James Madison Papers

From James Madison to Edmund Randolph, 25 March 1783

To Edmund Randolph

RC (LC: Madison Papers). Unsigned but in JM’s hand. Cover franked and addressed by him to “Edmund Randolph [Esq]r. Richmond.” Docketed by Randolph, “Honble Jas. Madison, March 25 1783.” Probably after recovering the letter and noting that Randolph’s “3” in the year could easily be mistaken for a “5,” JM added “1783” to the docket.

Philada. March 25, 1783.


Your1 favor of the 15th. inst:2 was duly recd. yesterday. Mine by yesterday’s Express3 will have notified the consummation of our wishes by a settlement of the preliminaries of a general peace on the 20th. of Jany. The inclosed Gazette4 will add all the circumstances under which the happy event is brought to us.—happy it may be indeed called whether we consider the immediate blessing[s w]hich it confers, or the cruel distresses and embarrassments from w[hich it] saves us.5 The pecuniary aid of France for the year 1783. had been unalterably limited to 6 Million of livres. The greatest part of this sum had been anticipated and how our army could have been kept together for three months is utterly beyond my solution.6 As it is, God only knows how the plans in agitation for satisfying their just expectations will terminate; or what will be the issue in case they should be abortive. The effects of the anonymous addresses mentioned in my last7 on the irritable state of their minds, have been effectually obviat[ed by the] seasonable & judicious steps taken by the Commander in Ch[ief]. The manner however in which he found it necessary, and indeed felt it to be his duty, to espouse their interests enforces in the highest degree the establishment of adequate and certain revenues.8 The provision reported by a Committee on this subject and of which I sketched you the import, is still before Congress. The past deliberations upon it do not with certainty prognosticate its fate. I fear it calls for more liberality & greater mutual confidence than will be found in the American Councils.9

1Many years later JM or someone at his bidding placed brackets at the beginning and close of the text of this letter, thus designating it for inclusion 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, 519–20.



4Probably the Pennsylvania Packet of 25 March 1783.

5No doubt the partial release of Congress from the dilemma caused by the “secret” or “separate” article in the preliminary peace treaty of 30 November 1782 between Great Britain and the United States was among the blessings conferred by the news of the preliminary general articles of peace. See JM Notes, 24 Mar. and citations in nn. 2–16; 15 Apr., n. 2; Delegates to Harrison, 24 Mar. 1783, and n. 4.

6JM Notes, 12–15 Mar., nn. 6, 9; 19 Mar., and nn. 1, 2; JM to Randolph, 12 Mar. 1783, n. 1; William E. O’Donnell, Chevalier de La Luzerne, pp. 244–45; Clarence L. Ver Steeg, Robert Morris, pp. 183, 252, nn. 51–53. JM reflects the quandary which Robert Morris, superintendent of finance, forcibly presented to Congress in his letter of 17 March 1783. Morris stated that even if loans totaling about six million livres were derived from France for use in 1783, nearly one half of that sum had already been pledged to cover debts due in 1782. For this reason and because most of the states were greatly delinquent in paying their financial quotas, he did not see how the promise made to the discontented army could be fulfilled (Wharton, Revol. Dipl. Corr description begins Francis Wharton, ed., The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States (6 vols.; Washington, 1889). description ends ., VI, 308–11).

7JM refers to his letter of 18 rather than 24 March.

8JM Notes, 22 Mar. 1783, and nn. 1, 2.

9JM to Randolph, 11 Mar. 1783, and n. 5. See also JM Notes, 17 Mar. and citations in n. 3; 18 Mar.; 21 Mar.; 22 Mar. 1783, and n. 2; Burnett, Letters description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress (8 vols.; Washington, 1921–36). description ends , VII, 106–9.

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