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James Madison, The Writings of James Madison, vol. 1 (Correspondence 1769-1783) [1900]

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James Madison, The Writings of James Madison, comprising his Public Papers and his Private Correspondence, including his numerous letters and documents now for the first time printed, ed. Gaillard Hunt (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1900). Vol. 1.

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About this Title:

Volume 1 of Madison’s writings in 9 volumes edited by Gaillard Hunt in 1900-10. This volume contains Public Papers and Private Correspondence, including numerous letters and documents between 1769 and 1783, Constitution of Virginia, and debates with the Congress of the Confederation

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The text is in the public domain.

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This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.

Table of Contents:

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The life-sized marble medallion bust of James Madison was made in Philadelphia in 1792, when Madison was forty-one years of age, by the Italian sculptor, Giuseppe Ceracchi. It hung on the walls of Montpelier until after Madison’s death and was considered by his contemporaries to be the most faithful of the likenesses of him. It was purchased from Mrs. Madison’s estate by the late J. C. McGuire, Esq., of Washington, and purchased from the McGuire estate for the Department of State by Secretary Thomas F. Bayard.

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Volume I.
27 west twenty-third st.
24 bedford st., strand
The Knickerbocker Press
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The Knickerbocker Press, New York

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editor of “the writings of george washington”

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  • James Madison (Introduction) . . . . . page xxi
  • Chronology . . . . . . . . xxxvii
  • 1769.
    • To Rev. Thomas Martin, August 16 [17th] . . 1

      Sends account of Princeton—Cost of Grammars—Approach of examination.

    • To James Madison, September 30 th . . . . 3

      Commencement exercises—Business of the college—Mr. Caldwell’s journey—Drought in Virginia.

  • 1770.
    • To James Madison, July 23d . . . . . 6

      Finances—Concerning a tutor—His clothes—Conduct of merchants in New York.

  • 1771.
    • To James Madison, October 9th . . . . 7

      Deliverance of his mother—Asks for money.

  • 1772.
    • To William Bradford, Jr., November 9th . . . 9

      Studies and reading—Livingston’s degree.

    • Act for opening and keeping in repair public roads . 13
  • 1773.
    • To William Bradford, Jr., April 28th . . . . 15

      Friendship and sermons.

    Edition: current; Page: [viii]
  • 1774.
    • To William Bradford, Jr., January 24th . . . 18

      Proceedings in Philadelphia and Boston—The Church of England—Reading—Religious persecutions.

    • To William Bradford, Jr., April 1st . . . . 22

      Brackenridge’s illness—Dissenters—Contemplated journey.

    • To William Bradford, Jr., July 1st . . . . 25

      Dunmore—The Bostonians—Dean Tucker’s tracts.

  • 1775.
    • To William Bradford, Jr., January 20th . . . 28

      Raising men—Quakers—Logan’s speech—Rev. Moses Allen.

    • Address to Captain Patrick Henry, May 9th . . 31
  • 1776.
    • Independence and Constitution of Virginia . . 32
  • 1777.
    • To James Madison, March — . . . . . 49

      Treasonable conversation.

  • 1778.
    • To James Madison, January 23d . . . . 51


    • To James Madison, March 6th . . . . . 53

      Purchase of books—Public opinion in England—Arrival of ships.

  • 1779.
    • To James Madison, December 8th . . . . 55

      Requisitions from Congress—Escheats and forfeitures—Prices—His brother’s education.

  • 1780.
    • To James Madison, March 20th . . . . . 58

      Public finances.

    • To Thomas Jefferson, March 27th . . . . 59

      Military operations—Critical conditions—Public finances.

      Edition: current; Page: [ix]
    • To Thomas Jefferson, May 6th . . . . . 61

      Unpaid requisitions—Paper emissions.

    • To Thomas Jefferson, June 2d . . . . . 64

      Indian incursions—Surrender of Charleston—Mutinous spirit in the army.

    • To Thomas Jefferson, June 23d . . . . 66

      Military proceedings—Projected bank.

    • To Edmund Pendleton, September 12th . . . 67

      Ratification of the Confederation—Neutral rights.

    • To Joseph Jones, September 19th . . . . 68

      Jones’s resolutions—“The Vermont business.”

    • To Edmund Pendleton, September 19th . . . 70

      Admiral Rodney at the Hook—Mortality in Philadelphia.

    • To Edmund Pendleton, September 26th . . . 71

      Uncertain situation.

    • To Edmund Pendleton, October 3d . . . . 72

      Military outlook—Arnold’s plot.

    • To Edmund Pendleton, October 10th . . . 73

      French fleet and Spanish expedition—André’s execution.

    • To Edmund Pendleton, October — . . . . 74

      Military proceedings.

    • To Joseph Jones, October — . . . . . 76

      Disappointment in foreign succours—Needs of the army—Finances—Taxation.

    • To Joseph Jones, October 17th . . . . . 79

      Land company purchases—Virginia’s cession—Military promotions.

    • To Edmund Pendleton, October 17th . . . 81

      Captures by the Saratoga.

    • Instructions to John Jay, October 17th . . . 82

      Boundaries and free navigation of the Mississippi.

    • To Edmund Pendleton, October 31st . . . 91

      American captives in Charleston.

    • To Joseph Jones, November — . . . . 91

      Vermont dispute—Arrangement of the army.

      Edition: current; Page: [x]
    • To Edmund Pendleton, November 7th . . . 92

      Reflections against Franklin—Supplies for the army.

    • To Edmund Pendleton, November 14th . . . 94

      Army movements—Liberation of prisoners.

    • To Joseph Jones, November 14th . . . . 95

      State emissions—Army supplies.

    • To Joseph Jones, November 21st . . . . 97

      State emissions—New currency—Land question.

    • To Edmund Pendleton, November 21st . . . 99

      Military and naval movements.

    • To Joseph Jones, November 25th . . . . 101

      Mississippi question—Disagreement with Bland.

    • To Joseph Jones, November 28th . . . . 106

      Arming the negroes—Connecticut land cession—Depreciation of currency.

    • To Edmund Pendleton, December 5th . . . 107

      Financial aid from abroad—Tornado in the West Indies.

    • To Edmund Pendleton, December — . . . 109

      Neutral league—French officials changed—Laurens in the Tower.

    • To Joseph Jones, December 5th . . . . 110

      Letters from Jay and Carmichael—Mississippi question.

    • To Joseph Jones, December 12th . . . . 112

      Special envoy to Congress—Financial aid from abroad—French affairs.

    • To Joseph Jones, December 19th . . . . 115

      Land cession—Military affairs.

    • To Edmund Pendleton, December 19th . . . 116

      Military movements of the enemy.

    • To Edmund Pendleton, December 26th . . . 117

      Danish declaration—Arnold’s movements.

  • 1781.
    • To Edmund Pendleton, January 2d . . . . 118

      Embarkation of troops at New York.

      Edition: current; Page: [xi]
    • To Ambrose Madison, January 2d . . . . 118

      Family affairs—Excise on spirits—Private finances.

    • To Edmund Pendleton, January 9th . . . . 120

      Mutiny in the army.

    • To Edmund Pendleton, January 16th . . . 122

      Arnold’s depredations—Army mutiny—“Delegate extraordinary.”

    • To Edmund Pendleton, January 23d . . . 125

      Discontent of German troops—Foreign news—Arnold’s raid.

    • To Edmund Pendleton, February — . . . 126

      Exchange of C. Taylor—English preparations.

    • To Thomas Jefferson, April 3d . . . . . 127

      Arrival of stores—Refugees taken by Captain Tilley.

    • To Thomas Jefferson, April 16th . . . . 129

      Report on powers of Congress—Coercive power.

    • To Edmund Randolph, May 1st . . . . 132

      Land title of Virginia.

    • To Edmund Randolph, May 1st . . . . 133

      Captures at sea—Virginia land cession—French suspicions—Vermont question—Murder by refugees.

    • To Edmund Pendleton, May 29th . . . . 136

      Duty on trade.

    • To Philip Mazzei, July 7th . . . . . . 138

      Progress of the war—Vicissitudes of the finances—Need of a navy—Barbarities of the enemy in the South.

    • To Edmund Pendleton, July 31st . . . . 147

      European news—Preparations against New York.

    • To James Madison, August 1st, 2d . . . . 148

      European news—Preparations against New York—Prospective evacuation of Virginia—Prices—Purchases of books.

    • To Edmund Pendleton, August 14th . . . 150

      Vermont controversy.

    • To Edmund Pendleton, September 3d . . . 151

      Troops on the way to Virginia—Substantial aids from France—Admirals Hood and Graves.

    • To Edmund Pendleton, September 18th . . . 152

      Naval forces—Aid for Virginia.

      Edition: current; Page: [xii]
    • To Edmund Pendleton, October 2d . . . . 154

      Suffering of British troops—Arrival of Digby—Affairs in Europe—Government of distant parts of Virginia.

    • To Edmund Pendleton, October 9th . . . . 156

      Argument in Nathan case.

    • To Edmund Pendleton, October 16th . . . 157

      Mississippi question—Naval arrivals—Nathan case.

    • To Edmund Pendleton, October 30th . . . 158

      Congratulations on Yorktown—British failures—Practice of impressments—Virginia land cession.

    • To Edmund Pendleton, November 13th . . . 161

      Territorial cessions—Compliments for the Marquis Lafayette.

    • To Thomas Jefferson, November 18th . . . 162

      Virginia land cession—Deane’s letters.

    • To Edmund Pendleton, November 27th . . . 164

      Arrival of Washington—Territorial cessions.

    • To Edmund Pendleton, December 11th . . . 165

      Deane’s letters—Requisitions of Congress.

    • To Edmund Pendleton, December 25th . . . 166

      Captures of Commodore Johnstone—Acquittal of Jefferson.

  • 1782.
    • To Edmund Pendleton, January 8th . . . . 167

      Opening of the bank—Seizures authorized of British merchandize.

    • To Thomas Jefferson, January 15th . . . . 170

      Claim to western territory—The Virginia cession.

    • To Edmund Pendleton, January 22d . . . . 173

      Vermont case.

    • To Edmund Randolph, January 22d . . . . 175

      Repeal of impost act by Virginia—Claims of the army.

    • To Edmund Pendleton, February 7th . . . 176

      Plans for public debt—Apportionment of expenditures.

    • To James Madison, February 12th . . . . 177

      Forwards books and papers—Need of money.

      Edition: current; Page: [xiii]
    • To Edmund Pendleton, February 25th . . . 179

      Powers of proposed bank.

    • To Thomas Jefferson, March 18th . . . . 179

      Old map of Virginia.

    • To Edmund Pendleton, March 19th . . . . 181

      New British plan for recovering America.

    • To Thomas Jefferson, March 26th . . . . 181

      Territorial cession.

    • To James Madison, March 30th . . . . . 182

      Money received—Purchases of books—British plans.

    • To Edmund Pendleton, April 2d . . . . 184

      Vermont question—Virginia’s military deficiencies.

    • To Edmund Randolph, April 9th . . . . 185

      Land disputes—Proofs of Virginia’s title wanted.

    • To Thomas Jefferson, April 16th . . . . 186

      Territorial question—Virginia’s title.

    • To Edmund Randolph, April 23d . . . . 188

      Mediation of Vienna and St. Petersburg—Letter from Dana—Vermont question.

    • To Edmund Randolph, May — . . . . . 189

      Foreign designs towards America—Virginia cession.

    • To Edmund Randolph, May 14th . . . . 191

      Ceres, man of war, arrives—New ministry in England—Attitude towards America—Territorial question—Naval engagement—Sir Guy Carleton treats for peace—Public audience for French minister—Letter to Dana—Paper currency.

    • To James Madison, May 20th . . . . . 194

      Naval news—Studies of his brother—State of finances.

    • To Edmund Randolph, May 21st . . . . 196

      The Virginia cession.

    • To Edmund Randolph, May 28th . . . . 197

      Loan from France—Adams in Holland—Deputation from Congress to visit States—Unfavorable rumors concerning Virginia—American independence in Holland—Flags from Congress.

    • To Edmund Randolph, May 29th . . . . 200

      Adams in Holland—Right of a State to prohibit exportations.

      Edition: current; Page: [xiv]
    • To Edmund Randolph, June 4th . . . . 203

      Interdiction of British manufactures—Attacks on Robert Morris.

    • To Edmund Randolph, June — . . . . 205

      Transportation of exiles.

    • To Edmund Randolph, June 6th . . . . 206

      Exportations of tobacco.

    • To Edmund Randolph, June 11th . . . . 207

      Flags—Jefferson’s conduct—Izard and the Lees—Marbois’s publication.

    • To Edmund Randolph, June 18th . . . . 209

      Illicit trade with British condemned.

    • To Edmund Randolph, June 25th . . . . 210

      Illicit trade with British—Adams’s letter concerning treaty with Holland—Refugees.

    • To Edmund Randolph, July 2d . . . . . 211

      Foreign news—Financial problems—Defeat of French in West Indies—Controversy between Connecticut and Pennsylvania unsettled.

    • Report of the Committee consisting of Mr. Madison, Mr. Duane, and Mr. Clymer relative to the instructions of Mr. Adams, July 5th . . . . . 214
    • To Edmund Randolph, July 9th . . . . 215

      Virginia patriotism—Suppression of trade with the enemy—Bank dividend.

    • To Edmund Randolph, July 16th . . . . 216

      Cypher—Virginia militia—Remittance of allowance—Carleton on exchange of prisoners—Enemy in western country—News from New England—Lippencot and Asgill.

    • To Edmund Randolph, July 23d . . . . 220

      Recognition by the States General—British policy—Foreign news.

    • To Edmund Randolph, August 9th . . . . 222

      Letter from Carleton to Washington concerning peace negotiations—Exchange of prisoners.

    • To Edmund Randolph, August 13th . . . . 223

      British attitude—Back lands as means of revenue—Virginia’s boundary.

      Edition: current; Page: [xv]
    • To Edmund Randolph, August 20th . . . . 226

      Action of Congress concerning French control of American Ministers.

    • To Edmund Randolph, August 27th . . . . 226

      Uniform naturalization laws necessary—Lippencot case—Randolph’s territorial report—Need of money.

    • To Edmund Randolph, September 3d . . . 229

      Evacuation of Charleston—Petition from Kentucky—Exchange of prisoners—French frigate wrecked—Pecuniary troubles—French army.

    • To Edmund Randolph, September 10th . . . 231

      Congress replaces French frigate with the America—Debate on Western lands—Virginia’s policy.

    • To Edmund Randolph, September 11th . . . 233

      Laurens returns—War news—Conversation between Shelburne and the Duke of Richmond.

    • To Edmund Randolph, September 17th . . . 234

      Adams negotiates loan in Holland—Financial details—Adams’s treaty—Debates in British cabinet—French frigate wrecked in Delaware Bay.

    • To Edmund Randolph, September 24th . . . 238

      Proceedings at Versailles—Frigate L’Aigle captured—France remits interest—Arrears due to army—Laurens’s conduct—Pecuniary troubles.

    • To Edmund Randolph, September 30th . . . 242

      Want of money—Grenville on American Independence.

    • To Edmund Randolph, October 8th . . . . 243

      Pecuniary difficulties—Treaty with Sweden.

    • To Edmund Randolph, October 15th . . . 244

      Sir Guy Carleton on suspension of hostilities.

    • To Edmund Randolph, October 22d . . . . 246

      Plenipotentiary commission issued to Fitzherbert by George III.—Adams’s treaty with States General—Discontent of army—Movements of Dutch fleet.

    • To Edmund Randolph, October 29th . . . 248

      British fleet leaving New York—Lippencot case—Pay for army—New York’s territorial cession.

      Edition: current; Page: [xvi]
    • Debates in the Congress of the Confederation from November 4, 1782, to June 21, 1783 . . . 250
    • To Edmund Randolph, November 5th . . . 251, n.

      New York’s territorial cession—Count de Vergennes intercedes in favor of Asgill—British passport given Laurens—Evacuation of New York—Cipher.

    • To Edmund Randolph, November 10th . . . 258, n.

      Asgill released.

    • To Edmund Randolph, November 12th . . . 259, n.

      Jefferson appointed Peace Commissioner.

    • To Edmund Randolph, November 14th . . . 259, n.

      Jefferson’s appointment as Peace Commissioner.

    • To Edmund Randolph, November 19th . . . 261, n.

      Rhode Island rejects impost—Territorial controversy between Connecticut and Pennsylvania.

    • To Edmund Randolph, November 26th . . . 262, n.

      Delinquency of Virginia in payment of Congressional requisitions—Rhode Island’s rejection of impost—Policy suggested for Virginia.

    • To Edmund Randolph, December 3d . . . 270, n.

      Redemption of Continental money—Queries put to Jaquelin Ambler, Treasurer of Virginia.

    • To Edmund Randolph, December 10th . . . 277, n.

      Action of Congress in regard to finances—British relieve Gibraltar—Destruction of British fortress on Hudson’s Bay—Livingston’s resignation—Jefferson expected.

    • To Edmund Randolph, December 17th . . . 292, n.

      Rhode Island’s reasons for rejecting impost—Vermont—Code for regulating captured property—Oswald’s commission—Spain’s intentions.

    • To Edmund Randolph, December 24th . . . 294, n.

      Arrival of French frigate—Oswald’s commission—Adams’s treaty—Foreign news—Livingston remains in office—Conduct of States in regard to impost—French army embarks.

    • To Edmund Randolph, December 30th . . . 296, n.

      Rejection of impost—Jefferson arrives—Deputies from army—Departure of French fleet—Ship South Carolina captured.

    Edition: current; Page: [xvii]
  • 1783.
    • To Edmund Randolph, January 7th . . . . 303, n.

      Deputation from army—Acknowledgment of independence in treaty.

    • To Edmund Randolph, January 14th . . . 310, n.

      Army affairs—Valuation of lands—Jefferson.

    • To Edmund Randolph, January 28th . . . 330, n.

      Newspaper proposed for Virginia—Continental revenue necessary—Territorial disputes—Adams’s treaty.

    • To Edmund Randolph, February 4th . . . 343, n.

      Continental revenue—Impost—Virginia affairs—Cipher.

    • To Edmund Randolph, February 11th . . . 364, n.

      Valuation of lands—Livingston’s resignation—Jefferson detained—Rumors of peace.

    • To James Madison, February 12th . . . . 366, n.

      Rumors of peace.

    • To Edmund Randolph, February 15th . . . 368, n.

      Dawn of peace—Danger from army.

    • To Edmund Randolph, February 18th . . . 371, n.

      Impost in Virginia—Valuation of land.

    • To Thomas Jefferson, February 18th . . . 372, n.

      Peace—Suspicion of British court.

    • To Edmund Randolph, February 25th . . . 384, n.

      Public revenue—Discontent in army—Peace rumors—Seizure of clothing intended for British prisoners—Danger of dissolution.

    • To Edmund Randolph, March 4th . . . . 397, n.

      Public revenue—Morris’s resignation.

    • To Edmund Randolph, March 11th . . . . 402, n.

      Morris’s letters—Plan for public revenue—Jefferson detained.

    • To Edmund Randolph, March 12th . . . . 403, n.

      Preliminary articles of peace negotiation—Franklin’s correspondence commended—Resignation of Franklin and Adams.

    • To Edmund Randolph, March 18th . . . . 407, n.

      Diplomatic situation—Letters from ministers—Discontent in army—Washington’s conduct—Deplorable condition of affairs.

      Edition: current; Page: [xviii]
    • To Edmund Randolph, March 24th . . . . 424, n.

      Peace preliminaries signed.

    • To Edmund Randolph, March 25th . . . . 430, n.

      French loan — Army unpaid — Anonymous addresses — Provision for public revenue unsettled.

    • To Edmund Randolph, April 1st . . . . 439, n.

      Randolph’s influence in State Legislature—Failure of States to support Congress—Franklin praised—Suspension of hostilities.

    • To Edmund Randolph, April 6th . . . . 442, n.

      British creditors—Publication of Morris’s letters—Report on public revenue—Valuation of lands—Washington’s letter.

    • To Edmund Randolph, April 10th . . . . 446, n.

      Cessation of hostilities.

    • To Edmund Randolph, April 15th . . . . 449, n.

      Carleton on prisoners and loyalists—Debates on ratification.

    • To Thomas Jefferson, April 22d . . . . 453, n.

      Revenue plan passed — Hamilton’s opposition — Question raised by cessation of hostilities.

    • Address to States accompanying Recommendations of Congress . . . . . . . . 454, n.
    • To Edmund Randolph, May 6th . . . . 460, n.

      Address to States—Adams’s letter—Spain’s attitude—Conference between Washington and Carleton.

    • To Thomas Jefferson, May 6th . . . . . 461, n.

      Adams’s letter—Spain’s attitude—Treaty of commerce with Great Britain.

    • To Thomas Jefferson, May 13th . . . . 463, n.

      British conduct—Treaty of commerce with Great Britain—Conference between Washington and Carleton.

    • To Edmund Randolph, May — . . . . 464, n.

      Propositions of Congress—Treaties of commerce—Virginia’s policy—Commercial treaty with Great Britain.

    • To Thomas Jefferson, May 20th . . . . 472, n.

      Territorial cession of Virginia.

      Edition: current; Page: [xix]
    • To Edmund Randolph, May 27th . . . . 473, n.

      Thanks for remittance—Rhode Island’s attitude—Jefferson’s political prospects—Randolph’s return to State Legislature.

    • To Thomas Jefferson, June 10th . . . . 475, n.

      Livingston’s resignation—Inactivity of Congress.

    • To Edmund Randolph, June 10th . . . . 475, n.

      Commercial treaties—Adams’s conduct—Cession of Virginia.

    • To Edmund Randolph, June 17th . . . . 478, n.

      Dana at St. Petersburg—Army affairs—Standing army in time of peace—Jefferson coming to Congress—Nominations for Secretary of Foreign Affairs.

    • To Edmund Pendleton, June 24th . . . . 484, n.

      Grievances of mutineers — Opposition to Congressional measures.

Edition: current; Page: [xx] Edition: current; Page: [xxi]


James Madison’s family traditions were wholly colonial and extended back to the first settlement of Virginia. With the mother country he had no living connection, and only one member of the family, his second cousin, Rev. James Madison, received any part of his education there. England was not, therefore, home to the Madisons as it was to many other Virginia families, and there were no divisions of the house and consequent heartburnings when the separation came, but all of them embraced the patriot cause in the beginning and without hesitation. From the shores of Chesapeake Bay, where James Madison’s direct ancestor, John Madison, received a patent for lands in 1653, the family pushed its way inland towards the Blue Ridge mountains, and his grandfather, Ambrose, occupied the tract in Orange County where his father, James, and himself spent their entire lives. He was thus completely a Virginian, and his life was well rooted, as George Eliot has expressed it, in a spot of his native land, where it received “the love of tender kinship for the face of earth.” During the eighty-four years of his life he was never continuously absent from Montpelier for a twelvemonth.

The Virginia convention of 1776 was composed chiefly of men past the middle period of life; but there Edition: current; Page: [xxii] was a small circle of young members who afterwards rose to eminence, among whom was Madison, then but twenty-three years old. He was known personally to few of his colleagues and was mastered by a shrinking modesty, which kept him in the background; but he had the reputation of being a scholar and was put on the committee to draw up the Declaration of Rights. He made one motion in the convention, offering a substitute to the clause relating to religious freedom.1 It was not accepted as he presented it, but a modification, eliminating a chief objection to the clause as originally presented by the committee, was adopted. If Madison’s clause had been taken as he wrote it, there would have been no occasion for the subsequent struggle for complete religious freedom in Virginia, for it was so sweeping that any further progressive action would have been redundant. The offering of this amendment was Madison’s first important public act, and his belief that it was right was the strongest belief he had at that time.

He was then a profoundly religious man, and his family surroundings were Episcopalian. When he returned home after his graduation from Princeton in 1772, he plunged into religious studies, wrote commentaries on the gospels, and acquired an extensive knowledge of theological literature. His education at a Presbyterian college, the love of liberty which was a passion with the young Americans of his school, the ill-repute surrounding the clergy of the English church in Virginia, the persecution which he saw Edition: current; Page: [xxiii] visited upon the Baptists in his section of the State—all combined to make him champion the cause of absolute religious freedom and separation of church from state. Beginning with the convention of 1776 he fought for this step by step, until it was finally secured by Jefferson’s bill, which Madison introduced in the legislature, but which need never have been written had Madison’s amendment to the Bill of Rights been accepted. Madison was a strong man who walked through life alone and did not disclose his inner thoughts on vital personal questions. What his religion was has thus always been a matter of dispute. To Episcopal clergymen his course did not render him popular, and, although he attended their church, he was not a communicant. Agnostics often claim him as having been one of them, chiefly because he was a friend of Jefferson’s and is supposed to have been influenced by him; but he made his religious studies, took his first radical stand for disestablishment, and had probably formed his religious views before he knew Jefferson. Non-Episcopal clergymen, although not claiming him as a member of any of their sects, have written of him gratefully. Undoubtedly, he sympathized with them, and he had warm friends among them. He believed in the existence of sects and used to quote Voltaire’s aphorism, “If one religion only were allowed in England, the government would possibly become arbitrary; if there were but two, the people would cut each other’s throats; but as there are such a multitude, they all live happy and in peace.”1

Edition: current; Page: [xxiv]

As Madison was an advanced thinker on religious subjects, so was he beyond his time as an economic reasoner. In his correspondence with Jefferson he always met the daring speculations of that philosopher with views and conclusions carefully matured. Twenty years before Malthus published his Essay on the Principles of Population Madison reached substantially the same conclusions, as his writings show. He welcomed Malthus’s work when it appeared, as he had done Adam Smith’s.

On the subject of slavery he and his friends stood together in a frank admission that it was a crushing public and private evil, and he earnestly desired to find a means by which his State and himself might escape from it. On his return to Montpelier from Congress in December, 1783, he took up the study of law, having for one object, as he wrote, to gain a subsistence, depending “as little as possible upon the labor of slaves.” September 8, 1783, he wrote to his father that he was unwilling to punish a runaway negro simply “for coveting that liberty for which we have paid the price of so much blood and have proclaimed so often to be the right and worthy the pursuit of every human being.” In the convention that framed the Constitution Madison and George Mason worked together in opposition to the pro-slavery labors of South Carolina and other Southern States. In the first Congress under the Constitution “The Humane, or Abolitionary Society” of Virginia, composed chiefly, if not wholly, of Quakers, requested him, as “a friend to general liberty,” to introduce their memorial against Edition: current; Page: [xxv] the slave trade and asked his judgment on a proposition to petition the Virginia Legislature for a law declaring all slave children born after the passage of the act free at the age of eighteen for the women and twenty-one for the men.1 This was similar to the scheme of emancipation which Jefferson entertained, but which he did not bring forward, because “the public mind would not yet bear the proposition.” It never became able to bear an emancipation proposition, and Madison lived and died a humane slaveholder opposed to the institution of slavery.

When Madison went into the Continental Congress, March 20, 1780, he was probably the youngest member, and he looked younger than he was; but he had conquered his modesty and was able to speak his views when occasion required. The most important subject before the Congress was that of meeting the public expenses. Paper money was piled upon paper money; commerce had fled; there was hardly any specie to be had; the States found it difficult and were often disinclined to raise respectable revenue by taxation. Madison led the fighting for a funding of the debt, the prohibition of further paper emissions, and an adequate continental revenue by a five per cent. tax on all imports. The day that he made one of his strongest speeches in favor of the last-named proposition news was received that the Virginia Legislature, which had previously agreed to it, had withdrawn its assent. Nevertheless, he did not lessen his labors, but took the extraordinary course of disregarding Edition: current; Page: [xxvi] the Legislature’s instructions. In this matter he acted from a national standpoint, for Virginia’s interest was the same as that of the other States.

In advocating an insistence upon the right of America to the free navigation of the Mississippi River from the source to the sea, he stood for a measure more vital to Virginia than it was to any other State. The first elaborate state paper to come from his pen was the instruction to Jay at Madrid on this subject, and it is not too much to say that no member of the Congress could have prepared the instruction so well.

Madison’s service in Congress at this time and later laid bare before him all the insufficiencies of the Articles of Confederation, and it was his fortune to participate in each successive step that led to the formation of the Constitution. When he went into the convention he was better equipped for the work that lay before it than any other delegate. After his election he arranged the notes which he had gathered laboriously in the course of years of experience and study. These notes covered the governments of the world, ancient and modern, as they furnished illustrations likely to affect the forming of a new government for America, and they also contained a carefully arranged description of the weakness and vices of the existing government. He had one primal object before him—to evolve a scheme for a stronger government which would remedy the defects of the Articles of Confederation and which the people would accept. He was without pride of personal Edition: current; Page: [xxvii] opinion and was always willing to compromise when by doing so his main object would not be lost. As the Constitution was not written by any one member of the convention, so was it not wholly satisfactory to any one member. Madison had no cut-and-dried constitution in his pocket when he went to Philadelphia; but, keeping the general principles of the Virginia plan before him, he set himself to the task of accomplishing a result. He was more continuously in his place than any other member and spoke frequently and always temperately and to the point. When a division of sentiment among the members was so pronounced as to make any conclusion seem improbable, he was patient and hopeful, and returned to the subject when all were in better humor. As the days wore on he came to be recognized as the leading man in the convention, and when the Constitution was finally sent to the people for their judgment, it was generally known that Madison, more than any one else, had wrought it into shape.

Eight States had ratified the Constitution when the Virginia convention met to consider it, and the ratification of nine States was necessary to put it into effect. It was confidently believed, therefore, that its fate would be decided by Virginia’s action. When it first reached the State, it was generally approved; but as each man began to study it many found objections to it, and the preponderance of influential men was on the side of its rejection. When the convention met, George Mason and Patrick Henry led the opposition, and Madison, George Nicholas, and Edmund Edition: current; Page: [xxviii] Randolph led the forces in favor of ratification. Madison was fresh from the convention that framed the Constitution; he had recently written his numbers in the Federalist; he could speak readily, and there was hardly an argument against the Constitution for which he did not have the best answer ready prepared. The chief fighting was waged between him and Henry. Madison was constantly on his feet, and during four days he spoke thirty-five times. Henry was supposed to be invincible before a Virginia assemblage and was unquestionably the most powerful man before the people in the State. Madison beat him, and his victory was the greatest triumph of his life. Quick upon the heels of each other had followed his success in the convention that framed the Constitution, his success in conjunction with Hamilton and Jay in turning the growing sentiment against the Constitution by the publication of the Federalist, and the crowning success of carrying the ratification in Virginia. This may be said to have marked the culmination of that part of his career which was unquestionably the greatest. The rest was made up of earnest work and high honors, but the achievements winning for him a great place in history were those of the period before the government under the Constitution went into operation.

In the first House of Representatives he was a leader, but he soon became the leader of a party. He and Hamilton had frequently co-operated before the Constitution was formed, and they stood together as the two most effective champions of ratification the Edition: current; Page: [xxix] Constitution had; but they naturally fell apart after the government was established and parties, as exponents of different habits of thought, were formed. Their surroundings and training had been dissimilar, and they did not agree in disposition. If Hamilton’s theory of government was the more scientific, Madison’s had a broader basis of popular desire; at any rate, they were different. The two men could not be coadjutors without one or the other changing his views. It is therefore as unjust to accuse Madison of having deserted Hamilton as it would be to accuse Hamilton of having deserted Madison. They were active opponents in their views as to how the Constitution should be interpreted in the conduct of the government, and, being earnest and positive, they drifted into distrust and injustice toward each other, as political opponents nearly always do.

The parties were divided to a great extent on sectional lines, and Madison was a Southerner and a Virginian. The narrow sectionalism that then prevailed needs no explanation. There was no national feeling overspreading the continent, nor could it be forced into being. The States were jealous of each other, and the Articles of Confederation had really been as strong a scheme of national government as the people would stand at the time. So cultured a man as Edmund Randolph wrote some years after the Constitution had been in operation, “you see I am not yet really an American.” Madison was biased in his political actions by a preference for the welfare of Virginia over that of any other State. Washington Edition: current; Page: [xxx] alone of the active statesmen of that day manifested a wholly unprejudiced national spirit. The interests of the North and the South were opposed, and Madison bent his energies to keep in control the interests of the South. He never liked New England men, and all of his intimate friends were Virginians. He was as much of a Southerner as John Adams was a New Englander, and more need not be said.

Few sympathizers with the Federalist party of a hundred years ago can now be found to defend the Alien and Sedition Laws which wrecked that party. They were conceived in a spirit of intolerance and had all the ingredients in them of tyranny and oppression. In opposing them many Republicans went to the opposite extreme and uttered sentiments which they lived to regret. Madison wrote the Virginia resolutions of 1798, and, while they are not necessarily Calhounism, he lived long enough to be obliged to defend them against the charge that they contained the germs of nullification.1

When Madison became Secretary of State he and his chief determined upon the inauguration of what they hoped to make a new American policy in international intercourse. “If a treaty is proposed,” wrote Robert R. Livingston to him July 1, 1801, “that is not to be supported by arms, but by commercial exclusions, that shall not refer to the present war, Edition: current; Page: [xxxi] and shall be open to all nations that choose to adopt it, I think it cannot fail to meet with sufficient support to establish a new law of nations, and that our administration will have the glory of saying, in the words of the prophet, ‘a new Law I give unto you, that you love one another.’ ”1 Madison was not an enthusiast and did not share Livingston’s extravagant hopes; but he had been an advocate of commercial retaliation as the most effective weapon to employ against Great Britain from the time of the first Congress, when he introduced his tonnage bill. He saw his policy carried to the extreme of an absolute refusal to trade at all with a country with which we were not yet at war, and he saw it fail miserably of its purpose. When he stepped from the office of Secretary of State up to that of the Presidency, he was warned in the beginning that a continuance of the embargo would wreck the administration that continued it. Furthermore, he was told that perseverance in it would produce in New England “open and effectual resistance to the laws of the Union.”2 At no time after the adoption of the Constitution were the dangers from without and within so menacing. With fluctuations of false hopes the inevitable came; the cherished “American Policy” was thrown to the winds, and Madison found himself at the head of a nation at war. He was a rounded-out statesman of wide experience and ripe knowledge, but of martial spirit he had none. He was a man of peace and of books. His physique was weak, and he cared nothing for manly sports. Edition: current; Page: [xxxii] Nowhere in the record of his life is there a hint that he ever had a quarrel which approached culmination in a personal encounter. His blood flowed temperately, and he hated war, and his incapacity as a war President was painfully manifest.

The country was not united, and he had not force enough to unite it. A treasonable faction was breeding in New England, and he knew not how to crush it. A vigorous leader of men and of popular forces was what the occasion demanded, and Madison did not meet the requirements. Such success as the war achieved owed nothing to him. An honorable peace and a reaction of prosperity and calm gave him an opportunity to conclude his administration creditably, and he retired from public life with a great reputation; but he had really won it before he became President.1

In private life he set an example of beautiful simplicity and purity. No breath of scandal was ever raised against him. No man ever accused him of untruth or meanness. He was gentle and sympathetic towards all who approached him. He was generous in giving and dispensed a free hospitality. While he never introduced a jest into a public speech and Edition: current; Page: [xxxiii] rarely into a letter, he had a rich fund of humor, and his good stories went from mouth to mouth among his friends. His household was one of rare happiness and innocence, and perhaps the highest tribute to his private worth was paid by the hundred slaves who stood around the grave at his funeral and gave an extraordinary exhibition of the genuineness of their grief.1

* * *

During the closing years of his life Madison occupied himself in arranging his papers and especially those relating to the framing of the Constitution. He bequeathed them to his wife,2 intending that she should immediately publish the debates in the Congress of 1782, 1783, and 1787, the debates in the constitutional convention, the proceedings of the Congresses of 1776, and a limited number of letters, as he had arranged them. Through St. George Tucker she offered the work to the Harpers and through her son to other publishers,3 but was unable to come to a satisfactory agreement with any of them. Francis Preston Blair, the publisher of the Congresssional Globe, offered to publish the work, but doubted whether much profit would accrue and suggested that her best plan would be to fix a sum to cover the profit she expected and offer the manuscript to Congress at that price. He promised to assist her Edition: current; Page: [xxxiv] in securing the appropriation.1 She had, however, already offered the papers to the government in her letter of November 15, 1836, to President Jackson. A copy of this letter was laid before Congress in a special message dated December 6, 1836. Madison’s neighbor and friend, James Barbour, acted as her agent and told her that $100,000, the sum she at first said she expected, was out of the question,2 but that she could get $30,000 for the papers. This amount was appropriated by Act of March 3, 1837.3 July 9, 1838, Congress authorized the publication of the papers.4 Henry D. Gilpin, of Pennsylvania, then Solicitor of the Treasury, was selected as the editor, and the work was published in three volumes in Washington in 1840 under the title of The Madison Papers. May 31, 1848, Mrs. Madison being then, through domestic misfortunes, in distressed circumstances, Congress appropriated $25,000 to purchase all the remaining manuscripts of Madison’s in her hands.5 This, with the first purchase, forms the magnificent collection of Madison’s writings now deposited in the Department of State. August 18, 1856,6 Congress authorized the printing of the papers of the second purchase, and a part of them appeared as The Works of James Madison, published in four volumes in Washington in 1865.

Mr. J. C. McGuire, of Washington, a family connection Edition: current; Page: [xxxv] of the Madisons, who amassed in the course of his life an extraordinary collection of Madisoniana, printed in 1859 (Washington) “exclusively for private distribution” a limited edition in one volume of Madison’s letters under the title Selections from the Private Correspondence of James Madison from 1812 to 1836. It contained about one hundred letters.

The originals of a few of the letters printed in The Madison Papers have been withheld from the editor, and he has been obliged to reproduce them as they were printed, in the first volume of this edition, indicating their source as he has that of every other paper appearing in these volumes. These sources are widely scattered and embrace various public, private, and official depositories, which have been generously opened to the editor.

But two lives of Madison have been published: one a large fragment in three volumes, entitled History of the Life and Times of James Madison, by William C. Rives, the first volume of which was published in 1859 (Boston, Little, Brown & Co.), and the third in 1868; the other by S. H. Gay, in the American Statesman Series (Boston, 1884). Of Rives’s work it must be said that it is a misfortune it was never finished. It embraces only that part of Madison’s career preceding the administration of John Adams. It is redundant and heavy, and the stilted style betrays the diplomatic rather than literary training of the author. But it is a painstaking work, executed conscientiously and after an exhaustive and able study of Edition: current; Page: [xxxvi] the sources of material, printed and unprinted. The standpoint is uncritical, and Mr. Rives shows an extreme partiality for the subject of his work.

None of these remarks is applicable to Mr. Gay’s short Life. With ample unused material available, his study does not seem to have gone beyond the printed resources of any good public library, and his attitude towards Madison and all public men of his school is extremely unsympathetic. It is enough to say of his work that it is wholly inadequate to its subject.

