James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Edmund Pendleton, 6 October 1783

From Edmund Pendleton

Printed excerpt (Stan. V. Henkels Catalogue No. 694 [1892], p. 94).

Editorial Note

About 1850 the present letter was calendared, probably by a clerk of Peter Force, as follows:

To James Madison

“Garrisons in time of peace. A standing army the bane of society. Should garrisons be Continental or supported by the States where located. German-Town as a seat for the Government merely another name for Philadelphia. Trade with France restricted. Arrival of British ships. Rise in the price of goods. Races at Fredericksburg. 1 page 4°” (LC: Madison Miscellany).

The last four topics are obviously omitted from the Henkels’ summary. For trade with France, see Delegates to Harrison, 20 Sept., and n. 3; 4 Oct., and n. 9; Harrison to Delegates, 3 Oct., 1783. Although the Philadelphia and Richmond newspapers fail to mention rising prices, they leave no doubt of the more frequent arrivals of British ships (Pa. Packet, 20, 25, 27, and 30 Sept.; Va. Gazette description begins Virginia Gazette, or, the American Advertiser (Richmond, James Hayes, 1781–86). description ends , 27 Sept.; 4 Oct. 1783). In a recent letter, JM had mentioned the races at Fredericksburg beginning on 6 October (JM to Jefferson, 20 Sept. 1783, and n. 6). Pendleton may have remarked either that, as a trustee of the Fredericksburg Academy, he had been summoned to be in Fredericksburg on 7 October “upon business of the greatest importance,” or, what is more probable, that he was attending the General Court which had begun its sessions on 1 October in Richmond (Va. Gazette description begins Virginia Gazette, or, the American Advertiser (Richmond, James Hayes, 1781–86). description ends , 27 Sept.; Va. Gazette, and Weekly Advertiser, 4 Oct. 1783; David J. Mays, Edmund Pendleton, II, 205, 388, n. 15).

Virginia, October 6, 1783

… The question touching Garrisons in time of peace, is in its nature delicate as well as difficult, and therefore I don’t wonder there should be diversity of opinions about it. They seem useful & indeed necessary & yet have their certain evils, among which not the least considerable is that they lead to a standing Army, that bane of Society; nor is it less difficult to decide the question, if they are admitted, whether they ought to be Continental, or supported by & under the Government of the respective States where they are kept.1

… German Town must be named in the competition for the permanent seat of Congress, merely as another name for Philad’a which I suppose they can’t name with propriety, for I can’t suppose a single man in the United States would prefer that Village to the great City so near it.2 I have thought for some time that the contest would end in a return to that City, as soon as resentment for their former neglect had a little worn off.3

1In a letter of 20 September to Jefferson (q.v.), JM had mentioned the problem, including its constitutional aspect, of reaching a decision in Congress about the nature of a peacetime army. The reference by Pendleton to the subject may signify that in a letter to him, dated on or about the same day, JM had commented similarly. See also JM to Randolph, 17 June, and nn. 10–12; 12 Aug.; to Jefferson, 11 Aug., and nn. 11, 12. If the excerpt includes all Pendleton’s remarks on the subject, he neglected to refer to the garrisoning of posts in the Northwest Territory which were or soon would be outside the boundaries of any state (Harrison to Delegates, 26 Sept. 1783, n. 5).

3Pendleton to JM, 1 Sept. 1783, and n. 1. Although the issue of returning to Philadelphia was debated frequently in Congress during the next five years, the outcome failed to fulfill Pendleton’s expectation (Edmund C. Burnett, Continental Congress, pp. 584–86, 616–18, 690–91, 714–19).

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