James Madison Papers

From James Madison to Edmund Randolph, 11 March 1783

To Edmund Randolph

RC (LC: Madison Papers). Unsigned but in JM’s hand. Cover missing, but the letter was docketed “James Madison March 11, 1783” by Randolph. The words written by JM in the Randolph code are italicized in the present copy. For that code, see JM to Randolph, 7 Jan., and hdn.; 4 Feb. 1783, and n. 10.

Philada. March 11th. 1783

My dear Sir

Your favor of the 1st. inst: came to hand yesterday but unaccompanied by that of the preceding week referred to in it.1

Another week has passed without affording the least relief from our suspence as to the progress of peace. At New York they are so much in the dark that their curiosity has recourse to the gleanings of the Philada. gazettes.2 The length of the negociation may be explained, but the delay of all parties to notify its progress is really astonishing. Our last official information is nearly 5 months old & that derived from the royal speech upwards of three months.3

The peremptory style & publication of Mr. M’s letters have given offense to many without & to some within Congress. His enemys of both descriptions are industrious in displayin[g] their impropriety. I wish they had les[s] handle for the purpose.4

The plan before Congress for the arrangemt. of our affairs is to ask from the States a power to levy for a term not exceeding 25. years the 5 perCt. impost, with an additional impost on salt, wine, spirituous liquors, sugars & teas. to recommend to them to establish & appropriate perman[en]t revenues for a like term for the deficiency; the proceeds to be carried to their credit; the whole to be collected by persons amenable to Congs. but appd. by the States; to complete the territorial cessions; to enable Congs. to make abatements in favor of suffering States; Congs. on their part declaring that all reasonable military expences separately incurred by the States without their sanction either by sea or land shall be part of the common mass; and proposing to the States a substitution of numbers in place of a valuation of land;   Slaves to be equal to 1 free man.5 The fate of this plan in Congs. is uncertain, & still more so among the States. It makes a decent provision for the public debts & seems to comprehend the most dangerous sources of future contests among ourselves. If the substance of it is rejected, and nothing better introduced in its place, I shall consider it as a melancholy proof that narrow & local views prevail over that liberal policy & those mutual concessions which our future tranquility and present reputation call for.

Mr. J.son is still here, agitated as you may suppose with the suspense in which he is kept. He is as anxious as myself for your going into the Legislature. Let me know your final determination on this point.6

2Delegates to Harrison, 4 Mar., and nn. 2–4; JM to Randolph, 4 Mar.; 12 Mar. 1783. On 15 March 1783 a Loyalist in New York City observed that no European news had been received since 19 January, “except flying and uncertain by way of the West Indies and by some prizes brought into this place” (Thomas Jefferson Wertenbaker, Father Knickerbocker Rebels: New York City during the Revolution [New York, 1948], p. 256).

3For the speech of King George III to Parliament on 5 December 1782, see JM Notes, 13 Feb., and n. 10. The last official word from the American peace commissioners was dated 14 October and received by Congress on 23 December 1782 (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, 436; 437, n. 3). For Benjamin Franklin’s explanation of the infrequency with which they had written, see Wharton, Revol. Dipl. Corr description begins Francis Wharton, ed., The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States (6 vols.; Washington, 1889). description ends ., VI, 110–11. In anticipating lengthy negotiations, JM assumed that the business of harmonizing the conflicting objectives and pretensions of the powers aligned against Great Britain would be arduous (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, 33–34; 35, n. 4; 199; 416; 418, n. 19; 436–37; 441–42; 444, n. 11; 466–68; 469, n. 2).

4For discussion of Robert Morris’ letters, see JM Notes, 26 Feb., and n. 14; 27 Feb.; 4–5 Mar., and nn. 3–9, 12; JM to Randolph, 4 Mar. 1783. JM inadvertently used 536 meaning “X,” rather than 526, the correct cipher for “His.”

5To this point in the paragraph, JM was summarizing the Report on Restoring Public Credit, 6 March 1783 (q.v.). The eleventh of March being the weekly post day, JM almost certainly wrote this letter before Congress convened. For this reason he could not have known that on that day the first three paragraphs of “the Report” would be recommitted to have, among other revisions, pepper, molasses, cocoa, and coffee added to the list of dutiable imports. Robert Morris’ letter of 8 March, laid before Congress on 10 March, recommended these additions. See JM Notes, 11 Mar., and n. 9; 18 Mar. 1783.

6JM to Jefferson, 15 Feb. 1783, and n. 5. On 12 April, eleven days after Congress resolved that Jefferson’s “voyage” had been rendered “unnecessary” by the signing of the preliminary treaty of peace, he left for Virginia (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIV, 226; JM to Randolph, 18 Mar. 1783). For JM’s and Jefferson’s letters urging Randolph to seek a seat in the Virginia General Assembly, and for Randolph’s decision, see JM to Jefferson, 11 Feb., and n. 14; to Randolph, 11 Feb., and n. 3; Jefferson to JM, 14 Feb. (1st letter), and n. 4; Randolph to JM, 22 Mar. 1783; also Jefferson to Randolph, 15 Feb. 1783 in Boyd, Papers of Jefferson description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson (18 vols. to date; Princeton, N.J., 1950——). description ends , VI, 246–49.

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