Gaillard Hunt.
Edition: current; Page: [xxxvii]


1751. March 16. Born at Port Conway, King George County, Virginia, at the house of his maternal grandmother.
1751. Removed to Montpelier in Orange County.
1763. Sent to school to Donald Robertson in King and Queen County.
1765-9. Under the private tuition of Rev. Thomas Martin.
1769. Enters Princeton.
1771. Oct. 7. Graduates from Princeton.
1772. Returns to Montpelier.
1773. At home teaching his younger brothers and sisters.
1774. Spring. Visits New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
1774. Dec. Chosen a member of County Committee of Orange.
1775. Assists in enlisting for defense.
1775. May 9. Writes the address “To Captain Patrick Henry and the Gentlemen Independents of Hanover.”
1776. April. Elected a member for Orange County of the Virginia Convention.
1776. May 6. Takes his seat in the Convention.
1776. May 16. Appointed on the Committee to draft a Declaration of Rights and Plan of Government for Virginia.
1776. June 10. Offers his amendment for greater religious liberty.
1776. Oct. 6. Takes his seat in the House of Delegates.
1776. Meets Thomas Jefferson.
1777. April. Loses re-election to the House of Delegates.
1777. Nov. 13. Elected by the General Assembly to the Governor’s Council.
1778. Jan. 14. Takes his seat in the Governor’s Council.
1778. At Williamsburg, lodging with his cousin, Rev. James Madison.
1779. Dec. 14. Chosen by the General Assembly a representative in the Continental Congress.
1780. March 20. Takes his seat in the Continental Congress.
1780. Oct. 17. Instructions to John Jay on “Boundaries and Free Navigation of the Mississippi.”
1780. Nov. Proposes a discontinuance of emissions of paper money.
1780. Dec. 13. Requests instructions from General Assembly on the Mississippi question jointly with Bland.
1781. Still in Philadelphia.
1781. Receives Benjamin Harrison, “Delegate Extraordinary” from Virginia.
1781. April 16. Discusses project for applying coercive measures to the States.
1781. April. Brings subject of Virginia land cession before Congress again.
1781. Oct. This subject again.
1781. Nov. 13. Suggests that Virginia compliment Lafayette.
1782. Still in Philadelphia.
1782. Jan. 7. The new bank authorized by Congress opened. His distressing personal finances.
1782. May. The Virginia cession again.
1782. July 5. Reports instructions to Adams at The Hague.
1782. Sept. The Virginia cession under debate. He urges compromise.
1782. Nov. 4. Begins his reports of debates in Congress.
1782. Nov. 12. Raises objection to the mode of executing the orders of Congress.
1782. Nov. 21. Moves that Secretary of Foreign Affairs be authorized to keep foreign ministers advised of events in Congress.
1782. Nov. 22. Reports in favor of ratifying Franklin’s order liberating Cornwallis in exchange for Laurens.
1782. Nov. 26. Moves that Congress give credit for State emissions of paper money.
1782. Dec. 4. Appointed on Committee to confer with members of Pennsylvania legislature.
1782. Dec. 7. Speaks on subject of depreciation of currency.
1782. Dec. 12. Presents report on publication in a Boston paper of secret proceedings of Congress.
1782. Dec. 16. Presents answer to Rhode Island’s objections to proposed impost.
1782. Dec. 24. Communicates to Congress Virginia’s repeal of the impost law.
1782. Dec. 31. Urges instructions to ministers to endeavor to secure commercial freedom with Great Britain and dependencies.
1783. Still in Philadelphia.
1783. Jan. 8. Contends against taxation by valuation of land.
1783. Jan. 13. Moves application for further loans in Europe.
1783. Jan. 23. Reports list of books proper for Congress to buy.
1783. Jan. 28. Moves the necessity of permanent funds.
1783. Feb. 7. Brings up question of ascertaining valuation of land.
1783. Feb. 21. Speaks on the subject of general revenue.
1783. Feb. 28. Speaks on same subject.
1783. March 19. Speaks on the treaty of peace.
1783. March 22. Seconds motion to disclose to Spain intended British expedition against Florida confided to Adams.
1783. March 26. Defends the conduct of the American ministers to negotiate treaty of peace.
1783. March 27. Advocates assuming expenses of the States in the war.
1783. April 3. Appointed on committee with Hamilton to report arrangements in consequence of peace.
1783. April 9. Opposes appointment of a committee on the western country.
1783. April 17. Reports amendment providing for determining expenses of the States.
1783. April 26. Address to the States on the subject of revenue.
1783. April 27. Accompanying James Floyd and his daughter, Catherine, to Brunswick.
1783. May 3. Returns to Philadelphia.
Edition: current; Page: [xli]


Edition: current; Page: [xlii] Edition: current; Page: [1]
James Madison
Madison, James
August 16 [17]69
Nassau Hall
Thomas Martin
Martin, Thomas


Rev Sir

I am not a little affected at hearing of your misfortune, but cannot but hope the cure may be so far accomplished as to render your journey not inconvenient. Your kind Advice & friendly cautions are a favour that shall be always gratefully remembered, & I must beg leave to assure you that my happiness, which you and your brother so ardently wish for, will be greatly augmented by both your enjoyments of the like blessing.

I have been as particular to my father as I thought necessary for this time, as I send him an account of the Institution, &c. &c., and of the College wrote by Mr. Blair, the Gentleman formerly elected President of this place you will likewise find two pamphlets entitled Britannia’s intercession for John Wilks, &c., which, if you have not seen it, perhaps may divert you.

Edition: current; Page: [2]

I am perfectly pleased with my present situation; and the prospect before me of three years’ confinement, however terrible it may sound, has nothing in it, but what will be greatly alleviated by the advantages I hope to derive from it.

The Grammars, which Mr. Houston procured for you amount at 2/10 each to 17/. Your brothers account with Plumb, to 6/7. and Sawneys expence 4/2 the whole 1.. 7.. 9, Inclosed you have 15/. the overplus of which you may let Sawney have to satisfy those who may have been at any trouble on my account.

The near approach of examination occasions a surprising application to study on all sides, and I think it very fortunate that I entered College immediately after my arrival, tho’ I believe there will not be the least danger of my getting an Irish hint as they call it, yet it will make my future studies somewhat easier, and I have by that means read over more than half Horace and made myself pretty well acquainted with Prosody, both which will be almost neglected the two succeeding years.

The very large packet of Letters for Carolina I am afraid will be incommodious to your brother on so long a journey, to whom I desire my compliments may be presented and conclude with my earnest request for a continuance of both your friendships, and sincere wishes for your recovery, and an agreeable journey to your whole Company.

I am, sir, your obligd friend and Hl Ser.
James Madison.

P. S. Sawney tells me that your Mother and Edition: current; Page: [3] Brothers are determined to accompany you to Virginia; my friendship and regard for you entitle them to my esteem, and with the greatest sincerity I wish, after a pleasant journey, they may find Virginia capable of giving them great Happiness.

September 30th 69
Nassau Hall
James Madison
Madison, James


Hond. Sir,

I received your letter by Mr. Rossekrans, and wrote an answer; but as it is probable this will arrive sooner which I now write by Doctor Witherspoon, I shall repeat some circumstances to avoid obscurity.

On Wednesday last we had the usual commencement. Eighteen young Gentlemen took their Bachelor’s degrees, and a considerable number their Master’s Degrees. The degree of Doctor of Law was bestowed on Mr. Dickenson the Farmer and Mr. Galloway,2 the Speaker of the Pennsylvania Assembly, a distinguishing mark of Honour, as there never was any of that kind done before in America. The Commencement began at 10 O’Clock, when the President walked first into the Church, a board of Edition: current; Page: [4] Trustees following, and behind them those that were to take their Master’s degrees, and last of all, those that were to take their first Degrees; after a short prayer by the President the Head Oration, which is always given to greatest Scholar by the President & Tutors, was pronounced in Latin by Mr. Samuel Smith,1 son of a Presbyterian Minister in Pennsylvania. Then followed the other Orations, Disputes, and Dialogues, distributed to each according to his merit, and last of all was pronounced the Valedictory oration by Mr. John Henry son of Gentleman in Maryland. This is given to the greatest Orator. We had a very great assembly of People, a considerable number of whom came from N York those at Philadelphia were most of them detained by Races which were to follow on the next day.

Since Commencement the Trustees have been sitting about Business relative to the College, and have chosen for Tutors for the ensuing year, for the junior class Mr. Houston from N Carolina in the room of Mr. Peream. for the Freshman class, Mr. Reeve a gentleman who has for several years past kept a School at Elizabeth Town, in the room of Mr. Pemberton: The Sophomore Tutor Mr. Thomson still retains his place, remarkable for his skill in the Sophomore Studies, having taken care of that class for several years past. Mr. Halsey was chose Junior Tutor but refused. The Trustees have likewise appointed Edition: current; Page: [5] Mr. Caldwell a minister at Elizabeth Town to take a journey through the Southern Provinces as far as Georgia to make collections by which the College Fund may be enabled to increase the Library, provide an apparatus of mathematical and Philosophical Instruments & likewise to support Professors which would be a great addition to the advantages of this College. Doctr Witherspoon’s business to Virginia is nearly the same as I conjecture and perhaps to form some acquaintance to induce Gentlemen to send their sons to this College.

I am very sorry to hear of the great drought that has prevailed with you, but am in some hopes the latter part of the year may have been more seasonable for you[r] crops. Your caution of frugality on consideration of the dry weather shall be carefully observed; but I am under a necessity of spending much more than I was apprehensive, for the purchasing of every small trifle which I have occasion for consumes a much greater sum than one would suppose from a calculation of the necessary expences.

I feel great satisfaction from the assistance my Uncle has received from the Springs, and I flatter myself from the continuance of my mother’s health that Dr. Shore’s skill will effectually banish the cause of her late indisposition.

I recollect nothing more at present worth relating, but as often as opportunity and anything worthy your attention shall occur, be assured you shall hear from your affectionate son.

James Madison.
Edition: current; Page: [6]
July 23d 1770
Nassau Hall
James Madison
Madison, James


Hond. Sir,

I receiv’d yours dated June 4th. & have applied to Mr. Hoops as you directed; he says you must suit yourself in paying him, & if you should let him have a bill of Exchange it must be on your own terms. Forty pounds £40. New Jersey Currency is the Sum I shall have of him before I get home, my frugality has not been able to keep it below that, consistent with my staying here to the best advantage. I shall be glad, if it should be convenient for you, to have my next year’s stock prepared for me against I come home, for I shall not be able to stay in Virginia more than 4 weeks at most. Half Jos—pass here to the greatest advantage. I have spoken to several of the present senior class about living with you as Tutor, but they will determine on nothing unless they know what you would allow them, as it would not be proper for them to remain in suspense ’till I should return here; If you should receive this time enough to send me an answer by the middle of September & let me know the most you would be willing to give, I think there would be a greater probability of my engaging one for you. Inclosed are the measure of my Neck & rists. I believe my Mother need not hurry herself much about my shirts before I come for I shall not want more than three or four at most. I should chuse she would not have them ruffled ’till I am present myself. I have not yet procured a horse for my Journey, but think you had better not send me one as I cant wait long Edition: current; Page: [7] enough to know whether or not you’ll have an opportunity without losing my chance most of the horses being commonly engaged by the Students sometime before vacation begins. If I should set off from this place as soon as I expect you may look for me in October perhaps a little before the middle if the weather should be good.

We have no publick news but the base conduct of the Merchants in N. York in breaking through their spirited resolutions not to import, a distinct account of which I suppose will be in the Virginia Gazette before this arrives. Their Letter to the Merchants in Philadelphia requesting their concurrence was lately burnt by the students of this place in the college yard, all of them appearing in their black Gowns & the bell Tolling. The number of Students has increased very much of late, there are about an hundred & fifteen in College & the Grammar School twenty-two commence this Fall all of them in American Cloth.

With my love to all the Family, I am, etc.

October 9th 1771
James Madison
Madison, James


Hond Sir,

In obedience to your requests I hereby send you an answer to your’s of the 25th of Sept. which I received this morning. My Letter by Dr. Witherspoon who left this place yesterday week contains most of what you desire to be informed. I am exceedingly rejoiced to hear of the happy deliverance of my Mother & would fain hope your rheumatic Edition: current; Page: [8] pains will not continue much longer. The Bill of exchange was very acceptable. Though I cannot say I have been as yet very much pressed by my creditors. Since I got the Bill I have been making a calculation of my past & future expences & find it nothing more than a bare competency the reason of which I dare say you will not ascribe to extravagance when you read my letter of last week. If I come home in the Spring the purchase of a horse & travelling expences I am apprehensive will amount to more than I can reserve out of my present stock for those purposes so that it would not be amiss perhaps if you were to send a few Half-Jos: by Dr. Witherspoon or Colo. Lewis’s sons if they return, or some safe hand afterwards as best suits you. I should be glad if your health & other circumstances should enable you to visit D Witherspoon during his stay in Virginia. I am persuaded you would be much pleased with him & that he would be very glad to see you. If you should not be able to see him nor send to him Colo. Lewis or any other Gentleman in Fredericksburgh would advance what money I am to have at the least intimation from you. If you should ever send me any Bills hereafter, it will be best for you to make them payable to Dr Witherspoon, which will give him an opportunity to endorse them & greatly help me in getting them, if it should so happen that you see him, please to mention it to him. I am sorry Mr. Chew’s mode of Conveyance will not answer in Virginia. I expect to hear from him in a few days by return of a man belonging to this Town from Edition: current; Page: [9] New London & shall then acquaint him with it and get it remedied by the methods you propose. Mr. James Martin was here at Commencement and had an opportunity of hearing from his Brothers & friends in Carolina by a young man lately come from thence to this College however I shall follow your directions in writing to him immediately & visiting him as soon as I find it convenient.

You may tell Mrs Martin he left his Family at home all well. If you think proper that I should come back to this place after my journey to Virginia in the Spring & spend the Summer here you may send the cloth for my coat which I am extremely pleased with & could have wished it had come time enough to have used this Summer past, if you chuse rather I should remain in Virginia next Summer it will be unnecessary.

I am, etc.
James Madison
Madison, James
November 9, 1772
Orange, Virginia
William Bradford, Jr.
Bradford, William, Jr.

(At the Coffee-House, Philadelphia.—By the Post.)

My dear B.,—

You moralize so prettily, that if I were to judge from some parts of your letter of October Edition: current; Page: [10] 13, I should take you for an old philosopher that had experienced the emptiness of earthly happiness; and I am very glad that you have so early seen through the romantic paintings with which the world is sometimes set off by the sprightly imaginations of the ingenious. You have happily supplied, by reading and observation, the want of experiment; and therefore I hope you are sufficiently guarded against the allurements and vanities that beset us on our first entrance on the theatre of life. Yet, however nice and cautious we may be in detecting the follies of mankind, and framing our economy according to the precepts of Wisdom and Religion, I fancy there will commonly remain with us some latent expectation of obtaining more than ordinary happiness and prosperity till we feel the convincing argument of actual disappointment. Though I will not determine whether we shall be much the worse for it if we do not allow it to intercept our views towards a future state, because strong desires and great hopes instigate us to arduous enterprizes, fortitude, and perseverance. Nevertheless, a watchful eye must be kept on ourselves, lest while we are building ideal monuments of renown and bliss here, we neglect to have our names enrolled in the annals of Heaven. These thoughts come into my mind because I am writing to you, and thinking of you. As to myself, I am too dull and infirm now to look out for any extraordinary things in this world, for I think my sensations for many months past have intimated to me not to expect a long or healthy life; though it may be better with me after Edition: current; Page: [11] some time, [but] I hardly dare expect it, and therefore have little spirit and alacrity to set about anything that is difficult in acquiring and useless in possessing after one has exchanged time for eternity. But you have health, youth, fire, and genius, to bear you along through the high track of public life, and so may be more interested and delighted in improving on hints that respect the temporal though momentous concerns of man.

I think you made a judicious choice of History and the science of morals for your winter’s study. They seem to be of the most universal benefit to men of sense and taste in every post, and must certainly be of great use to youth in settling the principles and refining the judgment, as well as in enlarging knowledge and correcting the imagination. I doubt not but you design to season them with a little divinity now and then, which, like the philosopher’s stone, in the hands of a good man, will turn them and every lawful acquirement into the nature of itself, and make them more precious than fine gold.

As you seem to require that I should be open and unreserved, (which is indeed the only proof of true friendship,) I will venture to give you a word of advice, though it be more to convince you of my affection for you than from any apprehension of your needing it. Pray do not suffer those impertinent fops that abound in every city to divert you from your business and philosophical amusements. You may please them more by admitting them to the enjoyment of your company, but you will make them Edition: current; Page: [12] respect and admire you more by showing your indignation at their follies, and by keeping them at a becoming distance. I am luckily out of the way of such troubles, but I know you are surrounded with them; for they breed in towns and populous places as naturally as flies do in the shambles, because there they get food enough for their vanity and impertinence.

I have undertaken to instruct my brothers and sisters in some of the first rudiments of literature; but it does not take up so much of my time but I shall always have leisure to receive and answer your letters, which are very grateful to me, I assure you; and for reading any performances you may be kind enough to send me, whether of Mr. Freneau1 or anybody else. I think myself happy in your correspondence, and desire you will continue to write as often as you can, as you see I intend to do by the early and long answer I send you. You are the only valuable friend I have settled in so public a place, and I must rely on you for an account of all literary transactions in your part of the world.

I am not sorry to hear of Livingston’s2 getting a Edition: current; Page: [13] degree. I heartily wish him well, though many would think I had but little reason to do so; and if he would be sensible of his opportunities and encouragements, I think he might still recover. Lucky (?) and his company, after their feeble yet wicked assault upon Mr. Erwin, in my opinion, will disgrace the catalogue of names; but they are below contempt, and I spend no more words about them.

And now, my friend, I must take my leave of you, but with such hopes that it will not be long before I receive another epistle from you, as make me more cheerfully conclude and subscribe myself

Your sincere and affectionate friend.

Your direction was right; however, the addition of “Jr.” to my name would not be improper.


Freeholders of each Township to chuse annually two supervisors of the High ways.

The supervisors to lay a rate (appeal to lie to Quarter Sessions for party grieved) not exceeding 9d in the pound on real & personal estate & to last county assessmt to be employed in opening, Edition: current; Page: [14] clearing, mending & repairing the several high ways within their respective Townships.

Where roads divide 2 townships, to be repaired at joint expense, and supervisors.

Vacancy in supervisorship by death refusal to act or removal to be supplied by 3 or more Justices of peace.

Supervisors to receive 12d. in the pound for collecting, & 4 shillgs per day during the overseeing employg & directing the workmen on the public roads.

Tenants of non resident Landlords liable for rates to be deducted from their rents, saving contracts.

Supervisors reqd as often as roads out of repair or new roads to be opened, to have sufficient no of labourers to work upon, open, amend, clear & repair the same in the most effectual manner, & to purchase wood, & other materials necessary. Supervisors & persons havg his order, empowered to enter on adjoining lands, to cut ditches & drains as he shall find necessary, doing as little damage as possible, which drains shall not be stopped by owner under penalty of 5 pds. for each offence—also to dig gravel sand or stones, or take loose stones on sd land or cut trees necessary, doing as little damage as possible, & the sd materials to remove without let, paying or tendency to owner the agreed value, or in case cannot agree, value to be set by two indifferent freeholders.

Penalty of 3/. on persons working on high way, asking demandg or extorting money or other thing from travellers, to be recovered by supervisor before the Justice of peace & applied to use of roads, & in case of Supervisors conivance, he to forfeit 20/. to by any person whatever ½ to prosecutor, ½ to use of roads.

Supervisors neglecting or refusing to perform duty, to be fined £3 for every offence, to be recovered in same way before Justice of peace & applied to use of roads allowing appeal to Supervisor to Court of Quarter Sessions which on petition of party grieved shall take final order therein as shall appear Just & reasonable. Electors at time of chusing supervisors to chuse four freeholders yearly, to settle acct of supervisors whose office shall then be about to expire: & the person or persons who shall have served the office of supervisor for preceding year, shall on 25th March yearly Edition: current; Page: [15] or 6 days after make up & produce fair accts. of all sums expended, & come to his hands: wch accts shall be entered in a book to be kept for that purpose, & shall be attested on oath or affirmation before Justice of peace if reqd. by sd. freeholder or 3 of them—sd freeholders or 3 of them to allow such charges & sums only as they shall deem reasonable; money remaining in hands of precedg. supervisors to be paid by order of sd freeholders to succeeding supervisors: in case of the reverse, succeeding supervisors to reimburse by like order, out of the first money coming to their hands—supervisors failg to produce acct. or to pay surplusage or deliver book of acct. to successor or in his hands may on complaint by sd freeholders to any Justice of peace, be by him committed to county goal, till he comply.

Person sued for executing this act. may plead genl issue, & give it & special matter in evidence; & if dft or prosecutor be nonsuit, or suffer a discontinuance or if a verdt pass agst him, dfts shall have treble costs to be recovered as in other cases of costs given to dfts. & no such suit or prosecution tained unless com̃enced within six months after cause given, or unless security be first for the charges.

James Madison
Madison, James
April 28, 1773
Orange County, Virginia
William Bradford, Jr.
Bradford, William, Jr.


Dear B.,—

I received your letter dated March the 1st about a week ago; and it is not more to obey your demands than to fulfil my own desires that I give you this early answer. I am glad you disclaim all punctiliousness in our correspondence. For my own part I confess I have not the face to perform ceremony in person, and I equally detest it on paper; though as Tully says, It cannot blush. Friendship, like all truth, delights in plainness and simplicity, and it is the counterfeit alone that needs ornament and Edition: current; Page: [16] ostentation. I am so thoroughly persuaded of this, that when I observe any one over complaisant to me in his professions and promises, I am tempted to interpret his language thus: “As I have no real esteem for you, and for certain reasons think it expedient to appear well in your eye, I endeavor to varnish falsehood with politeness, which I think I can do in so ingenious a manner that so vain a blockhead as you cannot see through it.”

I would have you write to me when you feel as you used to do, when we were under the same roof, and you found it a recreation and release from business and books to come and chat an hour or two with me. The case is such with me that I am too remote from the post to have the same choice, but it seldom happens that an opportunity catches me out of a humor of writing to my old Nassovian friends, and you know what place you hold among them.

I have not seen a single piece against the Doctor’s address. I saw a piece advertised for publication in the Philadelphia Gazette, entitled “Candid remarks,” &c., and that is all I know about it. These things seldom reach Virginia, and when they do, I am out of the way of them. I have a curiosity to read those authors who write with “all the rage of impotence,” not because there is any excellence or wit in their writings, but because they implicitly proclaim the merit of those they are railing against, and give them an occasion of shewing by their silence and contempt that they are invulnerable. I am heartily obliged to you for your kind offer of sending me some of these performances. I should also willingly accept Freneau’s Edition: current; Page: [17] works, and the “Sermons to Doctors in Divinity,” which I hear are published, and whatever else you reckon worth reading. Please to note the cost of the articles, for I will by no means suffer our acquaintance to be an expense on your part alone, and I have nothing fit to send you to make it reciprocal. In your next letter be more particular as to yourself, your intentions, present employments, &c., Erwin, McPherson, &c., the affairs of the college. Is the lottery like to come to anything? There has happened no change in my purposes since you heard from me last. My health is a little better, owing, I believe, to more activity and less study, recommended by physicians. I shall try, if possible, to devise some business that will afford me a sight of you once more in Philadelphia within a year or two. I wish you would resolve the same with respect to me in Virginia, though within a shorter time. I am sorry my situation affords me nothing new, curious, or entertaining, to pay you for your agreeable information and remarks. You, being at the fountain head of political and literary intelligence, and I in an obscure corner, you must expect to be greatly loser on that score by our correspondence. But as you have entered upon it, I am determined to hold you to it, and shall give you some very severe admonitions whenever I perceive a remissness or brevity in your letters. I do not intend this as a beginning of reproof, but as a caution to you never to make it necessary at all.

If Mr. Horton is in Philadelphia, give him my best thanks for his kindness in assisting Mr. Wallace to do some business for [. . . . . . ?] not long ago.

Edition: current; Page: [18]

I must re-echo your pressing invitation to [. . . . . . ?] do with the more confidence as I have complied.

I am, dear sir, your, most unfeignedly.

James Madison
Madison, James
January the 24th, 1774
William Bradford, Jr.
Bradford, William, Jr.


My worthy Friend,

Yours of the 25th of last month came into my hands a few days past. It gave singular pleasure, not only because of the kindness expressed in it, but because I had reason to apprehend the letter you received last from me had miscarried, and I should fail in procuring the intelligence I wanted before the trip I designed in the spring.

I congratulate you on your heroic proceedings in Philadelphia with regard to the tea.1 I wish Boston may conduct matters with as much discretion as they seem to do with boldness. They seem to have great trials and difficulties by reason of the obduracy and ministerialism of their Governor. However, political contests are necessary sometimes, as well as military, to afford exercise and practice, and to instruct in the art of defending liberty and property. I verily believe Edition: current; Page: [19] the frequent assaults that have been made on America (Boston especially) will in the end prove of real advantage.

If the Church of England had been the established and general religion in all the northern colonies as it has been among us here, and uninterrupted tranquillity had prevailed throughout the continent, it is clear to me that slavery and subjection might and would have been gradually insinuated among us. Union of religious sentiments begets a surprising confidence, and ecclesiastical establishments tend to great ignorance and corruption; all of which facilitate the execution of mischievous projects.

But away with politics! Let me address you as a student and philosopher, and not as a patriot, now. I am pleased that you are going to converse with the Edwards and Henrys and Charleses, &c., &c., who have swayed the British sceptre, though I believe you will find some of them dirty and unprofitable companions, unless you will glean instruction from their follies, and fall more in love with liberty by beholding such detestable pictures of tyranny and cruelty.

I was afraid you would not easily have loosened your affection from the belles lettres. A delicate taste and warm imagination like yours must find it hard to give up such refined and exquisite enjoyments for the coarse and dry study of the law. It is like leaving a pleasant flourishing field for a barren desert; perhaps I should not say barren either, because the law does bear fruit, but it is sour fruit, that must be gathered and pressed and distilled before it can bring Edition: current; Page: [20] pleasure or profit. I perceive I have made a very awkward comparison; but I got the thought by the end, and had gone too far to quit it before I perceived that it was too much entangled in my brain to run it through; and so you must forgive it. I myself used to have too great a hankering after those amusing studies. Poetry, wit, and criticism, romances, plays, &c., captivated me much; but I began to discover that they deserve but a small portion of a mortal’s time, and that something more substantial, more durable, and more profitable, befits a riper age. It would be exceedingly improper for a laboring man to have nothing but flowers in his garden, or to determine to eat nothing but sweet meats and confections. Equally absurd would it be for a scholar and a man of business to make up his whole library with books of fancy, and feed his mind with nothing but such luscious performances.

When you have an opportunity and write to Mr. Brackenridge,1 pray tell him I often think of him, and long to see him, and am resolved to do so in the spring. George Luckey was with me at Christmas, and we talked so much about old affairs and old friends, that I have a most insatiable desire to see you all. Luckey will accompany me, and we are to set off on the 10th of April, if no disaster befalls either of us.

I want again to breathe your free air. I expect it will mend my constitution and confirm my principles. Edition: current; Page: [21] I have indeed as good an atmosphere at home as the climate will allow; but have nothing to brag of as to the state and liberty of my country. Poverty and luxury prevail among all sorts; pride, ignorance, and knavery among the priesthood, and vice and wickedness among the laity. This is bad enough, but it is not the worst I have to tell you. That diabolical, hell-conceived principle of persecution rages among some; and to their eternal infamy, the clergy can furnish their quota of imps for such business. This vexes me the worst of anything whatever. There are at this time in the adjacent country not less than five or six well-meaning men in close jail for publishing their religious sentiments, which in the main are very orthodox. I have neither patience to hear, talk, or think of anything relative to this matter; for I have squabbled and scolded, abused and ridiculed, so long about it to little purpose, that I am without common patience. So I must beg you to pity me, and pray for liberty of conscience to all.

I expect to hear from you once more before I see you, if time will admit; and want to know when the synod meets, and where; what the exchange is at, and as much about my friends and other matters as you can [tell,] and think worthy of notice Till I see you,


N. B. Our correspondence is too far advanced to require apology for bad writing and blots.

Your letter to Mr. Wallace is yet in my hands, and shall be forwarded to you as soon as possible. I hear nothing from him by letter or fame.

Edition: current; Page: [22]
James Madison
Madison, James
April 1, 1774
Virginia, Orange County
William Bradford, Jr.
Bradford, William, Jr.


My worthy Friend,

I have another favor to acknowledge in the receipt of your kind letter of March the 4th. I did not intend to have written again to you before I obtained a nearer communication with you; but you have too much interest in my inclinations ever to be denied a request.

Mr. Brackenridge’s illness gives me great uneasiness; I think he would be a loss to America. His merit is rated so high by me that I confess, if he were gone, I could almost say with the poet, that his country could furnish such a pomp for death no more. But I solace myself from Finley’s ludicrous descriptions as you do.

Our Assembly is to meet the first of May, when it is expected something will be done in behalf of the dissenters. Petitions, I hear, are already forming among the persecuted Baptists, and I fancy it is in the thoughts of the Presbyterians also, to intercede for greater liberty in matters of religion. For my own part, I cannot help being very doubtful of their succeeding in the attempt. The affair was on the carpet during the last session; but such incredible and extravagant stories were told in the House of the monstrous effects of the enthusiasm prevalent among the sectaries, and so greedily swallowed by their enemies, that I believe they lost footing by it. And the bad name they still have with those who pretend too much contempt to examine into their principles and conduct, and are too much devoted to the ecclesiastical establishment to hear of the toleration of dissentients, I am Edition: current; Page: [23] apprehensive, will be again made a pretext for rejecting their request.

The sentiments of our people of fortune and fashion on this subject are vastly different from what you have been used to.1 That liberal, catholic, and equitable way of thinking, as to the rights of conscience, which is one of the characteristics of a free people, and so strongly marks the people of your province, is but little known among the zealous adherents to our hierarchy. We have, it is true, some persons in the Legislature of generous principles both in Religion and Politics; but number, not merit, you know, is necessary to carry points there. Besides, the clergy are a numerous and powerful body, have great influence at home by reason of their connection with and dependence on the Bishops and Crown, and will naturally employ all their art and interest to depress their rising adversaries; for such they must consider dissenters who rob them of the good will of the people, and may, in time, endanger their livings and security.

You are happy in dwelling in a land where those inestimable privileges are fully enjoyed; and the public has long felt the good effects of this religious as well as civil liberty. Foreigners have been encouraged to settle among you. Industry and virtue have been promoted by mutual emulation and mutual inspection; commerce and the arts have flourished; Edition: current; Page: [24] and I cannot help attributing those continual exertions of genius which appear among you to the inspiration of liberty, and that love of fame and knowledge which always accompany it. Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind, and unfits it for every noble enterprise, every expanded prospect. How far this is the case with Virginia will more clearly appear when the ensuing trial is made.

I am making all haste in preparing for my journey. It appears as if it would be the first of May before I can start, which I can more patiently bear, because I may possibly get no company before that time; and it will answer so exactly with the meeting of the synod. George Luckey talks of joining me if I can wait till then. I am resolutely determined to come if it is in my power. If anything hinders me, it will be most likely the indisposition of my mother, who is in a very low state of health; and if she should grow worse, I am afraid she will be more unwilling to part with my brother, as she will be less able to bear the separation. If it should unfortunately happen that I should be forced off or give out coming, Luckey on his return to Virginia will bring me whatever publications you think worth sending, and among others [Caspapini’s?] letters.

But whether I come or not, be assured I retain the most ardent affection and esteem for you, and the most cordial gratitude for your many generous kindnesses. It gives me real pleasure when I write to you that I can talk in this language without the least affectation, and without the suspicion of it, and that if I should omit expressing my love for you, your Edition: current; Page: [25] friendship can supply the omission; or if I make use of the most extravagant expressions of it, your corresponding affection can believe them to be sincere. This is a satisfaction and delight unknown to all who correspond for business and conveniency, but richly enjoyed by all who make pleasure and improvement the business of their communications.

J. M.

P. S. You need no longer direct to the care of Mr. Maury.

James Madison
Madison, James
July 1, 1774
William Bradford, Jr.
Bradford, William, Jr.


Dear Sir,

I am once more got into my native land, and into the possession of my customary employments, solitude and contemplation; though I must confess not a little disturbed by the sound of war, blood and plunder, on the one hand, and the threats of slavery and oppression on the other. From the best accounts I can obtain from our frontiers, the savages are determined on the extirpation of the inhabitants, and no longer leave them the alternative of death or captivity. The consternation and timidity of the white people, who abandon their possessions without making the least resistance, are as difficult to be accounted for as they are encouraging to the enemy. Whether it be owing to the unusual cruelty of the Indians, the want of necessary implements or ammunition for war, or to the ignorance and inexperience Edition: current; Page: [26] of many who, since the establishment of peace, have ventured into those new settlements, I can neither learn, nor with any certainty conjecture. However, it is confidently asserted that there is not an inhabitant for some hundreds of miles back which have been settled for many years except those who are [forted?] in or embodied by their military commanders. The state of things has induced Lord Dunmore, contrary to his intentions at the dissolution of the Assembly, to issue writs for a new election of members, whom he is to call together on the 11th of August.

As to the sentiments of the people of this Colony with respect to the Bostonians, I can assure you I find them very warm in their favor. The natives are very numerous and resolute, are making resolves in almost every county, and I believe are willing to fall in with the other Colonies in any expedient measure, even if that should be the universal prohibition of trade. It must not be denied, though, that the Europeans, especially the Scotch, and some interested merchants among the natives, discountenance such proceedings as far as they dare; alledging the injustice and perfidy of refusing to pay our debts to our generous creditors at home. This consideration induces some honest, moderate folks to prefer a partial prohibition, extending only to the importation of goods.

We have a report here that Governor Gage has sent Lord Dunmore some letters relating to public matters in which he says he has strong hopes that he shall be able to bring things at Boston to an amicable settlement. I suppose you know whether there be Edition: current; Page: [27] any truth in the report, or any just foundation for such an opinion in Gage.

It has been said here by some, that the appointed fast was disregarded by every Scotch clergyman, though it was observed by most of the others who had timely notice of it. I cannot avouch it for an absolute certainty, but it appears no ways incredible.

I was so lucky as to find Dean Tucker’s tracts1 on my return home, sent by mistake with some other books imported this spring. I have read them with peculiar satisfaction and illumination with respect to the interests of America and Britain. At the same time his ingenious and plausible defence of parliamentary authority carries in it such defects and misrepresentations, as confirm me in political orthodoxy—after the same manner as the specious arguments of Infidels have established the faith of inquiring Christians.

I am impatient to hear from you; and do now certainly [earnestly?] renew the stipulation for that friendly correspondence which alone can comfort me in the privation of your company. I shall be punctual in transmitting you an account of everything that can be acceptable, but must freely absolve you from as strict an obligation, which your application to more important business will not allow, and which my regard for your ease and interests will not suffer me to enjoin. I am, dear sir, your faithful friend.

Edition: current; Page: [28]
James Madison
Madison, James
January 20, 1775
Virginia, Orange County
William Bradford, Jr.
Bradford, William, Jr.


My worthy Friend,— * * *

We are very busy at present in raising men and procuring the necessaries for defending ourselves and our friends in case of a sudden invasion. The extensiveness of the demands of the Congress, and the pride of the British nation, together with the wickedness of the present ministry, seem, in the judgment of our politicians, to require a preparation for extreme events. There will, by the Spring I expect, be some thousands of well-trained, high-spirited men ready to meet danger whenever it appears, who are influenced by no mercenary principles, but bearing their own expenses, and having the prospect of no recompense but the honor and safety of their country.

I suppose the inhabitants of your Province are more reserved in their behavior, if not more easy in their apprehension, from the prevalence of Quaker principles and politics. The Quakers are the only people with us who refuse to accede to the Continental association. I cannot forbear suspecting them to be under the control and direction of the leaders of the party in your quarter; for I take those of them that we have to be too honest and simple to have any sinister or secret views, and I do not observe anything in the association inconsistent with their religious principles. When I say they refuse to accede to the Edition: current; Page: [29] association, my meaning is that they refuse to sign it; that being the method used among us to distinguish friends from foes, and to oblige the common people to a more strict observance of it. I have never heard whether the like method has been adopted in the other Governments.

I have not seen the following in print, and it seems to be so just a specimen of Indian eloquence and mistaken valor, that I think you will be pleased with it. You must make allowance for the unskilfulness of the interpreters.

The speech of Logan, a Shawanese Chief, to Lord Dunmore:

“I appeal to any white man to say, if ever he entered Logan’s cabin hungry, and I gave him not meat; if ever he came cold or naked, and I gave him not clothing. During the course of the last long and bloody war, Logan remained idle in his tent, an advocate for peace; nay, such was my love for the whites, that those of my country pointed at me as they passed by, and said ‘Logan is the friend of white men.’ I had even thought to live with you but for the injuries of one man. Col. Cressop, the last spring, in cold blood and unprovoked, cut off all the relations of Logan, not sparing even my women and children. There runs not a drop of my blood in the veins of any human creature. This called on me for revenge. I have sought it; I have killed many; I have fully glutted my vengence. For my country I rejoice at the beams of peace; but do not harbor a thought that mine is the joy of fear. Logan never felt fear. He Edition: current; Page: [30] will not turn on his heel to save his life. Who is there to mourn for Logan?—not one!”

If you should see any of our friends from Princeton a little before the time of your intending to write to me, and could transmit any little intelligence concerning the health, &c., of my little brother there, it would be very acceptable to me, and very gratifying to a fond mother; but I desire it may only be done when it will cost you less than five words.

We had with us a little before Christmas the Rev. Moses Allen, on his return from Boston to Charlestown. He told me he came through Philadelphia, but did not see you, though he expresses a singular regard for you, and left his request with me that you would let him hear from you whenever it is convenient, promising to return the kindness with punctuality. He travelled with considerable equipage for a dissenting ecclesiastic, and seems to be willing to superadd the airs of the fine gentleman to the graces of the spirit. I had his company for several days, during which time he preached two sermons with general approbation. His discourses were above the common run some degree; and his appearance in the pulpit on on the whole was no discredit to [. . . . . . ?] He retains too much of his pristine levity, but promises amendment. I wish he may for the sake of himself, his friends, and his flock. I only add that he seems to be one of those geniuses that are formed for shifting in the world rather than shining in a college, and that I really believe him to possess a friendly and generous disposition.

Edition: current; Page: [31]

You shall ere long hear from me again. Till then, Vive, vale et Lœtare.

James Madison
Madison, James
May 9, 1775
Patrick Henry
Henry, Patrick



We, the committee for the county of Orange, having been fully informed of your seasonable and spirited proceedings in procuring a compensation for the powder fraudulently taken from the country magazine by command of Lord Dunmore, and which it evidently appears his lordship, notwithstanding his assurances, had no intention to restore, entreat you to accept their cordial thanks for this testimony of your zeal for the honor and interest of your country, We take this opportunity also to give it as our opinion that the blow struck in the Massachusetts government is a hostile attack on this and ever other Colony, and a sufficient warrant to use violence and reprisal in all cases in which it may be for our security and welfare.

James Madison, Chairman.
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journal of the virginia convention in 1776.May 10. A representation* from the Committee of the County of Augusta was presented to the Convention, setting forth the present unhappy situation of the country; and from the ministerial measures of vengeance now pursuing, representing the necessity of making the confederacy of the United Colonies the most perfect, independent, and lasting, and of framing an equal, free, and liberal Government that may bear the test of all future ages: ordered that the said representation be referred to the committee on the State of the Colony. [quere, as to the date of this representation, and whether the document be on the public files.]

