James Madison Papers

From James Madison to Edmund Randolph, 29 April 1783

To Edmund Randolph

RC (LC: Madison Papers). Unsigned but in JM’s hand. Cover missing. Letter docketed by Randolph, “James Madison. (of Congress). April: 29. 1783.”

Philada. Apl. 29. 1783

My dear Sir

Yesterday’s post was the third that has arrived successively without a line from you.1

The Definitive Treaty it is said is to be remitted to the two Imperial Courts for their approbation, before the last hand will be put to it. This will be mere compliment however, and as the parties have settled their contests without their intermediation there can be no pretext if there were a disposition to meddle.2 It appears from English Gazettes that Shelburne has been so pressed by the unpopularity of some of the terms of peace, that he cd. not prevent a vote of the House of Commons declaring them to be disadvantageous & dishonorable. The consequence prognosticated is another change of the Administration in favor of North’s & Fox’s parties, who have made a common cause agst. Shelburne.3

The propositions relative to the National debt, with an address enforcing it & referring to sundry documents &c is completed and will soon be forwarded to the Legislatures.4 Mr. Jefferson will have given you the general views of Congress on this subject.5

2For the efforts of the Tsarina Catherine the Great of Russia and Emperor Joseph II of Austria to mediate between Great Britain and her enemies, 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 , II, 56, n. 3; 165; 167, n. 3; IV, 5; 174–76, nn. 6, 12; 180–81; V, 235; 313, n. 1, 467; 469, n. 9.

JM probably derived his information concerning the referral of the treaty to these sovereigns from the Pennsylvania Packet of 24 April. This newspaper noted that an unidentified writer, in a letter dated 2 March in Paris, had stated: “The definitive treaty is in great forwardness, and there appears nothing in the way of its speedy conclusion. The belligerent powers have communicated it to the courts of Vienna and Petersburg, as mediators, and now await their answer.” In a letter written in Paris on 28 March 1783 to Benjamin Vaughan, John Jay commented ironically upon a report that Great Britain and France had asked the “two Imperial Courts to send mediatorial ambassadors” to Paris to witness “the execution of the definitive treaties” (Wharton, Revol. Dipl. Corr description begins Francis Wharton, ed., The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States (6 vols.; Washington, 1889). description ends ., VI, 349–50). For Vaughan, see comment by Jefferson, 25 Jan. 1783, n. 1.

3Delegates to Harrison, 10 Apr. 1783, and n. 10. On 24 February, three days after the House of Commons by a vote of 207 to 190 adopted “Resolutions of Censure on the Terms of the Peace,” the Earl of Shelburne resigned as prime minister. Efforts to form a new ministry were unsuccessful until 1 April 1783, when William Henry Cavendish Bentinck, third Duke of Portland, became first lord of the treasury and head of a coalition “Government,” comprising adherents of Charles James Fox and Lord North. In this new ministry North was home secretary and Fox, foreign secretary (Hansard’s Parliamentary Debates description begins William Cobbett, ed., The Parliamentary History of England from the Earliest Period to the Year 1803 (36 vols.; London, 1806–20; continued as Hansard’s Parliamentary Debates). description ends , XXIII, cols. 498–571, esp. 571; A. W. Ward, C. W. Prothero, Stanley Leathes, eds., Cambridge Modern History [13 vols.; Cambridge, England, 1902–12], VI, 463–64). The Pennsylvania Packet of 24 April reported an unconfirmed rumor that Shelburne and other members of his ministry had “intimated to the king their resolution of resigning.” The next day Congress received a letter addressed to Robert R. Livingston, secretary for foreign affairs, by Lafayette from Bordeaux on 2 March 1783, stating that news of North’s replacing Shelburne as prime minister had greeted him in that French port. “But,” Lafayette added, “I can not give it as certain” (NA: PCC, No. 185, III, 63; Wharton, Revol. Dipl. Corr description begins Francis Wharton, ed., The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States (6 vols.; Washington, 1889). description ends ., VI, 269–70). See also Delegates to Harrison, 22 Apr. 1783, n. 3.

4Address to States, 25 Apr. 1783, ed. n., and nn. 5, 10, 23, 30, 31, 33.

5JM to Randolph, 22 Apr. 1783, and citations in n. 6.

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