James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Robert Patton, 30 March 1792

From Robert Patton

Fredericksburg 30th March 1792

Dear sir

My House having been very suddenly destroyed by fire in the month of Jany last, I found my papers, on my return from Philadelphia in such a deranged situation that it was not untill yesterday I was able to lay my hands on the Letter which contained a Copy of the affadavit recorded in the public office at Charleston respecting the forgery on my name to a Bond given General Greene by Banks & Hunter. The foregoing is an exact Copy,1 and the first intimation I had of the forgery was communicated to me by Letter from Mr. James Miller of Charleston I think early in 1785, wherein he related the manner of his making the discovery and a conversation he had with General Greene on the subject, but this Letter has I am afraid been consumed in the fire as I cannot discover it amongst my papers after a diligent search. I immediately wrote to Charleston to have the Witnesses to the Bond examined, but Mr. Ferrie the only one being in Europe his deposition could not be procured untill the time mentioned.

A stranger to any connection ever having been between General Greene & Banks; conscious none ever existed between him & myself and conceiving myself to Stand on safe ground with respect to all degree of responsibality, I feel a disposition to withhold any thing that might be thought to operate against the Prayer of Mrs. Greene’s petition2 and prove prejudicial to the family of a Gentleman who deserves so much from his Country as General Greene. Indeed it is only to save my own reputation that I expose a transaction wch. must cover the memory of Banks with Ignominy & dishonour; under those circumstances the foregoing is committed to Mr. Madisons superior Judgment to use as he thinks best, with this request that it may be shewn to Mr. Wadsworth who I am told is one of the Genls. Executors & to whom this forgery in all probability has never yet been told. Your goodness will I hope ex’use the trouble I give you on this Occassion and believe me to be with great Respect Dear sir Your Mo: Ob: servant

Rob Patton3

Your friends in Orange were all well last Monday.

RC and enclosure (DLC). For enclosure, see n. 1.

1The two-page enclosure, in Patton’s hand, is a copy of a bond of 7 May 1783 guaranteeing “to release and exonerate the said General Greene from the principle or damages should any arise of or from the being Security for us” for a debt of £32,125. Below the bond appear the names of John Banks, Robert Patton, and James Hunter. John Ferrie witnessed the bond. Following the bond is a copy of Ferrie’s affidavit of 12 June 1788, declaring that Patton’s purported signature on the bond was a forgery and did not appear on the original.

2On 26 Dec. 1791 Hamilton submitted to the House of Representatives his “Report on the Petition of Catharine Greene.” During the first four months of 1792, the House considered that petition, which requested indemnification of the estate of Catharine Greene’s deceased husband, Nathanael Greene, from the claim of Hunter, Banks, and Company. On 27 Apr. Washington signed the private bill that granted Mrs. Greene’s request (Syrett and Cooke, Papers of Hamilton description begins Harold C. Syrett and Jacob E. Cooke, eds., The Papers of Alexander Hamilton (26 vols.; New York, 1961–79). description ends , X, 406–68; Annals of Congress description begins Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States, 1789–1824 (42 vols.; Washington, 1834–56). description ends , 2d Cong., 1st sess., 316–578 passim; U.S. Statutes at Large description begins The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America … (17 vols.; Boston, 1848–73). description ends , VI, 9–10).

3The merchant Robert Patton, a native of Scotland, arrived in Fredericksburg before the Revolution. The son-in-law of Gen. Hugh Mercer, he was appointed to the board of directors of the state bank established at Fredericksburg in 1792 (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 , XIII, 599).

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