May. 15. The Convention, one hundred and twelve members being present, unanimously agreed as follows “Forasmuch as all endeavours of the United Colonies, by the most decent representations and petitions to the king and parliament of Great Britain, to restore peace and security to America under the British Government, and a reunion with that people upon just and liberal terms, instead of a redress of grievances, have produced—from an Edition: current; Page: [33] imperious and vindictive administration increased insult, oppression, and a vigorous attempt to effect our total destruction: By a late act, all these colonies are declared to be in rebellion, and out of the protection of the British crown, our properties subjected to confiscation, our people when captivated, compelled to join in the murder and plunder of their relations and countrymen, and all former rapine and oppression of Americans delared legal and just. Fleets and armies are raised, and the aid of foreign troops engaged to assist these destructive purposes. The king’s representative in this colony hath not only witheld all the powers of Government from operating for our safety, but having retired on board an armed ship, is carrying on a piratical and savage war against us, tempting our slaves, by every artifice, to resort to him, and training and employing them against their masters. In this state of extreme danger we have no alternative left, but an abject submission to the will of those overbearing tyrants, or a total separation from the crown and Government of Great Britain, uniting and exerting the strength of all America for defence, and forming alliances with foreign powers for commerce and aid in war: wherefore, appealing to the Searcher of Hearts, for the sincerity of former declarations expressing our desire to preserve the connexion with that nation, and that we are driven from that inclination by their wicked councils, and the eternal laws of self-preservation;

Resolved unanimously, That the delegates appointed to represent this colony in General congress, be instructed to propose to that respectable body, to declare the United Colonies, free and independent States, absolved from all allegiance to, or dependence upon, the crown or Parliament of Great Britain; and that they give the assent of this Colony to such declaration, and to whatever measures may be thought proper and necessary by the congress for forming foreign alliances, and a confederation of the colonies, as such times, and in the manner, as to them shall seem best: Provided, that the power of forming Government for, and the regulations of the internal concerns of each colony, be left to the respective colonial legislatures.

Resolved unanimously, that a committee be appointed to prepare a Declaration of Rights, and such a plan of Government Edition: current; Page: [34] as will be most likely to maintain peace and order in this colony, and secure substantial and equal liberty to the people.

And a committee was appointed of the following members: viz Archibald Cary, Meriwether Smith, Mr. Mercer, Mr. Henry Lee, Mr. Treasurer—[Robert Carter Nicholas] Mr. Henry, Mr. Dandridge, Mr. Edmund Randolph, Mr Gilmer, Mr Bland, Mr. Diggs, Mr. Carrington, Mr. Thomas Ludwell Lee, Mr Cabell, Mr. Jones, Mr. Blair, Mr Fleming, Mr. Tazewell, Mr Richard Cary, Mr. Bullitt, Mr Watts, Mr. Banister, Mr. Page, Mr. Starke, Mr. David Mason, Mr. Adams, Mr Read, and Mr. Thomas Lewis.

May 16. Ordered that Mr. Madison, Mr Rutherford and Mr. Watkins be added to the Committee appointed to prepare a Declaration of Rights and a plan of Government.

May. 18. Ordered that George Mason be added to that Committee.

[It is inferred that he was not before present; especially as his name is not on any one of the numerous committees of antecedent appointment. His distinguished talents, if present, could not have been overlooked.]

May 21. Ordered that Mr Bowyer be added to the committee appointed to prepare a Declaration of Rights and plan of Government.

May 27. Mr. Cary reported a Declaration of Rights, which was ordered to be printed for the perusal of the members. [See a printed copy in the hands of J. M.]

Ordered: that Mr Curle and Mr. Holt be added to the committee appointed to prepare a Declaration of Rights and plan of Government.

June 10. The Declaration of Rights, reported from a committee of the whole, with several amendments.

June 11. The Amendments to the Declaration of Rights agreed to, and the whole ordered to be transcribed for a third reading.

June 12. The Amended Declaration of Rights agreed to nem: con. [See the copy below.]

June 24. Mr. Cary reported from the appointed committee “a plan of Government for this Colony,” which was ordered to be read a second time.

Edition: current; Page: [35]

June 26. In committee of the whole on the reported plan of Govt. progress made and reported.

June 27. In committee of the whole on the Plan, & progress reported.

June 28. The plan reported from the Committee of the whole, with amendments, & ordered to be transcribed & read a third time.

June 29. Resolved unanimously that the said plan do pass.

(As printed by order of the convention)

The following declaration* was reported to the convention by the committee appointed to prepare the same, and referred to the consideration of a committee of the whole convention; and in the meantime, is ordered to be printed for the perusal of the members.

A DECLARATION OF RIGHTS made by the Representatives of the good people of Virginia, assembled in full and free Convention; which rights do pertain to us, and our posterity, as the basis and foundation of Government.

1. That all men are born equally free and independent, and have certain inherent natural rights, of which they cannot, by any compact, deprive their posterity; among which are the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety.

2. That all power is vested in, and consequently derived from the people; that magistrates are their trustees and servants, and at all times amenable to them.

3. That Government is, or ought to be, instituted for the common benefit, protection, and security, of the people, nation or community: of all the various modes and forms of Government that is best, which is capable of producing the greatest degree of happiness and safety, and is most effectually secured against the danger of mal-administration; and that whenever any government shall be found inadequate or contrary to these purposes, a majority of the community hath an indubitable, unalienable, and indefeasible right, to reform, alter, or abolish it, in such manner as shall be judged most conducive to the public weal.

4. That no man, or set of men, are entitled to exclusive or separate emoluments or privileges from the community, but in consideration of publick services; which not being descendible or hereditary, the idea of a man born a magistrate, a legislator, or a judge, is unnatural and absurd.

5. That the legislative and executive powers of the state should be separate and distinct from the judicative; and that the members of the two first, may be restrained from oppression, by feeling and participating the burdens of the people, they should, at fixed periods, be reduced to a private station, return into that body from which they were originally taken, and the vacancies be supplied by frequent, certain and regular elections.

6. That elections of members to serve as representatives of the people, in assembly, ought to be free; and that all men, having sufficient evidence of permanent common interest with and attachment to, the community, have the right of suffrage.

7 That no part of a man’s property can be taken from him, or applied to publick uses, without his own consent, or that of his legal representatives; nor are the people bound by any laws but such as they have, in like manner, assented to, for their common good.

8. That all power of suspending laws, or the execution of laws, by any authority without consent of the representatives of the people, is injurious to their rights, and ought not to be exercised.

9. That laws having retrospect to crimes, and punishing offences, committed before the existence of such laws, are generally oppressive, and ought to be avoided.

10. That in all capital or criminal prosecutions, as man hath a right to demand the cause and nature of his accusation, to be confronted with the accusers or witnesses, to call for evidence in his favour, and to a speedy trial by an impartial jury of his vicinage; without whose unanimous consent he cannot be found guilty, nor can he be compelled to give evidence against himself; that no man be deprived of his liberty, except by the law of the land, or the judgment of his peers.

11. That excessive bail ought not to be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

12. That warrants unsupported by evidence, whereby any officer or messenger may be commanded or required to search suspected places, or to seize any person or persons, his or their property, not particularly described, are grievous and oppressive, and ought not to be granted.

13. That in controversies respecting property, and in suits between man and man, the ancient trial by jury is preferable to any other, and ought to be held sacred.

14. That the freedom of the press is one of the great bulwarks of liberty, and can never be restrained but by despotick governments.

15. That a well regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, trained to arms, is the proper, natural, and safe defence of a free state; that standing armies in time of peace, should be avoided as dangerous to liberty; and that in all cases, the military should be under strict subordination to, and governed by the civil power.

16. That the people have a right to uniform Government; and therefore, that no Government separate from, or independent of the Government of Virginia, ought of right, to be erected or established, within the limits thereof.

17. That no free government, or the blessings of liberty, can be preserved to any people, but by a firm adherence to justice, moderation, temperance, frugality and virtue, and by frequent recurrence to fundamental principles.

18. That Religion, or the duty which we owe to our CREATOR, and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence: and therefore, that all men should enjoy the fullest toleration in the exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience, unpunished, and unrestrained by the magistrate, unless under colour of religion, any man disturb the peace, the happiness, or safety of Society. And that it is the mutual duty of all to practice Christian forbearance, love, and charity, towards each other.*

(Copy of a printed paper, in the hands of J. M.)


Laid before the Committee of the House, which they have ordered to be printed for the perusal of the members.*

1. Let the Legislative, executive and judicative departments be separate and distinct, so that neither exercise the powers properly belonging to the other.

2. Let the legislative be formed of two distinct branches, who, together, shall be a complete legislature. They shall meet once, or oftener, every year, and shall be called the GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF VIRGINIA.

3. Let one of these be called the Lower House of Assembly, and consist of two delegates, or representatives, chosen for each county annually, by such men as have resided in the same for one year last past, are freeholders of the county, possess an estate of inheritance of land in Virginia, of at least one thousand pounds value, and are upwards of twenty four years of age.

4. Let the other be called the Upper House of Assembly, and consist of twenty four members, for whose election, let the different counties be divided into twenty four districts, and each county of the respective district, at the time of the election of its delegates for the Lower House, choose twelve deputies, or subelectors, being freeholders residing therein, and having an estate of inheritance of lands within the district, of at least five hundred pounds value: In case of dispute, the qualifications to be determined by the majority of the said deputies. Let these deputies choose by ballot, one member of the Upper House of Assembly, who is a freeholder of the district, hath been a resident therein for one year last past, possesses an estate of inheritance of lands in Virginia, of at least two thousand pounds value, and is upwards of twenty eight years of age. To keep up this Assembly by rotation, let the districts be equally divided into four classes and numbered.

At the end of one year, after the general election. Let the six members elected by the first division be displaced, rendered ineligible for four years, and the vacancies be supplied in the manner aforesaid. Let this rotation be applied to each division according to its number, and continued in due order annually.

5. Let each House settle its own rules of proceeding, direct writs of election for supplying intermediate vacancies; and let the right of suffrage both in the election of members for the Lower House, and of deputies for the districts, be extended to those having leases for land, in which there is an unexpired term of seven years, and to every Housekeeper who hath resided for one year last past, in the county, and hath been the father of three children in this country.

6. Let all laws originate in the Lower House, to be approved or rejected, by the Upper House; or to be amended with the consent of the Lower House, except money bills, which in no instance shall be altered by the Upper House, but wholly approved or rejected.

7. Let a Governour, or Chief Magistrate be chosen annually by joint ballot of both Houses; who shall not continue in that office longer than three years successively, and then be ineligible for the next three years. Let an adequate, but moderate salary, be settled on him, during his continuance in office; and let him, with the advice of a council of State, exercise the executive powers of Government, and the power of prorouging or adjourning the General Assembly, or of calling it upon emergencies, and of granting reprieves or pardons, except in cases where the prosecution shall have been carried on by the Lower House of Assembly.

8. Let a privy Council, or Council of State, consisting of eight members, be chosen by joint ballot of both Houses of Assembly, promiscuously, from their own members, or the people at large, to assist in the administration of Government.

Let the Governor be President of this council; but let them annually choose one of their own members, as Vice-President, who, in case of the death or absence of the Governour, shall act as Lieutenant Governour. Let three members be sufficient to act, and their advice be entered of record in their proceedings. Let them appoint their own clerk, who shall have a salary settled by law, and taken an oath of secrecy, in such matters as he shall be directed to conceal, unless called upon by the Lower House of Assembly for information. Let a sum of money, appropriated to that purpose, be divided annually among the members, in proportion to their attendance: and let them be incapable, during their continuance in office, of sitting in either House of Assembly. Let two members be removed by ballot of their own Board, at the end of every three years, and be ineligible for the three next years. Let this be regularly continued, by rotation, so as that no member be removed before he hath been three years in the council: and let these vacancies, as well as those occasioned by death or incapacity, be supplied by new elections, in the same manner as the first.

9. Let the Governour, with the advice of the Privy council, have the appointment of the Militia officers, and the Government of the militia, under the laws of the country.

10. Let the two Houses of Assembly, by joint ballot, appoint judges of the supreme court, judges in chancery, judges of Admiralty, and the attorney-general, to be commissioned by the Governour, and continue in office during good behaviour. In case of death or incapacity, let the Governour, with the advice of the privy council, appoint persons to succeed in office pro tempore to be approved or displaced by both Houses. Let these officers have fixed and adequate salaries, and be incapable of having a seat in either House of Assembly, or in the Privy Council; except the Attorney-general, and the treasurer, who may be permitted to a seat in the Lower House of Assembly.

11. Let the Governour, and Privy Council, appoint justices of the peace for the counties. Let the clerks of all the courts, the sheriffs and coroners, be nominated, by the respective courts, approved by the Governour and Privy Council, and commissioned by the Governour. Let the clerks be continued during good behaviour, and all fees be regulated by law. Let the justices appoint constables.

12. Let the Governour, any of the Privy Counsellors, judges of the supreme court, and all other officers of government, for mal-administration, or corruption, be prosecuted by the Lower House of Assembly (to be carried on by the attorney-General, or such other person as the House may appoint) in the supreme court of common law. If found guilty, let him or them be either removed from office; or for ever disabled to hold any office under the Government; or subjected to such pains or penalties as the laws shall direct.

13. Let all commissions run in the name of the Commonwealth of Virginia, and be tested by the Governour, with the seal of the commonwealth annexed. Let writs run in the same manner, and be tested by the clerks of the several courts. Let indictments conclude, Against the peace and dignity of the commonwealth.

14. Let a treasurer be appointed annually, by joint ballot of both Houses.

15. In order to introduce this government, let the representatives of the people, now met in Convention, choose twenty four members to be an upper House; and let both Houses, by joint ballot, choose a Governour and Privy Council; the upper House to continue until the last day of March next; and the other officers, until the end of the succeeding session of Assembly. In case of vacancies, the President to issue writs for new elections.*

As agreed to by the Convention.

A DECLARATION OF RIGHTS, made by the representatives of the good people of Virginia, assembled in full and free convention; which rights do pertain to them, and their posterity, as the basis and foundation of Government.

1. That all men are by nature equally free and independent, and have certain inherent rights, of which, when they enter into a state of society, they can not by any compact, deprive or divest their posterity: namely, the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring Edition: current; Page: [36] & possessing property, and preserving and obtaining happiness and safety.

2. The same.

3. The same.

4. That no man or set of men, are entitled to exclusive or separate emoluments or privileges from the community, but in consideration of public services; which not being descendible, neither ought the offices Edition: current; Page: [37] of magistrate, legislator or judge to be hereditary.

5. That the Legislative and executive powers of the State should be separate and distinct from the judiciary; and that the members of the two first may be restrained from oppression, by feeling and participating the burdens of the people, they should at fixed periods be reduced to a private station, return into that body from which they were originally taken, and the vacancies be supplied by frequent, certain and regular elections, in which all or any part of the former members, to be again eligible or ineligible as the laws shall direct.

6. That elections of members to serve as representatives of the people, in assembly, ought to be free; and that all men having sufficient evidence of permanent common interest with, and attachment to, the community have the right of suffrage, and cannot be taxed or deprived of their property for public uses, without their own consent, or that of their representatives so elected, nor bound by any law to which they have not in like manner assented for the public good.

Edition: current; Page: [38]

7. That all power of suspending laws, or the execution of laws, by any authority without consent of the representatives of the people, is injurious to their rights, and ought not to be exercised.

8. That in all capital or criminal prosecutions, as man hath a right to demand the cause and nature of his accusation, to be confronted with the accusers and witnesses, to call for evidence in his favour, and to a speedy trial by an impartial jury of the vicinage, without whose unanimous consent he cannot be found guilty; nor can he be compelled to give evidence against himself, that no man be deprived of his liberty except by the law of the land, or the judgment of his peers.

Edition: current; Page: [39]

9. The same as No. 11.

10. That general warrants, whereby any officer or messenger may be commanded to search suspected places without evidence of a fact committed, or to seize any person or persons not named, or whose offence is not particularly described and supported by evidence are greivous and oppresive and ought not to be granted.

11. The same as No 13.

12. The same as No. 14.

13. The same as No 15.

14. That the people have a Edition: current; Page: [40] right to uniform Government: and therefore that no government separate from or independent of the Government of Virginia, ought to be erected or established within the limits thereof.

15. The same as No. 17.

16. That Religion, or the duty we owe to our CREATOR, and the manner of discharging it can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence, and therefore all men are equally entitled to the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience; and that it is the mutual duty of all to practice christian forbearance love and charity towards each other.

Edition: current; Page: [41]

Copy of the Constitution as finally agreed to by the convention of 1776.

Edition: current; Page: [42]

The Legislative, Executive and Judiciary Departments, shall be separate and distinct, so that neither exercise the powers properly belonging to the others; nor shall any person exercise the powers of more than one of them at the same time except that the Justices of the county courts shall be eligible to either House of Assembly

The Legislative shall be formed of two distinct branches, who

Edition: current; Page: [43] Edition: current; Page: [44] Edition: current; Page: [45] Edition: current; Page: [46] Edition: current; Page: [47] Edition: current; Page: [48] Edition: current; Page: [49]
Thomas Jefferson
Jefferson, Thomas
March, Saturdy 1777
James Madison
Madison, James


Hond. Sir, * * *

The following odd affair has furnished the Ct of this county with some very unexpected business.

Two persons travelling from Phila to the Southward one of them a Frenchman and an officer in the Continental army and the other a man of decent figure came to the Ct House on the evening of the Ct day and immediately inquired for a member of the Committee; and being withdrawn with several members into a private room they gave information, that they fell in with a man on the road a few miles from the Ct. house who, in the course of Conversation on public affairs gave abundant proof of his being an adherent to the King of G. B. and a dangerous Enemy to the State, that he ran into the most outrageous abuse of our proceedings and on their threatening to inform Edition: current; Page: [50] agt. him in the most daring manner bid defiance to Committees or whoever should pretend to judge or punish him. They said the man they alluded to had come with them to the Ct House, and they made no doubt but they could point him out in the Crowd. On their so doing the culprit appeared to be Benjamin Haley. As the Committee had no jurisdiction in the case it was referred to a justice of the Peace. Every one seemed to be agreed that his conduct was a direct violation of Law and called aloud for public notice; but the witnesses being travellers and therefore unable to attend at a Trial, it was thought best not to undertake a Prosecution which promised nothing but impunity and matter of triumph to the offender. Here the affair dropped and every one supposed was entirely at an end. But as the Frenchman was accidentally passing through the room where Haley was, he took occasion to admonish the people of his being a disaffected person and upbraided him for his Tory principles. This introduced a debate which was continued for some time with great heat on the part of the Frenchman and great insolence on the part of Haley. At the request of the latter they at length both appeared before a Justice of the peace. Haley at first evaded the charges of his antagonist, but after some time, said he scorned to be counterfeit, and in answer to some questions that were put to him, signified that we were in the state of rebellion and had revolted from our lawful Sovereign and that if the King had justice done him his authority would still be in exercise among us. This passed in the presence of 20 Edition: current; Page: [51] or 30 persons, and rendered the Testimony of the Travellers needless. A warrant for arresting him was immediately issued and executed. The criminal went through his examination in which his very Pleas seemed to aggravate his guilt. Witnesses were summoned sworn and their evidences taken. And on his obstinate refusal to give security for his appearance, He was committed to close gaol. This happened about 8 O’Clock. I have since heard he begged abt. one O’Clock in the morning to be admitted to bail & went home but not without threats of revenge and making public declaration that he was King George’s man. I have stated the case thus particularly not only for your own satisfaction, but that you may, if an opportunity occurs, take the advice of some Gentleman skilled in the Law, on the most proper and legal mode of proceeding against him.

Ambrose requests you will enquire whether any pretty neat Shoe Boots may be had in Fredg. and the price of them.

Jany 23d 1778
James Madison
Madison, James


Hond Sir,

I got safe to this place on Tuesday following the day I left home, and at the earnest invitation of my kinsman Mr Madison1 have taken my lodgings in a Room of the Presidents house, which is a much better accomodation than I could have promised myself. It would be very agreeable to me if I Edition: current; Page: [52] were enabled by such varieties as our part of the Country furnishes, particularly dried fruit &c &c which Mr. Madison is very fond of to make some little returns for the culinary favours I receive. Should any opportunity for this purpose offer I hope they will be sent. You will see by the inclosed Acct of Sales what money you have in Mr. Lee’s hands, and if you chuse to draw for it, you can transmit me your Bills for sale—You will be informed in due time by Advertisement from the Governor what is proper to be done with the Shoes &c &c collected for the Army. You will be able to obtain so circumstantial an acct. of public affairs from Majr. Moore that I may save myself the trouble of anticipating it—Majr. Moore also has for my Mother 14 oz of Bark—The other Articles wanted by the family are not at present to be had. When ever I meet with them I shall provide and transmit them. I hope you will not forget my parting request that I might hear frequently from home, and whenever my brother1 returns from the Army I desire he may be informed. I shall expect he will make up by letter the loss of intelligence I sustain by my removal out of his way. With the sincerest affection for yourself & all others who I ought particularly to remember on this occasion.

I am Dear Sir your Affectn. son

I find on enquiry that Mr. Benjamin Winslow is discontinued in the military appointment given him by the Governour & Council. I promised to let him Edition: current; Page: [53] know this by letter but my being as yet unprovided with paper makes it necessary to leave this information for him with you.

J. M Jr

Although I well know how inconvenient and disagreeable it is to you to continue to act as Lieutenant of the County1 I cannot help informing you that a resignation at this juncture is here supposed to have a very unfriendly aspect on the execution of the Draught and consequently to betray at least a want of patriotism and perseverence. This is so much the case that a recommendation of Cony Lt. this day received by the Govr, to supply the place of one who had resigned to the Court, produced a private verbal message to the old Lt to continue to act at least as long as the present measures were in execution.

J M Jr
March 6th. 78
James Madison
Madison, James


Hond Sir,

Since I wrote to you by Mr Cave I have taken the freedom to give an order on Mr Lee who is at present at Nants for money due to you in favour of the Revd Mr. Madison who wanted to procure from Europe a few literary curiosities by means of a French gentleman just setting out on public Business for this State, addressed to the management of Mr. Lee. I take the opportunity by Mr. Harrison Edition: current; Page: [54] from Culpeper of giving you the earliest notice of this circumstance that you may not dispose of your Bills to any other person. As some little return for the favour I am daily receiving from Mr. Madison I shall not charge him more than the legal rate of exchange for the money. I have sent for a few Books also on my own account and Mr Lee is requested to transmit whatever late publications relate to G. B. or the present state of European Politics. If any Balance should remain after these purposes are provided for Capt. le Maire the french Gentlm alluded to has engaged to lay it out for us in linen &c. We have no news here that can be depended. It is said by Mr. King who is just from Petersbg that a Gentleman was at that place who informed that sundry persons had arrived at Edenton (which he was travelling from) from Providence Island who affirmed that they saw in Providence a London Paper giving an account that Burgoyne’s disaster had produced the most violent fermentation in England that the Parliament had refused to grant the supplies for carrying on the war and that a motion for acknowledging our Independence was overruled by a small majority only. The People who bring this news to Edenton, as the story goes, were prisoners wth the Enemy at Providence, where they were released by a New England privateer which suddenly landed her men took possession of the small fort that commanded the Harbour and secured several vessels that lay in it one of which was given up to these men to bring them to the Continent. I leave you to form your own Judgment as to the credibility Edition: current; Page: [55] of this report—I wish it carried stronger marks of truth.

The Govr has just recd a letter from the Capt of french frigate I mentioned in my last informing him of his safe arrival in N. C. with a rich Cargo of various useful and important Articles, which will be offered for sale to us. The frigate belongs to a Company at Nantes in France—We also hear but in a less authentic manner that 7000 Tents have arrived at Martinique on their way from France to the Grand Army (?)—Salt at South. Quay sells at £3-1 a [illegible] and is falling—A letter from York-Town this moment read informs us that an Exchange of Prisoners is at last agreed on between W[ashington]. & H[owe].

I wish much to hear from you, and shall continue to write by every opportunity.

I am Dr Sir with my constant good wishes &c &c
Yr affectn son
Decr. 8th, 1779
James Madison
Madison, James


Honored Sir,

Having an opportunity by Mr Collins I add a few lines to those I sent by Col. Burnley on the Subject of your’s by him. The Assembly have not yet concluded their plan for complying with the requisitions from Congress. It may be relied on that that cannot be done without very heavy taxes on every species of property. Indeed it is thought questionable Edition: current; Page: [56] whether it will not be found absolutely impossible. No exertions however ought to be omitted to testify our Zeal to support Congress in the prosecution of the War. It is also proposed to procure a large sum on loan by stipulating to pay the Interest in Tobo. A Tax on This article necessary for that purpose is to be collected. Being very imperfectly acquainted with the proceedings of the Assembly on this matter I must refer you for the particulars to the return of Majr. Moore, or some future opportunity. The law for escheats & forfeitures will be repealed as it respects orphans, &c. The effects of the measures taken by the Assembly on the credit of our money & the prices of things cannot be predicted. If our expectations had not been so invariably disappointed they ought to be supposed very considerable. But from the rapid progress of depreciation at present and the universal struggle among sellers to bring up prices, I cannot flatter myself with the hope of any great reformation. Corn is already at £20 & rising. Tobo is also rising. Pork will probably command any price. Imported goods exceed everything else many hundreds per cent.

I am much at a loss how to dispose of Willey.1 I cannot think it would be expedient in the present state of things to send him out of the State. From a new arrangement of the college here nothing is in future to be taught but the higher & rarer branches of Science. The preliminary studies must therefore be pursued in private Schools or Academies. If the Edition: current; Page: [57] Academy at Prince Edward is so far dissolved that you think his return thither improper, I would recommend his being put under the instruction of Mr. Maury1 rather than suffer him to be idle at home. The languages including English, Geography, & arithmetic ought to be his employment till he is prepared to receive a finish to his education at this place.

By the late change also in the college, the former custom of furnishing the table for the President & professors is to be discontinued. I am induced by this consideration to renew my request for the Flour mentioned so often to you. It will perhaps be the only opportunity I may have of requiting received & singular favours, and, for the reason just assigned will be extremely convenient. I wish to know without any loss of time how far this supply may be reckoned. 5 or 600lb., at least I pursuade myself may be spared from your stock without encroaching on your own consumption. Perhaps Mr. R. Burnley would receive and store it for me. Capt. Wm. Anderson I believe also lives at that place and would probably do any favour of that sort. I am desired by a Gentleman here to procure for him 2 Bear Skins to cover the foot of his Chariot. If they can be bought anywhere in your neighborhood I beg you or Ambrose will take the trouble to inquire for them & send them to Capt. Anderson at Hanover Town. If the flour should come down the same opportunity will serve for them. Edition: current; Page: [58] Captain Anderson may be informed that they are for Mr. Norton. If they can be got without too much trouble I should be glad of succeeding, as he will rely on my promise to procure them for him.

Having nothing to add under the head of news, I subscribe myself yr. dutiful son.1

Monday March 20th., 1780
James Madison
Madison, James


Hond Sir,

The extreme badness of the roads and frequency of rains rendered my journey so slow that I did not reach this place till Saturday last. The only public intelligence I have to communicate is that the great and progressive depreciation of the paper currency had introduced such disorder and perplexity into public affairs for the present and threatened to load the United States with such an intolerable burden of debt, that Congress have thought it expedient to convert the 200,000,000 of Dollars now in circulation into a real debt of 5,000,000 by establishing the exchange at 40 for 1: and taxes for calling it in during the ensuing year, are to be payable at the option of the people in Specie or paper according to that difference. In order to carry on public measures in future money is to be emitted under the combined faith of Congress and the several States, secured on permanent and specific Edition: current; Page: [59] funds to be provided by the latter. This scheme was finally resolved on on Saturday last. It has not yet been printed but will be immediately. I shall transmit a copy to you by the first opportunity. The little time I have been here makes it impossible for me to enter into a particular delineation of it. It will probably create great perplexity and complaints in many private transactions. Congress have recommended to the States to repeal their tender laws, and to take measures for preventing injustice as much as possible. It is probable that in the case of loans to the public, the state of depreciation at the time they were made will be the rule of payment, but nothing is yet decided on that point. I expect to be more at leisure to write fully by next post.

James Madison
Madison, James
March 27, 1780
Thomas Jefferson
Jefferson, Thomas


Dear Sir,

Nothing under the title of news has occurred since I wrote last week by express, except that the enemy on the first of March remained in the neighbourhood of Charleston, in the same posture as when the preceding account came away. From the best intelligence from that quarter, there seems to be great encouragement to hope that Clinton’s operations will be again frustrated. Our great apprehensions at present flow from a very different quarter. Among the various conjunctures of alarm and distress which Edition: current; Page: [60] have arisen in the course of the Revolution, it is with pain I affirm to you, sir, that no one can be singled out more truly critical than the present. Our army threatened with an immediate alternative of disbanding or living on free quarter; the public treasury empty; public credit exhausted, nay the private credit of purchasing agents employed, I am told, as far as it will bear; Congress complaining of the extortion of the people; the people of the improvidence of Congress; and the army of both; our affairs requiring the most mature and systematic measures, and the urgency of occasions admitting only of temporizing expedients, and these expedients generating new difficulties; Congress recommending plans to the several States for execution, and the States separately rejudging the expediency of such plans, whereby the same distrust of concurrent exertions that has damped the ardor of patriotic individuals must produce the same effect among the States themselves; an old system of finance discarded as incompetent to our necessities, an untried and precarious one substituted, and a total stagnation in prospect between the end of the former and the operation of the latter. These are the outlines of the picture of our public situation. I leave it to your own imagination to fill them up. Believe me, sir, as things now stand, if the States do not vigorously proceed in collecting the old money, and establishing funds for the credit of the new, that we are undone; and let them be ever so expeditious in doing this, still the intermediate distress to our army, and hindrance to public affairs, Edition: current; Page: [61] are a subject of melancholy reflection. General Washington writes that a failure of bread has already commenced in the army; and that, for any thing he sees, it must unavoidably increase. Meat they have only for a short season; and as the whole dependence is on provisions now to be procured, without a shilling for the purpose, and without credit for a shilling, I look forward with the most pungent apprehensions. It will be attempted, I believe, to purchase a few supplies with loan-office certificates; but whether they will be received is perhaps far from being certain; and if received will certainly be a most expensive and ruinous expedient. It is not without some reluctance I trust this information to a conveyance by post, but I know of no better at present, and I conceive it to be absolutely necessary to be known to those who are most able and zealous to contribute to the public relief.

James Madison
Madison, James
May 6, 1780
Thomas Jefferson
Jefferson, Thomas


Dear Sir,

I am sorry that I can give you no other account of our public situation, than that it continues equally perplexed and alarming as when I lately gave you a sketch of it. Our army has as yet been kept from starving, and public measures from total stagnation, by draughts on the States for the unpaid requisitions. The great amount of these you may Edition: current; Page: [62] judge of from the share that has fallen to Virginia. The discharge of debts due from the purchasing departments has absorbed a great proportion of them, and very large demands still remain. As soon as the draughts amount to the whole of the monthly requisitions up to the end of March, they must cease, according to the new scheme of finance. We must then depend wholly on the emissions to be made in pursuance of that scheme, which can only be applied as the old emissions are collected and destroyed. Should this not be done as fast as the current expenditures require, or should the new emissions fall into a course of depreciation, both of which may but too justly be feared, a most melancholy crisis must take place. A punctual compliance on the part of the States with the specific supplies will indeed render much less money necessary than would otherwise be wanted; but experience by no means affords satisfactory encouragement that due and unanimous exertions will be made for that purpose,—not to mention that our distress is so pressing that it is uncertain whether any exertions of that kind can give relief in time. It occurs besides, that as, the ability of the people to comply with the pecuniary requisitions is derived from the sale of their commodities, a requisition of the latter must make the former proportionably more difficult and defective. Congress have the satisfaction, however, to be informed that the legislature of Connecticut have taken the most vigorous steps for supplying their quota both of money and commodities; and that a body of their principal merchants Edition: current; Page: [63] have associated for supporting the credit of the new paper, for which purpose they have, in a public address, pledged their faith to the assembly to sell their merchandize on the same terms as if they were to be paid in specie. A similar vigor throughout the Union may perhaps produce effects as far exceeding our present hopes, as they have heretofore fallen short of our wishes.

It is to be observed that the situation of Congress has undergone a total change from what it originally was. Whilst they exercised the indefinite power of emitting money on the credit of their constituents, they had the whole wealth and resources of the continent within their command, and could go on with their affairs independently and as they pleased. Since the resolution passed for shutting the press, this power has been entirely given up, and they are now as dependent on the States as the King of England is on the Parliament. They can neither enlist, pay nor feed a single soldier, nor execute any other purpose, but as the means are first put into their hands. Unless the legislatures are sufficiently attentive to this change of circumstances, and act in conformity to it, every thing must necessarily go wrong, or rather must come to a total stop. All that Congress can do in future will be to administer public affairs with prudence, vigor and economy. In order to do which they have sent a committee to Head-Quarters with ample powers, in concert with the Commander-in-Chief and the heads of the Departments, to reform the various abuses which prevail, Edition: current; Page: [64] and to make such arrangements as will best guard against a relapse into them.

James Madison
Madison, James
June 2, 1780
Thomas Jefferson
Jefferson, Thomas


Dear Sir,

It appears from sundry accounts from the frontiers of New York and other Northern States, that the savages are making the most distressing incursions, under the direction of British agents, and that a considerable force is assembling at Montreal for the purpose of wresting from us Fort Schuyler, which covers the northwestern frontier of New York. It is probable the enemy will be but too successful this campaign in exciting their vindictive spirit against us, throughout the whole frontier of the United States. The expedition of General Sullivan against the Six Nations, seems by its effects rather to have exasperated than to have terrified or disabled them. And the example of those nations will add great weight to the exhortations addressed to the more southern tribes.

Rivington has published a positive and particular account of the surrender of Charleston on the twelfth ultimo, said to be brought to New York by the Iris which left Charleston five days after. There are, notwithstanding, some circumstances attending it which, added to the notorious character for lying of the author, leave some hope that it is fictitious. The Edition: current; Page: [65] true state of the matter will probably be known at Richmond before this reaches you.

We have yet heard nothing further of the auxiliary armament from France. However anxiously its arrival may be wished for, it is much to be feared we shall continue to be so unprepared to co-operate with them, as to disappoint their views, and to add to our distress and disgrace. Scarce a week, and sometimes scarce a day, but brings us a most lamentable picture from Head-Quarters. The army are a great part of their time on short allowance, and sometimes without any at all, and constantly depending on the precarious fruits of momentary expedients. General Washington has found it of the utmost difficulty to repress the mutinous spirit engendered by hunger and want of pay: and all his endeavours could not prevent an actual eruption of it in two Connecticut regiments, who assembled on the parade with their arms, and resolved to return home or satisfy their hunger by the power of the bayonet. We have no permanent resource, and scarce even a momentary one left, but in the prompt and vigorous supplies of the States. The State of Pennsylvania has it in her power to give great relief in the present crisis, and a recent act of her legislature shows, they are determined to make the most of it. I understand they have invested the Executive with a dictatorial authority from which nothing but the lives of their citizens are exempted. I hope the good resulting from it will be such as to compensate for the risk of the precedent.

Edition: current; Page: [66]
James Madison
Madison, James
June 23, 1780
Thomas Jefferson
Jefferson, Thomas


Dear Sir,

The fact is confirmed that Clinton has returned to New York with part of the Southern army, and has joined Kniphausen. They are at present manœuvering for purposes not absolutely known, but most probably in order to draw General Washington to an action, in which they suppose he might be disabled from giving the necessary co-operation to the French armament. Could they succeed in drawing him from his strong position, the result indeed ought to be exceedingly feared. He is weak in numbers beyond all suspicion, and under as great apprehension from famine as from the enemy. Unless very speedy and extensive reinforcements are received from the Eastern States, which I believe are exerting themselves, the issue of the campaign must be equally disgraceful to our councils and disgustful to our allies. Our greatest hopes of being able to feed them are founded on a patriotic scheme of the opulent merchants of this city, who have already subscribed nearly £, and will very soon complete that sum, the immediate object of which is to procure and transport to the army rations, and three hundred hogsheads of rum. Congress, for the support of this bank, and for the security and indemnification of the subscribers, have pledged the faith of the United States, and agreed to deposit bills of exchange in Europe to the amount of £150,000 Edition: current; Page: [67] sterling, which are not, however, to be made use of, unless other means of discharging this debt should be inadequate.

James Madison
Madison, James
September 12, 1780
Edmund Pendleton
Pendleton, Edmund


Dear Sir,

Congress have at length entered seriously on a plan for finally ratifying the Confederation. Convinced of the necessity of such a measure, to repress the hopes with which the probable issue of the campaign will inspire our enemy, as well as to give greater authority and vigor to our public councils, they have recommended, in the most pressing terms, to the States claiming unappropriated back lands, to cede a liberal portion of them for the general benefit. As these exclusive claims formed the only obstacle with Maryland, there is no doubt that a compliance with this recommendation will bring her into the Confederation. How far the States holding the back lands may be disposed to give them up, cannot be so easily determined. From the sentiments of the most intelligent persons which have come to my knowledge, I Edition: current; Page: [68] own I am pretty sanguine that they will see the necessity of closing the Union, in too strong a light to oppose the only expedient that can accomplish it.

Another circumstance, that ought greatly to encourage us under disappointed expectations from the campaign, is the combination of the maritime powers in support of their neutral rights, and particularly the late insolent and provoking violation of those rights by the English ships at St. Martin’s. It is not probable that the injured will be satisfied without reparations and acknowledgments which the pride of Britain will not submit to; and if she can once be embroiled in an altercation with so formidable a league, the result must necessarily be decisive in our favor. Indeed it is not to be supposed, after the amazing resources which have been seen in Great Britain, when not only deprived of, but opposed by, her ancient Colonies, and the success of the latter in resisting for so long a time the utmost exertion of these resources against her, that the maritime powers, who appear to be so jealous of their rights, will ever suffer an event to take place which must very soon expose them to be trampled on at the pleasure of Great Britain.

James Madison
Madison, James
September 19, 1780
Joseph Jones
Jones, Joseph


Dear Sir,

Yesterday was employed by Congress in discussing the resolutions you left with them. Edition: current; Page: [69] The first and second were passed after undergoing sundry alterations.1 The clause in the second for allowing the expense of maintaining civil government within the ceded territory, was struck out by the committee, and an attempt to get it re-inserted in the House was negatived. It was surmised, that so indefinite an expression might subject Congress to very exorbitant claims. With respect to Virginia, I believe that expense has not been so considerable as to be much worth insisting on. The principal expenses may properly be included under the military head. The consideration of the last resolution, annulling Indian purchases, was postponed, with an intention, I believe, of not resuming it. It is supposed by some to be unnecessary; by others, to be improper, as implying that without such previous assurance Congress would have a right to recognize private claims in a territory expressly given up to them for the common benefit. These motives prevailed, I am persuaded, with more than the real view of gratifying private interest at the public expense. The States may annex what conditions they please to their cessions, and by that means guard them against misapplication; or if they only annul all pretended purchases by their own laws before the cessions are made, Congress are sufficiently precluded, by their own general assurance that they shall be applied Edition: current; Page: [70] to the common benefit, from admitting any private claims which are opposed to it.

The Vermont business has been two days under agitation and nothing done in it, except rejecting a proposition for postponing the determination of Congress till Commissioners should enquire into the titles and boundaries of New Hampshire and New York. Congress having bound themselves so strongly by their own act to bring it to an issue at this time, and are pressed by New York so closely with this engagement, that it is not possible any longer to try evasive expedients. For my own part, if a final decision must take place, I am clearly of opinion that it ought to be made on principles that will effectually discountenance the erection of new Governments without the sanction of proper authority, and in a style marking a due firmness and decision in Congress.

