James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Bolling Stark, 15 May 1786

From Bolling Stark

Richmond May 15. 1786.

Dear Sir,

By virtue of an Act of the last Assembly, the Executive on th[e] 1st Ulto. assigned me such a part of the business in the Auditors Office as must inevitably, in a few months, occasion my being discharged therefrom for ever. This determination of Council, against me, I am impelled, from various considerations, to think extremely hard, more especially when I reflect upon the anxiety & fatigue I underwent in the year 1781, conveying the books & papers of our Office, several different times, out of the Enemy’s power (for that care & trouble constantly devolved upon me alone) always leaving my own little property exposed to their depredations, whereby I suffered considerably; notwithstanding this, if the two Gentlemen, my colleagues, who have met with the preference, were superior in point of integrity, assiduity or abilities, my feelings would not have been so much hurt; and one of them coming into the Office several years after me, is a circumstance that renders my degradation doubly mortifying.1

I have almost unavoidably run into expressions of discontent respecting a matter, which is unalterable, tho’ my only object in addressing you at this time, was to solicit your influence, & friendly exertions in the next Assembly, to obtain for me some other respectable Office, under Government, as I really feel a predelection for the public service, and of course a reluctance to quit it altogether. The Collectorship of duties, at Norfolk, would I imagine yield a comfortable support, and as several of my children reside there, living among them & enjoying the emoluments of that Office, might, probably, be the means of making me a happy man again. Your Patronage upon that or any other occasion which may offer, as I know it wou’d have very great weight in the House of Delegates, will lay me under everlasting obligations, and, I trust, not be any disadvantage to the Commonwealth.2

The only thing I shall take the liberty of urging in my own favour is, having devoted the prime of life to the discharge of public duties, in various departments, to the very great detriment of my private affairs; and consequently shall be reduced to a most disagreeable situation as soon as my present employment in the Auditors Office ceases, unless my Country will be graciously pleased to indulge me with some other genteel appointment. If, worthy Sir, the plea just above mentioned shou’d be thought not sufficient for granting my request, and no reason more cogent & satisfactory occurs to yourself, let the rescuing of an old public servant from real & complicated distress induce you to comply therewith. I am very respectfully Dr Sir, Your obedt. humble servant,

B. Stark

RC (CSmH).

1Stark’s dismissal from the Board of Auditors was the result of the 1785 “act for the reform of certain public Boards” (Hening, Statutes description begins William Waller Hening, ed., The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia, from the First Session of the Legislature, in the Year 1619 (13 vols.; Richmond and Philadelphia, 1819–23). description ends , XII, 106–9). This act specifically defined the duties of the three auditors and provided for the eventual reduction of the number of auditors to two. One of the auditors was required “to state and bring up all deficiency of public accounts … up to the last day of December” 1785. Upon the completion of this task, the governor and council were empowered to discharge that auditor from further service. At a meeting of the Council of State on 1 Mar. 1786 Stark was assigned this business (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, 525). Stark had been on the Board of Auditors since 1781; his colleagues were Harrison Randolph, who had served since 1780, and John Pendleton, who had replaced John Boush in 1783 (Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (9 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , I, 231 n. 1; II, 79 n. 1; VII, 210 n. 1).

2Stark sought the collectorship of duties at Norfolk under the expectation that the impost amendment submitted to the states by Congress in 1783 would be ratified. Virginia’s act of ratification authorized the governor and council to appoint the collectors, who would “be amenable to, and removable by” Congress (Hening, Statutes description begins William Waller Hening, ed., The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia, from the First Session of the Legislature, in the Year 1619 (13 vols.; Richmond and Philadelphia, 1819–23). description ends , XI, 350–52). See Stark’s letter to Governor Henry of 4 June 1786, applying for the post of collector at Norfolk (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 , IV, 148). This job failed to materialize, but JM, who had served with Stark on the Council of State in 1778, was perhaps instrumental in securing Stark’s reelection to the Council in December 1786 (JHDV description begins Journal of the House of Delegates of the Commonwealth of Virginia; Begun and Held at the Capitol, in the City of Williamsburg. Beginning in 1780, the portion after the semicolon reads, Begun and Held in the Town of Richmond, In the County of Henrico. The journal for each session has its own title page and is individually paginated. The edition used is the one in which the journals for 1777–1786 are brought together in two volumes, with each journal published in Richmond in either 1827 or 1828 and often called the “Thomas W. White reprint.” description ends , Oct. 1786, p. 70).

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