Notes on Debates
MS (LC: Madison Papers). For a description of the manuscript of Notes on Debates, see Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (6 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , V, 231–34.
Mr. Rutlidge informed Congress that there was reason to apprehend that the train of negociations in Europe had been so misrepresented in the State of S. Carolina as to make it probable that an attempt might be made in the Legislature to repeal the confiscation laws of that State, & even if such attempt sd. fail, the misrepresentations cd. not fail to injure the sale of the property confiscated in that State.1 In order therefore to frustrate these misrepresentations he moved that the Delegates of S. Carolina might be furnished with an extract from the letter of the 14th. of Ocr. from Docr. Franklin, so far as it informed Congress, “that something had been mentioned to the American Plenipotentiaries relative to the Refugees & to English debts, but not insisted on: it being answered on their part that this was a matter belonging to the individual States and on which Congress cd. enter into no Stipulations.”2 The motion was 2ded. by Mr. Jarvais & supported by Mr. Ramsay.3 It was opposed by Mr. Elseworth & Mr. Wolcott as improper, since communication of this intelligence, might encourage the States to extend confiscations to British debts, a circumstance which wd. be dishonorable to the U. S. & might embarrass a treaty of peace.4 Mr. Fitzimmons expressed the same apprehensions. So did Mr. Ghorum. His Colleague Mr. Osgood was in favr. of the motion.5 By Mr. Madison6 the motion was so enlarged and varied as “to leave all the delegates at liberty to communicate the extract to their Constents. in such form & under such cautions as they sd. judge prudent.”7 The motion so varied was adopted by Mr. Rutlidge & substituted in place of the original one. It was however still opposed by the opponents of the original motion. Mr. Madison observed that as all the States had espoused in some degree the doctrine of confiscations, & as some of them had given instructions to their delegates on the subject,8 it was the duty of Congress without enquiring into the expediency of Confiscations, to prevent as far as they cd. any measures which might impede that object in negociations for peace, by inducing an opinion that the U. S. were not firm with respect to it; that in this view it was of consequence to prevent the repeal & even the attempt of a repeal of the confiscation law of one of the States,9 and that if a confidential communication of the extract in question would answer such a purpose, it was improper for Congress to oppose it. on a question the motion was negatived, Congress being much divided thereon. Several of those who were in the negative, were willing that the Delegates of S. Carolina10 sd. be licenced to transmit to their State what related to the Refugees, omitting what related to British debts11 and invited Mr. Rutlidge to renew his motion in that qualified form. others suggested the propriety of his contradicting the misrepresations in general with out referring to any official information recd. by Congress. Mr. R. said he wd. think further on the subject, and desired that it might lie over.12
1. At least one source of John Rutledge’s information was probably supplied by his brother Edward, who in February 1782 had guided through the legislature of South Carolina a bill adding to the rigors of an earlier law providing for the confiscation or heavy amercement of Loyalists’ estates (Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (6 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , V, 51, n. 4).
On 10 October commissioners of South Carolina and of the enemy in Charleston effected a compact whereby the British, upon evacuating the city, would restore every refugee and captured slave within their lines in return for a pledge that the state would cease sequestering the property of Loyalists and open her courts to suits by Loyalists for recovery of estates already confiscated. Although the British by no means fully honored this agreement when they left Charleston on 14 December 1782, the legislature inclined toward a policy of leniency, both because a restoration of good feeling was desirable and because many of the most influential families had been Loyalists or at least of doubtful loyalty (ibid., V, 440, n. 4; David Ramsay, The History of South-Carolina, from its First Settlement in 1670, to the Year 1808 [2 vols.; Charleston, 1809], I, 468, 472–74, 477).
2. The quotation is a paraphrase of a sentence in Franklin’s dispatch of 14 October to Robert R. Livingston, secretary for foreign affairs. After “States,” Franklin wrote, “the Congress had no authority to repeal those laws, and therefore could give us none to stipulate for such repeal” (Wharton, Revol. Dipl. Corr description begins Francis Wharton, ed., The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States (6 vols.; Washington, 1889). description ends ., V, 811).
3. John Lewis Gervais and David Ramsay, delegates from South Carolina.
4. At the outset of this sentence, JM canceled “The latter observed that.” Oliver Ellsworth and Oliver Wolcott were delegates from Connecticut. In the Virginia Gazette of 13 November 1782, an unidentified but obviously well-educated author, signing himself “Independent Whig,” argued that the legislature, in its “wisdom” and “as the fountain of justice,” must recognize how completely the very fact of revolution had extinguished all private debts owed by Virginians to British creditors.
5. Thomas FitzSimons, a delegate from Pennsylvania; Nathaniel Gorham and Samuel Osgood, delegates from Massachusetts.
6. Here and later in these notes JM originally indicated his own name only as “Mr. M” and Rutledge’s only as “Mr. R.” Later he completed each of these initialed surnames except the “Mr. R.” in the last sentence.
7. Neither Rutledge’s motion nor JM’s enlargement thereof is entered in the printed journal for 16 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, 47). “Constents.” is an abbreviation of “Constituents.”
8. See the instructions of the Virginia General Assembly, 17 December 1782. Although these instructions were not received by the Virginia delegates until 20 January 1783, JM knew of them as early as 29 December from Randolph’s letter to him on 20 December 1782. See Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (6 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , V, 409–10; 410, nn. 1–4; 425; 454; 473; also, JM to Randolph, 7 Jan. 1783.
9. South Carolina.
10. Besides Gervais, Ramsay, and Rutledge, Ralph Izard was also attending Congress as a delegate from South Carolina (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIV, 42, 94).
11. The “Refugees” were Loyalists who had fled or been banished from their homes.