James Madison
Madison, James
Sepr 19th 1780
Edmund Pendleton
Pendleton, Edmund


Dear Sir,

I was in hopes when I wrote my last that I should be able by this post to congratulate you on the arrival of the French fleet from the W. Indies But so far is this from being the case that it comes from authority which seems to have a just claim to our faith that Admiral Rodney is actually at the Hook with 12 sail of the line & 4 frigates. It is still said however that a french fleet is somewhere on the coast. The arrival of Rodney is certainly an evidence Edition: current; Page: [71] that it had quited the Islands and was suspected to be coming hither. It is also given out at New York that a reinforcement of 4000 troops will arrive next month from England. Another part of our reports is that 5 or 6000 troops will embark at N. York on the 25th inst. for Virga. or S. Carolina: but it is not to be supposed that such a measure will be hazarded in the present ticklish state of things—22 sail of the Quebec fleet are carried prizes into N. England.

I am Dr Sir with sincere respect
Yr obt friend & servt.

P. S. The mortality in this place exceeds any thing ever remembered. The only person of note that occurs at present is the Lady of President Reid who fell a victim to it yesterday morning.

James Madison
Madison, James
Sepr 26h 1780
Edmund Pendleton
Pendleton, Edmund


Dear Sir,

Yesterday’s post disappointed me of the pleasure of a line from you. I hope the next will not fail to make amends for it.

I have nothing to add to the inclosed paper except that Ternay is yet unreinforced, Graves at Sea no one knows where, or for what purpose, and Rodney with 10 ships of the line still at the Hook, though according to some private accounts he also is gone to sea. In this state of uncertainty conjectures & speculations abound as usual. I shall not trouble you with them, because, as far as they are founded in reason Edition: current; Page: [72] they will be much better formed by yourself. We hear nothing further of an intended visit from N. Y. to Virginia. With sincere respect & regard

I am Dr. Sr. Yrs &c.
James Madison
Madison, James
Ocr 3d 1780
Edmund Pendleton
Pendleton, Edmund


Dear Sir,

I had the pleasure of receiving yours of the 25 ulo. yesterday and am sorry it is not in my power to gratify your hopes with any prospect of a successful issue to this campaign. The reports of the approach or arrival of a French fleet continue to be circulated, and to prove groundless. If any foreign operations are undertaken on the continent it will probably be against the Floridas by the Spaniards. A Spanish Gentleman who resides in this City has received information from the Governor of Cuba that an armament would pass from the Havannah to Pensacola towards the end of last month, and that 10 or 12 ships of the line and as many thousand troops would soon be in readiness for an expedition against St. Augustine. It would be much more for the credit of that nation as well as for the common good, if instead of wasting their time & resources in these separate and unimportant enterprises, they would join heartily with the French in attacking the Enemy where success would produce the desired effect.

The enclosed papers contain all the particulars which have been received concerning the apostacy & plot of Arnold. A variety of his iniquitous jobs prior to Edition: current; Page: [73] this chef d’œuvre of his villainy, carried on under cover of his military authority, have been detected among his papers, and involve a number of persons both within & without the Enemies lines. The embarkation lately going on at N. York, and given out to be destined for Virginia or Rhode Island, was pretty certainly a part of the plot against W. Point; although the first representation of it has not yet been officially contradicted.

With sincere regard, I am, etc.

James Madison
Madison, James
Octr 10th 1780
Edmund Pendleton
Pendleton, Edmund


Dear Sir,

Your favor of the first Inst. came safe to hand yesterday. The enclosed was sent to Mr. Pendleton who is still in town.

All we know of the several fleets in the American seas is that Rodney with a few ships is at N. York, the remainder having joined Graves & Arbuthnot whom we know nothing about. Ternay is still at Rhode Island. The main French fleet under Guichen left the West Indies about the time first mentioned with a large fleet of merchantmen under its convoy, and has not since been heard of. The residue of the french fleet is in the W. Indies but we do not hear of their being any way employed. It is said an English expedition is preparing at Jamaica against some of the Spanish settlements. The Spanish expeditions against the Floridas I believe I mentioned in my last.

Edition: current; Page: [74]

We have private accounts, through a channel which has seldom deceived that a very large embarkation is still going on at N. York. I hope Virginia will not be surprised, in case she should be the meditated victim. André was hung as a spy on the 2d inst. Clinton made a frivolous attempt to save him by pleading the passport granted by Arnold. He submitted to his fate in a manner that showed him to be worthy of a better one. His coadjutor Smith will soon follow him. The Hero of the Plot, although he may for the present escape an ignominious death must lead an ignominious life which if any of his feelings remain will be a sorer punishment. It is said that he is to be made a Brigadier and employed in some predatory expedition against the Spaniards in which he may gratify his thirst for gold. It is said with more probability that his baseness is universally despised by those who have taken advantage of it, and yt. some degree of resentment is mixed with their contempt on account of the loss of their darling officer to which he was accessory.

With sincere regard, I am, etc.

James Madison
Madison, James
Oct. 1780
Edmund Pendleton
Pendleton, Edmund


Dear Sir,

Your favour of the 8th. which ought to have been here on Monday week did not arrive till thursday; that of the 17th. came yesterday according to expectation. I know not how to account for your disappointment on the last post day having not Edition: current; Page: [75] omitted to write once since the institution of our correspondence.

Although the stroke of good fortune you mention does not appear to have been duly represented, it was only mistaken for one of equal importance which I doubt not is fully known to you by this time. Our joy on this event has been somewhat abated by intelligence of an opposite complexion from the State of N. York. Two parties from Canada composed of regulars tories Canadians and savages and amounting to about 1000 each have entered their frontiers, the one by the way of lake George, the other by the way of the Oneida lake. They have already done some mischief, and as they are pursuing their incendiary plan, will involve the inhabitants in very great distress, (it being now the eve of winter) unless a speedy check can be given to their progress. It is supposed that this expedition was intended to take advantage of the consternation in that state expected to result from the success of Arnolds treason.

We had information some days ago from Genl Washington that a fleet with about 2000 troops on Board had fallen down towards the Hook, which it was supposed was destined either for Virginia or N. Carolina. As nothing further has come from the General it is to be inferred that they have not yet sailed. It is said the fleet consisting of upwards of 100 sail has at last safely arrived. The capture of the British fleet from Jamaica rests upon the same evidence as mentioned in my last. I am Dr Sr

Affec yr. obt Servt
Edition: current; Page: [76]

P. S. The President has just communicated a letter from Mr. Harrison1 at Cadiz confirming the capture of the B. fleet. Some of the Pris[oners were] in that bay when he wrote. The number taken was not known. The fleet amounted to 60 or 70 sail, having on board military stores provisions dry goods & 1000 Highland troops for the East Indies. You will have the particulars by the next post. 5 or 6 ships also attempting to get into Gibralter with provisions have been taken by the Spanish [illegible] stationed off that place. 30 sail of French merchantmen had arrived safe from St Domingo. The post is this moment starting. Adieu.

James Madison
Madison, James
October, 1780
Joseph Jones
Jones, Joseph


Dear Sir,

I wish it was in my power to enable you to satisfy the uneasiness of people with respect to the disappointment in foreign succours. I am sensible of the advantage which our secret enemies take of it. I am persuaded also that those who ought to be acquainted with the cause are sensible of it; and as they give no intimations on the subject, it is to be inferred that they are unable to give any that would prevent the mischief. It is so delicate a subject, that, with so little probability of succeeding, it would perhaps be hardly prudent to suggest it. As Edition: current; Page: [77] soon as any solution comes out you shall be furnished with it.

We continue to receive periodical alarms from the commissary’s and quarter-master’s departments. The season is now arrived when provision ought to be made for a season that will not admit of transportation, and when the monthly supplies must be subject to infinite disappointments, even if the States were to do their duty. But instead of magazines being laid in, our army is living from hand to mouth, with a prospect of being soon in a condition still worse. How a total dissolution of it can be prevented in the course of the winter is, for any resources now in prospect, utterly inexplicable, unless the States unanimously make a vigorous and speedy effort to form magazines for the purpose. But unless the States take other methods to procure their specific supplies than have prevailed in most of them, the utmost efforts to comply with the requisitions of Congress can be only a temporary relief. This expedient, as I take it, was meant to prevent the emission of money. Our own experience, as well as the example of other countries, made it evident that we could not by taxes draw back to the treasury the emissions as fast as they were necessarily drawn out. We could not follow the example of other countries by borrowing, neither our own citizens nor foreigners being willing to lend as far as our wants extended. To continue to emit ad infinitum, was thought more dangerous than an absolute occlusion of the press. Under these circumstances, the expedient of specific requisitions was Edition: current; Page: [78] adopted for supplying the necessities of the war. But it is clear the success of this expedient depends on the mode of carrying it into execution. If, instead of executing it by specific taxes, State emissions or commissary’s and quarter-master’s certificates, which are a worse species of emissions, are recurred to, what was intended for our relief will only hasten our destruction.

As you are at present a legislator,1 I will take the liberty of hinting to you an idea that has occurred on this subject. I take it for granted that taxation alone is inadequate to our situation. You know as well as I do, how far we ought to rely on loans to supply the defects of it. Specific taxes, as far as they go, are a valuable fund, but from local and other difficulties will never be universally and sufficiently adopted: purchases with State money or certificates will be substituted. In order to prevent this evil, and to ensure the supplies, therefore, I would propose, that they be diffused and proportioned among the people as accurately as circumstances will admit; that they be impressed with vigor and impartiality; and paid for in certificates not transferable, and to be redeemable, at some period subsequent to the war, at specie value, and bearing an intermediate interest. The advantage of such a scheme is this, that it would anticipate during the war the future revenues of peace, as our enemies and all other modern nations do. It would be compelling the people to lend the Edition: current; Page: [79] public their commodities, as people elsewhere lend their money to purchase commodities. It would be a permanent resource by which the war might be supported as long as the earth should yield its increase. This plan differs from specific taxes in this, that as an equivalent is given for what is received, much less nicety would be requisite in apportioning the supplies among the people, and they would be taken in places where they are most wanted. It differs from the plan of paying for supplies in State emissions or common certificates, in this, that the latter produce all the evils of a redundant medium, whereas the former, not being transferable, cannot have that effect, and moreover do not require the same degree of taxes during the war.

James Madison
Madison, James
October 17, 1780
Joseph Jones
Jones, Joseph


Dear Sir,

The post having failed to arrive this week, I am deprived of the pleasure of acknowledging a line from you.

Congress have at length been brought to a final consideration of the clause relating to Indian purchases, [by the land companies.] It was debated very fully and particularly, and was, in the result, lost by a division of the House. Under the first impression of the chagrin, I had determined to propose to my colleagues to state the whole matter to the Assembly, with all the circumstances and the Edition: current; Page: [80] reasonings of the opponents to the measure; but, on cooler reflection, I think it best to leave the fact in your hands, to be made use of as your prudence may suggest. I am the rather led to decline the first determination, because I am pretty confident, that, whatever the views of particular members might be, it was neither the wish nor intention of many who voted with them, to favor the purchasing companies. Some thought such an assurance from Congress unnecessary, because their receiving the lands from the States as vacant and unappropriated, excluded all individual claims, and because they had given a general assurance that the cession should be applied to the common benefit. Others supposed that such an assurance might imply, that without it Congress would have a right to dispose of the lands in any manner they pleased, and that it might give umbrage to the States claiming an exclusive jurisdiction over them. All that now remains for the ceding States to do, is to annex to their cessions the express condition, that no private claims be complied with by Congress. Perhaps it would not be going too far, by Virginia, who is so deeply concerned, to make it a condition of the grant, that no such claim be admitted even within the grants of others, because, when they are given up to Congress, she is interested in them as much as others, and it might so happen, that the benefit of all other grants, except her own, might be transferred from the public to a few landmongers. I cannot help adding, however, that I hope this incident in Congress will not discourage any measures of the Edition: current; Page: [81] Assembly, which would otherwise have been taken [for the object] of ratifying the Confederation. Under the cautions I have suggested, they may still be taken with perfect security.

Congress have promoted Col. Morgan to the rank of a Brigadier, on the representations in favor of it from Governors Rutledge, and Jefferson, and General Gates. The latter is directed to be made a subject of a Court of Inquiry, and General Washington is to send a successor into the Southern department. The new arrangement of the army, sent to the General for his revision, has brought from him many judicious and valuable observations on the subject, which, with the arrangement, are in the hands of a committee.

James Madison
Madison, James
Ocr 17th 1780
Edmund Pendleton
Pendleton, Edmund


Dear Sir,

The Southern post having not yet arrived, I have not the pleasure of acknowledging the receipt of your favor, which I have found you too punctual to doubt has been [illegible].

The best news I have to give you is contained in the enclosed paper in a letter from Eustatia, which comes from a person known to many Gentlemen here who say it may be fully credited. The Saratoga a Continental vessel of 16 guns is just returned from a cruise on which she took several Jamaica prizes with a prodigious quantity of rum & sugar on board. She parted from them in a fog near the coast, and as they have not yet been heard of it is feared they have fallen back into the possession of the Enemy.

Edition: current; Page: [82]

Baron Stuben just come to town brings a report that an embarkation left N. York on thursday, but no confirmation has yet arrived from Gl. Washington or any other official source.


By a letter just recd. from the continental agt. as stated by the Commercial Committee the capture of the British fleet by the Spaniards is brought pretty nearly to certainty.


The Committee appointed to draught a letter to the Ministers Plenipotentiary at the Courts of Versailles and Madrid, explaining the reasons and principles on which the instructions to Mr Jay of the 4th. inst. are founded report the following to Mr Jay, a copy of which with the resolution directing the draught to be also inclosed to Dr Franklin


Congress having in their instructions of the 4th inst.; directed you to adhere strictly to their former instructions relating to the boundaries of the United States, to insist on the navigation of the Mississippi for the Citizens of the United States in common with the subjects of his Catholic Majesty, as also on a free port or ports below the Northern limit of W. Florida & accessible to Merchant ships, for the use of the former, and being sensible of the influence which these claims on the part of the United States may have on your negotiations with the Court of Madrid, have thought it expedient to explain the reasons and principles on Edition: current; Page: [83] which the same are founded, that you may be enabled to satisfy that Court of the equity and justice of their intentions.

With respect to the first of these articles by which the river Miss: is fixed as the boundary between the Spanish settlements and the United States, it is unnecessary to take notice of any pretentions founded on priority of discovery, of occupancy or on conquest. It is sufficient that by the definitive treaty of Paris 1763 Art. 7 all the territory now claimed by the United States was expressly and irrevocably ceded to the King of G. Britain—and that the United States are in consequence of revolution in their Government entitled to the benefits of that cession.

The first of these positions is proved by the treaty itself. To prove the last, it must be observed that it is a fundamental principle in all lawful Governments and particularly in the constitution of the British Empire, that all the rights of sovereignty are intended for the benefit of those from whom they are derived and over whom they are exercised. It is known also to have been held for an inviolable principle by the United States whilst they remained a part of the British Empire, that the Sovereignty of the King of England with all the rights & powers included in it, did not extend to them in virtue of his being acknowledged and obeyed as King by the people of England or of any other part of the Empire, but in virtue of his being acknowledged and obeyed as King by the people of America themselves; and that this principle was the basis, first of their opposition to, and finally of their abolition of, his authority over them. From these principles it results that all the territory lying within the limits of the States as fixed by the Sovereign himself, was held by him for their particular benefit, and must equally with other rights and claims in quality of their sovereign be considered as having devolved on them in consequence of their resumption of the Sovereignty to themselves.

In support of this position it may be further observed that all the territorial rights of the King of G. Britain within the limits of the United States accrued to him from the enterprises, the risks, the sacrifices, the expence in blood and treasure of the present inhabitants and their progenitors. If in latter times expences and exertions have been borne by any other part of the Edition: current; Page: [84] Empire in their immediate defence it need only be recollected that the ultimate object of them was the general security and advantage of the empire, that a proportionate share was borne by the States themselves, and that if this had not been the case, the benefits resulting from an exclusive enjoyment of their trade have been an abundant compensation. Equity and justice therefore perfectly coincide in the present instance with political and constitutional principles.

No objection can be pretended against what is here said, except that the King of G. Britain was at the time of the rupture with his Catholic Majesty possessed of certain parts of the territory in question, and consequently that his C. M. had and still has a right to regard them as lawful objects of conquest. In answer to this objection it is to be considered. 1st. that these possessions are few in number and confined to small spots. 2. that a right founded on conquest being only coextensive with the objects of conquest, cannot comprehend the circumjacent territory. 3. that if a right to the said territory depended on the conquest of the British posts within it the United States have already a more extensive claim to it, than Spain can acquire, having by the success of their arms obtained possession of all the important posts and settlements on the Illinois and Wabash, rescued the inhabitants from British domination, and established civil government in its proper form over them. They have moreover established a post on a strong and commanding situation near the mouth of the Ohio, whereas Spain has a claim by conquest to no post above the Northern bounds of W. Florida except that of Natches, nor are there any other British posts below the mouth of the Ohio for their arms to be employed against. 4. that whatever extent ought to be ascribed to the right of conquest, it must be admitted to have limitations which in the present case exclude the pretentions of his Catholic Majesty by the King of G. Britain. If the occupation of posts within the limits of the United States as defined by charters derived from the said King when constitutionally authorised to grant them, makes them lawful objects of conquest to any other power than the United States, it follows that every other part of the United States that is now or may hereafter fall into the hands of the Enemy is equally an object of Edition: current; Page: [85] conquest. Not only N. York Long Island & the other islands in its vicinity, but almost the entire States of S. Carolina and Georgia, might by the interposition of a foreign power at war with their Enemy be forever severed from the American Confederacy and subjected to a foreign Yoke. But is such a doctrine consonant to the rights of nations or the sentiments of humanity? does it breathe that spirit of concord and amity which is the aim of the proposed alliance with Spain? would it be admitted by Spain herself if it affected her own dominions? Were for example a British armament by a sudden enterprise to get possession of a sea port a trading town or maritime province in Spain and another power at war with Britain should before it could be reconquered by Spain wrest it from the hands of Britain, would Spain herself consider it as an extinguishment of her just pretentions? or would any impartial nation consider it in that light?

The right of the United States to Western territory as far as the Mississippi having been shewn, there are sufficient reasons for them to insist on that right as well as for Spain not to wish a relinquishment of it.

In the first place the river Mississippi be a more natural more distinguishable and more precise boundary than any other that can be drawn eastwardly of it, and consequently will be less liable to become a source of those disputes which too often proceed from uncertain boundaries between nations.

Secondly. It ought to be conceeded that although the vacant territory adjacent to the Mississippi should be relinquished by the United States to Spain, yet the fertility of its soil and its convenient situation for trade might be productive of intrusions by the Citizens of the former which their great distance would render it difficult to restrain and which might lead to an interruption of that harmony which it is so much to the interest and wish of both should be perpetual.

Thirdly. As this territory be within the charter limits of particular States and is considered by them as no less their property than other territory within their limits, Congress could not relinquish it with out exciting discussions between themselves & these States concerning their respective rights and powers which Edition: current; Page: [86] might greatly embarrass the public councils of the United States and give advantage to the common enemy.

Fourthly. The territory in question contains a number of inhabitants who are at present under the protection of the United States and have sworn allegiance to them. These could not by voluntary transfer be subjected to a foreign jurisdiction without manifest violation of the common rights of mankind and of the genius and principles of the American Governments.

Fifthly. In case the obstinacy and pride of G. Britain should for any length of time continue an obstacle to peace a cession of this territory rendered of so much value to the United States by its particular situation would deprive them of one of the material funds on which they rely for pursuing the war against her, on the part of Spain, this territorial fund is not needed for and perhaps could not be applied to the purposes of the war and from its situation is otherwise of much less value to her than to the United States.

Congress have the greater hopes that the pretentions of his Catholic Majesty on this subject will not be so far urged as to prove an insuperable obstacle to an alliance with the United States, because they conceive such pretentions to be incompatible with the treaties subsisting between France and them which are to be the basis and substance of it. By Art; 11 of the Treaty of Alliance eventual and defensive the Possessions of the United States are guarantied to them by his most Ils Majesty. By Art; 12 of the same treaty intended to fix more precisely the sense and application of the preceeding article, it is declared that this guarantee shall have its full force and effect the moment a rupture shall take place between France and England. All the possessions therefore belonging to the United States at the time of that rupture, which being prior to the rupture between Spain and England must be prior to all claims of conquest by the former, are guarantied to them by his most Ils Majesty. Now that in the possessions thus guarantied was meant by the Contracting parties to be included all the territory within the limits assigned to the United States by the Treaty of Paris, may be inferred from Art: 5 of the Treaty above mentioned, which declares that if the United States should think fit to attempt the reduction of the British power remaining Edition: current; Page: [87] in the Northern parts of America, on the Islands of Bermudas &c., those countries shall in case of success be considered with or dependent upon the United States; for if it had not been understood by the parties that the Western territory in question known to be of so great importance to the United States and a reduction of it so likely to be attempted by them, was included in the general guarantee, can it be supposed that no notice would have been taken of it when the parties extended their views not only to Canada but to the remote & unimportant Islands of Bermudas. It is true these acts between France and the United States are in no respect obligatory on his Catholic Majesty until he shall think fit to accede to them. Yet as they shew the sense of his most Ils Majesty on this subject with whom his C. M is intimately allied, as it is in pursuance of an express reservation to his C. M in a secret act subjoined to the treaties aforesaid of a power to accede to those treaties that the present overtures are made on the part of the United States, and as it is particularly stated in that Act, that any conditions which his C. M shall think fit to add are to be analogous to the principal aim of the Alliance and conformable to the rules of equality reciprocity & friendship, Congress entertains too high an oppinion of the equity moderation & wisdom of his C. M not to suppose, that when joined to these considerations they will prevail against any mistaken views of interest that may be suggested to him.

The next object of the instruction is the free navigation of the Mississippi for the citizens of the United States in common with the subjects of his C. M.

On this subject the same inference may be made from Art: 7 of the Treaty of Paris which stipulates this right in the amplest manner to the King of G. Britain and the devolution of it to the United States as was applied to their territorial claims, of the latter. Nor can Congress hesitate to believe that even if no such right could be inferred from that treaty, that the generosity of his C. M would suffer the inhabitants of these States to be put into a worse condition in this respect by their alliance with him in the character of a sovereign people, than they were when subjects of a power who was always ready to turn their force against his Majesty; especially as one of the great objects of the proposed Edition: current; Page: [88] alliance is to give greater effect to the common exertions for disarming that power of the faculty of disturbing others.

Besides as the United States have an indisputable right to the possession of the East bank of the Mississippi for a very great distance, and the navigation of that river will essentially tend to the prosperity and advantage of the Citizens of the United States that may reside on the Mississippi or the waters running into it, it is conceived that the circumstance of Spain’s being in possession of the banks on both sides near the mouth, cannot be deemed a natural or equitable bar to the free use of the river. Such a principle would authorize a nation disposed to take advantage of circumstances to contravene the clear indications of nature and providence, and the general good of mankind.

The usage of nations accordingly seems in such cases to have given to those holding the mouth or lower parts of a river no right against those above them except the right of imposing a moderate toll and that on the equitable supposition that such toll is due for the expence and trouble the former may have been put to.

“An innocent passage (says Vattel) is due to all nations with whom a State is at peace, and this duty comprehends troops equally with individuals.” If a right to a passage by land through other countries may be claimed for troops which are employed in the destruction of mankind; how much more may a passage by water be claimed for commerce which is beneficial to all nations.

Here again it ought not to be concealed that the inconvenience that must be felt by the inhabitants on the waters running westwardly under an exclusion from the use of the Mississippi would be a constant and increasing source of disquietude on their part, of more rigerous precautions on the part of Spain and, of an irritation on both parts, which it is equally to the interest and duty of both to guard against.

But notwithstanding the equitable claim of the United States to the free navigation of the Mississippi and its great importance to them, Congress have so strong a disposition to conform to the desires of his C. M that they have agreed that such equitable regulations may be entered into as may be a requisite security Edition: current; Page: [89] against contraband; provided the point of right be not relinquished and a free port or ports below the 31st degree of N. L. and accessible to merchant ships be stipulated to them.

The reason why a port or ports as thus described was required must be obvious, without such a stipulation the free use of the Mississippi would in fact amount to no more than a free intercourse with New Orleans and the other ports of Louisiana. From the rapid current of this river it is well known that it must be navigated by vessels of a peculiar construction and which will be unfit to go to sea. Unless therefore some place be assigned to the U. S. where the produce carried down the river and the merchandise returning from abroad may be reposited till they can be respectively taken away by the proper vessels there can be no such thing as a foreign trade.

There is a remaining consideration respecting the navigation of the Mississippi which deeply concerns the maritime powers in general but more particularly their Most Ils and Catholic Majesties. The Country watered by the Ohio with its large branches having their sources near the lakes on one side, and those running N. Westward and falling into it on the other side, will appear from a single glance on a map to be of vast extent. The circumstance of it being so finely watered added to the singular fertility of its soil and the other advantages presented by a new country, will occasion a rapidity of population not easily conceived. The spirit of emigration has already shewn itself in a very strong degree, notwithstanding the many impediments which discourage it. The principal of these impediments is the war with Britain which can not spare a force sufficient to protect the emigrants against the incursions of the Savages. In a very few years after peace shall take place this Country will certainly be overspread, with inhabitants. In like manner as in all other new settlements agriculture, not manufactures will be their employment. They will raise wheat corn Beef Pork tobacco hemp flax and in the Southern parts perhaps rice and indigo in great quantities. On the other hand their consumption of foreign manufactures will be in proportion, if they can be exchanged for the produce of their soil. There are but two channels through which such commerce can be carried on, the first is on the river Mississippi—the Edition: current; Page: [90] other is up the rivers having their sources near the lakes, thence by short portages to the lakes or the rivers falling into them, and thence through the lakes and down the St. Lawrence. The first of these channels is manifestly the most natural and by far the most advantageous. Should it however be obstructed, the second will be found far from an impracticable. If no obstructions should be thrown in its course down the Mississippi, the exports from this immense tract of Country will not only supply an abundance of all necessaries for the W. Indies Islands, but serve for a valuable basis of general trade, of which the rising spirit of commerce in France & Spain will no doubt particularly avail itself. The imports will be proportionally extensive and from the climate as well as other causes will consist in a great degree of the manufactures of the same countries. On the other hand should obstruction on the Mississippi force this trade into a contrary direction through Canada, France and Spain and the other maritime powers will not only lose the immediate benefit of it to themselves, but they will also suffer by the advantage it will give to G. Britain. So fair a prospect should not escape the commercial sagacity of this nation. She would embrace it with avidity; she would cherish it with most studious care; and should she succeed in fixing it in that channel, the loss of her exclusive possession of the trade of the United States might prove a much less decisive blow to her maritime preeminence and tyranny than has been calculated.

The last clause of the instructions respecting the navigation of the waters running out of Georgia through West Florida, not being included in the ultimatum, nor claimed on a footing of right requires nothing to be added to what it speaks itself. The utility of the privilege asked to the State of Georgia and consequently to the Union is apparent from the geographic representation of the Country. The motives for Spain to grant it must be found in her equity generosity and disposition to cultivate our friendship and intercourse.

These observations you will readily discern are not communicated, in order to be urged in all events and as they here stand in support of the claims to which they relate. They are intended for your private information and use and are to be urged so far Edition: current; Page: [91] and in such form only as will best suit the temper and Sentiments of the Court at which you reside, and best fulfil the object of them.

James Madison
Madison, James
October 31, 1780
Edmund Pendleton
Pendleton, Edmund


Dear Sir,

Congress have felt a becoming resentment of the barbarous treatment of the gentlemen in captivity at Charleston, and have directed General Washington to require of Clinton an explanation of the matter. Nothing has yet been done in consequence of it, except an application to Clinton, which, as he had at that time not been officially informed of the fact, he evaded by general assurances of the humanity, &c., of Cornwallis. General Washington had very luckily, between the application and the answer, received two of the Earl’s bloody proclamations, which he very handsomely communicated to Sir Henry.

James Madison
Madison, James
November, 1780
Joseph Jones
Jones, Joseph


Dear Sir,

Many attempts have been made to bring the Vermont dispute to an issue, but the diversity of opinions that prevail on one side, and the dilatory artifices employed on the other, have frustrated them. All the evidence has been heard, and the proposition for including it within the jurisdiction of some one of the States, debated for some time, but the decision was suspended. An arrangement of the Edition: current; Page: [92] army founded on General Washington’s letter has passed Congress, and is now with the General for his observations on it. It includes a recommendation to the States to fill up their quotas. No arrangement of the civil departments has taken place. A new medical system has been passed. Shippen is again at the head of it. Craig and Cochran have not been forgotten. The instructions relating to the Mississippi have passed entirely to my satisfaction. A committee is now preparing a statement of the reasons and principles on which they stand.

James Madison
Madison, James
November 7, 1780
Edmund Pendleton
Pendleton, Edmund


Dear Sir,

Doctor Lee and Mr. Izard, particularly the latter, have been here sometime, and I believe are not very reserved in their reflections on the venerable philosopher at the Court of Versailles. Mr. Izard, I understand, is particularly open in his charges against him. Doctor Lee on his arrival applied to Congress for a hearing on the subject of Mr. Dean’s allegations, if any doubt remained of the falsehood and malice of them, but nothing final has been done as yet in consequence of it. I have had great anxiety lest the flame of faction, which on a former occasion proved so injurious, should be kindled anew; but, as far as I can judge, the temper of Congress is in general by no means prone to it, although there may be individuals on both sides who would both wish and endeavour it.

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Congress have just finished an estimate of supplies for the ensuing year, requiring of the States the value of six millions of dollars in specie. The principal part of the requisition consists of specific articles, the residue of specie or the new emissions, receivable as specie. If the States fulfil this plan punctually, there is no doubt that we shall go smoothly through another campaign; and if they would forbear recurring to State emissions and certificates, in procuring the supplies, it may become a permanent and effectual mode of carrying on the war. But past experience will not permit our expectations to be very sanguine. The collection and transportation of specific supplies must necessarily be tedious and subject to casualties; and the proceedings of separate popular bodies must add greatly to the uncertainty and delay. The expense attending the mode is of itself a sufficient objection to it, if money could by any possible device be provided in due quantity. The want of this article is the source of all our public difficulties and misfortunes. One or two millions of guineas properly applied, would diffuse vigor and satisfaction throughout the whole military departments, and would expel the enemy from every part of the United States. It would also have another good effect. It would reconcile the army and everybody else to our republican forms of government; the principal inconveniences which are imputed to them being really the fruit of defective revenues. What other States effect by money, we are obliged to pursue by dilatory and indigested expedients, which benumb all our operations, Edition: current; Page: [94] and expose our troops to numberless distresses. If these were well paid, well fed, and well clothed, they would be well satisfied, and would fight with more success. And this might and would be as well effected by our governments as by any other, if they possessed money enough, as in our moneyless situation the same embarrassments would have been experienced by any government.

James Madison
Madison, James
Nov. 14, 1780
Edmund Pendleton
Pendleton, Edmund


Dear Sir,

Your favor of the 6th inst. came to hand yesterday. Mr. Griffin by whom you appear also to have written has not yet arrived.

It gives me great pleasure to find that the enemy’s numbers are so much less formidable than was at first computed but the information from N. York makes it not improbable that the blank in the computation may shortly be filled up. Genl. Washington wrote to Congress on the 4th. inst. that another embarkation was going on at that place, and in another letter of the 7th he says that although he had received no further intelligence on the subject, he had reason still to believe that such a measure was in contemplation. Neither the amount nor the object of it however had been ascertained.

The inroads of the Enemy on the Frontier of N. York have been distressing & wasteful almost beyond their own example. They have totally laid in ashes a fine settlement called Schoarie which was capable Edition: current; Page: [95] Genl Washington says of yielding no less than 80,000 bushels of grain for public consumption. Such a loss is inestimable, and is the more to be regretted because, both local circumstances, and the energy of that Govt. left little doubt that it would have been applied to public use.

I fancy the taking of Quebec was a mere invention. Your letter gave me the first account of such a report. A different report concerning the 2d. division of the French fleet has sprung up as you will see by the enclosed paper. It is believed here by many, and some attention given to it by all. It is also said that Rodney has sailed from N. York with 20 Ships for Europe. If he has sailed at all, & the first report be true also, it is more likely that he has gone out to meet the french.

The late exchange has liberated abt. 140 officers & all our privates at N. Y. amounting to 476. G. Washington has acceded to a proposal of a further exchange of the Convention officers without attaching any privates to them, which will liberate almost the whole residue of our officers at that place.

I am sir, etc.

James Madison
Madison, James
November 14, 1780
Joseph Jones
Jones, Joseph


Dear Sir,

I do not learn that any of the States are particularly attentive to prevent the evils arising from certificates and emissions from their own Edition: current; Page: [96] treasury, although they are unquestionably the bane of every salutary arrangement of the public finances. When the estimate for the ensuing year was on the anvil in Congress, I proposed a recommendation to the States to discontinue the use of them, and particularly in providing the specific articles required. It met, however, with so cool a reception, that I did not much urge it. The objection against it was, that the practice was manifestly repugnant to the spirit of the acts of Congress respecting finance; and if these were disregarded, no effect could be expected from any additional recommendations. The letters from General Washington and the Commissary General, for some time past, give a most alarming picture of the state and prospects of the magazines. Applications to the contiguous States on the subject, have been repeated from every quarter, till they seem to have lost all their force. Whether any degree of danger and necessity will rouse them to provide for the winter season now hastening upon us, I am unwilling to decide, because my fears dictate the worst. The inroads of the enemy on the frontier of New York have been most fatal to us in this respect. They have almost totally ruined that fine wheat country, which was able, and from the energy of their Government, was most likely, to supply magazines of flour, both to the main army and to the northwestern posts. The settlement of Schoharie, which alone was able to furnish, according to a letter from General Washington, eighty thousand bushels of grain for the public use, has been totally laid in ashes.

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I make no apology for inaccuracies and bad writing, because you know the manner in which we are obliged to write for the post, and having been prevented by company from doing anything last night, I am particularly hurried this morning.

James Madison
Madison, James
November 21, 1780
Joseph Jones
Jones, Joseph


Dear Sir,

I am glad to find you have at last got a House of Delegates, and have made so auspicious a beginning, as an unanimous vote to fill up our line for the war. This is a measure which all the States ought to have begun with. I wish there may not be some that will not be prevailed on even to end with it. It is much to be regretted that you are not in a condition to discontinue another practice equally destructive with temporary enlistments. Unless an end can by some means or other be put to State emission and certificates, they must prove the bane of every salutary regulation. The depreciation in this place has lately run up as high as one hundred for one, and it cannot be satisfactorily accounted for, on any other principle than the substitution of certificates in the payment of those taxes which were intended to reduce its quantity and keep up a demand for it. The immediate cause of this event is said to have been the sudden conversion of a large quantity of paper into specie, by some tories lately Edition: current; Page: [98] ordered into exile by this State. It is at present on the fall, and I am told the merchants have associated to bring it down and fix it at 75. The fate of the new money is as yet suspended. There is but too much reason, however, to fear that it will follow the fate of the old. According to the arrangement now in force, it would seem impossible for it to rise above one for forty. The resolutions of Congress which establish that relation between the two kinds of paper, must destroy the equality of the new with specie, unless the old can be kept down at forty for one. In New Jersey, I am told, the Legislature has lately empowered the Executive to regulate the exchange between the two papers, according to the exchange between the old and the new, in order to preserve the equality of the latter with specie. The issue of this experiment is of consequence, and may throw light perhaps on our paper finance. The only infallible remedy, whilst we cannot command specie, for the pecuniary embarrassments we labor under, will, after all, be found to be a punctual collection of the taxes required by Congress.

I hope you will not forget to call the attention of the Assembly, as early as the preparations for defence will admit, to the means of ratifying the Confederation, nor to remind it of the conditions which prudence requires should be annexed to any territorial cession that may be agreed on. I do not believe there is any serious design in Congress to gratify the avidity of land mongers, but the best security for their virtue, in this respect, will be to keep it out of Edition: current; Page: [99] their power. They have been much infested, since you left us, with memorials from these people; who appear to be equally alarmed and perplexed. Mr. G. Morgan, as agent for the Indiana claimants, after memorializing Congress on the subject, has honored the Virginia delegates with a separate attention. He very modestly proposes to them a reference of the controversy between the company and Virginia to arbitration, in the mode pointed out in the Confederation for adjusting disputes between State and State. We have given him for answer, that as the State we represent had finally determined the question, we could not, with any propriety, attend to his proposition; observing at the same time, that if we were less precluded, we could not reconcile with the sovereignty and honor of the State an appeal from its own jurisdiction to a foreign tribunal, in a controversy with private individuals.

James Madison
Madison, James
Novr 21, 1789
Edmund Pendleton
Pendleton, Edmund


Dear Sir

Your favor of the 13th. came safe yesterday. The past week has brought forth very little of consequence, except the disagreeable and I fear certain information of the arrival of the Cape fleet. Our last account of the embarkation at N. York was that the Ships had fallen down to the Hook, that the number of troops was quite unknown, as well as their destination, except in general that it was Southwardly. It is still said that Philips is to command Edition: current; Page: [100] this detachment. If the projected junction between Leslie & Cornwallis had not been so opportunely frustrated by the gallant volunteers at King’s Mountain it is probable that Philips would have reinforced the former, as the great force in his rear would otherwise have rendered every advance hazardous. At present it seems more likely that the declining state of their Southern affairs will call their attention to that quarter. They can it is well known regain at any time their present footing in Virginia if it should be thought expedient to abandon it, or to collect in their forces to a defensible point. But every retrograde step they take towards Charleston proves fatal to their general plan. M. J. Adams in a letter of the 23d. of Augst. from Amsterdam received yesterday, says that Gen. Prevost had sailed from England with a few frigates for Cape fear in order to facilitate the operations of their arms in N. Carolina, and that the Ministry were determined to make the Southern States the scene of a very active winter campaign. No intimation is given by Mr. Adams of the number of troops under Genl Prevost. The 2d. division of the French fleet mentioned in my last to have been off the Bermudas has not yet made its appearance. It is now rather supposed to have been a British one. The death of Genl. Woodford is announced in a N. York paper of the 17th. I have not seen the paper, but am told that no particulars are mentioned. I suppose it will reach his friends before this will be recd., through some other channel.


