James Madison Papers

Benjamin Harrison to Virginia Delegates, 4 July 1783

Benjamin Harrison to Virginia Delegates

FC (Virginia State Library). In the hand of Thomas Meriwether. Addressed to “Virginia Delegates in Congress.”

Richmond July 4th. 1783.


Your favor of the 24th. of last Month1 came safe to hand. I give Congress great Praise for their steadiness on the late trying Occasion,2 and only wish they had turn’d their Attention to the South rather than the North as it may have some effect on the determination to be had in October next.3 The enclosed resolution of our Assembly will discover their wishes for the removal of Congress to this State or Maryland, their offers are liberal, and I should think if consider’d impartially the latter would be accepted, as it will certainly be more central on either side of Potowmack than at any of the other Places proposed.4 I shall write to-day to the Mayor of Williamsburg to know what Jurisdiction the Inhabitants of that City are willing to give to Congress and shall transmit the Answer to you as soon as it comes to hand.5

I have the Mortification to enclose you an Act in which you will find a Clause requesting Congress to furnish a guard for our Prison and Military Stores. I shall make no Comment on the request, but leave you to your own reflections, and to take such steps as you may think consistent with the Honor of the State.6 You have also a Copy of a Memorial from the Officers of the Virginia line to the Assembly and their resolutions founded on it which you’l please to lay before Congress, and obtain their determination against the meeting of the Assembly in October next. It has ever appeared to me unaccountable that this Business has been so protracted if Congress mean to wrest the Land from us by force why do they not tell us so at once. It behoves them now I think to be explicit, as I do not think the Assembly will be triffled with much longer. Our Officers and Soldiers have a just claim on us for Lands, and it seems to be the general wish that they should be gratified with such as they like, and I am convinced the Assembly will grant their request if Congress do not accept of the Cession offer’d them before their next meeting.7

The Assembly have directed two armed Boats to be put into Commission to enforce the Payment of Duties laid on our imports and to keep the Trade in some little Order, if you should be of Opinion that the consent of Congress is necessary before they are sent on Duty you’l please to take the proper steps for obtaining it.8 The resolution of Congress of the 19th. of last Month did not come in Time for the last Assembly. I will take Care to lay it before the next.9

I have the Honor to be Yrs. &c.

B. H.


2That is, the mutiny of troops in Philadelphia (JM Notes, 21 June, and nn.; JM to Randolph, 24 June 1783).

3Governor Harrison meant that the Virginia General Assembly at its session of October 1783 might be more disposed to ratify the plan for restoring public credit if Congress had decided upon leaving Philadelphia to reconvene in Virginia or Maryland rather than in Princeton, N.J.

4Instructions to Delegates, 28 June, and nn. 2–7. Besides Princeton, “other Places proposed” had been Kingston, N.Y., Trenton, N.J., and Annapolis, Md. (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, 448, n. 4; JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIV, 229, n. 2, 376, 378, n. 2, 422 n.; JM to Jefferson, 17 July 1783, and nn. 7, 9).

5In his letter of 4 July, Harrison asked the mayor of Williamsburg without delay “to fall on some Mode” for determining the “Sentiments” of the residents of Williamsburg to the inducement offered to Congress by the Virginia General Assembly to move permanently to that city (Executive Letter Book, 1783–1786, p. 165, MS in Va. State Library).

Mayor William Holt (d. ca. 1791) had been a justice of peace of York County and shared prominently in opposing British policies on the eve of the Revolution. On 1 August 1776 he was appointed one of the three judges of the Court of Admiralty and served until 1779 (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 , I, 103, 105; Williams Armstrong Crozier, ed., Virginia County Records [11 vols.; New York, 1905–13], III, 30; Boyd, Papers of Jefferson description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson (18 vols. to date; Princeton, N.J., 1950——). description ends , I, 47, 109). A shipowner, he was also the proprietor, with a partner, of an iron forge in New Kent County and of flour mills in that and James City County (ibid., IV, 332, 385; V, 540; 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 , I, 131, 135; II, 460–61; 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 , II, 428, 436, 681; McIlwaine, Official Letters description begins H. R. McIlwaine, ed., Official Letters of the Governors of the State of Virginia (3 vols.; Richmond, 1926–29). description ends , I, 21, and n. 37; Tyler’s Quarterly Historical and Genealogical Magazine, VII [1925–26], 285; William and Mary Quarterly, 1st ser., V [1896–97], 20–22; XI [1902–3], 153; XXII [1913–14], 70; XXIII [1914–15], 137). In a tax list of 1782, Holt was recorded as owning thirty-nine slaves (Augusta B. Fothergill and John M. Naugle, comps., Virginia Tax Payers, 1782–87, p. 62). See also Harrison to Delegates, 12 July 1783, and n. 3.

9Harrison referred to a circular letter from President Elias Boudinot on 20 June, enclosing a copy of the resolution of Congress of 19 June and other documents concerning paying and furloughing of continental troops (JM Notes, 19 June, n. 10; 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). On 20 October Harrison forwarded these papers to the speaker of the House of Delegates, but its first quorum was on 4 November (Executive Letter Book, 1783–1786, p. 218, MS in Va. State Library; JHDV description begins (1828 ed.). Journal of the House of Delegates of Virginia, Anno Domini, 1776 (Richmond, 1828). description ends , Oct. 1783, p. 7).

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