The British retained possession of Madras but lost Trincomalee, Ceylon, to the French on 31 August. At about that time, ill health obliged Haidar (Hyder) Ali, the able ruler of Mysore, who for over twenty years had supported the French, to relinquish military command. He died on 7 December 1782 (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, 100, n. 15; 373, n. 7; A. W. Ward, G. W. Prothero, Stanley Leathes, eds., Cambridge Modern History [13 vols.; Cambridge, England, 1902–12], VI, 469, 549, 577; W. M. James, British Navy in Adversity, pp. 387–403, passim).

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