Edition: current; Page: [101]
James Madison
Madison, James
November 25, 1780
Joseph Jones
Jones, Joseph


Dear Sir,

I informed you some time ago that the instructions to Mr. Jay had passed Congress in a form which was entirely to my mind. I since informed you that a committee was preparing a letter to him explanatory of the principles and objects of the instructions. This letter also passed in a form equally satisfactory. I did not suppose that any thing further would be done on the subject, at least till further intelligence should arrive from Mr. Jay. It now appears that I was mistaken. The Delegates from Georgia and South Carolina, apprehensive that a uti possidetis may be obtruded on the belligerent powers by the armed neutrality in Europe, and hoping that the accession of Spain to the alliance will give greater concert and success to the military operations that may be pursued for the recovery of their States, and likewise add weight to the means that may be used for obviating a uti possidetis, have moved for a reconsideration of the instructions in order to empower Mr. Jay, in case of necessity, to yield to the claims of Spain in consideration of her guaranteeing our independence, and affording us a handsome subsidy. The expediency of such a motion is further urged, from the dangerous negotiations now on foot, by British emissaries, for detaching Spain from the war. Wednesday last was assigned for the consideration of this motion, Edition: current; Page: [102] and it has continued the order of the day ever since, without being taken up. What the fate of it will be I do not predict; but, whatever its own fate may be, it must do mischief in its operation. It will not probably be concealed that such a motion has been made and supported, and the weight which our demands would derive from unanimity and decision must be lost. I flatter myself, however, that Congress will see the impropriety of sacrificing the acknowledged limits and claims of any State, without the express concurrence of such State. Obstacles enough will be thrown in the way of peace, if it is to be bid for at the expense of particular members of the Union. The Eastern States must, on the first suggestion, take the alarm for their fisheries. If they will not support other States in their rights, they cannot expect to be supported themselves when theirs come into question.

In this important business, which so deeply affects the claims and interests of Virginia, and which I know she has so much at heart, I have not the satisfaction to harmonize in sentiment with my colleague.1 Edition: current; Page: [103] He has embraced an opinion that we have no just claim to the subject in controversy between us and Spain, and that it is the interest of Virginia not to adhere to it. Under this impression, he drew up a letter to the Executive, to be communicated to the Legislature, stating in general the difficulty Congress might be under, and calling their attention to a revision of their instructions to their delegates on the subject. I was obliged to object to such a step, and, in order to prevent it, observed that the instructions Edition: current; Page: [104] were given by the Legislature of Virginia on mature consideration of the case, and on a supposition that Spain would make the demands she has done; that no other event has occurred to change the mind of our constituents, but the armed neutrality in Europe, and the successes of the enemy to the southward, which are as well known to them as to ourselves; that we might every moment expect a third delegate here, who would either adjust or decide the difference in opinion between us, and that whatever went from the Delegation would then go in its proper form and have its proper effect; that if the instructions from Virginia were to be revised, and their ultimatum reduced, it could not be concealed in so populous an Assembly, and that every thing which our minister should be authorized to yield, would be insisted on; that Mr. Jay’s last despatches encouraged us to expect that Spain would not be inflexible if we were so, that we might every day expect to have more satisfactory information from him; that finally if it should be thought expedient to listen to the pretensions of Spain, it would be best, before we took any decisive step in the matter, to take the counsel of those who best know the interests, and have the greatest influence on the opinions, of our constituents; that as you were both a member of Congress and of the Legislature, and were now with the latter, you would be an unexceptionable medium for effecting this, and that I would write to you for the purpose by the first safe conveyance.

These objections had not the weight with my Edition: current; Page: [105] colleague which they had with me. He adhered to his first determination, and has, I believe, sent the letter above-mentioned by Mr. Walker, who will, I suppose, soon forward it to the Governor. You will readily conceive the embarrassments this affair must have cost me. All that I have to ask of you is, that if my refusing to concur with my colleague in recommending to the Legislature a revision of their instructions should be misconstrued by any, you will be so good as to place it in its true light; and if you agree with me as to the danger of giving express power to concede, or the inexpediency of conceding, that you will consult with gentlemen of the above description, and acquaint me with the result.

I need not observe to you that the alarms with respect to the inflexibility of Spain in her demands, the progress of British intrigues at Madrid, and the danger of the uti possidetis, may with no small probability be regarded as artifices for securing her object on the Mississippi. Mr. Adams, in a late letter from Amsterdam, a copy of which has been enclosed to the Governor, supposes that the pretended success of the British emissaries at Madrid is nothing but a ministerial finesse to facilitate the loans and keep up the spirits of the people.

This will be conveyed by Col. Grayson, who has promised to deliver it himself; or, if any thing unforeseen should prevent his going to Richmond, to put it into such hands as will equally ensure its safe delivery.

Edition: current; Page: [106]
James Madison
Madison, James
November 28, 1780
Joseph Jones
Jones, Joseph


Dear Sir,

Yours of the eighteenth came yesterday. I am glad to find the Legislature persist in their resolution to recruit their line of the army for the war; though without deciding on the expediency of the mode under their consideration, would it not be as well to liberate and make soldiers at once of the blacks themselves, as to make them instruments for enlisting white soldiers?2 It would certainly be more consonant Edition: current; Page: [107] to the principles of liberty, which ought never to be lost sight of in a contest for liberty; and with white officers and a majority of white soldiers, no imaginable danger could be feared from themselves, as there certainly could be none from the effect of the example on those who should remain in bondage; experience having shewn that a freedman immediately loses all attachment and sympathy with his former fellow-slaves.

We have enclosed to the Governor a copy of an act of the Legislature of Connecticut, ceding some of their territorial claims to the United States, which he will doubtless communicate to the Assembly. They reserve the jurisdiction to themselves, and clog the cession with some other conditions which greatly depreciate it, and are the more extraordinary as their title to the land is so controvertible a one.

The association of the merchants for fixing the depreciation seems likely to prove a salutary measure; it reduced it from 90 and 100 to 75 at once, which is its present current rate; although it is observed that many of the retailers elude the force of it by raising the price in hard money.

James Madison
Madison, James
Decr 5th, 1780
Edmund Pendleton
Pendleton, Edmund


Dr. Sr.,—

I have your favor of the 27th ult., and congratulate you on the deliverance of our Country from the distresses of actual invasion. The spirit it has shewn on this occasion will I hope in some degree protect it from a second visit.

Edition: current; Page: [108]

Congress yesterday received letters from Mr. Jay & Mr. Carmichael as late as the 4 & 9th of Sepr. The general tenor of them is that we are not to rely on much aid in the article of cash from Spain, her finances & credit being scarcely adequate to her own necessities, and that the B. emissaries are indefatigable in misrepresenting our affairs in that kingdom and in endeavoring to detach it from the war. The character however of the Catholic King for steadiness and probity, and the entire confidence of our allies in him, forbid any distrust on our part. Portugal on the pressing remonstrances of France & Spain has at length agreed to shut her ports agst. English prizes but still refuses to accede to the armed neutrality. Mr. Adams writes that the [news of the] fate of the Quebec and Jamaica fleets arrived in London nearly about the same time and had a very serious effect on all ranks as well as on stocks and insurance.

Our information from the W. Indies gives a melancholy picture of the effects of the late tempest. Martinique has suffered very considerably both in shipping & people. Not less than 600 houses have been destroyed in St. Vincents. The Spaniards in Cuba also have not escaped, and it is reported that their fleet on its way from the Havannah to Pensacola has been so disabled & dispersed as to defeat the expedition for the present. On the other side our Enemies have suffered severely. The Ajax a ship of the line and two frigates stationed off St. Lucie to intercept the Martinique trade are certainly lost with the greatest part, if not the whole, of their crews; and Edition: current; Page: [109] there is great reason to believe that several other capital ships that have not been since heard of have shared the like fate. The Island of St. Lucie is totally defaced. In Barbadoes also scarce a house remains entire and 1500 persons at least have perished. One of the largest towns in Jamaica has been totally swept away and the island otherwise much damaged. The consequences of this calamity must afford a striking proof to G. Britain of her folly in shutting our ports against her W. India commerce and transferring the advantage of our friendship to her Enemies.

I am, etc.
James Madison
Madison, James
Decemr., 1780
Edmund Pendleton
Pendleton, Edmund


Dear Sir,

I had the pleasure of yours of the 2d. instant yesterday. We have not heard a word of the fleet which lately left the Chesapeake. There is little doubt that the whole of it has gone to the Southward.

Our intelligence from Europe confirms the accession of Portugal to the Neutral league; so far at least as to exclude the English from the privileges which their vessels of war have hitherto enjoyed in her ports. The Ariel commanded by P. Jones which had on board the cloathing &c., which has been long expected from France was dismasted a few days after she sailed and obliged to return into port; an event which must prolong the suffering which our army has been exposed to from the delay of this supply. Mr. Edition: current; Page: [110] Sartine, the Minister of the French Marine has been lately removed from the administration of that departmt. His successor is the Marquis de Castries, who is held out to us as a man of greater activity, & from whom we may hope for more effectual co-operation.

An Irish paper informs us that Mr. Laurens was committed to the Tower on the 6th of Octr. by the three Secretaries of State on suspicion of high treason. As the warrant with the names of the Secretaries subscribed with some other particulars is inserted, no hope remains of the fact being a forgery.

With very sincere regard, I am, etc.

James Madison
Madison, James
December 5, 1780
Joseph Jones
Jones, Joseph


Dear Sir,

I had yours of the twenty-fifth ultimo, by yesterday’s post. I congratulate you on the deliverance of our country from the distresses of actual invasion. If any unusual forbearance has been shown by the British commanders, it has proceeded rather I presume, from a possibility that they may some time or other in the course of the war repossess what they have now abandoned, than from a real disposition to spare. The procedings of the enemy to the southward prove that no general change of system has taken place in their military policy.

We had letters yesterday from Mr. Jay and Mr. Carmichael as late as the fourth and ninth of September. Mr. Jay informs us that it is absolutely Edition: current; Page: [111] necessary to cease drawing bills on him; that 150,000 dollars, to be repaid in three years, with some aid in clothing, &c., is all that the Court will advance for us. The general tenor of the letters is, that our affairs there make little progress, that the court is rather backward, that the navigation of the Mississippi is likely to prove a very serious difficulty; that Spain has herself been endeavouring to borrow a large sum in France on which she meant to issue a paper currency, that the terms and means used by her displeased Mr. Neckar, who in consequence threw such discouragements on it, as in turn were not very pleasing to the Spanish Minister; that Mr. Cumberland is still at Madrid laboring in concert with other secret emissaries of Britain to give unfavorable impressions of our affairs, that he is permitted to keep up a correspondence by his couriers with London, that if negotiations for peace should be instituted this winter, as Spain has not yet taken a decided part with regard to America, England will probably choose to make Madrid rather than Versailles the seat of it. However unfavorable many of these particulars may appear, it is the concurrent representation of the above ministers that our disappointment of pecuniary succor at Madrid is to be imputed to the want of ability and not of inclination to supply us, that the steadiness of His Catholic Majesty is entirely confided in by the French Ambassador, and that the mysterious conduct of Mr. Cumberland and of the Court of Spain towards him, seems to excite no uneasiness in the Ambassador. The letters add, Edition: current; Page: [112] that, on the pressing remonstrances of France and Spain, Portugal had agreed to shut her ports against English prizes, but that she persisted in her refusal to accede to the armed neutrality.

The receipt of the foregoing intelligence has awakened the attention of the Georgia delegates to their motion, of which I informed you particularly by Col. Grayson. It has lain, ever since it was made, undisturbed on the table. This morning is assigned for the consideration of it, and I expect it will without fail be taken up. I do not believe Congress will adopt it without the express concurrence of all the States immediately interested. Both my principles and my instructions will determine me to oppose it. Virginia, and the United States in general, are too deeply interested in the subject of controversy to give it up, as long as there is a possibility of retaining it. And I have ever considered the mysterious and reserved behaviour of Spain, particularly her backwardness in the article of money, as intended to alarm us into concessions, rather than as the effect of a real indifference to our fate or to any alliance with us. I am very anxious, notwithstanding, to have an answer to my letter by Grayson.

James Madison
Madison, James
December 12, 1780
Joseph Jones
Jones, Joseph


Dear Sir,

Agreeably to your favor of the second instant, which came to hand yesterday, I shall send Edition: current; Page: [113] this to Fredericksburg. I am sorry that either your own health or that of your lady should oblige you to leave the Legislature before the principal business of the session is finished. I shall be more sorry, if either of these causes should disappoint my hopes of your return to Philadelphia at the promised time. I am the more anxious for your return, because I suppose it will supersede the proposed measure of sending an Envoy to Congress on the business you mention. If the facts are transmitted by the Speaker of the Assembly or the Executive, may they not be laid before Congress with as much efficacy by the established Representatives of the State as by a special messenger? And will not the latter mode in some measure imply a distrust in the former one, and lower us in the eyes of Congress and the public? The application to the Court of France has been anticipated. Congress have even gone so far as to appoint an Envoy Extraordinary to solicit the necessary aids. Colonel Laurens was invested yesterday with that office. I leave the measure to your own reflection. How far it may be expedient to urge Spain to assist us, before she is convinced of the reasonableness of our pretensions, ought to be well weighed before it be tried. The liberty we took in drawing on her for money, excited no small astonishment, and probably gave an idea of our distress, which confirmed her hopes of concession on our part. Accounts received since my last, repeat her inflexibility with regard to the object1 in question between us. It is indispensable Edition: current; Page: [114] that we should in some way or other know the ultimate sense of our constituents on this important matter.

Mr. Laurens is certainly in captivity. An Irish paper tells us he was committed to the Tower on the sixth of October, under a warrant from the three Secretaries of State. Portugal has acceded to the neutral league so far as to exclude the English from the privileges her armed vessels have hitherto enjoyed in her ports. The Ariel, with Paul Jones, and the clothing &c., on board, was dismasted a day or two after she sailed, and obliged to put back into port. If General Washington detaches no further aid to the southward, it will be owing to the reduction of his force by the expiration of enlistments. The Pennsylvania line is mostly engaged for the war, and will soon form almost the whole of the army under his immediate command.

Mr. Sartine, it seems, has been lately removed from the administration of the Naval Department, in consequence of his disappointing the general hopes formed from the great means put into his hands. When it was mentioned to me by Mr. Marbois, I took occasion to ask whether the deception with regard to the second division ought to be ultimately charged upon him, observing to him the use the enemies of the alliance had made of that circumstance. From the explanation that was given, I believe, the blame rests upon his head, and that his removal was the effect of it in a great measure; though it is possible, he may, like many others, have been sacrificed Edition: current; Page: [115] to ideas of policy, and particularly in order to cancel the unfavorable impression which the disappointment left on America. A high character is given, as might be expected, of his successor, the Marquis de Castries, particularly with respect to those qualities in which Mr. Sartine is charged with having been most deficient.

James Madison
Madison, James
December 19, 1780
Joseph Jones
Jones, Joseph


Dear Sir,

Yours of the eighth instant came to hand yesterday. I was sorry to find the Assembly had not then taken up the recommendation of Congress on the subject of the western lands. Its being postponed so late will, I fear, prevent the result of their deliberations from being communicated to Maryland before the rising of their Legislature; in which case much time must be lost, unless their Delegates be authorized to accede to the Confederation, on a cession satisfactory to themselves,—a liberality of proceeding hardly to be expected from that State, after the jealousy and reserve it has shown. I am no less sorry to find so little progress made in the plan for levying soldiers. The regular force for the southern department must be principally, it seems, contributed by Virginia, the North Carolina Assembly having broken up without making any effectual provision of that sort. One would have supposed that the fatiguing service exacted of the militia in that Edition: current; Page: [116] State, would have greatly facilitated such a measure, and yet that is assigned as the obstacle to its practicability.

I wish anxiously to hear from you on the subject stated in my letter by Grayson, and in my subsequent one by the post. Circumstances which I do not choose unnecessarily to hazard by the post, have made it expedient to lay the matter before the Assembly, that their former instructions may not be invalidated by a supposed effect of a change of situation, or may be rescinded if real. This went by W. Jones, Esquire, on his return to North Carolina, who, I suppose, will not be at Richmond till nearly Christmas. I wish it could have reached the Assembly before your leaving it.

James Madison
Madison, James
Decr 19, 1780
Edmund Pendleton
Pendleton, Edmund


Dear Sir,

You preserve your character for punctuality so well that I always have the pleasure to begin with acknowledging the receipt of a favor from you. That of the 11 instant came to hand yesterday. As the sufferings of your Militia are ascribed to the conduct of their commanding officer, I hope the disgust will be only local. A general disgust would be a very serious misfortune.

We are informed from good authority that an embarkation is taking place at N. York. From the number of Regiments & corps mentioned, it probably consists of about 4000 troops. Knyphausen & Philips Edition: current; Page: [117] it is said are to have the command of them. Their course will without doubt be directed to the Southern States.

We have a probable story from the Southward, corroborated by a paper from N. York, that Tarlton has had an encounter with Sumpter, in which he lost upwards of 100 men including the wounded & received a mortal wound himself. Sumpter is said also to have been wounded but slightly and to have lost one man only. The personal wound of Tarlton is omitted in the N. Y. Paper, but his loss otherwise is represented as greater than our own account makes it.

I am Dr Sr Yrs sincerely.
James Madison
Madison, James
Decr. 26. 1780
Edmund Pendleton
Pendleton, Edmund


Dear Sir,

I have your favor of the 18th. inst: inclosing another relating to Capt: C. Taylor with a certificate of his situation, to which I shall pay the necessary attention but cannot undertake to predict certain success.

The Danish Declaration with the step taken in consequence by the Ct of London mentioned in the inclosed are the chief news of this week. There is a report that Arnold is gone up the sound with 4000 troops towards N. London. Wishing you the compliments of the season

I am Dr Sr. yours sincerely
Edition: current; Page: [118]
James Madison
Madison, James
Jany 2d 1781
Edmund Pendleton
Pendleton, Edmund


Dear Sir,

Yesterday’s post was the first that has failed to bring me a line from you since our correspondence commenced. I hope it has not been owing to any cause which concerns your health.

We had it yesterday from under Genl Washingtons hand that another embarkation is actually departed from N. York, among [torn] to abt. 2500 troops. There is little & [torn] that they will steer the same course with the preceding detachment. Congress are under great anxiety for the States ags. which this accommodating force is to be directed, and the more so as the principal means of their defence is so little in their power. It is not so much the want of men as the want of subsistence arms & clothing, which results from the want of money that gives the greatest alarm. A disposition appears to do every thing practicable for their relief and defence.

Mr. Harrison writes from Cadiz that the combined fleets in that port, including 18 ships from the W. Indies under Guichen amounted to 68 Ships of the line. He offers no conjecture as to the manner in which they will be employed.

I am Dr Sir Yrs sincerely
James Madison
Madison, James
Jany 2, 1781
Ambrose Madison
Madison, Ambrose


Dear brother,

I recd. yesterday yours of the 19 & my father’s of the 20 Decr. I am glad to hear of Edition: current; Page: [119] your recovery, and particularly so of my mother’s whose attack was unknown to me till the receipt of my father’s letter.

The inclosed papers will give you the late proceedings of Congs. more fully tho’ often very incorrectly, than could be done in a letter. The excise on spirits distilled in the Country will probably take place. In fact, considering the aversion to direct taxes & that the imports are already loaded, I see nothing else that can be done. Besides the duty on imported rum, requires a proportional one on Country rum, & this a duty on other spirits. The tax will I presume be so guarded as to operate on stills according to the quantity really distilled.

I have recd. a letter from Mr. Maury which says that the market of Europe is very full of Tobo. & recommends it to me to [save?] as much as possible.

On leaving home I desired my father to pay Majr. Lee the sum due from me. I shd. have left the comission in your hands if you had been in the way, being apprehensive that some delicacy might arise from unsettled transactions between him & my father. I find accordingly that this has happened & that Majr Lee refuses the paymt on yt. account. I wish you to pay him if possible as I intended & promised.

Tell Capt: Dade that Gen. Knox has not yet reported on his case & that I will let him know the event of his claim as soon as it happens. Adieu.

Yrs. affy.
Edition: current; Page: [120]
James Madison
Madison, James
January 9th, 1781
Edmund Pendleton
Pendleton, Edmund


Dear Sir,

I have again the pleasure to begin with acknowledging the receipt of a favor from you, that of the first having come to han yesterday.

On Thursday last, Congress was informed by General Potts and Colonel Johnston, who came expresses for the purpose, that a general mutiny had broken out on the morning of the New Year’s day, in the Pennsylvania line, which was cantoned near Morristown, apart from the rest of the army. Every effort was made by the officers to stifle it in its infancy, but without effect. Several of them fell victims to the fury of the mutineers. The next information came from General Wayne, who wrote from Princeton, whither the troops had marched in regular order on their way to Philadelphia, as they gave out, with a determination not to lay down their arms, nor to return to their obedience till a redress of grievances should be obtained. They suffered none of their officers to be among them except General Wayne and Colonels Steuart and Butler, and these they kept under close guard, but in every other respect treated with the utmost decorum. The grievances complained of were principally, the detention of many in service beyond the term of enlistment, and the sufferings of all from a deficient supply of clothing and subsistence, and the long arrearage of pay. Several propositions and replies, on the subject of redress, Edition: current; Page: [121] passed between a deputation of sergeants, in behalf of the troops, and General Wayne, but without any certain tendency to a favorable issue. The affair at length began to take a very serious countenance, and as a great proportion of that line are foreigners, and not a few deserters from the British army, and as they showed a disposition to continue at Princeton, from whence a refuge with the enemy, who, it was said, were coming out in force for the purpose, was at any moment practicable, it was thought necessary, notwithstanding the humiliation of the step, to depute a committee of Congress with powers to employ every expedient for putting a speedy end to the discontents. The President of the State, with a number of gentlemen from this place, went up to interpose their influence. By a letter from the committee, who had proceeded as far as Trenton, received the evening before last, it appears that the President, who was ahead, and had written to General Wayne, was likely to have a confidential reception. The committee write, that an emissary of Clinton, who had appeared among the soldiers with a paper setting forth the folly and danger of adhering to a cause which had already brought so much misery upon them, promising a protection under the British Government, a body of troops to cover their escape, and the payment of all arrears due from Congress, was seized and given up to General Wayne, who handed him with his guide over to the President of this State; who placed them under the custody of his light-horse. This circumstance not only presages a fortunate issue Edition: current; Page: [122] to the mutiny, but is such a proof of attachment to the country in the most trying situation, as must effectually repress the joy and encouragement which the enemy had taken from this threatening event. The late detachment from New York, which a letter from Fredericksburg says is in the Chesapeake, is about one thousand six hundred strong, and commanded by Arnold.

James Madison
Madison, James
January 16, 1781
Edmund Pendleton
Pendleton, Edmund


Dear Sir,

I was very glad at not being disappointed in my expectation of a favor from you by yesterday’s post. Several reports, in quick succession, of the arrival and progress of the predatory band under Arnold, had rendered us exceedingly anxious to hear the truth and particulars of the matter. Some letters, by the post, tell us that the Governor and Baron Steuben were wholly engaged in removing and securing the arms and ammunition. If so, he was better employed than in writing to Congress on the subject, which, from his usual punctuality, was expected. The enterprise against Richmond, at this season, was certainly an audacious one, and strongly marks the character which directed it. Having been long sensible that the security of the country, as high up as the tide-water reaches, has been owing more to the ignorance and caution of the enemy than to its own strength or inaccessibleness, I was much less astonished at the news than many Edition: current; Page: [123] others. To those who are strangers to the sparse manner in which that country is settled, and the easy penetration afforded by its long, navigable rivers, the rapid and unopposed advances of the enemy appear unaccountable, and our national character suffers imputations which are by no means due to it.

Congress have yet received no official report of the result of the conciliatory measures taken with the revolted soldiers at Trenton. From oral and circumstantial evidence, there is no doubt that they have been successful. A discharge of a part from the service, and a supply of clothing and money to the rest, is the price of their submission. This much, considered in itself, was required by justice, and is, consequently, consistent with dignity. But, considered with respect to the circumstances attending the negotiation, there is but too much ground to suspect that it will be attributed to our fears, and is, therefore, not a little mortifying. Happily, the example, as we understand by a letter from General Washington received yesterday, had not infected the other parts of the army. As the same causes, however, which engendered this malignant humour in the Pennsylvania line, are known to exist in the other lines, we cannot be sure that the same effects will not yet take place in the latter, unless they be speedily removed. As one step towards it, Congress are endeavouring to profit by the alarm which this event must have excited in the States, by calling upon them for the means of immediately furnishing some pay to the troops of their respective lines.

Edition: current; Page: [124]

You ask me what I think of the Delegate Extraordinary to Congress.1 I wish you had told me what you think of such an appointment. It is pretty certain, I believe, that people in general will not consider it as a proof of confidence in the ordinary delegation. As Mr. Jones, who, I believe, possesses the confidence of his country, and, I am sure, will have as much weight in Congress as any man that will be sent on such an occasion, will come about the same time, and, having attended the Legislature, will be as well informed in every point of view, I cannot deny that the appointment appears to me to be, at least, a supernumerary one. I wish the good effects of it may show that I am mistaken.

The trade of this city has just suffered a very severe blow. No less than seven fine vessels have been taken out of an outward bound fleet, and carried into New York.

The emissary from Clinton, and his guide, were executed on Saturday morning last.

Edition: current; Page: [125]
James Madison
Madison, James
Jany 23, 1781
Edmund Pendleton
Pendleton, Edmund


Dear Sir,

I have nothing new this week for you but two reports: the first is that very great discontents prevail in N. York among the German Troops for causes pretty similar to those which produced the eruption in the Pennsylvania line. It is further said on this head that a party of 200 have deserted from Long Island & gone to Rhode Island. The other report is that the British minister either has or proposes to carry a bill into Parliamt. authorizing the Commanding officer in America to permit & promote a trade with us in British Goods of every kind except Linens & Woollens. This change of system is said to be the advice of some notable refugees, with a view to revive an intercourse as far as possible between the two countries, & particularly to check the habit that is taking place in the consumption of French Manufactures. Whatever their public views may be it is certain that such a plan would open fine prospects to them in a private view.

We have recd. no fresh or certain information of the designs of F. and Spain in assembling so great a force at Cadiz. There does not appear to be any object in that Quarter except Gibraltar. Should the attempts be renewed agst. that place, it will prove that the former has not that absolute sway in the Cabinet of the latter which has been generally imagined. Nothing would have prevailed on the French to recall their fleets from the Islands at the time they did but the necessity of humouring Spain on the subject of her hobby horse.

Edition: current; Page: [126]

I am glad to hear that Arnold has been at last fired at. It sounded a little unfavorably for us in the ears of the people here that he was likely to get off without that proof of a hostile reception. If he ventures an irruption in any other quarter I hope he will be made sensible that his impunity on James River was owing to the suddenness of his appearance & not to the want of spirit in the people. I am, etc.

James Madison
Madison, James
Feby, 1781
Edmund Pendleton
Pendleton, Edmund


Dr Sir,

I have your favor of the 5th. instant by the post. Col. Harrison arrived here yesterday, and as he mentions no circumstance which indicated an intended departure of the Enemy I am afraid your intelligence on that subject was not well founded. Immediately on the receipt of your former letter relating to an exchange of C. Taylor I applied to the Admiralty department, and if such a step can be brought about with propriety, I hope he will be gratified, but considering the tenor of their treatment of naval prisoners, and the resolutions with which it has inspired Congress, I do not think it probable that exchanges will go on easily, and if this were less the case, a mere passenger, under the indulgence too of a parole, can scarcely hope to be preferred to such as are suffering the utmost hardships and even made prisoners in public service.

A vessel arrived here a few days ago from Cadiz which brings letters of as late date as the last of Decr. Those that are official tell us that England is making Edition: current; Page: [127] the most strenuous exertions for the current year, & that she is likely to be but too successful in the great article of money. The Parliament have voted 32,000 seamen, and a considerable land reinforcement for their Southern army in America is sd. to be in preparation. Private letters by the same conveyance mention that the blockage of Gibraltar is going on with alacrity, and that the garrison is in such distress as flatters the hope of a speedy capitulation.

If Mr. Pendleton your nephew is still with you be pleased to return him my compliments.

With great respect I am, etc.

James Madison
Madison, James
April 3rd, 1781
Thomas Jefferson
Jefferson, Thomas


Dear Sir,

The letter from the Delegation, by the last post, informed you of the arrival of the stores here, which were to have been delivered in Virginia by one of the French ships. The infinite importance of them to the State, especially since the arrival of a reinforcement to Arnold,2 of which we are just apprized by the Marquis, has determined the Delegates to forward them by land, without loss of time. This will be attempted in the first instance, in the Edition: current; Page: [128] channel of the Quartermaster’s department, and, if it cannot be effected in that mode, without delay, we propose to engage private wagons for the purpose, on the credit of the State. Should the latter alternative be embraced, I find it will be necessary to stipulate instantaneous payment, from the Treasury, on the arrival of the wagons at Richmond, in specie or old continental currency to the real amount thereof. I mention this circumstance that you may be prepared for it. The expense of the transportation will be between five and six hundred pounds, Virginia money. The exchange between specie and the old paper, at present, is about one hundred and thirty-five for one.

The Delegates having understood that the refugees taken by Captain Tilley, on his return to Newport from the Chesapeake, consisted chiefly of persons who formerly lived in Virginia, some of whom were traitors who deserved exemplary punishment, and others vindictive enemies to the State, thought proper Edition: current; Page: [129] to make the inclosed application to the French Minister. By conversation I have since had with him on the subject, I doubt whether it will be deemed consistent with their general rules of conduct, to give up, to be punished as malefactors, any of the captives made by their fleet, which does not serve, like their land army, as an auxiliary to the forces of the United States. If these persons had been taken by their land forces, which serve as auxiliaries under the Commander-in-Chief, it seems there would have been no difficulty in the case. However, the application will certainly prevent the exchange or release to which it refers, if the Executive think it expedient to do so. On the least intimation, I am persuaded the apostates would be even sent over to France, and secured in the most effectual manner during the war. Perhaps this would not be amiss, as being not our prisoners, no use can be made of them in redeeming our citizens from captivity.

James Madison
Madison, James
April 16, 1781
Thomas Jefferson
Jefferson, Thomas


Dear Sir,

The inclosed paper is a copy of a report,2 from a committee, now lying on the table of Congress Edition: current; Page: [130] for consideration. The delicacy and importance of the subject makes me wish for your judgment on it, before it undergoes the final decision of Congress.

The necessity of arming Congress with coercive powers arises from the shameful deficiency of some of the States which are most capable of yielding their apportioned supplies, and the military exactions to which others, already exhausted by the enemy and our own troops, are in consequence exposed. Without such powers, too, in the General Government, the whole confederacy may be insulted, and the most salutary measures frustrated, by the most inconsiderable State in the Union. At a time when all the other States were submitting to the loss and inconvenience of an embargo on their exports, Delaware absolutely declined coming into the measure, and not only defeated the general object of it, but enriched herself at the expense of those who did their duty.

The expediency, however, of making the proposed Edition: current; Page: [131] application to the States, will depend on the probability of their complying with it. If they should refuse, Congress will be in a worse situation than at present; for as the Confederation now stands, and according to the nature even of alliances much less intimate, there is an implied right of coercion against the delinquent party, and the exercise of it by Congress, whenever a palpable necessity occurs, will probably be acquiesced in.

It may be asked, perhaps, by what means Congress could exercise such a power, if the States were to invest them with it. As long as there is a regular army on foot, a small detachment from it, acting under civil authority, would at any time render a voluntary contribution of supplies due from a State, an eligible alternative. But there is a still more easy and efficacious mode. The situation of most of the States is such, that two or three vessels of force Edition: current; Page: [132] employed against their trade will make it their interest to yield prompt obedience to all just requisitions on them. With respect to those States that have little or no foreign trade of their own, it is provided that all inland trade with such States as supply them with foreign merchandize may be interdicted, and the concurrence of the latter may be enforced, in case of refusal, by operations on their foreign trade.

There is a collateral reason which interests the States who are feeble in maritime resources, in such a plan. If a naval armament was considered as the proper instrument of general government, it would be, both preserved in a respectable state in time of peace, and it would be an object to man it with citizens, taken in due proportions, from every State. A navy so formed, and under the orders of the General Council of the State, would not only be a guard against aggressions and insults from abroad, but, without it, what is to protect the Southern States, for many years to come, against the insults and aggressions of their northern brethren?

James Madison
Madison, James
May 1, 1781
Edmund Randolph
Randolph, Edmund


Dear Sir,

A letter which I received a few days ago from Mr. Jefferson gives me a hope that he will lend his succor in defending the title of Virginia. He professes ignorance of the ground on which the Edition: current; Page: [133] report of the committee places the controversy. I have exhorted him not to drop his purpose, and referred him to you as a source of copious information on the subject. I wish much you and he could unite your ideas on it. Since you left us I have picked up several pamphlets which had escaped our researches. Among them are the examination of the Connecticut claim, and the charter of Georgia, bound up with that of Maryland and four others. Presuming that a better use will be made of them, I will send them by Mr. Jones, requesting, however, that they may be returned by the hands of him, Dr. Lee, or yourself, as the case may be.

James Madison
Madison, James
May 1, 1781
Edmund Randolph
Randolph, Edmund


Dear Sir,

The case of the vessel captured within North Carolina was some time since remitted to Congress by Governor Harrison. I am glad to find your ideas correspond so exactly with those I had advanced on the subject. The legislative power over captures, and the judiciary in the last resort, are clearly vested in Congress by the Confederation. But the judiciary power in the first instance, not being delegated, is as clearly reserved to the Admiralty Courts of the particular States within which the captures are made. Captures made on the high seas must fall within the jurisdiction of the State into which it shall please the captor to carry them. It will be sufficient, I believe, to insert in the instructions to privateers, a clause for Edition: current; Page: [134] preventing the grievance complained of by North Carolina. The anger of Mr. Burke was erroneous in its principle, as well as intemperate in its degree. The offender being an officer of Congress, and not of Virginia, Congress, and not Virginia, should have been resorted to for redress.

1On a consultation before Doctor Lee left us, it was determined that we ought to renew our attempts to obtain from Congress a decision on the cession of Virginia, before the meeting of the Legislature. The attempt was accordingly made, and produced all the perplexing and dilatory objections which its adversaries could devise. An indisposition of the President, which suspended the vote of Maryland, furnished an argument for postponing, which it was prudent to yield to, but which is now removed by the arrival of Mr. Wright, a new Delegate from that State. We shall call again on Congress for a simple answer in the affirmative or the negative, without going into any unnecessary discussions on the point of right; and should the decision be postponed sine die, we hope the State will consider itself at liberty to take any course which its interest shall suggest. It happens very unluckily that Virginia will only have two Representatives present during the interesting business. Mr. Jones cannot be prevailed on to wait the event. Colonel Bland thinks the validity of characters unimportant to the title of Virginia, and that the title of the natives militates against the claims of the companies. Is not my situation an enviable one?

Edition: current; Page: [135]

A further communication from the French Minister informs us, that the Court of France laments the weakness of our army; insinuates the idea of co-operation in expelling the enemy from the United States; apprehends attempts to seduce the States into separate negotiations, and hopes measures will be taken to frustrate such views. I believe, from this and other circumstances, that the Court of France begins to have serious suspicions of some latent danger. It is extremely probable, that as the enemy relax in their military exertions against this country, they will redouble the means of seduction and division. This consideration is an additional argument in favor of a full representation of the States. In a multitude of counsellors there is the best chance for honesty, if not of wisdom.

The subject of Vermont has not yet been called up. Their agents and those of the land-mongers are playing with great adroitness into each others’ hands. Mr. Jones will explain this game to you. Colonel Bland is still schismatical on this point. I flatter myself, however, that he will so far respect the united opinion of his brethren as to be silent. Mr. Lee entered fully into the policy of keeping the vote of Vermont out of Congress.

The refugees from New York have lately perpetrated one of the most daring and flagrant acts that has occurred in the course of the war. A captain of militia of New Jersey, who unfortunately fell a captive into their hands, was carried to New York, confined successively in different prisons, and treated Edition: current; Page: [136] with every mark of insult and cruelty; and finally brought over to the Jerseys, and in cold blood hanged. A label was left on his breast, charging him with having murdered one of their fraternity, and denouncing a like fate to others. The charge has been disproved by unexceptionable testimony. A number of respectable people of New Jersey have, by a memorial, called aloud on the Commander-in-Chief for retaliation; in consequence of which he has, in the most decisive terms, claimed of Sir Henry Clinton a delivery of the offenders up to justice, as the only means of averting the stroke of vengeance from the innocent head of a captive officer of equal rank to the Jersey captain. The answer of Clinton was not received when General Washington despatched a state of the transaction to Congress.

James Madison
Madison, James
May 29, 1781
Edmund Pendleton
Pendleton, Edmund


Dear Sir,

The two circumstances relating to the proposed duty on trade, mentioned in your favor of the first instant, were subjects of discussion when the measure was on the anvil. It was evident that the disposition of the States to invest Congress with such a power would be influenced by the length of the term assigned for the exercise of it. It was equally evident that no provision would satisfy the present creditors of the United States, or obtain future loans, that was not commensurate to all the public engagements. In order to reconcile these Edition: current; Page: [137] points, the duration of the impost was limited, but limited in so indefinite a manner as not to defeat the object of it. Should the increase of trade render the duty more productive than was estimated, it must the sooner extinguish the public debts, and cease. The application of Congress for such a power supposes, indeed, a confidence in them, on the part of the States, greater perhaps than many may think consistent with republican jealousy; but if the States will not enable their Representatives to fulfil their engagements, it is not to be expected that individuals either in Europe or America will confide in them. The second objection you mention was also a subject of much discussion in Congress. On one side it was contended that the powers incident to the collection of a duty on trade were in their nature so municipal, and in their operation so irritative, that it was improbable that the States could be prevailed on to part with them; and that, consequently, it would be most prudent to ask from the States nothing more than the duty itself, to be collected by State officers, and paid to a Continental Receiver; and not the right of collecting it by officers of Congress. On the opposite side it was urged, that as Congress would be held responsible for the public debts, it was necessary, and would be expected, that the fund granted for discharging them should be exclusively and independently in their hands; that if the collectors were under the control of the States, the urgency of their wants would be constantly diverting the revenue from its proper Edition: current; Page: [138] destination; that if the States were willing to give up the thing itself, it was not likely they would cavil at any form that would be most effectual; that the term proposed might be reconciled with their internal jurisdictions, by annexing to the office of collector all the powers incident thereto, and leaving to Congress the right of appointing the officer. How far it may be best to appoint the established naval officer, I am not prepared to say; but should that be found to be the case, they will exercise their new functions, not as naval officers of the State, but as invested with a separate commission by Congress, in such manner that in the former respect they are wholly exempt from the jurisdiction of Congress, and in the latter from that of the State. Such a junction of powers, derived from different sources, in the same person, certainly has its inconveniences, but there will be many instances of it in our complex government. I have met with so many interruptions this morning, that I fear I may have not done justice to the subject in my explanation of it. Another consequence is, that I must be very brief on the head of intelligence to make sure of the post.

James Madison
Madison, James
July 7, 1781
Philip Mazzei
Mazzei, Philip


My Dear Friend,

I have received two copies of your favor of the 7th of December last, and three Edition: current; Page: [139] of that of the 30th of November preceding. Having neglected to bring with me from Virginia the cypher concerted between you and the Executive, I still remain ignorant of the paragraph in your last which I suppose the best worth knowing.

The state of our affairs has undergone so many vicissitudes since you embarked for Europe, and I can so little judge how far you may have had intelligence of them, that I am at a loss where I ought to begin my narrative. As the present posture of them is the most interesting, I shall aim at nothing further at present than to give you some idea of that, referring to past events so far only as may be necessary to explain it.

