To Edmund Randolph
RC (LC: Madison Papers). Docketed by Randolph, “Madison. Febr 4. 1783.” Except where otherwise noted, the italicized words are those enciphered by JM in the Randolph code. For this code, see JM to Randolph, 7 Jan. 1783, and hdn.
Philada. Feby. 4th. 1783
My dear Sir
By a letter recd. from Col: Monroe by Mr. Jones1 I find that my conjectures as to the cause of your silence by the last post were but too true. To the same cause probably I am to impute your silence by yesterday’s mail.2
The subject which my last left under the consideration of Congress has employed the chief part of the week.3 The generality of the members are convinced of the necessity of a continental revenue for an honorable discharge of the continental engagements, & for making future provision for the war.4 The extent of the plan however compared with the prepossessions of their constituents produces despondence & timidity. It appears that the annual revenue which prudence calls for the objects abovementioned, amounts to the enormous sum of three million of dollars.5 You will ask perhaps from what sources this revenue could be drawn if the States were willing to establish it? Congress have done nothing as yet from which the answer they wd. dictate can be inferred. By individuals on the floor, the impost, a land tax, poll tax, a tax on salt a &c. have been suggested, and some computation of their productiveness has made them competent to the object.6 The valuation of the land accordg to the Articles of Confederation is also before Congress & by some considered as a great step towards obtaining the necessary revenue. If you ask by what operation? I shall be the more incapable of answering it than the preceding question.7
The repeal of the impost by Virga. is still unriddled. Dr. Lee says that he was the only man who opposed the torrent from which it is the more suspected that there has been some manœuuvre in the transaction.8 Mr. Jones quotes the instance of your last election to Congress.9
I find a great check to secret communications from the defects of your cypher. It in the first place is so scanty as to be extremely tedious, and in the next both the letters & figures are in so ambiguous a character that great caution is necessary to avoid errors. I wish we could somehow or other substitute a more convenient one.10
I recd. a letter yesterday from Mr. Jefferson at Baltimore. It is dated the 31st. of Jany.11 and he calculated on sailing in about three days. The industry of the British Ships on the coast may notwithstanding render it necessary to wait longer.
There is not a syllable of news from any quarter. I take it for granted you will have seen a letter purporting to be written by Secy. Townsend, as it came hither from Baltimore. If it be genuine, it is altho’ an equivocal, yet a favorable presage on the whole.12
1. James Monroe’s letter to Joseph Jones has not been found. For references to other correspondence of Monroe with Jones, see JM to Jones, 6 Jan.; Jones to JM, 6 Jan.; and Randolph to JM, 15 Jan. 1783, and nn. 3–4.
8. JM both encoded and underlined “only.” 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, 401; 472–73; Randolph to JM, 3 Jan., and nn. 2, 5, 7; Harrison to JM, 4 Jan., and nn. 1, 3–6; Harrison to Delegates, 4 Jan.; 11 Jan.; JM to Jones, 6 Jan., and n. 1; JM to Randolph, 7 Jan.; 22 Jan. 1783.
9. 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 , IV, 336; 355; 358, n. 5.
10. 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, 339, n. 5; Randolph to JM, 15 Feb. 1783. JM’s remarks were well justified. The code comprises most numerals from 1 to 660, many standing for one letter only, others for two letters or syllables, others for complete words, and a few signifying several combinations of letters, such as “idge, ige” or “ic, ick, ik” (MS in University of Virginia Library).
12. For Thomas Townshend, secretary of state for the home department, 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, 211, n. 19. Townshend’s letter of 22 November 1782, written in the name of “His Majesty’s Ministers” to the governor and directors of the Bank of England, appears in the Pennsylvania Packet, 30 January, and in the Virginia Gazette, 1 February 1783. See also Burnett, Letters description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress (8 vols.; Washington, 1921–36). description ends , VII, 32, n. 5. Townshend stated that Parliament would be prorogued on 26 November, and “that the negociations now carrying on at Paris, are thought so near a crisis, as to promise a decisive conclusion, either for peace or war before the meeting of Parliament” on 5 December. The preliminary Articles of Peace between Great Britain and the United States had been signed by their commissioners in Paris on 30 November 1782 (Wharton, Revol. Dipl. Corr description begins Francis Wharton, ed., The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States (6 vols.; Washington, 1889). description ends ., VI, 90–91, 93, 96–100).