James Madison Papers

Virginia Delegates to Benjamin Harrison, [20 May] 1783

Virginia Delegates to Benjamin Harrison

Printed extract (Cal. of Va. State Papers description begins William P. Palmer et al., eds., Calendar of Virginia State Papers and Other Manuscripts (11 vols.; Richmond, 1875–93). description ends , III, 485). The style of the paragraph quoted in this abstract suggests that the letter was written by JM, except for the signatures of Bland and Mercer.

[20 May 1783]

They had recd. his letter of the 9th and had made the correction therein indicated, to Mr. Thompson, in regard to the territorial cession.1

“If an official & joint correspondence with your Excelly. be less circumstantial than that which individual delegates may enter into with their private friends, we persuade ourselves that your Excelly. is too sensible both of our public & private respect for your character to impute to any defect of either. The difference can only proceed from the necessity in the former case of confining ourselves, not only to such matters as are worthy of the public, & for which we can be officially responsible, but to such also, with respect to which no diversity of private opinions may exist.”2

No further news from Europe—Sir Guy Carleton in reply to a letter from Genl: Washington had expressed his former sentiments regarding the negroes, uttered at the conference held at Orange Town, &c.3

3Walke to Delegates, 3 May, and nn. 3, 5; JM to Randolph, 6 May, and n. 6; 13 May; JM Notes, 8 May, and 12–13 May 1783, n. 1. On 19 May Congress received a letter, written five days earlier by Washington, enclosing a dispatch of 12 May from General Carleton (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIV, 347, n. 1; 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, 430). In his letter Carleton repeated that although many Negroes, who had been freed before he became commander-in-chief, had sailed with Loyalists and British troops from New York City late in April for Nova Scotia, the name of each and of his “original proprietor” had been carefully entered in a “register.” Thus, continued Carleton, if he had violated the preliminary articles of peace, Congress could seek reparation on behalf of the owners through the usual diplomatic channels (NA: PCC, No. 152, XI, 279–85; Jared Sparks, ed., The Writings of George Washington … [12 vols.; Boston, 1834–37], VIII, 543–45). See also Delegates to Harrison, 27 May 1783.

“Orange Town,” now Orangeburg, is near the Tappan Zee, the portion of the Hudson River by which “the conference” is usually designated.

Index Entries