The insuperable difficulties which opposed a general conquest of America seemed as early as the year 1779 to have been felt by the enemy, and to have led them into the scheme of directing their operations and views against the Southern States only. Clinton accordingly removed with the principal part of his force from New York to South Carolina, and Edition: current; Page: [140] laid siege to Charleston, which, after an honorable resistance, was compelled to surrender to a superiority of force. Our loss in men, besides the inhabitants of the town, was not less than two thousand. Clinton returned to New York. Cornwallis was left with about five thousand troops to pursue his conquests. General Gates was appointed to the command of the Southern department, in place of Lincoln, who commanded in Charleston at the time of its capitulation. He met Cornwallis on the 16th of August, 1780, near Camden, in the upper part of South Carolina and on the border of North Carolina. A general action ensued, in which the American troops were defeated with considerable loss, though not without making the enemy pay a good price for their victory. Cornwallis continued his progress into North Carolina, but afterwards retreated to Camden. The defeat of Gates was followed by so general a clamor against him, that it was judged expedient to recall him. Greene was sent to succeed in command. About the time of his arrival at the army, Cornwallis, having been reinforced from New York, resumed his enterprise into North Carolina. A detachment of his best troops was totally defeated by Morgan with an inferior number, and consisting of a major part of militia detached from Greene’s army. Five hundred were made prisoners, between two and three hundred killed and wounded, and about the like number escaped. This disaster, instead of checking the ardor of Cornwallis, afforded a new incentive to a rapid advance, in the hope of recovering his prisoners. Edition: current; Page: [141] The vigilance and activity, however, of Morgan, secured them. Cornwallis continued his pursuit as far as the Dan river, which divides North Carolina from Virginia. Greene, whose inferior force obliged him to recede this far before the enemy, received such succors of militia on his entering Virginia that the chase was reversed. Cornwallis, in his turn, retreated precipitately. Greene overtook him on his way to Wilmington, and attacked him. Although the ground was lost on our side, the British army was so much weakened by the loss of five or six hundred of their best troops, that their retreat towards Wilmington suffered little interruption. Greene pursued as long as any chance of reaching his prey remained, and then, leaving Cornwallis on his left, took an oblique direction towards Camden, which, with all the other posts in South Carolina except Charleston and Ninety-Six, have, in consequence, fallen again into our possession. His army lay before the latter when we last heard from him. It contained seven or eight hundred men and large quantities of stores. It is nearly two hundred miles from Charleston, and, without some untoward accident, cannot fail of being taken. Greene has detachments all over South Carolina, some of them within a little distance of Charleston; and the resentments of the people against their late insolent masters ensure him all the aids they can give in re-establishing the American Government there. Great progress is also making in the redemption of Georgia.

As soon as Cornwallis had refreshed his troops at Edition: current; Page: [142] Wilmington, abandoning his Southern conquests to their fate, he pushed forward into Virginia. The parricide Arnold had a detachment at Portsmouth when he lay on the Dan; Philips had reinforced him so powerfully from New York, that the juncture of the two armies at Petersburg could not be prevented. The whole force amounted to about six thousand men. The force under the Marquis De La Fayette, who commanded in Virginia, being greatly inferior, did not oppose them, but retreated into Orange and Culpeper in order to meet General Wayne, who was on his way from Pennsylvania to join him. Cornwallis advanced northward as far as Chesterfield, in the county of Caroline, having parties at the same time at Page’s warehouse and other places in its vicinity. A party of horse, commanded by Tarleton, was sent with all the secrecy and celerity possible to surprise and take the General Assembly and Executive who had retreated from Richmond to Charlottesville. The vigilance of a young gentleman who discovered the design and rode express to Charlottsville prevented a complete surprise. As it was, several Delegates were caught, and the rest were within an hour of sharing the same fate. Among the captives was Colonel Lyon of Hanover. Mr. Kinlock, a member of Congress from South Carolina, was also caught at Mr. John Walker’s, whose daughter he had married some time before. Governor Jefferson had a very narrow escape. The members of the Government rendezvoused at Stanton, where they soon made a House. Mr. Jefferson’s year having expired, Edition: current; Page: [143] he declined a re-election, and General Nelson has taken his place. Tarleton’s party retreated with as much celerity as it had advanced. On the junction of Wayne with the Marquis and the arrival of militia, the latter faced about and advanced rapidly on Cornwallis, who retreated to Richmond, and thence precipitately to Williamsburg, where he lay on the 27th ultimo. The Marquis pursued, and was at the same time within twenty miles of that place. One of his advanced parties had had a successful skirmish within six miles of Williamsburg. Bellini has, I understand, abided patiently in the college the dangers and inconveniences of such a situation. I do not hear that the consequences have condemned the experiment. Such is the present state of the war in the Southern Department. In the Northern, operations have been for a considerable time in a manner suspended. At present, a vigorous siege of New York by General Washington’s army, aided by five or six thousand French troops under Count De Rochambeau, is in contemplation, and will soon commence. As the English have the command of the water, the result of such an enterprise must be very uncertain. It is supposed, however, that it will certainly oblige the enemy to withdraw their force from the Southern States, which may be a more convenient mode of relieving them than by marching the troops from New York at this season of the year to the southward. On the whole, the probable conclusion of this campaign is, at this juncture, very flattering, the enemy being on the defensive in every quarter.

Edition: current; Page: [144]

The vicissitudes which our finances have undergone are as great as those of the war, the depreciation of the old continental bills having arrived at forty, fifty, and sixty for one. Congress, on the 18th of March, 1780, resolved to displace them entirely from circulation, and substitute another currency, to be issued on better funds, and redeemable at a shorter period. For this purpose, they fixed the relative value of paper and specie at forty for one; directed the States to sink by taxes the whole two hundred millions in one year, and to provide proper funds for sinking in six years a new currency which was not to exceed ten millions of dollars, which was redeemable within that period, and to bear an interest of five per cent., payable in bills of exchange on Europe or hard money. The loan-office certificates granted by Congress are to be discharged at the value of the money at the time of the loan; a scale of depreciation being fixed by Congress for that purpose. This scheme has not yet been carried into full execution. The old bills are still unredeemed, in part, in some of the States, where they have depreciated to two, three, and four hundred for one. The new bills, which were to be issued only as the old ones were taken in, are consequently in a great degree still unissued; and the depreciation which they have already suffered has determined Congress and the States to issue as few more of them as possible. We seem to have pursued our paper projects as far as prudence will warrant. Our medium in future will be principally specie. The States are already levying taxes in it. As the paper Edition: current; Page: [145] disappears, the hard money comes forward into circulation. This revolution will also be greatly facilitated by the influx of Spanish dollars from the Havannah, where the Spanish forces employed against the Floridas* consume immense quantities of our flour, and remit their dollars in payment. We also receive considerable assistance from the direct aids of our ally, and from the money expended among us by his auxiliary troops. These advantages, as they have been and are likely to be improved by the skill of Mr. Robert Morris, whom we have constituted minister of our finances, afford a more flattering prospect in this department of our affairs than has existed at any period of the war.

The great advantage the enemy have over us lies in the superiority of their navy, which enables them continually to shift the war into defenceless places, and to weary out our troops by long marches. The squadron sent by our ally to our support did not arrive till a reinforcement on the part of the enemy had counteracted their views. They have been almost constantly blocked up at Rhode Island by the British fleet. The effects of a hurricane in the last spring on the latter gave a temporary advantage to the former, but circumstances delayed the improvement of it till the critical season was past. Mr. Destouches, who commanded the French fleet, nevertheless hazarded an expedition into Chesapeake bay. The object of it was to co-operate with the Marquis Edition: current; Page: [146] de la Fayette in an attack against Arnold, who lay at Portsmouth with about fifteen hundred British troops. Had he got into the bay, and taken a favorable station, the event would certainly have been adequate to our hopes. Unfortunately, the British fleet, which followed the French immediately from Rhode Island, reached the capes of Virginia first. On the arrival of the latter, a regular and fair combat took place. It lasted for several hours, and ended rather in favor of of our allies. As the enemy, however, were nearest the capes, and one of the French ships had lost her rudder, and was otherwise much damaged, the commander thought it best to relinquish his object, and return to his former station. The damage sustained by the enemy, according to their own representation, exceeded that of the French; and as their number of ships and weight of metal were both superior, it does great honor to the gallantry and good conduct of Mr. Destouches. Congress, and indeed the public at large, were so sensible of this, that their particular thanks were given him on this occasion.

No description can give you an adequate idea of the barbarity with which the enemy have conducted the war in the Southern States. Every outrage which humanity could suffer has been committed by them. Desolation rather than conquest seems to have been their object. They have acted more like desperate bands of robbers or buccaneers than like a nation making war for dominion. Negroes, horses, tobacco, &c., not the standards and arms of their antagonists, are the trophies which display their success. Rapes, Edition: current; Page: [147] murders, and the whole catalogue of individual cruelties, not protection and the distribution of justice, are the acts which characterize the sphere of their usurped jurisdiction. The advantage we derive from such proceedings would, if it were purchased on other terms than the distresses of our citizens, fully compensate for the injury accruing to the public. They are a daily lesson to the people of the United States of the necessity of perseverance in the contest; and wherever the pressure of their local tyranny is removed, the subjects of it rise up as one man to avenge their wrongs and prevent a repetition of them. Those who have possessed a latent partiality for them, as their resentment is embittered by their disappointment, generally feel most sensibly their injuries and insults, and are the foremost in retaliating them. It is much to be regretted that these things are so little known in Europe. Were they published to the world in their true colors, the British nation would be hated by all nations as much as they have heretofore been feared by any, and all nations would be sensible of the policy of abridging a power which nothing else can prevent the abuse of.

James Madison
Madison, James
July 31st 1781
Edmund Pendleton
Pendleton, Edmund


Dr. Sir

I have the pleasure of your’s of the 23d. I congratulate you on your return to Caroline and on the safety of your estate from the ravages of the Enemy.

Edition: current; Page: [148]

The mail of last week having been intercepted near Wilmington has kept back the post a day later than his usual arrival, and I have now but a few moments for the discharge of my epistolary duty. The only certain information we have lately had from Europe is that the mediation tendered by Russia in the dispute between England & Holland has been referred by the former to the General pacification in which the mediation of the Emperor will be joined with it. As this step is not very respectful to Russia, it can only proceed from a distrust of her friendship, & their hopes of a favorable issue to the campaign which an intercepted letter from Ld. G. Germain shews to be extravagantly sanguine. There has been nothing from the W Indies for several weeks. General Washington is continuing his preparations & progress agt. N. York. I shall hazard no prediction with regard to the event of them. Col. Willet we understand has lately given a decisive defeat to a party from Canada or the Frontiers of N. York. With very sincere regard I am Dr Sir

Your obt friend & servant,
August 1, 1781
James Madison
Madison, James


. . . . . .

We have heard little of late from Europe, except that the Mediation proffered by Russia in the dispute between England & Holland has been referred by the Edition: current; Page: [149] former to the general pacification in which the mediation of the Emperor will be joined with that of Russia. As this step is not very respectful to Russia it can only proceed from a distrust of her friendship and the hopes entertained by Britain as to the issue of the Campaign, which as you will see in an intercepted letter from Germaine to Clinton were extravagantly sanguine. We have no late intelligence from the W. Indies. Genl Washington is going on with his preparations & operations agst N. York. What the result will be can be decided by time alone. We hope they will at least withdraw some of the invaders from Virginia. The French fleet is still at Rhode Island. The British it is reported has lately left the Hook.

Augst. 2d—Information has been recd from N. York thro’ a channel that is thought a good one, that orders are gone to Virginia for a large part of the troops under Cornwallis immediately to sail for that place. Should this be well founded the execution of the orders will announce it to you. Among other advantages attending an evacuation of Virga. it will not be the least that the communication with this place by the Bay will supply the State with many necessary articles wch. are now transported by land at so much expense & will enable you to pay for them easier by raising the price of your commodities. It gives me pain to hear that so many of the people have incautiously sold or rather given away their Tobo. to speculators when it was in no danger from the Enemy. The destruction of that article, which alarmed them, Edition: current; Page: [150] was an obvious cause of its future rise, and a reason for their retaining it till the alarm should be over. Goods of all kinds, particularly dry goods are rising here already. Salt in particular has risen within a few days from two dollars to a guinea per bushel.

I send you by this opportunity five English Grammars1 for Mr. W. Maury agreeably to his request. This is the first that has offered although I have had them on hand for some months. The price of the whole is a guinea. The price of Dr Collins medical book published here is also one guinea. If you would choose a copy on that condition I can send you one by a future opportunity. With my most affectionate regards to the family.

James Madison
Madison, James
August 14, 1781
Edmund Pendleton
Pendleton, Edmund


Dear Sir,

The controversy relating to the district called Vermont, the inhabitants of which have for several years claimed and exercised the jurisdiction of an independent State, is at length put into a train of speedy decision. Notwithstanding the objections to such an event, there is no question but they will soon be established into a separate and Federal State. A relinquishment made by Massachusetts of her claims; a despair of finally obtaining theirs on the part of New York and New Hampshire, the other Edition: current; Page: [151] claimants, on whom these enterprising adventures were making fresh encroachments; the latent support afforded them by the leading people of the New England States in general, from which they emigrated; the just ground of apprehension that their rulers were engaging in clandestine negotations with the enemy; and lastly, perhaps, the jealous policy of some of the little States, which hope that such a precedent may engender a division of some of the large ones, are the circumstances which will determine the concurrence of Congress in this affair.

James Madison
Madison, James
September 3, 1781
Edmund Pendleton
Pendleton, Edmund


Dear Sir,

I am favored with yours of the 27th ultimo. This letter will be the most agreeable of any I have long had the pleasure of writing. I begin with informing you that the Commander-in-Chief and the Count Rochambeau,—the former with a part of the American army, and the latter with the whole of the French,—are thus far on their way for the Southern Department. The American troops passed through the town yesterday. The first division of the French army to-day. The second will pass to-morrow. Nothing can exceed the appearance of this specimen which our Ally has sent us of his army, whether we regard the figure of the men, or the exactness of their discipline.

Yesterday also arrived, from his special mission Edition: current; Page: [152] to the Court of France, Colonel John Laurens. Although his success has not been fully commensurate to our wishes, he has brought with him very substantial proofs of the determination of that Court to support us. Besides a considerable quantity of clothing and other valuable articles, there are upwards of sixteen thousand stand of arms. It is rather unlucky that they found it expedient to put into Boston, instead of this place, from whence the distribution of them would have been so much more easy.

I wish I could have concluded the intelligence without adding that Admiral Hood, with thirteen sail of the line from the West Indies, lately arrived at New York, and after being joined by Graves with eight ships, put again immediately to sea. The French squadron under De Barras had previously sailed from Newport. As the expected arrival of De Grasse from the West Indies could not be unknown to Hood, there is little doubt that his activity is directed against the junction of the two French fleets.

James Madison
Madison, James
Sepr 18th 1781
Edmund Pendleton
Pendleton, Edmund


Dear Sir,

I was yesterday favored with yours of the 10th instant. The various reports arrived of late from the Chesapeake prepared us for a confirmation from our correspondents of a fortunate rencontre between the 2 fleets. A continuation of these reports although unsupported by any authentic evidence Edition: current; Page: [153] still keeps up the public anxiety. We have not heard a word of de Barras. The arrival of Digby is far from being certain, and the circulating reports have reduced his force to six ships of the line. The preparations at New York for some movement are pretty well attested. The conjectures of many are directing it against this City, as the most practicable & important object within the reach of Clinton. The successful blow struck by the parricide Arnold against the Town of New London is described, as far as the particulars are known here in the enclosed Gazette. There have been several arrivals of late from Europe with very little intelligence of any kind & with none from official sources. It all relates to the junction of the French & Spanish fleets, for the purpose of renewing the investiture of Gibraltar, and enterprising something against Minorca. Thus the selfish projects of Spain not only withholds from us the co-operation of their armaments, but divert in part that of our allies, & yet we are to reward her with a cession of what constitutes the value of the finest part of America.

Genl. Washington & the Count de Rochambeau, with the forces under them have I presume by this time got within Virginia. This revolution in our military plan cannot fail to produce great advantages to the Southern department and particularly to Virginia, even if the immediate object of it should be unexpectedly frustrated. The presence of the Commander in chief with the proportion of our forces which will always attend him, will better protect the Edition: current; Page: [154] country against the depredations of the Enemy although he should be followed by troops from N. Y. which wd. otherwise remain there, than it has hitherto been, will leave the militia more at leisure to pursue their occupations at the same time that the demands of the armies will afford a sure market for the surplus provisions of the country, will diffuse among them a share of the gold & silver of our ally & I may now say of our own of wch. their Northern Brethren have hitherto had a monopoly which will be peculiarly grateful to them after having been so long gorged with depreciating paper; and as we may suppose that the ships of our ally allotted for our service will so long as his troops remain in the U. States be kept in the Chesapeake, it will revive the trade thro’ that channel, reduce the price of imported necessaries & raise the staple of the Country once more to its proper value. I am, etc.

James Madison
Madison, James
October 2, 1781
Edmund Pendleton
Pendleton, Edmund


Dear Sir,

Yours of the 24th ulto. came safe by yesterday’s post. In addition to the paper of this day I enclose you two of the preceding week in one of which you will find a very entertaining & interesting speech of Mr. Fox, and in the other a handsome forensic discussion of a case important in itself and which has some relation to the State of Virginia.

Our intelligence from N. Y. through several channels confirms the sufferings of the B. fleet from their rash visit to the Capes of Chesapeak. The troops Edition: current; Page: [155] which were kept in Transports to await that event have since the return of the fleet been put on shore on Staten Island. This circumstance has been construed into a preliminary to any expedition to this City, which had revived, till within a few days the preparation for a militia opposition, but is better explained by the raging of a malignant fever in the City of N Y. Digby we hear is now certainly arrived but with three ships of the line only. It is given out that three more with a large number of Transports came with him and that they only lay back till it was known whether they could proceed to N. Y. with safety. This is not improbably suspected to be a trick to palliate the disappointment and to buoy up the sinking hopes of their adherents, the most staunch of whom give up Lord Cornwallis as irretrievably lost.

We have received some communications from Europe relative to the general state of its affairs. They all center in three important points; the first is the obstinacy of G. B, the second the fidelity of our ally, and the third the absolute necessity of vigorous & systematic preparations for war on our part in order to ensure a speedy as well as favorable peace. The wisdom of the Legislature of Virginia will I flatter myself, not only prevent an illusion from the present brilliant prospects, but take advantage of the military ardor and sanguine hopes of the people to recruit their line for the war. The introduction of specie will also I hope be made subservient to some salutary operations in their finances. Another great object which in my opinion claims an immediate attention from Edition: current; Page: [156] them, is some liberal provision for extending the benefits of Government to the distant parts of the State. I am not able to see why this cannot be done, so as fully to satisfy the exigencies of the people and at the same time preserve the idea of Unity in the State. Any plan which divides in any manner the Sovereignty may be dangerous & precipitate an evil which ought & may at least be long procrastinated. The administration of justice which is the capital branch may certainly be diffused sufficiently and kept in due subordination in every part to one supreme tribunal. Separate boards for auditing accounts may also be admitted with safety & propriety. The same as to a separate depository for the taxes &c., and as to a land office. The military powers of the Executive, may well be intrusted to militia officers of Rank, as far as the defence of the country & the custody of military stores make it necessary. A complete organization of the militia, in which Genl. officers would be erected would greatly facilitate this part of the plan. Such an one with a council of Field officers, might exercise without encroaching on the Constitutional powers of the Supreme Executive, all the powers over the militia which any emergency could demand.

I am, etc.
James Madison
Madison, James
Octr 9th, 1781
Edmund Pendleton
Pendleton, Edmund


Dr. Sir,

Having sent you the arguments on one side of the judiciary question relating to the property of Virga. seized by Mr. Nathan, it is but reasonable Edition: current; Page: [157] that you should see what was contended on the other side. With this view, although I in some measure usurp the task of Mr. Jones, I enclose the paper of Wednesday last. As it may escape Mr. Jones I also enclose a copy of Mr. Adams memorial to the States General. I wish I could have informed you of its being lodged in the archives of their High Mightinesses instead of presenting it to you in print.

I am, Dr Sir, etc.
James Madison
Madison, James
Oct 16th, 1781
Edmund Pendleton
Pendleton, Edmund


Dear Sir,

When you get a sight of the Resolution of the Gen. Ass. referred to in your favor of the 8th, you will readily judge from the tenor of it what steps would be taken by the Delegates.1 It necessarily submitted the fate of the object in question to the discretion and prospects of the Gentleman2 whom reports it seems have arraigned to you, but who I am bound in justice to testify has entirely supported the character which he formerly held with you. I am somewhat surprised that you never had before known of the Resolution just mentioned, especially as, what is indeed more surprising, it was both debated & passed with open doors and a full gallery. This circumstance Edition: current; Page: [158] alone must have defeated any reservations attached to it.

The N. York papers and the intelligence from thence make it evident that they have no hope of relieving Cornwallis, unless it can be effected by some desperate naval experiment and that such an one will be made. Their force will probably amount to 26 sail of the line, and if we are not misinformed as to the late arrival of three ships of the line to 29 sail. The superiority still remaining on the part of our Allies and the repeated proofs given of their skill & bravery on the water forbid any apprehension of danger. At the same time we cannot help calculating that every addition to the British force proportionally diminishes the certainty of success. A fleet of provisions amounting to about 40 sail convoyed by a 44 & 2 frigates have arrived at N. York within the week past.

Having sent all the papers containing the proceedings on the case of Mr. N. agst. V. as they came out, I shall to complete your view of it add the last effort in his favor published in the enclosed No. of the Freemans Journal. I am told however that the publisher ought to have subjoined that the privy Council interposed & directed restitution of the King of Spain’s effects. I am, etc.

James Madison
Madison, James
October 30, 1781
Edmund Pendleton
Pendleton, Edmund


Dear Sir,

I return you my fervent congratulations on the glorious success of the combined arms Edition: current; Page: [159] at York and Gloucester. We have had from the Commander-in-Chief an official report of the fact, with a copy of the capitulation, and a general intimation that the number of prisoners, excluding seamen, &c., would exceed five thousand; but no detail of our gains. If these severe doses of ill fortune do not cool the phrenzy and relax the pride of Britain, it would seem as if Heaven had in reality abandoned her to her folly and her fate. This campaign was grounded on the most intense exertion of her pecuniary resources. Upwards of twenty millions were voted by the Parliament. The King acknowledged that it was all he asked, and all that was necessary. A fair trial has been made of her strength; and what is the result? They have lost another army, another colony, another island, and another fleet of her trade; their possessions in the East Indies, which were so rich a source of their commerce and credit, have been severed from them, perhaps for ever; their naval armaments, the bulwarks of their safety, and the idols of their vanity, have in every contest felt the rising superiority of their enemies. In no points have they succeeded, except in the predatory conquest of Eustatia, of which they have lost the greatest part of every thing except the infamy, and in the relief of Gibraltar, which was merely a negative advantage. With what hope or with what view can they try the fortune of another campaign? Unless they can draw succour from the compassion or jealousy of other powers, of which it does not yet appear that they have any well-founded expectation, it seems scarcely Edition: current; Page: [160] possible for them much longer to shut their ears against the voice of peace.

I am sorry to find that the practice of impressing is still kept up with you. It is partial and oppressive with respect to individuals, and I wish it may not eventually prove so with respect to the State. The zeal and liberality of those States which make undue advances, may not find an equal disposition to re-imburse them, in others which have had more caution, or less occasion for such exertions.

You are not mistaken in your apprehensions for our Western interests. An agrarian law is as much coveted by the little members of the Union, as ever it was by the indigent citizens of Rome. The conditions annexed by Virginia to her territorial cession have furnished a committee of Congress a handle for taking up questions of right, both with respect to the ceding States, and the great Land Companies, which they have not before ventured to touch. We have made every opposition and remonstrance to the conduct of the committee which the forms of proceedings will admit. When a report is made, we shall renew our efforts upon more eligible ground, but with little hope of arresting any aggression upon Virginia which depends solely on the inclination of Congress. Since the close of the Confederation, however, it has been understood, that seven votes are necessary to carry every question. This rule, in proportion to the thinness of Congress, opposes a difficulty to those who attack. It will therefore, I believe, be impossible for the enemies of Virginia to obtain any positive injury Edition: current; Page: [161] to her rights. My greatest anxiety at present is, lest the attempts for that purpose may exasperate the Assembly into measures which will furnish new hopes to the British Court to persevere in the war, and new baits for the credulity of the British nation. The good sense of the Assembly will, however, I flatter myself, temper every expression of their displeasure with due respect to this consideration. It would be particularly unhappy, if any symptoms of disunion among ourselves should blast the golden prospects which the events of the campaign have opened to us.

James Madison
Madison, James
November 13, 1781
Edmund Pendleton
Pendleton, Edmund


Dear Sir,

Nothing definitive has taken place on the territorial cessions. That of Virginia will not, I believe, be accepted with the conditions annexed to it. The opinion seems to be, that an acceptance of the cession of New York will give Congress a title which will be maintainable against all the other claimants. In this, however, they will certainly be deceived; and even if it were otherwise, it would be their true interest, as well as conformable to the plan on which the cessions were recommended, to bury all further contentions by covering the territory with the titles of as many of the claimants as possible. We are very anxious to bring the matter to issue, that the State may know what course their honor and security require them to take. The present thinness of Congress Edition: current; Page: [162] makes it but too uncertain when we shall be able to accomplish it.

Will not the Assembly pay some handsome compliments to the Marquis, for his judicious and zealous services whilst the protection of the country was entrusted to him? His having baffled, and finally reduced to the defensive, so powerful an army as we now know he had to contend with, and with so disproportionate a force, would have done honor to the most veteran officer, added to his other merits and services, constitutes a claim on their gratitude which I hope will not be unattended to.

James Madison
Madison, James
November 18, 1781
Thomas Jefferson
Jefferson, Thomas


Dear Sir,

By the conveyance through which you will receive this, the Delegates have communicated to the State the proceedings in Congress to which the territorial cessions have given birth. The complexion of them will, I suppose, be somewhat unexpected, and produce no small irritation. They clearly speak the hostile machinations of some of the States against our territorial claims, and afford suspicions that the predominant temper of Congress may coincide with them. It is proper to recollect, however, that the report of the Committee having not yet been taken into consideration, no certain inference can be drawn as to its issue; and that the report itself is not founded on the obnoxious doctrine of an inherent right in the United Edition: current; Page: [163] States to the territory in question, but on the expediency of clothing them with the title of New York, which is supposed to be maintainable against all others. It is proper also to be considered, that the proceedings of the Committee, which we labored in vain to arrest, were vindicated not by the pretext of a jurisdiction belonging to Congress in such cases, but alleged to have been made necessary by the conditions annexed to the cession of Virginia. Although the cession of Virginia will probably be rejected, on the whole, I do not think it probable that all the principles and positions contained in the report of the Committee will be ratified. The Committee was composed of a member from Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Rhode Island and New Hampshire; all of which States, except the last, are systematically and notoriously adverse to the claims of Western Territory, and particularly those of Virginia. The opinion of the Committee is therefore no just index of the opinion of Congress; and it is a rule observed since the Confederation was completed, that seven States are requisite in any question, and there are seldom more than seven, eight, nine or ten States present; even the opinion of a majority of Congress is a very different thing from a constitutional vote. I mention these particulars, that you may be the better able to counteract any intemperate measures that may be urged in the Legislature. If the State wishes any particular steps to be pursued by the Delegates, it would be well for particular instructions to that effect to be given. These will not only be a guide to us, Edition: current; Page: [164] but will give greater weight to whatever is urged by us.

I enclose you a paper containing two of the many letters lately published in New York, with the subscription of Mr. Deane’s name. The genuineness of some of them, and particularly that to Mr. Morris, is generally doubted. There are some who think the whole of them spurious. However this may be, there is, through another channel, indubitable proof that no injustice is done in ascribing to him the sentiments advanced in these letters. Either from pique, interested projects of trade, or a traitorous correspondence with the enemy, he has certainly apostatized from his first principles.

James Madison
Madison, James
Nov. 27th, 1781
Edmund Pendleton
Pendleton, Edmund


Dear Sir,

Your favor of the 19th. instant came to hand yesterday. On the same evening arrived our illustrious General returning to his position on the North river. We shall probably however have his company here for some days at least, where he will be able to give Congress very seasonable aid in settling the military establishment for the next year, about which there is some diversity of opinion. Whatever the total requisition of men may be on the States, I cannot but wish that Virginia may take effectual measures for bringing into the field her proportion of them. One reason for this wish is the calumnies which her enemies ground on her present deficiency, but the principal one is the influence Edition: current; Page: [165] that such an exertion may have in preventing insults & aggressions from whatever quarter they may be meditated, by shewing that we are able to defy them.

The Delegates have lately transmitted to the Govr for the Assembly all the proceedings which have taken place on the Subject of the territorial cessions. The tenor of them & the reception given them by the assembly will I doubt not be communicated to you by some of your correspondents in it.

There is pretty good reason to believe that a descent on Minorca has actually taken place. It is a little problematical with me whether successes against G. B. in any other quarter except America tend much to hasten a peace. If they increase her general distress they at the same time increase those demands against her which are likely to impede negotiations, & her hopes from the sympathy of other powers. They are favorable to us however in making it more the interest of all the belligerent powers to reject the uti possidetis as the basis of a pacification.

The report of Rodney’s capture never deserved the attention it seems which was given to it.

I am, etc.
James Madison
Madison, James
Dr 11th, 1781
Edmund Pendleton
Pendleton, Edmund


Dear Sir,

I am favored with yours of the 3d instant. Other letters by the same conveyance confirm your report of the election of Mr. Harrison to the chief magistracy. Several other appointments are mentioned which I make no doubt are all well known to you.

Edition: current; Page: [166]

On whichever side Mr. Deanes letters are viewed they present mysteries. Whether they be supposed genuine or spurious or a mixture of both difficulties which cannot well be answered may be started. There are however passages in some of them which can scarcely be imputed to any other hand. But it is unnecessary to rely on these publications for the real character of the man. There is evidence of his obliquity which has for a considerable time been conclusive.

Congress have not resumed their proceedings on the Western business. They have agreed on a requisition on the States for 8,000,000 of Dollars & a completion of their lines according to the last establishment of the army. We endeavored, tho’ with very little effect to obtain deductions in the first article from the quota of Virginia but we did not oppose the aggregate of the demand in either. If we do not obtain a sufficiency of men & money from the States by regular & duly appointed calls we know by experience that the burden of the war will fall on the resources of the States wch. happen to be subject of it.

Mr. Moore late Vice Presidt. has been elected Presidt. of this State in place of Mr. Reed whose period of eligibility was out. I am, etc.

James Madison
Madison, James
Dec. 25th, 1781
Edmund Pendleton
Pendleton, Edmund


Dear Sir,

You only do me justice in ascribing your disappointment in the part of the week preceding your favor of the 16th. instant, to some other cause than my neglect. If I were less disposed to Edition: current; Page: [167] punctuality your example wd preserve me from transgressing it. As the last letter went to the post office here & you did not receive it from the post in Virga., the delinquency must have happened in that line. It is however I believe of little consequence, as I do not recollect that any thing material has been contained in my letters for several weeks, any more than there will be in this in which I have little else to say than to tender you the compliments of the day. Perhaps indeed it will be new to you what appeared here in a paper several days ago, that the success of Comodore Johnstone in taking 5 Duch E. India men homeward bound & destroying a 6th is confirmed. Whatever may be thought of this stroke of fortune by him & his rapacious crew, the Ministry will hardly think it a compensation to the public for the danger to which the remains of their possessions in the East will be exposed by the failure of his Expedition.

It gives me great pleasure to hear of the honorable acquittal of Mr. Jefferson. I know his abilities, & I think I know his fidelity & zeal for his Country so well, that I am persuaded it was a just one. We are impatient to know whether he will undertake the new service to which he is called. I am, etc.

James Madison
Madison, James
January 8, 1782
Edmund Pendleton
Pendleton, Edmund


Dear Sir,

Yesterday was opened, for the first time, the Bank instituted under the auspices of Congress. Edition: current; Page: [168] Its principal founder is Mr. Robert Morris, who has certain prerogatives with respect to it in his quality of Superintendent of Finance. It is pretty analogous in its principles to the Bank of England. The stock subscribed is 400,000 dollars. When the scheme was originally proposed to Congress for their approbation and patronage, a promise was given that as soon as it was ripe for operation the company should be incorporated. A few days ago the fulfilment of the promise was claimed. The competency of Congress to such an act had been called in question in the first instance; but the subject not lying in so near and distinct a view, the objections did not prevail. On the last occasion, the general opinion, though with some exceptions, was, that the Confederation gave no such power, and that the exercise of it would not bear the test of a forensic disquisition, and consequently would not avail the Institution. The Bank, however, supposing that such a sanction from Congress would at least give it a dignity and preeminence in the public opinion, urged the engagement of Congress; that on this engagement the subscriptions had been made, and that a disappointment would leave the subscribers free to withdraw their names. These considerations were re-inforced by the Superintendent of Finance, who relied on this Institution as a great auxiliary to his department; and, in particular, expected aid from it in a payment he is exerting himself to make to the army. The immediate interposition of Congress was rendered the more essential, too, by the sudden adjournment of the Edition: current; Page: [169] Assembly of this State, to whom the Bank might have been referred for the desired incorporation, which, it was the opinion of many, would have given them a sufficient legal existence in every State. You will conceive the dilemma in which these circumstances placed the members who felt on one side the importance of the Institution, and on the other a want of power, and an aversion to assume it. Something like a middle way finally produced an acquiescing, rather than an affirmative, vote. A charter of incorporation was granted, with a recommendation to the States to give it all the necessary validity within their respective jurisdictions. As this is a tacit admission of a defect of power, I hope it will be an antidote against the poisonous tendency of precedents of usurpation.

In the ordinance lately passed for regulating captures, which I presume you have seen, a clause was inserted exposing to capture all merchandizes produced in Great Britain, if coming into these States, and within three leagues of the coast, although the property of a neutral nation. Congress have now recommended to the States to subject them to seizure, during the war, if found on land within their respective limits. These measures had become necessary to check an evil which was every day increasing, and which both enabled and encouraged Great Britain to persevere in the war, at the same time that it mortified our ally with daily seeing the fruits of his generosity to us remitted in payment to the rival of his nation and the enemy of both.

Edition: current; Page: [170]
James Madison
Madison, James
January 15, 1782
Thomas Jefferson
Jefferson, Thomas


Dear Sir,

The result of the attack on your administration was so fully anticipated that it made little impression on me.2 If it had been consistent with your sentiments and views to engage in the service to which you were called, it would have afforded me both unexpected and singular satisfaction, not only from the personal interest I felt in it, but from the important aid which the interest of the State would probably have derived from it. What I particularly refer to is her claim to Western territory. The machinations which have long been practised by interested individuals against this claim, are well known to you. The late proceedings within the walls of Congress, in consequence of the territorial cessions, produced by their recommendations to the States claiming the Western country, were, many weeks ago, transmitted for the Legislature by a Captain Irish. By the same conveyance I wrote to you on the subject. We have the mortification to find, by our latest letters from Richmond, that this gentleman had not, at the date of them, appeared there. As it is uncertain whether that information may not have totally miscarried, it will be proper to repeat to you that the States, besides Virginia, from which the cessions came, were Connecticut and New York. Edition: current; Page: [171] The cession of the former consisted of all her claim west of New York as far as the Mississippi. That of the latter, of all her claims beyond a certain western limit, drawn on the occasion. The cession of Connecticut extended to the soil only, expressly reserving the jurisdiction. That of New York made no reservation. These cessions, with that of Virginia, and sundry memorials from the Indiana and other land companies, were referred to a committee, composed of a member from New Hampshire, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Maryland. The ingredients of this composition prepared us for the complexion of their proceedings. Their first step was to investigate and discuss the respective titles of the States to the territory ceded. As this was directly in the face of the recommendation of Congress, which professed to bury all such discussions, and might prejudge future controversies between individual members of the Union, we refused to exhibit any evidence in favor of the title of Virginia, and endeavored, though in vain, to prevail on Congress to interdict the Committee from proceeding in the inquiry. The next step of the Committee was still more obnoxious. They went fully into a hearing of the memorialists through their agent, and received all the evidence adduced in support of their pretensions. On this occasion we renewed our remonstrances to the Committee, and our complaints to Congress, but with as little effect as on the first occasion. The upshot of the whole was a report to Congress, rejecting the cessions of Connecticut and Virginia, and Edition: current; Page: [172] accepting that of New York; disallowing also the claims of the companies northwest of the Ohio, but justifying that of the Indiana company. The report seems to distrust the doctrine hitherto maintained, of territorial rights being incident to the United States collectively, which are not comprehended within any individual State; substituting the expedient of recognizing the title of New York, stretching over the whole country claimed by the other ceding States, and then accepting a transfer of it to the United States. In this state the business now rests—the report having never been taken into consideration; nor do we wish it should, till it shall have undergone the consideration of Virginia.

In whatever light the policy of this proceeding may be viewed, it affords an additional proof of the industry and perseverance with which the territorial rights of Virginia are persecuted, and of the necessity of fortifying them with every precaution which their importance demands. As a very obvious and necessary one, we long since recommended to the State an accurate and full collection of the documents which relate to the subject. If the arrival of Captain Irish had taken place before the adjournment of the Assembly, and during your stay with it, we flattered ourselves that the recommendation would have been attended to, and that the task would have fallen on you. As this was not the case, we have no hope at present of being enabled, from any other sources than the voluntary aid of individuals, to contradict even verbally the misrepresentations and calumnies which are daily levelled Edition: current; Page: [173] against the claims of Virginia, and which cannot fail to prepossess the public with errors, injurious at present to her reputation, and which may affect a future decision on her rights. Colonel Mason’s industry and kindness have supplied us with some valuable papers and remarks. Mr. Jones has also received from Mr. Pendleton some judicious remarks on the subject. We are still, notwithstanding, far from possessing a complete view of it. Will you permit me to ask of you such information as your researches have yielded, with the observations which you have made in the course of them. I would not obtrude such a request on you if the subject were not of public importance, and if it could have been addressed with equal prospect of advantage elsewhere. Indeed, if you could prevail on yourself to spare as much time as would survey the whole subject, beginning with the original charter, pursuing it through the subsequent charters and other public acts of the crown, through the government of Virginia, and referring to all the transactions with the Indians which have been drawn into the question, the public utility, I am persuaded, would sufficiently reward you for the labor.

James Madison
Madison, James
January 22, 1782
Edmund Pendleton
Pendleton, Edmund


Dear Sir,

Congress are much occupied and perplexed at present with the case of Vermont. The pretensions of that settlement to the character of an Edition: current; Page: [174] independent State, with the grounds on which they are made, and the countenance given them by Congress, are, I presume, pretty well known to you. It has long been contended, that an explicit acknowledgment of that character, and an admission of them into the Federal Union, was an act both of justice and policy. The discovery made through several channels, and particularly the intercepted letters of Lord G. Germaine, added such force to the latter of these considerations, that in the course of last summer preliminary overtures were made on the part of Congress for taking them into the Confederation, containing, as one condition on the part of Vermont, that they should contract their claims within the bounds to which they were originally confined, and guaranteeing to New York and New Hampshire all the territory without those bounds to which their encroachments had been extended. Instead of complying with this condition, they have gone on in their encroachments both on the New York and New Hampshire sides, and there is at this moment every symptom of approaching hostility with each of them. In this delicate crisis, the interposition of Congress is again called for, and, indeed, seems to be indispensable; but whether in the way of military coercion, or a renewal of former overtures, or by making the first a condition of a refusal of the last, is not so unanimously decided. Indeed, with several members, and, I may say, States in Congress, a want of power either to decide on their independence, or to open the door of the Confederacy to them, is Edition: current; Page: [175] utterly disclaimed; besides which the danger of the precedent, and the preponderancy it would give to the Eastern scale, deserve serious consideration. These reasons, nevertheless, can only prevail when the alternative contains fewer evils. It is very unhappy that such plausible pretexts, if not necessary occasions, of assuming power should occur. Nothing is more distressing to those who have a true respect for the constitutional modifications of power, than to be obliged to decide on them.

