James Madison Papers

From James Madison to Edmund Randolph, 6 May 1783

To Edmund Randolph

RC (LC: Madison Papers). Unsigned but in JM’s hand. Cover franked by “J. Madison Jr.” and addressed by him to “Edmund Randolph Esqr. Richmond.” Docketed by Randolph, “J. Madison, 6th. May 1783.” Many years later JM or someone at his bidding placed a bracket at the close of the fourth paragraph, probably to designate that the letter to that point should be published in the first comprehensive edition of JM’s papers. See Madison, Papers (Gilpin ed.) description begins Henry D. Gilpin, ed., The Papers of James Madison (3 vols.; Washington, 1840). description ends , I, 529–30. Henry D. Gilpin, without using ellipses, excised all the first sentence of the second paragraph after the words “Mr. Adams.” This omission may have conformed with Dolley Madison’s wishes, expressed after her husband’s death in 1836. See Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (7 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , I, xvii.

Philada. 6 May. 1783.

My dear friend

After a silence of 4 weeks your favor of the 26. Ult: was particularly welcome.1 Your conjecture was but too well founded as to the compiler of the Proclamation. The offensive passages were adverted to by some, but the general eagerness on the occasion, increased by some unavoidable delays, rendered all attempts to draw the attention of Congress to smaller inaccuracies unacceptable.2

We have no late despatches from Paris, except a letter from Mr. Adams which affords a new & signal exemplification of those qualities which have so much distinguished his correspondence with Congress.3 We are informed from Madrid by Mr. Carmichael & the Marquis de la Fayette, that that Court, since the British acknowledgmt. of our Independence has dismissed its hauteur & reserve towards the U. S. has treated the American Chargé d’Affaires with due attention & has signified its acquiescence in the limits fixed by the provisional articles between the U. S. & G. B. The navigation of the Mississippi remains to be discussed.4

Yesterday was fixed for an interview between Genl. W. and Sr. G. Carlton for the purpose of taking arrangements for carrying the stipulations of the provisional articles into effect. The interview was proposed by the former, who intimated that as the evacuation of the post of N. Y. was particularly interesting to the State of N. Y., Govr. Clinton would accompany him on the interview.5 The answer of Carlton imputed that he did not decline the proposition, but suggested that as Genl. Gray was expected with final orders it might be best to postpone the conference; adding that he should be attended by Lt. Govr. Elliott and Chief Justice Smith.6

The sample you give of the new Assembly is a flattering one.7 The plan of revenue with an address & sundry documents enforcing it is in the press & will soon be ready for them.8 Mr. Jones proposes to set out this evening, & will make but a very short stay at home. Mr. Lee enters on his journey tomorrow & proceeds without a halt to Richmond.9

1Randolph’s duties as attorney general of Virginia, and probably his efforts to reach an accommodation with his father’s creditors, explain why his customary weekly letters had not been written to JM between 31 March and 26 April 1783. See Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (7 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , VI, 415; 416, nn. 1, 3; Pendleton to JM, 4 May 1783, n. 1.

2On 11 April 1783 Congress adopted the proclamation of a “cessation of arms,” of which Robert R. Livingston, secretary for foreign affairs, was the draftsman (Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (7 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , VI, 450, and n. 1; 451, n. 4; 499).

3JM to Jefferson, 6 May 1783, and nn. 5–7.

4Ibid., 6 May 1783, and n. 8.

5For the relevant “stipulations of the provisional articles” of peace, see Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (7 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , VI, 465; 466, n. 3; 466, and n. 1; 479; 480, nn. 6, 7; also Walke to Delegates, 3 May 1783, and n. 2. Having been instructed by Congress on 15 April, Washington wrote six days later to General Sir Guy Carleton proposing a conference. The letter’s closing sentence reads, “Should an Interview be consented to on your part, the Governor [George Clinton] of this State, being particularly interested in Any Arrangements which respect the Restitution of the Post of N York, will attend me, on this Occasion” (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, 345–48).

6In his reply of 24 April to Washington, Carleton stated that, although he could not “decline the personal interview proposed” to be held at Tappan, N.Y., on 5 May, Washington might prefer to postpone the meeting until Major General Sir Charles (later Earl) Grey (1729–1807), who had been appointed to succeed to Carleton’s command, arrived from Great Britain with more detailed instructions concerning “the final arrangements”—including presumably the evacuation of New York City. Carleton, however, eagerly accepted Washington’s suggestion that all prisoners of war should be exchanged immediately (NA: PCC, No. 152, XI, 245–47). For Carleton’s probable reason favoring haste in this regard, see Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (7 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , VI, 465; 466, n. 3; 466, n. 1.

The Tappan conference, which lasted only “some Hours” on 5 May because of Carleton’s “Indisposition,” confirmed Washington’s belief that very few of the Negro slaves sequestered by the British would be returned. Although Carleton promised to withdraw his troops from Westchester County, N.Y., at once, he declined to pledge as early an evacuation of Long Island and the Penobscot River area of Massachusetts. The relinquishment by the British of their posts in the Old Northwest appears not to have been a subject of discussion (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, 401–6; Walke to Delegates, 3 May 1783, and nn. 2, 3, 5, 7). The “Lt. Govr.” was Andrew Elliot (1728–1797). Although the Crown had appointed William Smith (1728–1793) “Chief Justice” on 4 May 1779, he never served, because those portions of New York held by the royal forces remained under military control. From 1785 until his death he was chief justice of Canada. For Smith’s history of New York, see Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (7 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , VI, 103.

7Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (7 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , VI, 499; 500, nn. 2, 3.

8Ibid., VI, 471, 473, n. 7; 488–94; 494–98 nn.; Delegates to Harrison, 6 May 1783, and n. 3.

9Although Joseph Jones probably left Philadelphia on 6 May, Arthur Lee delayed his departure until six days later (JM to Jefferson, 6 May 1783, and n. 4). Lee resumed his attendance in Congress on 16 July and Jones on or shortly before 27 August 1783 (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIV, 435, 525).

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