James Madison Papers

From James Madison to Edmund Randolph, 15 April 1783

To Edmund Randolph

RC (LC: Madison Papers). Cover missing. Docketed by Randolph, “J. Madison. April 15th. 1783.”

Philada. Apl. 15. 1783.

My dear Sir

My letter by a private hand who left this place a few days ago together with late public letters will have fully apprized you of the decisive events which have taken place in favor of peace.1 The paper inclosed will amuse you with the bickerings in the British parliament on that subject.2

Genl. Carlton is very importunate for an immediate execution of the provisional articles on the part of Congress in the two points of liberating the prisoners, and recommending restitution to the Loyalists. On his part he has set the example in the first point, but says nothing of executing the other important conditions which are in our favor.3 This proposition has led Congs. into a critical discussion of the import of the provl. articles, in which the opinions are almost as numerous as the articles themselves. Some think that the instrument was converted by the signature of preliminary articles between F. & G. B. into the Treaty of peace, of which a ratification in America is alluded to in the 6. art:4 others think that it was conditioned no otherwise on terms of peace between those powers, than that such an agreement rendered it a lawful & necessary foundation for a Treaty5 of peace between the U.S. & G. B. Some again suppose that the provl. arts need no ratification from Congs. but that they ought to wait for the Treaty to be grounded on them. Others suppose that a ratification is essential, or at least proper. The latter description again are divided, some proposing to ratify them as articles still contingent others to ratify them as having taken effect in consequence of the preliminary articles between G. B. & F. This variety & contrariety of interpretations arise in great measure from the obscurity & even contrariety of the articles themselves.6

Mr. Jefferson left us on saturday last & will probably be with you by the time this gets to hand.7

I am Dr Sir &c &c.

J. M.

2Probably the Pennsylvania Packet of 15 April. See Delegates to Harrison, 10 Apr. 1783, and n. 10.

3JM Notes, 31 Mar., and n. 5; 10 Apr.; 12 Apr., and n. 8; 15 Apr., and n. 2; JM to Randolph, 1 Apr. Replying on 9 April 1783 to a letter from General Sir Guy Carleton, Washington stated that as soon as he received “Instructions from the Sovereign power of the United States,” he would “rejoice” in doing everything he could to carry “into compleat Execution, that Article of the Treaty which respects the Restitution of all prisoners of War” (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, 307–8).

The “other important considerations,” favorable to Americans, are in Article VII. It implicitly stipulates the return to their owners of Negro slaves in British possession, and explicitly provides for the restoration to states and private individuals of “all archives, records, deeds and papers” in the hands of British officers (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIV, 249–50).

4For the signing of the preliminary articles of peace between Great Britain and France on 20 January, see JM Notes, 13 Feb. and n. 10; 12–15 Mar., n. 6; 18 Mar., and n. 14; 24 Mar.; 31 Mar., n. 6; 10 Apr., and n. 2; JM to Jefferson, 18 Feb., and n. 2; Delegates to Harrison, 12 Mar., and n. 18; 18 Mar., n. 4; JM to Randolph, 25 Mar. 1783, and n. 5. The “6. art” was that of the preliminary articles of peace between Great Britain and the United States (JM Notes, 11 Apr. 1783, n. 3).

5Underlined by JM.

6JM probably wrote this letter before Congress’ “unanimous ratification” of the preliminary articles on 15 April (JM Notes, 15 Apr. 1783, and n. 2). Many years later he or someone at his bidding placed a bracket at the close of the paragraph to signify that it and the preceding paragraphs should be included in the first comprehensive edition of his papers. See Madison, Papers (Gilpin ed.) description begins Henry D. Gilpin, ed., The Papers of James Madison (3 vols.; Washington, 1840). description ends , I, 525–26.

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