James Madison
Madison, James
January 22, 1782
Edmund Randolph
Randolph, Edmund


Dear Sir,

The repeal of the impost act by Virginia is still considered as covered with some degree of mystery. Colonel Bland’s representations do not remove the veil. Indeed, he seems as much astonished at it, and as unable to penetrate it, as any of us. Many have surmised that the enmity of Doctor Lee against Morris is at the bottom of it. But had that been the case, it can scarcely be supposed that the repeal would have passed so quietly. By this time, I presume, you will be able to furnish me with its true history, and I ask the favor of you to do it. Virginia could never have cut off this source of public relief at a more unlucky crisis than when she is protesting her inability to comply with the continental requisitions. She will, I hope, be yet made sensible of the impropriety of the step she has taken, Edition: current; Page: [176] and make amends by a more liberal grant. Congress cannot abandon the plan as long as there is a spark of hope. Nay, other plans on a like principle must be added. Justice, gratitude, our reputation abroad, and our tranquillity at home, require provisions for a debt of not less than fifty millions of dollars, and I pronounce that this provision will not be adequately met by separate acts of the States. If there are not revenue laws which operate at the same time through all the States, and are exempt from the control of each—the mutual jealousies which begin already to appear among them will assuredly defraud both our foreign and domestic creditors of their just claims.

The deputies of the army are still here, urging the objects of their mission. Congress are thoroughly impressed with the justice of them, and are disposed to do everything which depends on them. But what can a Virginia Delegate say to them, whose constituents declare that they are unable to make the necessary contributions, and unwilling to establish funds for obtaining them elsewhere? The valuation of lands is still under consideration.

James Madison
Madison, James
February 7, 1782
Edmund Pendleton
Pendleton, Edmund


Dear Sir,

Congress are still occupied with the thorny subject of Vermont. Some plan for a general liquidation and apportionment of the public debts is Edition: current; Page: [177] also under their consideration, and I fear will be little less perplexing. It is proposed that until justice and the situation of the States will admit of a valuation of lands, the States should be applied to for power to substitute such other rule of apportioning the expenditures as shall be equitable and practicable, and that Commissioners be appointed by the concurrent act of the United States and each State, to settle the accounts between them. The scheme is not yet matured, and will meet with many difficulties in its passage through Congress. I wish it may not meet with much greater when it goes down to the States. A spirit of accommodation alone can render it unanimously admissible; a spirit which but too little prevails, but which in few instances is more powerfully recommended by the occasion than the present. If our voluminous and entangled accounts be not put into some certain course of settlement before a foreign war is off our hands, it is easy to see they must prove an exuberant and formidable source of intestine dissensions.

Jaqueline Ambler
Ambler, Jaqueline
Feb. 12, 1782
James Madison
Madison, James


Hond. Sir,

A conveyance by a waggon returning to your neighbourhood this moment presenting itself I make use of it to forward a collection of papers which have accumulated since the last supply. If there are any deficiencies be so good as to point them out to me. By the same conveyance I send to Edition: current; Page: [178] Mr. W. Maury 4 English grammars the price of which is 3 dollars which he is to remit thro’ you.

The disappointment in forwarding the money by Mr. Brownlow has been sorely felt by me, and the more so as the Legislature has made no provision for the subsistence of the Delegates that can be relyed on.1 I hope some opportunity will soon put it in your power to renew the attempt to transmit it, & that the delay will have made considerable addition to it. Besides the necessity of this supply for the common occasions, I have frequent opportunities here of purchasing many scarce & necessary books at ¼ of the price which if to be had at all they will hereafter cost me. If an immediate conveyance does not present itself for the cash, I wd. recomend that a bill of exchange on some merchant here be got of Mr. Hunter, Mr. Maury or other respectable merchant, & forwarded by the post. This is a safer method than the first and I make no doubt is very practicable. I wish at all events the trial to be made & that speedily.

I recollect nothing new which is not contained in Edition: current; Page: [179] some of the late papers. Present my affectionate regards to all the family. I have not time to add more than that I am,

your dutiful son.
James Madison
Madison, James
February 25, 1782
Edmund Pendleton
Pendleton, Edmund


Dear Sir,

You have been misinformed, I find, with respect to that article in the scheme of the Bank, which claims for it the exclusive privilege of issuing circulating notes. It is true, Congress have recommended to the States to allow it such privilege, but it is to be considered only during the present war. Under such a limitation it was conceived both necessary to the success of the scheme, and consistent with the policy of the several States; it being improbable that the collective credit and specie of the whole would support more than one such institution, or that any particular State would, during the war, stake its credit anew on any paper experiment whatever.

James Madison
Madison, James
March 18, 1782
Thomas Jefferson
Jefferson, Thomas


Dear Sir,

I have met with a bundle of old pamphlets belonging to the public library here, in which is a map2 published in 1650, which, from this and other Edition: current; Page: [180] circumstances, I am pretty confident is of the same impression with that of Dr. Smith’s. It represents the South Sea at about ten days’ travel from the heads or falls, I forget which, of James River. From the tenor, however, of the pamphlet to which it is immediately annexed, and indeed of the whole collection, there is just ground to suspect that this representation was an artifice to favor the object of the publications, which evidently was to entice emigrants from England by a flattering picture of the advantages of this country, one of which, dwelt on in all the pamphlets, is the vicinity of the South Sea, and the facility it afforded of a trade with the Eastern world. Another circumstance, which lessens much the value of this map to the antiquary, is, that it is more modern by twenty-five years than those extant in Purchase’s Pilgrim, which are referred to in the negotiations between the British and French Commissaries touching the bounds of Nova Scotia, as the first of authenticity relating to this part of the world. If, notwithstanding these considerations, you still desire that a copy be taken from the map above described, I shall with pleasure execute your orders; or if you wish that a copy of Virginia, or of the whole country, may be taken from those in Purchase, your orders shall be equally attended to. I much doubt, however, whether that book be so extremely scarce as to require a transcript from it for the purpose you seem to have in view.

Edition: current; Page: [181]

Congress have taken no step in the business of the Western territory since the report of the Committee, of which I have already given you an account, and which, we hear, arrived at Richmond on the day of the adjournment of the Assembly. We wish it to undergo their consideration, and to receive their instructions before we again move in it.

James Madison
Madison, James
March 19, 1782
Edmund Pendleton
Pendleton, Edmund


Dear Sir,

The Ministerial speeches, with other circumstances, place it beyond a doubt that the plan for recovering America will be changed. A separate peace with the Dutch—a suspension of the offensive war here—an exertion of their resources thus disencumbered against the naval power of France and Spain—and a renewal of the arts of seduction and division in the United States, will probably constitute the outlines of the new plan. Whether they will succeed in the first article of it, cannot be ascertained by the last intelligence we have from Holland. It is only certain that negotiations are on foot, under the auspices of the Empress of Russia.

James Madison
Madison, James
March 26, 1782
Thomas Jefferson
Jefferson, Thomas


Dear Sir,

A letter has been lately received from you by the President of Congress, accompanied by a Edition: current; Page: [182] bundle of papers procured from the Cherokees by Colonel Campbell. As it appears that these papers were transmitted at the request of the late President, it is proper to apprize you that it was made without any written or verbal sanction, and even without the knowledge of Congress; and not improbably with a view of fishing for discoveries which may be subservient to the aggressions meditated on the territorial rights of Virginia. It would have been unnecessary to trouble you with this, had it not appeared that Colonel Campbell has given a promise of other papers; which if he should fulfil, and the papers contain any thing which the adversaries of Virginia may make an ill use of, you will not suffer any respect for the acts of Congress to induce you to forward hither.

March 30th. 1782
James Madison
Madison, James


Hond. Sir,

Mr. J. Walker has safely delivered to me three letters from you attended with the money therein specified. He has also been so obliging as to undertake the conveyance of the several articles of medicine you wanted with a gallon keg filled with good Port wine; to all which I add a large packet of Newspapers—and an almanack. The last packet I sent was by a waggon returning to your neighborhood which brought me a letter from Mr. W. Maury, by which I sent at the same time a small supply of Bark for my Mother.

Edition: current; Page: [183]

I mentioned to you in one of my former letters that I had a prospect of getting on very favorable terms a few scarce books from a library brought hither for sale by Col. Lane. My purchases of him have amounted in the whole to nineteen pounds three shillings of this currency. As I had not the money here for him, & he could not conveniently wait till it would be convenient for me to pay him, I was obliged to give him a draught on you. I hope you will be able to find means to satisfy it. If it can not be otherwise done than by a deduction from the further supply you have in contemplation for me I must submit to it. How far I shall depend on you for the resources necessary for my expenses here not included in the legal provision, and for the arrearages into which I have unavoidably fallen, will be known as soon as the assembly have finally decided on our accounts & the allowance which is to be made to us. This I suppose will be done at their session in May next. Unless liberal principles prevail on the occasion, I shall be under the necessity of selling . . . a negro.

The newspapers will give you in general the intelligence we have from Europe. As far as we are enabled to judge of the views of the British Cabinet, the misfortunes of one more campaign at least will be necessary to conquer their obstinacy. They are attempting a separate peace with the Dutch & talk of suspending their offensive war agst. us, & directing their whole resources agst. the naval power of France & Spain. If this be their real plan we may be sure Edition: current; Page: [184] they do not mean by it to abandon their pretensions to the U. States but try another mode for recovering them. During their offensive exertions agst. our ally, they can be practicing insidious ones agst. us: and if in the first they should be successful & in the latter disappointed, a renewal of a vigorous war upon us will certainly take place. The best security agst. every artifice & every event will be such military preparations on our part as will be sufficient either to resist or expell them as the case may require.

With my affectionate regards for the family
I am Hond. Sir yr. dutiful son
James Madison
Madison, James
April 2, 1782
Edmund Pendleton
Pendleton, Edmund


Dear Sir,

The only event with which the period since my last has enabled me to repay your favor of the twenty-fifth ultimo, is the arrival of four Deputies from Vermont, with a plenipotentiary commission to accede to the Confederacy. The business is referred to a committee who are sufficiently devoted to the policy of gaining the vote of Vermont into Congress. The result will be the subject of a future letter.

The thinness, or rather vacancy, of the Virginia line, and the little prospect of recruiting it, are subjects of a very distressing nature. If those on whom the remedy depends were sensible of the insulting comparisons to which they expose the State, and of the wound they give to her influence in the general Edition: current; Page: [185] councils, I am persuaded more decisive exertions would be made. Considering the extensive interests and claims which Virginia has, and the enemies and calumnies which these very claims form against her, she is perhaps under the strongest obligation of any State in the Union, to preserve her military contingent on a respectable footing; and unhappily her line is perhaps, of all, in the most disgraceful condition. The only hope that remains is, that her true policy will be better consulted at the ensuing Assembly, and that as far as a proper sense of it may be deficient, the expostulations of her friends, and clamors of her enemies, will supply the place of it. If I speak my sentiments too freely on this point, it can only be imputed to my sensibility to the honor and interest of my country.

James Madison
Madison, James
April 9, 1782
Edmund Randolph
Randolph, Edmund


Dear Sir,

I perceive, by a passage cited in the examination of the Connecticut claim to lands in Pennsylvania, that we have been mistaken in supposing the acquiescence of Virginia in the defalcations of her chartered territory to have been a silent one. It said that “at a meeting of the Privy Council, July 3d, 1633, was taken into consideration the petition of the planters of Virginia, remonstrating that some grants had lately been obtained of a great proportion of the lands and territories within the limits Edition: current; Page: [186] of the Colony there; and a day was ordered for further hearing the parties, (to wit: Lord Baltimore, and said adventurers and planters.)” The decision against Virginia is urged as proof that the Crown did not regard the charter as in force with respect to the bounds of Virginia. It is clearly a proof that Virginia at that time thought otherwise, and made all the opposition to the encroachment which could then have been made to the arbitrary acts which gave birth to the present revolution. If any monuments exist of the transactions of Virginia at the period above mentioned, or any of the successive periods, at which these encroachments had been repeated, you will have an opportunity of searching more minutely into them. It is not probable, however, that after a failure in the first opposition any further opposition will be found to subsequent grants out of Virginia.

James Madison
Madison, James
April 16, 1782
Thomas Jefferson
Jefferson, Thomas


Dear Sir,

I entreat that you will not suffer the chance of a speedy and final determination of the Territorial Question, by Congress, to affect your purpose of tracing the title of Virginia to her claims. It is, in the first place, very uncertain when a determination will take place, even if it takes place at all; and in the next it will assuredly not be a final one, unless Virginia means to be passive and silent under aggression on her rights. In every event, therefore, it is Edition: current; Page: [187] proper to be armed with every argument and document that can vindicate her title. Her adversaries will be either the United States, or New York, or both. The former will either claim on the principle that the vacant country is not included in any particular State, and consequently falls to the whole, or will clothe themselves with the title of the latter by accepting its cession. In both cases it will be alleged, that the charter of 1609 was annulled by the resumption of it into the hands of the Crown, and that the subsequent grants to Maryland, &c., denote this to have been the construction of it; that the proclamation of 1763 has constituted the Alleghany ridge the Western limit of Virginia, and that the letter of President Nelson, on the subject of a new Colony on the Ohio, relinquishes on the part of Virginia all interference with the authority of the Crown beyond that limit. In case the title of New York should alone be opposed to that of Virginia, it will be further alleged against the latter, that the treaties of 1684, 1701, 1726, 1744, and 1754, between the Government of the former and the Six Nations, have annexed to it all the country claimed by these nations and their tributaries, and that the expense of New York in defending and protecting them ought in equity to be reimbursed by this exclusive advantage. The original title of New York is indeed drawn from the charter to the Duke of York in 1663-4, renewed after the treaty of Westminister in 1674. But this charter will not, I believe, reach any territory claimed by Virginia.

Edition: current; Page: [188]

Much stress will also be laid on the treaty of Fort Stanwix, particularly as a bar to any corroboration of the claim of Virginia from the treaties of Lancaster and Loggstown. It is under this treaty that the companies of Indiana and Vandalia shelter their pretensions against the claims of Virginia, &c. &c. See the pamphlets entitled “Public Good” and “Plain Facts.” As these pretentions can be of no avail, unless the jurisdiction of Congress, or New York at least, can be established, they no otherwise deserve notice than as sources of calumny and influence in the public councils; in both which respects it is the interest of Virginia that an antidote should be applied.

James Madison
Madison, James
April 23, 1782
Edmund Randolph
Randolph, Edmund


Dear Sir,

Congress have received from the Minister of France some informal communications relative to the issue of the proposed mediation of Vienna and Petersburgh. The answer of the British Court to the preliminary articles is among them. It rejects explicitly that part of the plan which requires concurrent negotiations between her and America, and guaranties the result, as incompatible with the relation of subjects to their sovereign, and the essential interests of the Empire; alleging, at the same time, that a great part of the people are disposed to return to their allegiance, and that such a treaty would supply the rebels with new pretexts for misleading Edition: current; Page: [189] them. The final answer of the mediating Courts professes great impartiality and delicacy toward the belligerent parties; adheres to the expediency of the first plan, and hopes that it may still become, under more favorable circumstances, the basis of a general pacification.

Another letter has come to hand from Mr. Dana. His proposed step was probably taken a few days after the date of it, which was about the middle of October.

The Committee on the last application from Vermont have reported fully in their favor. The consideration of the report will not be called for, however, till the pulse of nine States beats favorably for it. This is so uncertain that the agents have returned. The recognition of the Independence of Vermont is not fully stated in the report, as a resolution, antecedent, went to authorizing a committee to treat with them on the terms of their admission. You will know the object of this arrangement.

James Madison
Madison, James
May, 1782
Edmund Randolph
Randolph, Edmund


Dear Sir,

The enclosed gazette details all the information which we have received relative to the parliamentary advances towards a negotiation with the United States. The first reports which issued from the packet which brought them, were of a very different complexion, and raised high expectations of peace. We now find the ideas of the opposition, as Edition: current; Page: [190] well as the Ministry, to be far short of the only condition on which it can take place. Those who are the farthest reconciled to concessions calculate on a dissolution of the compact with France. The Ministry will yield to the experiment, and turn the result upon their adversaries. Our business is plain. Fidelity to our allies, and vigor in military preparation,—these, and these alone, will secure us against all political devices.

We have received no intelligence which speaks a danger of a separate peace between the Dutch and Great Britain. Mr. Adams’ request of a categorical answer was taken, ad referendum, prior, if I mistake not, to the knowledge of Cornwallis’ fate; and it is not likely that after that event they would be less disposed to respect our overtures, or reject those of the enemy.

We have letters from Mr. Jay and Mr. Carmichael of as late date as the twenty-seventh of February. They differ in nothing from the style of the former. The conduct of the Spanish Court subsequent to the date of the letter received the day preceding your departure, corresponds entirely with the tenor of it as therein related. Mr. Jones will inform you of the act of Congress which that letter produced.

We have made no progress in the Western subject. We mean to desist, after one or two more attempts, and state the matter to the Assembly by next post, expecting that they will pursue such measures as their interest prescribes, without regard to the resolutions which proposed the cession.

Edition: current; Page: [191]

I beg you to keep me punctually informed of every legislative step touching the Western territory. I suppose the cession cannot fail to be revoked, or, at least, a day of limitation set to it. The condition relative to the companies will certainly be adhered to in every event. I find that those who have been against us do not wish to lose sight of the prospect altogether. If the State is firm and prudent, I have little doubt that she will be again courted. Previous to Mr. Jones’ departure, our opinions were united on the expediency of making the impost of five per cent. subservient to an honorable adjustment of territory and accounts. I have since discovered that Varnum is left out, the latter having promoted it, and that Chase is inflexible against it. Massachusetts also holds out. The expedient, therefore, would not be efficacious, and clamors would be drawn on Virginia, which it would be best should fall elsewhere. Show this to Mr. Jones. He will be with you about the twentieth instant.

James Madison
Madison, James
May 14, 1782
Edmund Randolph
Randolph, Edmund


Dear Sir,

The Ceres man-of-war, we are informed by a New York paper, arrived there, in twenty-five days, on the fifth instant, having on board His Excellency, Sir Guy Carleton, Commander-in-Chief, &c., and commissioned for making peace or war in North America. The intelligence brought by this Edition: current; Page: [192] conveyance is, that the vibrations of power between the Ministry and their rivals had terminated in the complete dissolution of the former and organization of the latter. What change of measures will follow this change of men is yet concealed from us. The bill for empowering the King to conclude a peace or truce with the revolted Colonies in North America had been brought into Parliament on the twenty-seventh of March. The language of it is at the same time cautious and comprehensive, and seems to make eventual provision for our independence, without betraying any purpose of acknowledging it. The terms peace and truce are scarcely applicable to any other conventions than national ones. And the King is authorized to annul or suspend all acts of Parliament whatever, as far as they speak of the Colonies. He can, therefore, clearly remove any parliamentary bar to his recognition of our Independence, and I know of no other bar to his treating with America on that ground. All this is, however, very different from a real peace. The King will assuredly prefer war as long as his Ministry will stand by him, and the sentiments of his present Ministry, particularly of Shelburne, are as peremptory against the dismemberment of the Empire as those of any of their predecessors. They will at least try a campaign of negotiation against the United States, and of war against their other enemies, before they submit to it. It is probable that the arrival of Sir Guy Carleton will not long precede an opening of the first campaign. Congress will, I am persuaded, give a proper verbal Edition: current; Page: [193] answer to any overtures with which he may insult them; but the best answer will come from the States, in such supplies of men and money as will expel him and all our other enemies from the United States.

We have at length brought our territorial business to an issue. It was postponed sine die on the sixth instant. We have transmitted the whole proceeding to the Governor, to be laid before the Assembly.

There are various accounts from the West Indies, which render it pretty certain that an engagement has taken place between the two fleets. The circumstances are not ascertained. The issue seems, at least, to have been so far in favor of our allies as to leave them free to pursue their course with their convoy to Hispaniola, where a junction is to be made with the Spaniards. The object of this junction is universally supposed to be Jamaica.

Since I finished the above, a letter has come to Congress from General Washington, enclosing one to him from Sir Guy Carleton, announcing his commission, in conjunction with Admiral Digby, to treat of peace with this country, and requesting a passport for his secretary, Mr. Morgan, to bring a similar letter of compliment to Congress. The request will certainly be refused, and General Washington probably directed to receive and forward any despatches which may be properly addressed to Congress.

A public audience was yesterday given to the Minister of France, in which he formally announced the birth of the Dauphin. It was deemed politic at this crisis to display every proper evidence of Edition: current; Page: [194] tionate attachment to our ally. The Minister was accordingly received with military honors, and the audience concluded with the discharge of cannon, and a feu de joi of small arms. A public entertainment followed, and fireworks at night closed the scene.

The answer reported by the committee on Mr. Dana’s letter gave him a cautionary instruction. It afterwards went to the Secretary of Foreign Affairs, and thence, I suppose, in his dress, to Petersburg. Mr. Jones will give you more satisfactory information on this, as also with respect to the answer to Mr. Jay’s letter.

Your surmises relative to a revival of paper currency alarms me. It is impossible that any evil can render such an alternative eligible. It will revive the hopes of the enemy, increase the internal debility of the States, and awaken the clamors of all ranks throughout the United States against her. Much more to Virginia’s honor would it be to rescind the taxes, although the consequence of that can but be of a most serious nature.

May 20th, 1782
James Madison
Madison, James


Hond. Sir,

Having written a letter and enclosed it with a large collection of Newspapers, for you which was to have been carried by Mr. J. Smith, but which I have now put into the hands of Capt: Walker, whose return will be quicker, little remains for me to add here. Our anxiety on account of the West India Edition: current; Page: [195] news, published at New York is still supported by contradictory reports and conjectures. The account however to which Rodneys name is prefixed renders our apprehensions too strong for our hopes. Rivington has been very bold in several of his spurious publications, and at this conjuncture might venture as far to serve a particular turn as at any. But it is scarcely credible that he would dare or be permitted to sport with so high an official name.

If Mr. Jefferson will be so obliging as to superintend the legal studies of Wm. I think he cannot do better than prosecute the plan he has adopted. The interruption occasioned by the Election of Mr. J.1 although inconvenient in that respect, is by no means a decisive objection agst. it.

I did not know before that the letters which Mr. Walker was to have carried last fall had met with the fate which it seems they did. I shall be more cautious hereafter. The papers missing in your list were I presume for I do not recollect, contained in them.

The short notice does not leave me time to obtain the information you ask as to Stiles. I have never heard of Iron Stiles cast here, nor do I know the price of Copper ones.

If Continental money passes here at all it is in a very small quantity, at very great discount, and merely to serve particular local & temporary ends.

It has at no time been more difficult for me to fix my probable return to Virga. At present all my Colleagues have left Congress except Col: Bland, and it Edition: current; Page: [196] is a crisis which calls for a full representation from every State. Anxious as I am to visit my friends, as long as I sustain a public trust, I shall feel a principle which is superior to it. The state of my finances also, unless the Assembly shall make a different provision for the Delegates from what has hitherto been in force, will be a serious bar to my removal from this place. I shall I believe be under the necessity of purchasing a carriage of some kind besides discharging considerable arrears, & where the means for effecting either are to be found is totally without my comprehension. * * * * *

I am, etc.
James Madison
Madison, James
May 21, 1782
Edmund Randolph
Randolph, Edmund


Dear Sir,

Your favor of the 10th was received yesterday. I suspect that I have expressed myself ambiguously with respect to Mr. Jefferson. He does not allege ignorance of the report of the committee, but of the title of New York, which is the ground on which the report places the controversy with Virginia.

The final report of our suit to Congress for an answer to the Western cession was sent by the last post. Mr. Jones can explain every thing relative to it. I feel myself much disburdened by the termination of the business. If it should be revived here, in consequence of steps taken by the Legislature, I flatter myself it will be under circumstances less embarrassing.

Edition: current; Page: [197]
James Madison
Madison, James
May 28, 1782
Edmund Randolph
Randolph, Edmund


Dear Sir,

A letter from Dr. Franklin, of the fourth March, informs the Superintendent of Finance that the Court of France had granted an aid of six millions of livres to the United States for the present year. It appears, however, that this aid has been wholly anticipated, as well as the aids of the last year, by bills of exchange; by supplies for the army, particularly those in Holland; by the debt of Beaumarchais, amounting to two millions and a half of livres; by the interest money; by the deduction on account of Virginia, computed at seven hundred thousand livres, &c. The States must, therefore, by some means or other, supply the demands of Congress, or a very serious crisis must ensue. After the differences between the modes of feeding the army by contracts and by the bayonet have been experienced both by the army and the people, a recurrence to the latter cannot be too much dreaded.

The Province of Friesland has instructed its Delegates in the States General to concur in a public reception of Mr. Adams. The city of Dort has done the same to theirs in the Provincial Assembly of Holland.

The above letter came by the Alliance, which is arrived at Rhode Island. Captain Barry, I am told, says that the Marquis will come with a squadron for the American coast, which was equipping. If this be true, Barry is wrong in disclosing it. I distrust it.

Edition: current; Page: [198]

A French cutter is since arrived, after a short passage, with despatches for the Minister here. He received them on Saturday by an express from Salem, and has not yet communicated their contents to Congress. I understand, through the Secretary of Foreign Affairs, that the Court of London has lately proposed to the Court of France a separate peace, as the price of which she would place Dunkirk in its former state, make some sacrifices in the East Indies, and accede to a status quo in the West Indies. The answer of France was dictated by her engagements with the United States. This insidious step taken at the same moment with the agency of Mr. Carleton, will, I hope, not long be withheld from the public. We have heard nothing from this gentleman since the answer to his request of a passport for his secretary.

In order to explain our public affairs to the States, and to urge the necessity of complying with the requisitions of Congress, we have determined to depute two members to visit the Eastern States, and two the Southern. The first are Root and Montgomery; the others, Rutledge and Clymer. I put this in cypher, because secrecy has been enjoined by Congress. The deputation will probably set off in a few days.

I find that the Minister of France has been informed, by some correspondent in Virginia, that the late intelligence from Britain has produced very unfavorable symptoms in a large party. He seems not a little discomposed at it. The honor of the State Edition: current; Page: [199] concurred with my own persuasion in dictating a consolatory answer to him. For this reason, as well as for others, I think it would be expedient for the Legislature to enter into an unanimous declaration on this point. Other States are doing this, and such a mode of announcing the sense of the people may be regarded as more authentic than a declaration from Congress. The best form, I conceive, will be that of an instruction to the Delegates. Do not fail to supply me with accurate and full information on the whole subject of this paragraph.

A letter from Dr. Franklin, of thirtieth of March, enclosing a copy of one to him from Mr. Adams, at the Hague, was laid before Congress subsequently to writing the above. By these, it appears not only that an essay has been made on the fidelity of France to the alliance, but that the pulse of America has been at the same time separately felt through each of those Ministers. They both speak with becoming indignation on the subject, attest the firmness of our ally, and recommend decisive efforts for expelling the enemy from our country. Mr. Adams says, ‘ten or eleven cities of Holland have declared themselves in favor of American Independence, and it is expected that to-day or to-morrow this Province will take the decisive resolution of admitting me to my audience. Perhaps some of the other Provinces may delay it for three or four weeks, but the Prince has declared that he has no hopes of resisting the torrent, and, therefore, that he shall not attempt it. The Duke de la Vauguyon has acted a very friendly and Edition: current; Page: [200] honorable part in this business, without, however, doing any ministerial act in it.’ What was said above of Friesland came from Mr. Barclay, the Consul. Mr. Adams says nothing of that Province, although his letter is of later date.

The Secretary of War has just given notice to Congress, that the Department of Finance is unable to supply the essential means of opening the campaign. This shocks, rather than surprises, us. It will be one article in the communications of the deputies above mentioned, and adds force to the expediency of their mission.

The denial to Congress of the right of granting flags is singular indeed. May not the power of Congress to agree to a truce be contested on the same grounds? The former is a partial truce, and if the silence of the Confederation reserves it to the States, the same silence reserves the latter. Admitting that Congress had the right of granting flags, was it not exercised to the advantage of Virginia in procuring a vent to her staple, and stopping the exportation of her specie?

James Madison
Madison, James
May 29, 1782
Edmund Randolph
Randolph, Edmund


Dear Sir,

I wrote you yesterday morning by the post, fully and in cypher. As I am told, however, the bearer will probably be in Richmond before the post, it may not be amiss to repeat to you that we Edition: current; Page: [201] have heard nothing from Carleton since our refusal of the passport to his secretary, and that we have authentic information from Europe, that insidious attempts have been made both on Doctor Franklin and Mr. Adams, by British emissaries, as well as tempting overtures employed to divide our ally from us. These machinations have served no other end than to expose the meanness and impotence of our enemy, and to supply fresh proofs of the indissoluble nature of the alliance. Mr. Adams begins to advance with considerable speed towards the object of his mission in Holland.

The action in the West Indies is still wrapt up in darkness. The enclosed paper contains a specimen of the obscure and contradictory advices which have alternately excited our hopes and our apprehensions.

A copy of sundry resolutions of the House of Delegates, touching the exportation of tobacco in the flags, was laid before Congress yesterday by the Superintendent of Finance, and referred to a committee. On a review of the doctrine of the ninth Article of Confederation, I believe, the right of the State to prohibit in the present case the exportation of her produce cannot be controverted. The States seem to have reserved at least a right to subject foreigners to the same imposts and prohibitions as their own citizens; and the citizens of Virginia are at present prohibited from such an exportation as is granted in favor of the British merchants. This is a very interesting point, and unless the division line between the authority of Congress and the States be properly Edition: current; Page: [202] ascertained, every foreign treaty may be a source of internal as well as foreign controversy. You will call to mind one now in negotiation, which may be affected by the construction of this clause in the Confederation. Congress have no authority to enter into any convention with a friendly power which would abridge such a right. They cannot have a greater authority with respect to a hostile power. On the other side, it is equally clear, that the State has no authority to grant flags for the exportation of its produce to the enemy. Armed vessels would not respect them, nor would they be more respected in the Courts of Admiralty. Unless Congress and the State, therefore, act in concert, no tobacco can be remitted to New York, and a further drain of specie must ensue. When the matter was first opened in Congress, the impression was unfavorable to the right of the States, and pretty free strictures were likely to be made on its opposition to the constitutional power of Congress. It became necessary, therefore, to recur to the law and the testimony, which produced an acquiescence in the contrary doctrine. Their sentiments, however, with regard to the policy and consistency of the resolutions, are very different. The last resolution in particular, compared with the preliminary doctrines, produces animadversions, which I need not recite to you. There are several reasons which make me regret much this variation between Congress and Virginia, of which a material one is that a great personage will be touched by it, since it originates in his act; and, since a conference between Edition: current; Page: [203] a committee and him and the Superintendent, he concurred in the expediency of granting the passports.

James Madison
Madison, James
June 4, 1782
Edmund Randolph
Randolph, Edmund


Dear Sir,

According to your request, I send an authenticated extract from the Journals of the vote of Congress on the clause which interdicts British manufactures. It has, however, been for some time in print, and will probably be at Richmond before you receive the manuscript copy. The arguments urged against the measure appear to me in the same light in which you describe them. The policy of Great Britain in the capture of St. Eustatia has been constantly reprobated by some of the wisest statesmen. But whatever her policy might at that period be, it is manifest that a very different one is now pursued. British goods are issued from the enemy’s line with greater industry than they have ever been, and, as is universally believed, with the knowledge, if not at the instigation, of those in power. Indeed, they would counteract their new system in doing otherwise. The sense of the Eastern States will appear from the ayes and noes on the question. Mr. Adams, in his last despatches, ascribes much of the late pacific symptoms in the British nation, and of the facilities which begin to attend the mission in Holland, to our proscription of the British merchandize.

Edition: current; Page: [204]

You have not sufficiently designated the papers from Mr. R. Morris, from which you wish an extract. I do not recollect, nor can I find, any letter which contains a state of the finances, except his circular letters, which may be found either among the Legislative or Executive archives. If you should be disappointed in these researches, I will, on a renewal of your demands, renew my researches. My charity, I own, cannot invent an excuse for the prepense malice with which the character and services of this gentleman are murdered. I am persuaded that he accepted his office from motives which were honorable and patriotic. I have seen no proof of misfeasance. I have heard of many charges which were palpably erroneous. I have known others, somewhat suspicious, vanish on examination. Every member in Congress must be sensible of the benefit which has accrued to the public from his administration; no intelligent man out of Congress can be altogether insensible of it. The Court of France has testified its satisfaction at his appointment, which I really believe lessened its repugnance to lend us money. These considerations will make me cautious in lending an ear to the suggestions even of the impartial; to those of known and vindictive enemies, very incredulous. The same fidelity to the public interest which obliges those who are its appointed guardians, to pursue with every rigor a perfidious or dishonest servant of the public, requires them to confront the imputations of malice against the good and faithful one. I have, in the conduct of my colleague here, a sure index of Edition: current; Page: [205] the sentiments and objects of one of my colleagues who is absent, relative to the Department of Finance.

The Chevalier de la Luzerne tells us he has written to the General on the subject of the transaction between them, and has no doubt that the difficulties which attended it will be removed.

James Madison
Madison, James
June, 1782
Edmund Randolph
Randolph, Edmund


Dear Sir,

General Washington has transmitted to Congress sundry informations he has received, of preparations at New York for expediting from thence a considerable number of ships. Whether they are to convoy troops, and whither, or to bring off troops from other places, is uncertain. He has also transmitted to Congress an answer to him from General Carleton, on a demand, made at the instance of the Legislature of South Carolina, of a re-transportation of the exiles at the expense of the King of Great Britain. This demand was instituted, not executed, during the command of Clinton, from whom an imperious refusal was calculated upon. In pursuance of the views of the new system, his successor weeps over the misfortunes of the exiles, and in the most soothing language that could be framed, engages to comply fully with the application. This incident at once mortifies our pride and summons our vigilance. We have nothing further from Carleton on the main point.

Edition: current; Page: [206]

The communication, expected in my last from the Minister of France, has been received, and afforded a very seasonable occasion, which was improved, of renewing the assurances suited to the present crisis.

James Madison
Madison, James
June 6, 1782
Edmund Randolph
Randolph, Edmund


Dear Sir,

Mr. Webb being detained till this morning, I enclose the gazette of it. You will find a singular extract from Lord North’s budget. The speech was delivered on the eleventh of March. It must have been Mr. Ross’s contract, therefore, and not Mr. Morris’s, which supplied this article. I am just told that the Senate have put their veto on the resolutions of the House of Delegates against the latter. If an existing law, however, prohibits the exportation, and one branch of the Legislature protests against the authority of Congress to dispense with it, the Executive will scarcely suffer the tobacco to be exported. * * * The proviso in the resolutions in favor of the contract of the State agents, furnishes, I find, a copious topic for anti-Virginian critics. It is inconsistent with the laws of the State—with the ordinances of Congress—with the treaty with France—with gratitude to our allies—for tobacco to be shipped to New York, by Mr. Morris, for the advantage of the United States; but if the Edition: current; Page: [207] identical tobocco be shipped by Mr. Ross, for the advantage of Virginia, the inconsistency is done away in the eyes of the House of Delegates of Virginia.

James Madison
Madison, James
June 11, 1782
Edmund Randolph
Randolph, Edmund


Dear Sir,

I have your favor of the first instant. I hope you have received mine, although you do not acknowledge them. My punctuality has not been intermitted more than once or twice since your departure, and in no instance for a considerable time past.

I have written so fully concerning the flags that I have nothing to add on that subject, but that I wish the Senate may, by their perseverance on this occasion, exemplify the utility of a check to the precipitate acts of a single legislature.

Having raised my curiosity by your hints as to certain manœuvres, you will not forget your responsibility to gratify it. The pleasure I feel at your being included in the commission for vindicating the claims of Virginia, is considerably impaired by my fears that it may retard your return hither.

Great as my partiality is to Mr. Jefferson, the mode in which he seems determined to revenge the wrong received from his country does not appear to me to be dictated either by philosophy or patriotism.2 It argues, Edition: current; Page: [208] indeed, a keen sensibility and strong consciousness of rectitude. But this sensibility ought to be as great towards the relentings as the misdoings of the Legislature, not to mention the injustice of visiting the faults of this body on their innocent constituents.

Sir Guy Carleton still remains silent. The resolutions which the Legislatures of the States are passing, may, perhaps, induce him to spare British pride the mortification of supplicating in vain the forgiveness of rebels.

Mr. Izard, warm and notorious as his predilection for the Lees is, acknowledges and laments the opposition made by them to measures adapted to the public weal.

The letter in the first page of the Gazette of this morning was written by Mr. Marbois.1 In an evening of promiscuous conversation I suggested to him my opinion, that the insidiousness of the British Court, and the good faith of our ally, displayed in the late abortive attempt of the former to seduce the latter, might with advantage be made known, in some form Edition: current; Page: [209] or other, to the public at large. He said he would think of the matter, and next day sent me the letter in question, with a request that I would revise and translate it for the press, the latter of which was done. I mention this that you may duly appreciate the facts and sentiments contained in this publication.

James Madison
Madison, James
June 18, 1782
Edmund Randolph
Randolph, Edmund


Dear Sir,

I received no letter from you yesterday, nor shall I receive any for that week, unless it be through the channel of Rivington’s Gazette, the post having been robbed of his mail on Saturday evening last in Maryland. I hope your letter did not contain anything not in cypher which is unfit for the public eye. The policy, however, which seems to direct Carleton’s measures, renders it probable that he will decline the mean expedient pursued on such occasions by his predecessors for giving pain to individuals. It will be proper for us to take from this accident an admonition to extend the use of our cypher.

The trade with New York begins to excite general indignation, and threatens a loss of all our hard money. The continued drains which it makes from the bank must at least contract its utility, if it produces no greater mischief to it. The Legislature of New Jersey are devising a remedy for this disgraceful and destructive traffic, and a Committee of Congress are also employed in the same work. I have Edition: current; Page: [210] little expectation that any adequate cure can be applied, whilst our foreign trade is annihilated, and the enemy in New York make it an object to keep open this illicit channel.

James Madison
Madison, James
June 25, 1782
Edmund Randolph
Randolph, Edmund


Dear Sir,

Your favor of the fifteenth, being more fortunate than the preceding one, came safe to hand yesterday. The loss of the mail is the more provoking, as it is said to have contained a packet from New York, which had been intercepted on its passage to England and carried to North Carolina.

The illicit trade with the British lines has been pushed so far, under the encouragement of the enemy, as to threaten a deep wound to our finances. Congress have renewed the exhortation to the States on this subject, and recommended to the people, through them, a patriotic co-operation with the public measures. This trade, we have also discovered, is carried on with considerable effect, under collusive captures. This branch of the iniquity falls properly within the purview of Congress, and an ordinance for its excision is in the hands of a committee.

