James Madison Papers

From James Madison to Edmund Randolph, 14 January 1783

To Edmund Randolph

RC (LC: Madison Papers). Unsigned but in JM’s hand. Cover franked by “J Madison Jr.” and addressed to “Edmund Randolph Esqr. Richmond.” Docketed by Randolph, “James Madison Jany 14. 1783.”

Philada. Jany 14. 1783

My dear Sir

Yesterday’s post having arrived without a mail from Virga. I was disappointed of the pleasure of a letter from you.1

All the foreign articles which have come to hand are published in the inclosed gazette of this morning.2 The evacuation of Charleston is at length reduced to certainty by the publications in the N. York paper and we expect every moment an official report of it from Gl Greene.3

The deputies from the army are still here. The explanations which they have given to a Committee on the topics of the Memorial are of the most serious nature.4 I wish they could with propriety be promulged throughout the U.S. They would I am sure, at least put to shame all those who have laboured to throw a fallacious gloss over our public affairs, and counteracted the measures necessary to the real prosperity of them.5

The deliberations of Congress have been turned pretty much of late on the valuation of lands prescribed by the articles of confederation. The difficulties which attend that rule of apportionment seem on near inspection to be in a manner insuperable. The work is too vast to be executed without the intervention of the several States, and if their intervention be employed, all confidence in an impartial execution is at end.6

I have not been able to find sufficient leisure for taking the copies which you asked & which I promised.7 I am the less uneasy at the delay as the conveyance by the post is rendered so precarious by the weather

Docr. Shippen desired me to obtain an answer from you on the case of Mr. Cuthburt, and particularly whether you are likely to recover any thing for him.8

Mr. Jefferson has not yet taken his departure. We hope the causes which have prevented it will not continue many days longer.9

1For Randolph’s explanation of why he had not written, see his letter of 15 Jan. 1783 to JM.

4Delegates to Harrison, 7 Jan., and n. 5; JM Notes, 13 Jan. 1783. Late in his life JM or someone by his direction placed a bracket at the beginning of this paragraph and also at the close of the next paragraph to indicate the portion of the letter which should be published in the first edition of his papers (Madison, Papers [Gilpin ed.] description begins Henry D. Gilpin, ed., The Papers of James Madison (3 vols.; Washington, 1840). description ends , I, 498).

5The meaning of the last clause would be clearer if JM had written “have counteracted.” He no doubt had in mind the repeal by the Virginia General Assembly of its ratification of the impost amendment, the refusal of the Rhode Island House of Representatives to ratify the amendment, the published letter or letters of David Howell denying the existence of a severe financial crisis in “public affairs,” and the efforts of Jonathan Arnold and his colleagues from Rhode Island to oblige Congress to make available for publication from confidential communications excerpts which, taken from their context, would tend to support Howell’s misrepresentations. On 14 January Congress adopted a committee report, drafted by Alexander Hamilton, refusing to release any confidential letters other than those no longer under an “injunction of secrecy,” but agreeing to transmit to the executive of Rhode Island the excerpts from congressional proceedings which the delegates from that state had sought to obtain. These excerpts were to be accompanied “with a request that precautions may be taken to prevent their appearing in the public prints” (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIV, 32–36, 45–46). See also JM Notes, 3 Jan., and n. 3; 9–10 Jan. 1783, and nn. 21, 22.

6JM Notes, 9–10 Jan., and nn. 2, 3, 8; 14 Jan. 1783, and nn. 2, 4–9, 11.

7JM to Randolph, 7 Jan., and n. 10.

8Dr. William Shippen, Jr. (1736–1808), was director general of the medical department of the continental army from 11 April 1777 to 3 January 1781. In London in 1762, shortly before returning to Philadelphia after being graduated with an M.D. degree by the University of Edinburgh, Shippen married Alice Lee, a sister of Richard Henry and Arthur Lee. Shippen surely would have directed his query to his brother-in-law Arthur Lee, if Lee had been in Philadelphia (Cazenove G. Lee, Jr., Lee Chronicle, pp. 195, 242–43, 348–49). The fact that Anthony Cuthbert (1751–1832), who in 1780 served as a captain of the Philadelphia City artillery, manufactured masts suggests that he was plaintiff in a suit to collect a debt owed him by the owner or operator of a vessel (Lineage Book of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution, CXXVI [1916], 99; Heads of Families at the First Census of the United States Taken in the Year 1790: Pennsylvania [Washington, 1908], p. 234; Pa. Archives description begins Samuel Hazard et al., eds., Pennsylvania Archives (9 ser., 138 vols.; Philadelphia and Harrisburg, 1852–1949). description ends , 3d ser., XVI, 317). Neither the identity of the court in Virginia nor of the defendant, except that his surname appears to have been “Reuors,” has been determined. See Randolph to JM, 1 Feb. 1783.

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