James Madison Papers

Virginia Delegates to Benjamin Harrison, 4 March 1783

Virginia Delegates to Benjamin Harrison

RC (Jasper E. Crane, Wilmington, Del., 1957). In the hand of John F. Mercer, except for the other four signatures. Cover franked and addressed by him to “His Excellency Benjamin Harrison Esqr. Governor of Virginia.” Docketed, “Lr. from the Delegates in Congress—March 4th. 1783.”

Phila. March 4th. 1783


We have receiv’d your Excellency’s Letter of the 26th. Ult, enclosing a copy of the King of Great Britain’s speech, wch tho’ much mutilated, is in substance, the same with the genuine one transmitted you by Express.

That, & the two Letters of Lord Townshend are the only pecies of intelligence, that bear the marks of authenticity respecting the final adjustment of Peace in Europe.1

To this moment Congress are without official information of the formal signing of any Treaty by the belligerent Powers either partially or generally. the Minister of France, is we apprehend, without intelligence on the important head,2 & we have no reason to suppose that they are in a state of less uncertainty at N York.3

Fluctuating reports respecting this subject, as various in their nature, as the interested sources from whence ’tis probable they spring, prevail here. for them we refer to the papers enclosed,4 &

with much respect, are Yr. Excellency’s most obedient & humble servants

A. Lee

Theok: Bland Jr.

Jos: Jones.

John F. Mercer

J Madison Jr.

We fear the certificate respecting Nathan’s account has arriv’d too late, to influence the determination of the arbitrators.5

1JM to Randolph, 4 Feb., and n. 12; 13 Feb., and n. 3; JM Notes, 13 Feb., n. 10; Delegates to Harrison, 18 Feb.; Harrison to Delegates, 21 Feb. 1783, and n. 4. Instead of “26th,” Mercer should have written “24th” and “pieces,” not “pecies.”

2The Chevalier de La Luzerne as well as Congress first received official word on 12 March that a preliminary peace treaty between Great Britain and the United States had been agreed upon (JM Notes, 12–15 Mar. 1783; William E. o’Donnell, Chevalier de La Luzerne, p. 235).

3Referring to the “contradictory reports” about the outlook for peace, Washington in a letter of 4 March 1783 to Governor Harrison of Virginia wrote: “The Enemy in New York are as impatient, and as much in the dark as we are on this occasion; not having received a Packet for more than two Months” (Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington description begins John C. Fitzpatrick, ed., The Writings of George Washington, from the Original Sources, 1745–1799 (39 vols.; Washington, 1931–44). description ends , XXVI, 183).

4Probably the Pennsylvania Packet of 1 and 4 March and the Pennsylvania Journal of 1 March. Items in these papers about the peace negotiations vary from a terse report of the signing of a treaty to those alleging that discussions had “broke off” because of the refusal of either the French or Dutch commissioners to agree to terms acceptable to Great Britain. On 3 March 1783, according to the Packet of the next day, an unsubstantiated rumor of Boston origin was “confidently circulated” in Philadelphia that a peace treaty had been concluded at Paris.

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