James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Edmund Randolph, 1 March 1783

From Edmund Randolph

RC (LC: Madison Papers). Unsigned but in Randolph’s hand. Cover addressed by him to “The honble James Madison jr. esq of congress Philadelphia.” Docketed by JM, “March 1st. 1783.”

Richmond. March 1. 1783.

My dear friend

Being here on business, I can not inspect your figures of feby. 18. The drift of them is, however, seen, and I have already met the sentiments half way, by an adherence to my opinion of the necessity of reviving the impost.1

A dangerous combination has been formed for counterfeiting tobacco notes and Morris’s notes.2 It extends, like the mountains of America, from south to North. We may hope, that this mint, which has been already been opened with success, will soon be suppressed by the activity of a zealous whig, of genuine honesty. The executive have patronized the measures, which he had adopted for a complete detection.

What renders this scheme of villainy, more perilous, is that it is probable, some of the inspectors have been associated in it; and they, by furnishing marks, weights numbers and names, can always with truth inform the holders of these counterfeits, that such tobacco is to be found in the Warehouses; & yet refuse to deliver the tobacco, when the exporter demands it on these bad notes.3

I am told, that the executive have taken a definitive step with respect to the recruiting money. All sums, which have been collected beyond the mountains, are to be retained for the purpose of inlisting; which General Muhlenberg expects may be carried on rapidly. What has been collected below that line, is to be paid into the treasury and from thence distributed into the hands of the different recruiting officers.4

My letter of last week miscarried in its journey from my house to the post office, and will therefore go by this post.5

1JM to Randolph, 18 Feb. 1783, and n. 1. By “figures” Randolph probably meant the encoded portion of that letter which he was unable to decipher because he had not brought the key to Richmond. He had gone there to meet his father’s creditors. See Randolph to JM, 1 Feb. 1783, n. 5. For his belief that Congress should revive the impost amendment, see his letters of 1, 7, and 22 Feb. 1783 to JM.

2An owner of tobacco, upon depositing it in a public warehouse, received from the inspector a certificate, note, or receipt, recording the weight of, the distinguishing marks on, and the type of tobacco in, each hogshead. This certificate was negotiable and could be used in payment of taxes. If convicted of issuing fraudulent certificates, an inspector was fined, removed from office, and disbarred from holding any government position in the future. Possibly as a result of the “dangerous combination” to which Randolph referred, the Virginia General Assembly on 28 June 1783 enacted a comprehensive statute which replaced those penalties with “death as in case of felony, without benefit of clergy” and precisely defined the legal form of a printed tobacco note. This law also repeated the provision of earlier legislation making counterfeiting of tobacco notes a capital crime (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 , May 1783, p. 98; 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 , IX, 157, 159–60, 502–5, 519; X, 76, 275, 481–82, 508; XI, 94–98, 205–46, and esp. 222, 241–42).

For the promissory notes of Robert Morris, 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 , IV, 104, n. 1; 361, n. 42; V, 85; 92; 271; 430; 431, n. 4. No Virginia statute provided for the punishment of counterfeiters of those notes. See Randolph to JM, 15 Mar. 1783.

3The phrase “south to North” signified that the “dangerous combination” principally included one or more of the inspectors of tobacco in public warehouses in Henrico County and, to the northward, about a dozen residents of Caroline County (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 , III, 466). The inspector most involved was probably Robert Price (d. 1826), who resigned his office at Byrd’s warehouses on or about 16 April 1783 (ibid., III, 466; 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, 22, 245; Henrico County Court Records, Will Book 7, p. 7, microfilm in Va. State Library). He seems to have been the inspector whom Randolph called “the cornerstone of the villainy” (Randolph to JM, 29 Mar. 1783). The “zealous whig” was Colonel Samuel Temple (d. 1813), a planter, justice of the peace, and militia officer of Caroline County. From 1792 to 1795 he served in the Virginia General Assembly as senator from the district which included that county (T[homas] E. Campbell, Colonial Caroline: A History of Caroline County, Virginia [Richmond, 1954], pp. 259, 266, 274, 348; Swem and Williams, Register description begins Earl G. Swem and John W. Williams, eds., A Register of the General Assembly of Virginia, 1776–1918, and of the Constitutional Conventions (Richmond, 1918). description ends , pp. 38, 41, 43, 45; Augusta B. Fothergill and John M. Naugle, comps., Virginia Tax Payers, 1782–87, p. 125; Caroline County Court Records, Will Book 19, pp. 35–36, microfilm in Va. State Library). For Governor Harrison’s support of Temple’s measures and for more comment by Randolph on the “scheme,” see Randolph to JM, 15 Mar.; 29 Mar. 1783, and n. 4.

4For General Muhlenberg, see Harrison to Delegates, 7 Feb., and n. 3. For “the recruiting money,” 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, 93, n. 9; 169; 313; Randolph to JM, 22 Feb. 1783, and n. 7. Recruits were needed west of the Blue Ridge Mountains because of the threat of raids by Indians in Montgomery and Washington counties (McIlwaine, Official Letters description begins H. R. McIlwaine, ed., Official Letters of the Governors of the State of Virginia (3 vols.; Richmond, 1926–29). description ends , III, 456, 457–58; 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, 226, 227). On 1 April 1783 the Council of State advised Governor Harrison to direct the recruiting officers “beyond the blue ridge” to stop “further enlistments of Soldiers for the Continental Service” and “to call into the Treasury the recruiting money collected” there (ibid., III, 238). See also Delegates to Harrison, 8 Apr. 1783, ed. n.

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