James Madison Papers

From James Madison to Edmund Randolph, 13 February 1783

To Edmund Randolph

RC (LC: Madison Papers). Docketed by Randolph, “J. Madison Feb: 13. 1783.” The italicized words are those enciphered by JM in the Randolph code.

Philada. Feby. 13th. 1783

My dear Sir

I1 heartily congratulate you on the dawn of peace presented in the inclosed paper.2 Apprehending that the commercial sagacity of this & intervening places, may sieze the crisis to speculate on the Staple of Virga., we have judged it prudent to despatch a messenger with the intelligence to the Government.3 private letters will also scatter it along the road.

I will not damp your joy by dwelling on prospects which have that tendency; but it will not be improper to hint to you, that there is much reason to believe that the cloud which has been some time lowering on the North Ri[ver]4 will not be dispeled by the rays of peace The opinion seems to be wel[l] founded that the arms which have secured the liberties of [this]5 country will not be laid down until justice is secured to those who have wielded them and that dangerous convulsions would be hazarded by orders for that purpose.6 I have not time to add more at present:



1Many years later, after recovering this letter, JM or someone at his direction signified by placing a bracket before “I” and another bracket before “Farewell” that the two paragraphs should be included in the first comprehensive edition of his writings. See Madison, Papers (Gilpin ed.) description begins Henry D. Gilpin, ed., The Papers of James Madison (3 vols.; Washington, 1840). description ends , I, 504.

2For the “paper,” see JM Notes, 13 Feb. 1783, n. 10.

3The “messenger,” whose name was entered in the journals of the Council of State as “Francis Simons,” may have been Francis Simmons (d. ca. 1786) of Prince Edward County (JCSV description begins H. R. McIlwaine et al., eds., Journals of the Council of the State of Virginia (4 vols. to date; Richmond, 1931——). description ends , III, 223; Prince Edward County Records, Land-Tax Books, 1784–1786, microfilm in Va. State Library). For the probable dispatch which he carried and which Governor Harrison acknowledged in his letter of 24 February to the delegates (q.v.), see JM Notes, 13 Feb. 1783, and n. 10. The news that peace was virtually assured should cause a brisk demand for tobacco to export, attended by a rise in its price. Hence if speculators could reach Virginia in advance of that news, they probably would reap a large profit by purchasing the staple. See Harrison to Delegates, 31 Jan., and n. 5; Pendleton to JM, 17 and 24 Feb. 1783, n. 3.

4That is, in Washington’s main army stationed at Newburgh and its environs along the Hudson (or North) River. The letters within the brackets were erroneously encoded by JM.

5JM certainly intended to write 318, the cipher for “this,” rather than 218 standing for “Russia.”

6JM Notes, 13 Feb. 1783. JM’s recent source of news, warning that orders to disband the troops without their long overdue pay might cause “dangerous convulsions,” is unknown, but rumors to that effect, involving Gouverneur Morris and other prominent civil or military leaders, were current (Louis Clinton Hatch, The Administration of the American Revolutionary Army [New York, 1904], pp. 162–67). Letters to Washington from Hamilton on 13 February and from Joseph Jones two weeks later are of a tenor similar to JM’s (Syrett and Cooke, Papers of Hamilton description begins Harold C. Syrett and Jacob E. Cooke, eds., The Papers of Alexander Hamilton (15 vols. to date; New York, 1961——). description ends , III, 254; Worthington C. Ford, ed., Letters of Joseph Jones, pp. 97–103).

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