James Madison Papers

From James Madison to Benjamin Harrison, 11 February 1783

To Benjamin Harrison

RC (Jasper E. Crane, Wilmington, Del., 1963). Cover addressed to “His Excellency Benjamin Harrison Esqr Richmond.” Docketed by Harrison, “Lr. from the Hon. James Madison February 11th. 83.”

Philada. Feby. 11th. 1783.


Your Excellency will receive this from the hand of Mr. Dunlap who will represent the advantages which his press at Richmond will derive from a payment of the allowance made for his losses in establishing it. Being sensible of your Excellency’s disposition to attend to every application as far as its merits may require, and may depend on yourself, especially when the public interest may be in any manner included, I should have forborne to trouble you on the present occasion, had not my agency in the original contract with Mr Dunlap given him a claim to at least a line introducing his case to your Excellency.1

I am Sir wth great respect Yr Excellency’s obt & hble servt.

J. Madison Jr

1In the autumn of 1780 JM and the other Virginia delegates in Congress had acted as Governor Thomas Jefferson’s agents in concluding an agreement with John Dunlap, printer and publisher of the Pennsylvania Packet, whereby Dunlap’s business associate, James Hayes, Jr., would become the official printer for the government of Virginia and issue a weekly Virginia gazette in Richmond. The ship “Bachelor,” laden with Dunlap’s printing press and other equipment for Hayes’s use, was “driven on shore by stress of weather” near Hampton, Va., in Chesapeake Bay and captured by the British (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 , II, 22, n. 2; 69; 70, n. 3; 159).

In reply to a petition of Dunlap and Hayes submitted by Joseph Jones, the Virginia General Assembly on 14 and 16 December 1780 passed a resolution authorizing the remuneration of the printers from the state treasury for the “amount of their loss” (ibid., II, 199; JHDV description begins Journal of the House of Delegates of the Commonwealth of Virginia; Begun and Held at the Capitol, in the City of Williamsburg. Beginning in 1780, the portion after the semicolon reads, Begun and Held in the Town of Richmond. In the County of Henrico. The journal for each session has its own title page and is individually paginated. The edition used is the one in which the journals for 1777–1786 are brought together in two volumes, with each journal published in Richmond in 1827 or 1828, and often called the “Thomas W. White reprint.” description ends , Oct. 1780, pp. 28, 49–50, 53). On 2 July 1782, in response to a petition received on 4 June, a committee of the House of Delegates reported that the claimants were owed £1,200 for their losses and stated that coverage for “the same is included in the Estimate of Debt due by the Commercial Agent, and provided for with the other Debts of that Department by the Law for appropriating the Public Revenue” (Minute Book, House of Delegates, May 1782, p. 61, MS in Va. State Library; Hening, Statutes description begins William Waller Hening, ed., The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia, from the First Session of the Legislature, in the Year 1619 (13 vols.; Richmond and Philadelphia, 1819–23). description ends , XI, 12–14). On 5 February 1783 Hayes reminded Governor Harrison that the sum “so generously” voted had not been paid, and as late as 23 March 1788 Dunlap was importuning a new governor, Edmund Randolph, to honor, with interest, the resolution “long since passed” (MSS in Va. State Library; Cal. of Va. State Papers description begins William P. Palmer et al., eds., Calendar of Virginia State Papers and Other Manuscripts (11 vols.; Richmond, 1875–93). description ends , IV, 413–14).

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