James Madison Papers

Virginia Delegates to Benjamin Harrison, 17 June 1783

Virginia Delegates to Benjamin Harrison

RC (Pierpont Morgan Library, New York City). In the hand of John Francis Mercer, except for JM’s signature. Docketed, “Virga Delegates Letter recd June 27. 83, June 17th 1783.”

Philadelphia June 17th. 1783


Since our last to Yr. Excellency,1 little has occurr’d worthy of communication. A Letter from General Washington encloses a very feeling address from the Officers of that part of the Army, comprehended in the late Resolution of Congress hertofore transmitted to Yr Excelly. Their minds too much agitated by the contemplation of prospects, cruel & dispiriting, gave way to suspicions (founded on the indefinite terms of the furlough.) that this mode was adopted to disperse them, & to avoid a compliance with that part of their request which, related to paymt on their discharge. they lamented but in strong & manly terms that they were to end their toils & hardships by returning to inevitable distress, without any aleeviation of their present wants. They implor’d his interference as their General & as their friend. The Commander in Chief then explained to them, that this measure was calculated to promote their interest, without endangering the safety of the States. That by this means the money which must otherwise be expended in their subsistance, woud now be appropriated to the paymt. of part of their dues. He said, that in justice to Congress, he could not but declare his sentiments. That they had made every exertion within their Power to obviate the present distresses of & to procure final justice to the Army. By this prudent, wise & noble conduct of General Washington gathered discontents, which now seemed again ready to burst forth, were on[c]e more happily assuaged, & the Resolution of Congress were quietly complied with.2

A Spirit of Mutiny discovered itself in the Troops immediately in Phila. that at first wore an alarming aspect, but by timely exertion it terminated without any ill consequences.3

Yr. Excellency will receive the Pamphlett you require.4

We have the honor to be &c. Yr. Excellency’s most obt. humble Servants

J. Madison Jr.

John F. Mercer

1The reference is to a missing letter, probably dated 10 June. This letter, which Harrison submitted on 19 June to the Virginia House of Delegates, enclosed copies of the “report of a Committee of Congress relative to the Offers made by sundry States to that Body to induce them to hold their Sessions in them” and of another congressional committee on the proposed cession by Virginia of lands beyond the Ohio River (Executive Letter Book, 1783–1786, p. 157, MS in Va. State Library; JCSV description begins H. R. McIlwaine et al., eds., Journals of the Council of the State of Virginia (4 vols. to date; Richmond, 1931——). description ends , III, 271; JHDV description begins (1828 ed.). Journal of the House of Delegates of Virginia, Anno Domini, 1776 (Richmond, 1828). description ends , May 1783, p. 68). See also Delegates to Harrison, 27 May, and n. 2; JM Notes, 6 June, and n. 1; 10 June, and nn. 7, 9; Instructions to Delegates, 27 June; 28 June 1783.

2On 7 June Washington forwarded to Congress with his endorsement a copy of the “Address of the Generals and Officers Commanding the Regiments and Corps,” signed and presented to him by Major General William Heath, and also of his reply on 6 June to Heath. Mercer well summarized the contents of these documents (NA: PCC, No. 152, XI, 295–315; 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, 472–75, 478–79). The “late Resolution” was that of 26 May regarding the furloughing of officers and troops in the main army who had engaged “to serve during the war.” See JM Notes, 26 May, and n. 2; 11 June 1783, n. 1. When a copy of that resolution was sent to Harrison is unknown.

Having received Washington’s letter and enclosures, Congress on 11 June referred them to a committee composed of Hamilton, chairman, JM, and Bland (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIV, 392, n. 1). Although not noted in the official journal, Hamilton’s report on behalf of the committee was submitted to Congress and adopted on 19 June 1783. Thereby Congress agreed to have a copy of Washington’s letter and its enclosures sent to the executive of each state, together with a reminder of the resolutions of 2 May “to facilitate the punctual payment of the notes issued to the army on account of their pay” (Syrett and Cooke, Papers of Hamilton description begins Harold C. Syrett and Jacob E. Cooke, eds., The Papers of Alexander Hamilton (15 vols. to date; New York, 1961——). description ends , III, 398–99). See also JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIV, 325–26. Under a covering letter of 20 June, Elias Boudinot, president of Congress, complied with the resolution (MSS in Va. State Library; Burnett, Letters description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress (8 vols.; Washington, 1921–36). description ends , VII, 192–93).

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