James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Edmund Pendleton, 4 August 1783

From Edmund Pendleton

Summary (LC: Madison Miscellany). The summary is in a calendar, probably prepared about 1850 by Peter Force’s clerk. He noted that the letter was addressed “To James Madison” and the manuscript was made up of “2 pages folio.”

1783, August 4 Virginia

Contrary reports concerning peace.1 The debate in the Massachusetts Assembly.2 Redemption of our obligations. Pay the holder the money he has really advanced and interest.3

1Pendleton, probably after reading the Virginia Gazette of 26 July and 2 August, may have commented upon the conflicting reports stating, on the one hand, that the British military authorities in New York City had received a copy of the definitive treaty of peace between Great Britain and the United States and, on the other hand, that the negotiations in Paris by the peace commissioners of the two countries were still incomplete. See JM to Jefferson, 17 July, and n. 2; JM to Randolph, 28 July 1783, and n. 12.

2JM was accustomed to write to Pendleton and Randolph on the same day. In a letter to Randolph on 21 July (q.v., and n. 5) and perhaps also in a missing one to Pendleton on that date, JM mentioned that the Massachusetts General Court had refused to re-elect to Congress their delegates who had voted to grant half-pay for five years to demobilized continental officers.

3The general subject of Pendleton’s remarks was almost surely the payment of the debt of the United States. He seems to have advocated either that in an instance of a bond being bought with depreciated currency of lower real value than the face value of the bond, the government should repay, with interest, only the specie value of the currency used to purchase the bond, or that speculators, who had bought at a discount the government notes received by veterans or other needy creditors for their services or goods, should be paid by the government only what they had expended in terms of specie, plus interest. At the same time the government should recompense the original holder of the note or his heir with specie equal to the difference between what the speculator had received and the face value of the note. The latter plan may have appealed to JM, who, during the congressional contest in 1790 over funding the national debt, supported a policy of “discrimination” between the original and ultimate holders of the bonds and other government securities (Brant, Madison description begins Irving Brant, James Madison (6 vols.; Indianapolis and New York, 1941–61). description ends , III, chap. 23). See also Pendleton to JM, 25 Aug. 1783.

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