A letter from Mr. Adams, of the eleventh of April, informs his correspondent that five of the seven provinces had decided in favor of a treaty with the United States, and that the concurrence of the remaining two might be expected in a few days. A Leyden paper, Edition: current; Page: [211] of a subsequent date, reduces the exception to a single province. It would seem, from a memorial from the merchants to the States General, that this resolution had been greatly stimulated by an apprehension that a sudden pacification might exclude their commerce from some of the advantages which England may obtain. The memorial appeals to the effect of the American trade on the resources of France, and to the short and indirect experience of it, which Holland enjoyed before the loss of St. Eustatia, as proof of its immense consequence. It observes, also, that the ordinance of Congress against British manufactures presented a precious crisis for introducing those of other nations; which ought to be the rather embraced, as nothing would be so likely to dispose Britain to the independence of America and a general peace, as the prospect of her being supplanted in the commercial preference expected from the habits of her lost provinces.

The present conjecture with regard to the fleet mentioned in my late letters, is, that it conveyed a parcel of miserable refugees, who are destined to exchange the fancied confiscations of their rebellious countrymen, for a cold and barren settlement in Nova Scotia or Penobscot.

James Madison
Madison, James
July 2, 1782
Edmund Randolph
Randolph, Edmund


Dear Sir,

The confidential and circumstantial communications, in your favor of the twentieth of Edition: current; Page: [212] June, have afforded me much pleasure. Those which relate to the scheme of garbling the delegation were far from surprising me. In a conversation with Mr. Jones, before he left Philadelphia, it was our joint inference, from a review of certain characters and circumstances, that such a scheme would be tried.

No addition has been made to our foreign intelligence in the course of the past week. Some of the republications from the European papers herewith sent throw light, however, on the general state of foreign affairs. Those which relate to Ireland, in particular, are very interesting. The Empress of Russia appears, by the memorial of her Ministers, to be more earnest in forwarding a reconciliation between England and Holland, than is consistent with the delicate impartiality she has professed as mediatrix, or with that regard which we flattered ourselves she felt for the interests of the United States.

One article of our late communications from France was, that the interest on the certificates is no longer to be continued, and that provision must be made within ourselves. This has caused great commotion and clamor, among that class of public creditors, against Congress, who, they believe, or affect to believe, have transferred the funds to other uses. The best salve to this irritation, if it could with truth be applied, would be a notification that all the States had granted the impost of five per cent., and that the collection and appropriation of it would immediately commence. It is easy to see that the States whose jealousy and delays withhold this resource from the Edition: current; Page: [213] United States, will soon be the object of the most bitter reproaches from the public creditors. Rhode Island and Georgia are the only States in this predicament, unless the acts of Virginia and Maryland should be vitiated by the limitations with which they are clogged.

No step has yet been taken in the instructions prepared before your departure. I expostulated a few days ago with Dr. Witherspoon on the subject, and prevailed on him to move in the business; but his motion only proved the watchfulness and inflexibility of those who think they advance towards their own objects, in the same proportion as they recede from those of Virginia. I have since shown him the report, and he is a confirmed advocate both for the innocence and expediency of it.

We are, even at this day, without official advice of the naval event of the twelfth of April, in the West Indies; nor have we any advices of late date from that quarter. There is little room to hope that the misfortune of our ally will be repaired by any subsequent enterprises.

Congress are much perplexed by the non-appearance of Connecticut at the time appointed for the meeting of her agents and those of Pennsylvania. We wish to avoid leaving her any pretext to revive the controversy, and yet the reasons for her neglect cannot be pronounced sufficient. Her adversary professes a strong jealousy that she means, by every artifice, to parry a decision during the war; and it cannot be denied that appearances but too well authorize it.

Edition: current; Page: [214]


The comittee appointed to revise the instructions of Mr Adams &c, recommend.

That the Minister Plenipo: at the Hague be instructed, in case no definitive steps shall have been taken by him in the proposed Treaty of amity and commerce with the U. Provinces, to engage them if possible, in an express stipulation to furnish annually to the U. States, a loan of , with an interest not exceeding , the principal not to be demanded within years after the conclusion of the war, and the payment of the interest to be suspended during the war, or in case the U. Provinces shall refuse to stipulate such a loan, that the said Minister endeavor to obtain their engagements, to authorize and countenance a loan from their subjects & to guaranty if requisite the due payment of the interest & repayment of the principal by the U. States.

That in case definitive steps shall have been taken in the proposed Treaty, the said Minister Plenipo: be instructed still to represent to the U. Provinces the great advantages which would result as well to them as to the U. States from such pecuniary succours to the latter as would give stability to their finances and energy to their measures against the common Enemy. and to use his utmost address to prevail on them either to grant directly the loan abovementioned, or to support by such responsibility as may be necessary the applications made to individuals for that purpose, on the part of the U. States.

The Committee beg leave to observe that in the Treaty between the U. S. & M [ost] C [hristian] Majesty, it is among other things stipulated that the subjects of the parties “may by testament, donation, or otherwise dispose of their goods immoveable as well as moveable, in favor of such persons, as to them shall seem good, and the heirs of the respective subjects, wheresoever residing, may succeed them ab intestato without being obliged to obtain letters of naturalization:

That the plan of the proposed treaty between the U. S. & the U. P. with which the Minister Plenipo: of the former is furnished, extends this privilege to the subjects of the latter, under a general stipulation of the same privileges as are allowed to the most favor’d nation:

That as it is not probable that the U. P. have granted, or will grant this privilege even to the most favored nation, the said treaty if executed in its present form, will engage the U. S. in a concession which will not be reciprocal, and which if reciprocal, would not be equally beneficial to the parties.

That in the opinion of the committee it is at least questionable whether the extension of this privilege to the subjects of other powers than France and Spain will not encroach on the rights reserved by the federal articles to the individual States.

Edition: current; Page: [215]

That without enquiring into the inconveniences which may result from an indefinite permission to aliens to hold & transmit real estates within this country the apparent reluctance of some of the States, notwith[standing] the special clause in the federal articles with respect to France their favorable disposition towards her to pass the proper laws on this subject, renders their compliance in case of a similar engagement to another power, extremely precarious.

That in order to avoid these difficulties & consequences, the committee recommend further:

That the sd Minister Plenipo: be instructed in case no steps inconsistent therewith, shall have been taken, to decline stipulating to the subjects of the U. Provinces any right or privilege of holding any real estates within the U. States.1

James Madison
Madison, James
July 9, 1782
Edmund Randolph
Randolph, Edmund


Dear Sir,

Your favors of the twenty-seventh were received this morning. I sincerely regret that any reports should have prevailed injurious to the patriotism of Williamsburg, and particularly that my name should, in any manner whatever, be connected with them. I informed Mr. Jones that the Minister of France had been made somewhat uneasy by some accounts from Virginia, and desired him to enable me to remove it by proper inquiries. It must have been a very gross mistake that could have built the reports in question on this letter, even if its contents had been known. You saw, I presume, the letter. I think I wrote you a letter to the same effect, but I am not sure.

The trade with the enemy at New York has at length, I am told, produced spirited and successful Edition: current; Page: [216] exertions among the people of New Jersey for suppressing it. The same alarm and exertions seem to be taking place in Connecticut. The ordinance of Congress against collusive captures on water has not yet passed. The mode of proof, and the distribution of the effects, occasioned some diversity of opinion, and a recommitment ensued. I am not very sanguine that any thing of efficacy will be done in the matter. Notwithstanding the supposed danger arising to the Bank from the exportation of hard money to New York, a dividend of four and a half per cent. for the first half year has been advertised to the stockholders. Will not this be very captivating to the avarice of the Dutchman, in case his apprehensions shall be removed by a political connection between the two countries?

James Madison
Madison, James
July 16, 1782
Edmund Randolph
Randolph, Edmund


Dear Sir,

Notwithstanding the defensive professions of the enemy, they seem to be waging an active war against the post-riders. The mail for the Eastward, on Wednesday last, shared the same fate which the Southern mail did a few weeks ago, and, it is said, from the same identical villains. This operation has withdrawn them from their Southern stand, and secured the arrival of the mail, which brings your favor of the fifth instant. I fully concur in the change of cypher which you suggest, and understand the reference for a key-word. I have been in some pain from Edition: current; Page: [217] the danger incident to the cypher we now use. The enemy, I am told, have in some instances published their intercepted cyphers. On our first meeting, I propose to prepare, against another separation, a cypher framed by Mr. Livingston on a more enlarged and complicated plan than ours, of which he has furnished me several blank printed copies.

Your computation of the numbers in Virginia tallies exactly with one transmitted by Mr. Jefferson, in an answer to several queries from Mr. Marbois. It is as accurate as the official returns to the Executive of the Militia would admit. His proportion of the fencibles to the whole number of souls is stated precisely as your computation states it.

You will continue your information on the case of the flag, and send me the acts of the Legislature as fast as they are printed. Will you be so good, also, as to obtain from the Auditors a state of the balance due on the principles established by law, and let me know when and how it is to be applied for?—as also what chance there is of obtaining a regular remittance of future allowance?

General Washington and Count Rochambeau met here on Saturday evening. The object of their consultation is among the arcana of war.

A despatch from the Commander in Chief communicated to Congress yesterday a late correspondence between him and General Carleton, principally on the subject of two traitors, who, under cover of a flag, have exposed themselves to arrest in New Jersey, and had sentence of death passed upon them. Edition: current; Page: [218] General Carleton, among other observations on the subject, says that, “In a civil war, between people of one Empire, there can, during the contest, be no treason at all,”—and asks a passport for General Robinson and Mr. Ludlow to confer with General Washington, or persons appointed by him, and to settle arrangements on this idea. General Washington declines the conference, observing, that the proposed subject of it is within civil resort. Whereupon General Carleton asks—“Am I to apply to Congress to admit persons to conferences at Philadelphia? Can any deputation be sent by Congress to your camp to meet persons appointed by me? Or will you, sir, undertake to manage our common interest?” The drift of all this need not be pointed out to you. As a counterpart to it, the British General proposes, in order to remove all objection to an exchange of soldiers for seamen, that the latter shall be perfectly free, and the former subject to the condition of not serving against the thirteen Provinces for one year, within which period he is very sanguine that an end will be put to the calamities of the present war.

The same despatch informs Congress that a party of the enemy have lately made a successful incursion upon the settlements of Mohawk, have re-occupied Oswego, and are extending themselves into the Western country. However little these movements may coincide with a defensive plan, they coincide perfectly with ideas which will not fail to be urged at a pacification.

Messrs. Montgomery and Root returned yesterday Edition: current; Page: [219] from their Eastern deputation. They have not yet made their report. The former complains that several of the States are appropriating the taxes, which they lay as their quota of the eight millions, to internal uses. He owns that the knowledge he has obtained of the case changed his mind on that head, and that if the ground was to be trodden over again, he should take a very different part in Congress. He adds, that the current opinion is, that a vessel arrived at Quebec brings a Royal Charter for Vermont; that the people there are in much confusion, and many of them disposed to re-unite with New Hampshire. A letter to Mr. Livingston, from Mr. Livermore, corroborates this good news. It imports that a very unexpected turn had taken place in the temper of the people, between the river and the ridge, that they were petitioning New Hampshire to be restored to that State, and that measures would be taken in concert with New York for that purpose. The revolution in the sentiments of Montgomery may be owing, in part, to the new relation in which Pennsylvania stands to Connecticut, which, he says, is governed on this occasion by interested individuals. The controversy between Pennsylvania and Connecticut will, I suppose, be now resumed, and put into a course for decision, the return of Mr. Root having removed the cause which suspended it.

In the beginning of this month, committees were appointed, in pursuance of a previous resolution for such an appointment every half-year, to examine into the proceedings of the several Executive Departments, Edition: current; Page: [220] and make report to Congress. This plan was adopted not only to discharge the general duty of Congress, and to satisfy their constituents, but also that such reports might shelter, in some degree, faithful officers from unmerited imputations and suspicions, as well as expose to just censure those of an opposite character. * * *

This cypher, I find, is extremely tedious, and liable to errors.

General Carleton, in his letter to General Washington above quoted, says, with respect to Lippencot only, that the court had passed their judgment, and that as soon as the length of the proceedings would admit, a copy should be sent to him. It is inferred that this murderer will not be given up, and consequently a vicarious atonement must be made by the guiltless Asgill.

James Madison
Madison, James
July 23, 1782
Edmund Randolph
Randolph, Edmund


Dear Sir,

I have at length the pleasure of presenting you with certain, though not official, intelligence of the recognition of our Independence by the States General. This event, with other interesting particulars, is contained in the enclosed gazettes. Among its salutary consequences to this country, I hope the people of Virginia will not be inattentive to its influence on the value of its staple, on which it is very probable speculations will be attempted.

Edition: current; Page: [221]

The language and measures of the present Administration will furnish you with copious matter for reflection. If we had received fewer lessons of caution against sanguine expectations, I should, with confidence, explain them by a scheme for a general pacification, and for fathering on their predecessors all the obnoxious conditions which the public distresses may expose them to. If this solution were a just one, it ought, at the same time, to be remembered that the triumph of Rodney may give a new turn to their politics. It appears, from the paper from which the enclosed intelligence is republished, that this event had reached London; that it was received with great rejoicings; but that the public were still haunted with fears for Jamaica. Other articles, not included in the paper herewith sent, are the capture of one, if not two, French seventy-fours, with a number of transports for the East Indies, by Admiral Barrington; the capture of a British frigate, with some transports, by a Dutch ship of war; the capture of the valuable Island of Ceylon, from the Dutch, by Admiral Hughes; and of Negapatam, another of their important possessions, on the coast of Coromandel, with two ships, richly freighted with spices and other oriental productions. Ireland is likely to be indulged in every thing. In addition to a free trade and a free legislation, they have obtained the assent of the Lord Lieutenant to an Act of Parliament for emancipating the Catholics from their shackles on their religious rights, and on their tenures of real property. Your philanthropy will be gratified by my adding, as other proofs of Edition: current; Page: [222] the progress of light and freedom, the abolition of the inquisitorial jurisdiction in Sicily—the only part of the Neapolitan dominions where it was in force—and the inefficiency of the Pope’s visit to Vienna in checking the liberal innovations of the Emperor in his ecclesiastical polity. * * *

General Washington is still here. I have nothing to add to my last on the subject of Lippencot and Asgill.

James Madison
Madison, James
August 9, 1782
Edmund Randolph
Randolph, Edmund


Dear Sir,

Extract of a letter from Carleton and Digby to General Washington, August the second: “We are acquainted, sir, by authority, that negotiations for a general peace have already commenced at Paris, and that Mr. Grenville is invested with full powers to treat with all parties at war, and is now at Paris in execution of his commission. And we are likewise, sir, further made acquainted, that His Majesty, in order to remove all obstacles to that peace which he so ardently wishes to restore, has commanded his ministers to direct Mr. Grenville that the independency of the Thirteen Provinces should be proposed by him, instead of making it a condition of a general treaty; however, not without the highest confidence that the loyalists shall be restored to their possessions, or a full compensation made them for whatever confiscations may have taken place.”

Edition: current; Page: [223]

This is followed by information that transports are preparing to convey all American prisoners in England to the United States, and a proposition for a general exchange, in which seamen are to be placed against seamen as far as they will go, and the balance in favor of Great Britain to be redeemed by land prisoners—the former to be free, the latter not to serve in war against the Thirteen Provinces for one year. An embarcation is taking place at New York for Charleston, either to reinforce that garrison or replace it.

The preceding letter was published in New York, at the same time it was sent to General Washington. I commit this intelligence to your discretion, making no other remark than that it clearly calls for our watchfulness, at the same time that it flatters our expectations.

James Madison
Madison, James
August 13, 1782
Edmund Randolph
Randolph, Edmund


Dear Sir,

I transmitted to you, a few days ago, by express, the contents of a letter from General Carleton and Admiral Digby to General Washington, announcing the purpose of the British Court to acknowledge the independence of the Thirteen Provinces. Our expected advices on this head from Europe are not yet arrived. A Mr. Blake, an opulent citizen of South Carolina, who came from Great Britain under a passport from Mr. Laurens to New Edition: current; Page: [224] York, and thence hither, assures us that the Administration are serious with respect to peace and the independence of this country; that the point, however, was carried in the Cabinet by a majority of two voices only; that their finances are so disordered that a continuance of the war is in a manner impracticable; that the militia at New York have been thanked for their past services, and told explicitly that they would not be wanted in future; that the evacuation of the United States will certainly take place this fall, and that a large number of transports are coming from England to remove the British garrisons, probably to the West Indies; that these transports will contain about two thousand five hundred Germans, who, it is supposed, in case of such an evacuation, will have the same destination; that Carleton told him, and desired him to mention it at large, that he was a real friend to America, and wished her to be powerful, rich, united, and happy, and secure against all her enemies; that he also intimated, in the course of conversation, that Canada would probably be given up as a fourteenth member of the Confederacy. You will draw such conclusions from these particulars as you think fit. The gentlemen of South Carolina vouch for the veracity of Mr. Blake. It appears to me much more clear that the Ministry really mean to subscribe to our independence, than that they have renounced the hope of seducing us from the French connection.

The motion for revoking the power given to France has been made again, and pushed with the expected Edition: current; Page: [225] earnestness, but was parried, and will issue, I believe, in an adoption of your report with a representation thereupon to the Court of France.

Among other means of revenue, the back lands have on several late occasions been referred to, and at length recommended by a Grand Committee to the consideration of Congress. A motion for assigning a day to take up the report was negatived by a small majority. The report has been repeated by the committee, but a second experiment has not been made in Congress. Several of the Middle States seem to be facing about. Maryland, however, preserves its wonted jealousy and obstinacy.

In compiling the evidence of our title, I suppose you will, of course, be furnished with all Mr. Jefferson’s lights. I have lately seen a fact stated by him, which shows clearly the ideas entertained by Virginia with respect to her territorial limits subsequent to the resumption of the charter. In a convention between commissioners on the part of the Commonwealth of England, and of the Grand Assembly of Virginia in 1651, by which the latter submit to the new government, it is stipulated that Virginia shall enjoy the ancient bounds and limits granted by the charters of the former Kings, and that a new charter shall be issued from the Parliament against any that shall have entrenched upon the rights thereof

Edition: current; Page: [226]
James Madison
Madison, James
August 20, 1782
Edmund Randolph
Randolph, Edmund


Dear Sir,

In my last I informed you that the motion to rescind the control given to France over the American Ministers had been parried, and would probably end in an adoption of your report. It was parried by a substitute so expressed as to give a committee sufficient latitude in reporting, without implying on the part of Congress a design to alter past instructions. The composition of the committee appointed according well with the object of the substitute, a report was made that the expository report should be referred to the Secretary of Foreign Affairs, to be by him revised and transmitted to the Ministers in Europe, and that the latter should communicate so much thereof as they might judge fit to His Most Christian Majesty. * * *

James Madison
Madison, James
August 27, 1782
Edmund Randolph
Randolph, Edmund


Dear Sir,

Your favor of the sixteenth came duly to hand yesterday. The hints which it gives with regard to merchandizes imported in returning flags, and the intrusion of obnoxious aliens through other States, merit attention. The latter subject has, on several occasions, been mentioned in Congress, but, I believe, no committee has ever reported a remedy for the abuse. A uniform rule of naturalization ought Edition: current; Page: [227] certainly to be recommended to the States. Their individual authority seems, if properly exerted, to be competent to the case of their own citizens. * * *

We are still left without information concerning negotiations in Europe. So long a silence of our Ministers, at so interesting a crisis, grows equally distressing and inexplicable. The French fleet has gone into Boston harbour. The arrival of a British fleet on this coast is reported, but disbelieved by many. The French army is on its way northward from Baltimore. It is to proceed in five divisions, the first of which is to be here about Friday next.

Congress received yesterday a letter from General Washington enclosing one to him from Carleton, with the proceedings of the court-martial in the case of Lippencot. It appears that this culprit did not deny the fact charged upon him, but undertook to justify it as a necessary retaliation, and as warranted by verbal orders from the Board of Refugees. The court decided this warrant to be insufficient, but acquitted him on the pretext that no malicious intention appeared. Carleton explicitly acknowledges and reprobates the crime, and promises to pursue it in other modes; complaining, at the same time, of irregularity in the step taken by General Washington of selecting and devoting to execution an innocent, and even capitulant, officer, before satisfaction had been formally demanded and refused. General Washington seems to lean to the side of compassion, but asks the direction of Congress. What that will be, may, perhaps, be communicated in my next.

Edition: current; Page: [228]

The consideration of your territorial report has been resumed. The expedient which was meant to conciliate both sides proved, as often happens, a means of widening the breach. The jealousies announced on the side mentioned in my last were answered with reciprocal jealousies from the other, and the report between the two was falling to the ground, when a commitment, as a lesser evil, was proposed and agreed to.

Mr. Jones and his family arrived on Sunday at Germantown, without halting in this city. Himself, his lady, and little son, were all extremely sick during the whole journey. Mrs. Jones is still very much indisposed, and Mr. Jones considerably so. They do not propose to come into the city till the salubrity of Germantown shall have enabled them to encounter its noise and polluted atmosphere.

I cannot, in any way, make you more sensible of the importance of your kind attention to pecuniary remittances for me, than by informing you that I have for some time past been a pensioner on the favor of Haym Salomon, a Jew broker. Will not the agent of Mr. Morris give a draft, payable to me, for notes payable to the bearer? Or may not the notes be so endorsed as, in case of accident, to prevent payment to another? In either of those cases, a remittance of notes (if they can be procured for me) by the post will be safe. But my present situation renders such a conveyance preferable to delay, even if neither of the foregoing expedients be practicable. Show this paragraph to Mr. Ambler, if you please.

Edition: current; Page: [229]
James Madison
Madison, James
September 3, 1782
Edmund Randolph
Randolph, Edmund


Dear Sir,

You will again be disappointed at the opening of this, since it contains no European intelligence on the subject of peace. Among other reasons which render it astonishing that we should be long uninformed, a material one is, that neither the Court of France, nor our Ministers, can be insensible of the inexpediency of leaving the people at large so exposed to misrepresentations of the enemy. I am happy to find, by your letter of the twenty-fourth, and those received from my other correspondents by yesterday’s post, that so cautious an ear is given to every thing which comes from them of a flattering aspect.

The enclosed hand-bill, published a few days ago, will inform you of the steps taken at Charleston towards an evacuation of that place. It is said to have given fresh violence to the fermentations in New York.

Another petition from Kentucky has been received by Congress, contending for the right of Congress to create new States, and praying for an exertion of it in their behalf. A copy will be sent to the Governor by the Delegates. Mr. Lee moved that the original should be referred to him by Congress. The debate which ensued was terminated by an adjournment, and has not been revived.

General Washington writes to Congress that Carleton had concurred in the proposition for a Edition: current; Page: [230] general cartel so far as to appoint a Commissioner for that purpose. There is little probability, however, that he has authority to settle such a cartel on the principles which Congress had in view, namely, those of a National Convention. It was thought, by some, that this would put to the test the sincerity of their professions on the subject of independence.

I believe I did not acquaint you, on a former occasion, that the prisoners who had lately returned from captivity in England were discharged, in consequence of an agreement, by Franklin, that a like number of the army of Cornwallis should be given for them. This bold step at first gave much offence. Compassion, however, for the patriotic captive stifled reproaches. They will probably come out yet, unless subsequent events discountenance them.

There are, it seems, three letters in the post-office from Carleton to the Governor, which do not appear to have been licensed, nor is it known how they got into that channel. The curiosity of people on this point is inconceivable.

A very unlucky accident has happened to one of the fleet of our Allies. After it got safe into the harbour of Boston, the unskilfulness or negligence of a pilot suffered a seventy-four to strike on a rock, the wound occasioned by which proved mortal. Most of the furniture has been saved.

I have not yet presented the note to Cohen which you have been so good as to enclose me. The general obstacle to advances here, to be replaced in Virginia, has been the balance in trade against the Edition: current; Page: [231] latter. This is the current answer to attempts to negotiate drafts on Virginia. My next will inform you of the result of the experiment of your note. If its success depends merely on a confidence in your credit, it will certainly be productive. Mr. Ross has unlimited credit in this place. May it not be made instrumental to our supply? At least it would be well to consult him when an occasion presents. His bills on Whiteside will command any sum that may be wanted.

The French army has been passing through this place for several days northward. The last division will pass to-morrow or the day after. The praises bestowed on their discipline and sobriety in Virginia are repeated here with equal cordiality and justice.

James Madison
Madison, James
September 10, 1782
Edmund Randolph
Randolph, Edmund


Dear Sir,

The loss of the French seventy-four in Boston harbour presented an occasion, which was embraced by Congress, of making a small requital to their Ally for his benevolent exertions in behalf of the United States. They have directed the Agent of Marine to replace the loss by presenting, in the name of the United States, the ship America to the Chevalier de la Luzerne, for the service of His Most Christian Majesty. The States were unanimous in this vote. The dissenting members were Bland and Jones, of Virginia.

Edition: current; Page: [232]

The report of the Grand Committee, “that the Western lands, if ceded to the United States, would be an important fund,” &c., was the subject of the deliberations of Congress on Thursday and Friday last. After the usual discussion of the question of right, and a proposal of opposite amendments to make the report favor the opposite sides, a turn was given to the debate to the question of expediency, in which it became pretty evident to all parties, that unless a compromise took place, no advantage could ever be derived to the United States, even if their right were ever so valid. The number of States interested in the opposite doctrine rendered it impossible for the title of the United States ever to obtain a vote of Congress in its favor, much less any coercive measures to render the title of any fiscal importance; whilst the individual States, having both the will and the means to avail themselves of their pretensions, might open their land offices, issue their patents, and, if necessary, protect the execution of their plans; without any other molestation than the clamors of individuals within and without the doors of Congress. This view of the case had a manifest effect on the most temperate advocates of the Federal title. Witherspoon moved a set of resolutions recommending to the States which had made no cessions to take up the subject; and to the States whose cessions were not entirely conformable to the plan of Congress, to reconsider their acts; and declaring, that in case of a compliance of the several States claiming the back lands, none of their determinations with regard to Edition: current; Page: [233] private property within their cessions shall be reversed or altered without their consent, except in cases falling within the ninth Article of the Confederation. On this motion the report was postponed, and these resolutions committed. The report of the committee on the last article will probably determine the ultimate sense of Congress on the pretensions of the companies.

Every review I take of the Western territory produces fresh conviction, that it is the true policy of Virginia, as well as of the United States, to bring the dispute to a friendly compromise. A separate government cannot be distant, and will be an insuperable barrier to subsequent profits. If, therefore, the decision of the State on the claims of companies can be saved, I hope her other conditions will be relaxed.

James Madison
Madison, James
September 11, 1782
Edmund Randolph
Randolph, Edmund


Dear Sir,

The gentleman by whom I wrote this morning having waited till I had the opportunity of knowing the contents of the despatches from Holland, I take advantage of it to add that we are disappointed by their silence with regard to peace. Those from Mr. Adams relate chiefly to his transactions with the States General. A letter from Mr. Laurens, of the thirtieth of May, informs us that he is returning to the United States, having declined the service of Minister for peace. There is an Edition: current; Page: [234] uninteresting part of a letter from Mr. Dana, the first pages of it having been omitted. Mr. Berkley writes, on the thirteenth of July, that the mail from England, subsequent to the resignation of Fox, Burke, &c., breathes war. He confirms the success of the combined fleets against the Quebec, &c., and the sailing of a fleet from the Texel, consisting of eleven sail of the line, five or six frigates, &c., to cruise in the North Seas, and the retreat of Admiral Howe into port. A New York paper of the seventh contains a very interesting conversation on the — July, in the House of Lords, between Shelburne and the Duke of Richmond, on the subject of ministerial politics, in which the latter assigns his reasons for not following the example of Fox, &c., and both their sentiments with respect to American Independence. The Duke of Richmond seems tolerably well reconciled to it, but Shelburne speaks out his antipathy without depriving himself of the plea of necessity. He professes to adhere, however, to the principles which the Administration carried into office relative to the war against America. I have written this in extreme haste; you will be very sensible of it by its incorrectness.

James Madison
Madison, James
September 17, 1782
Edmund Randolph
Randolph, Edmund


Dear Sir,

My letters, by a private hand, subsequent to the last post, have anticipated the chief Edition: current; Page: [235] intelligence from Holland, which I had allotted for the post of this week. I have, however, one important article, which at that date lay under an injunction of secrecy, which has been since taken off. Mr. Adams, we are informed, has contracted with a mercantile house in Holland for the negotiation of a loan of five millions of guilders, or about ten millions of livres, for which he is to give five per cent. interest, and four and a half per cent. for commission and other douceurs and charges, which will raise the interest to about six per cent. The principal is to be discharged in five annual payments, commencing with the tenth year from the date of the loan. When the despatches left Holland, upwards of a million and a half of guilders had been subscribed, and upwards of one million actually received. The contractors, however, make it a condition that none of the money should be paid to the United States until the contract should be ratified by Congress. This ratification passed on Saturday, and its arrival in Holland will place under the orders of Mr. Morris the money which shall then have been procured. How far the amount will, by that time, have been augmented, is uncertain. The contractors seemed to be tolerably sanguine, but not absolutely sure, of getting the whole sum. The partial subscription already secured is a most seasonable relief to the Department of Finance, which was struggling under the most critical difficulties.

In addition to the preceding fund, Congress have been led, by a despair of supplies from the States, to Edition: current; Page: [236] sue for a further loan of four millions of dollars for the service of the ensuing, and the deficiencies of the present, year. This demand will be addressed, in the first instance, to the Court of France. In case of miscarriage there, an experiment will be made on the liberality of our new friends.

The Legislature of Rhode Island has broke up without according to the impost of five per cent. Congress have apportioned one million two hundred thousand dollars on the States, for the payment of interest to the public creditors. Virginia is rated somewhat lower in this requisition than in the last; not, however, without complaints from some quarters. On these subjects you will have full information from Mr. Lee, who will set off in a few days, he says, for Virginia, in order to be at the October Session.

I should have told you that some progress had been made by Mr. Adams in the Treaty of Amity and Commerce with their High Mightinesses. His propositions, with the remarks and amendments of the College of Admiralty, had been taken ad referendum. It is somewhat extraordinary that he should omit to send us a copy of those propositions and remarks. He had taken no steps towards a Treaty of Alliance.

The debates and explanations produced by the resignation of Mr. Fox and his adherents, have unveiled some of the arcana of the British Cabinet. I enclose them for you complete, as far as they have been published here. If there be any sincerity Edition: current; Page: [237] in the party remaining in office, it would seem that the war is not to be pursued against the United States, nor the independence suffered to be a bar to peace. We shall be able to judge better of this sincerity when the proceedings of Mr. Grenville come to our knowledge.

Mr. Cohen has advanced me fifty pounds of this currency, which, he says, is the utmost that his engagements, and the scarcity of money, will permit. I have given him an order on you for that sum, in favor of his partner at Richmond.

September 17.

On Friday two large French frigates, bringing money, &c. for the French army, and despatches for Congress and the French Minister, came into Delaware Bay. For want of pilots in time, they got entangled among the bars which perplex the navigation of this Bay. The appearance and bearing of the British fleet, after pilots were obtained, rendered it impossible for them to return into the proper channel. The only expedient that remained was to push forward and attempt, under the advantage of high water, to force a passage through the shoal which obstructed them. In this attempt, one of them succeeded. The other stuck in the sand, and was lost. All the public stores, particularly the money on board, have, however, been fortunately saved. The captain and crew, we fear, have fallen into the hands of the enemy. The ship, it is supposed, cannot be raised by them, having been scuttled before they took possession of her. The frigate which escaped is up at Edition: current; Page: [238] Chester. We expect the despatches will be here to-day. The Marquis Viominil, and twenty or thirty other French officers, have returned in these ships.

James Madison
Madison, James
September 24, 1782
Edmund Randolph
Randolph, Edmund


Dear Sir,

The substance of the despatches brought by the French frigates, mentioned in my last, is, that Mr. Oswald first, and afterwards Mr. Grenville, had been deputed to Versailles on a pacific mission; that the latter was still (twenty-ninth of June) at Versailles; that his proposals, as to the point of independence, were at first equivocal, but at length more explicit; that he associated with the preliminary that the treaty of Paris, of 1763, should be the basis of the treaty in question; that as to this proposition he was answered, that as far as the treaty of ’63 might be convenient for opening and facilitating a pacification, it would be admitted as a basis, but that it could not be admitted in any sense that should preclude His Most Christian Majesty from demanding such equitable arrangements as circumstances might warrant, and particularly in the East Indies and on the coast of Africa; that upon these grounds there was at first a prospect that negotiations would be opened with mutual sincerity, and be conducted to a speedy and happy issue; but that the success of the British navy in the West Indies had Edition: current; Page: [239] checked the ardor of the Ministry for peace, and that it was pretty evident they meant to spin out the negotiation till the event of the campaign should be decided. You will take notice that this is a recital from memory, and not a transcript of the intelligence.

The frigate L’Aigle, whose fate was not completely determined at the date of my last, we hear, has been raised by the enemy, and carried to New York. Captain De la Touche and the crew were made prisoners. Besides merchandize to a great value, nearly fifty thousand dollars were lost, most of which fell into the hands of the captors. The loss of this ship is to be the more regretted, as it appears that the two were particularly constructed, and destined for the protection of the trade of this country.

Our Ally has added another important link to the chain of benefits by which this country is bound to France. He has remitted to us all the interest which he has paid for us, or was due to him on loans to us, together with all the charges attending the Holland loan; and has, moreover, postponed the demand of the principal till one year after the war, and agreed to receive it then in twelve successive annual payments. These concessions amount to a very considerable reduction of the liquidated debt. The fresh and large demand which we are about to make on him, will, I fear, be thought an unfit return for such favors. It could not, however, be avoided. The arrears to the army in January next will be upwards of six millions of dollars. Taxes cannot be relied on. Without money, there is some reason to surmise that it may Edition: current; Page: [240] be as difficult to disband an army as it has been to raise an army.

My last informed you that Mr. Laurens had declined serving in the commission for peace. His proceedings, during his captivity, as stated by himself, are far from unexceptionable. Congress, nevertheless, were prevailed on to assent to a resolution informing him that his services could not be dispensed with. A few days after this resolution had passed, several numbers of the Parliamentary Register were received at the Office of Foreign Affairs, in one of which was published the enclosed petition. The petition was introduced by Mr. Burke, was a subject of some debate, and finally ordered to lie on the table. The extreme impropriety of a Representative of the United States addressing that very authority against which they had made war, in the language of the address, determined Mr. Jones and myself to move that the resolution above referred to should not be transmitted until the further order of Congress. In support of the motion it was observed, that however venial the fault might be in a private view, it evidently rendered Mr. Laurens no longer a fit depository for the public dignity and rights, which he had so far degraded; and that if Congress should reinstate him against his own desire, and with this fact before their eyes, it would seem as if they meant to ratify, instead of disowning, the degradation. The motion was opposed on two grounds—first, that the character of Mr. Laurens, and the silence of his letter, overbalanced the testimony of the Register, and Edition: current; Page: [241] rendered the fact incredible; secondly, that the fact, although faulty, ought to have no influence on the public arrangements. The first objection was the prevailing one. The second was abetted by but few. Several professed a readiness to renounce their friend, in case the authenticity of the paper should be verified. On the question there were five noes, three ayes, two divided, two half votes aye. The petition had been published some time ago at New York, and had made some noise in New Jersey, but was ultimately regarded as spurious. There are so many circumstances relating to this gentleman during his captivity, which speak a bias towards the British nation, and an undue cordiality with its new leaders, that I dread his participation in the work of peace.

Your favor of the seventh, which had not arrived last post-day, came a few days afterwards, the post having been detained by sickness. The subsequent one came to hand yesterday in due time. The expedient of drawing bills here on funds in Virginia, even the most unquestionable, has been often tried by us, but in vain. The balance is so much against Virginia that no one wants money there, and the evil will increase as the prospect of peace retires. Your credit with Mr. Cohen, which procured me fifty pounds, with two hundred dollars transmitted by Mr. Ambler, have been of much service to me, but I am relapsing fast into distress. The case of my brethren is equally alarming.

As some of Mr. Laurens’s friends strenuously maintain that the petition enclosed is spurious, I Edition: current; Page: [242] would not wish it to be made public through me until the matter be ascertained, or he be present to explain it.

James Madison
Madison, James
September 30, 1782
Edmund Randolph
Randolph, Edmund


Dear Sir,

The remittance to Colonel Bland is a source of hope to his brethren. I am almost ashamed to reiterate my wants so incessantly to you, but they begin to be so urgent that it is impossible to suppress them. The kindness of our little friend in Front street, near the coffee-house, is a fund which will preserve me from extremities, but I never resort to it without great mortification, as he obstinately rejects all recompense. The price of money is so usurious, that he thinks it ought to be extorted from none but those who aim at profitable speculations. To a necessitous Delegate he gratuitously spares a supply out of his private stock.

No addition has been made to our stock of intelligence from Europe since the arrival of the French frigates. Some letters from the Marquis de la Fayette and others have since come to hand, but they are all of the same date with the despatches then received. One of the Marquis’s paragraphs, indeed, signifies the tergiversation of Mr. Grenville, which had been only in general mentioned to us before. On the communication made by this gentleman to the Count de Vergennes of the object of his mission, Edition: current; Page: [243] he proposed verbally the unconditional acknowledgment of American Independence as a point to which the King had agreed. The Count de Vergennes immediately wrote it down, and requested him to put his name to the declaration. Mr. Grenville drew back, and refused to abide by any thing more than that the King was disposed to grant American Independence. This illustrates the shade of difference between Shelburne and Fox.

James Madison
Madison, James
October 8, 1782
Edmund Randolph
Randolph, Edmund


Dear Sir,

Your favor of the twenty-seventh of September came to hand yesterday, and is a fresh instance of the friendly part you take in my necessities. In consequence of the hint in your last of a pressing representation to the Executive, our public letter of last week touched on that subject, but the letter received yesterday from the Governor, which seems to chide our urgency, forbids much expectation from such an expedient. The letter from Mr. Ambler enclosed for me a second bill on Mr. Holker, for two hundred dollars, which very seasonably enabled me to replace a loan by which I had anticipated it. About three hundred and fifty more (and not less) would redeem me completely from the class of debtors.

I omitted, in my last, to inform you that the Swedish Minister at Versailles had announced to Dr. Edition: current; Page: [244] Franklin the wish of his King to become an Ally of the United States, and that the treaty might be negotiated with the Doctor in particular. A plenipotentiary commission has, in consequence, issued for that purpose. The model transmitted by Congress is pretty analogous to the treaty with France, but is limited in duration to fifteen years.

James Madison
Madison, James
October 15, 1782
Edmund Randolph
Randolph, Edmund


Dear Sir,

The offensive paragraph in the correspondence of Mr. L. with Mr. P., spoken of in your favor of the fifth, was, as you supposed, communicated to me by Mr. Jones. I am, however, but very imperfectly informed of it.

We have not yet received a second volume of the negotiations at Versailles; nor any other intelligence from Europe, except a letter from Mr. Carmichael, dated about the middle of June, which is chiefly confined to the great exertions and expectations with respect to Gibraltar. Whilst the siege is depending, it is much to be apprehended that the Court of Madrid will not accelerate a pacification.

Extract of a letter from Sir Guy Carleton to General Washington, dated New York, September twelfth, 1782.

“Partial though our suspension of hostilities may be called, I thought it sufficient to have prevented those cruelties in the Jerseys (avowed) which I have Edition: current; Page: [245] had occasion to mention more than once; but if war was the choice, I never expected this suspension should operate further than to induce them to carry it on as is practised by men of liberal minds. I am clearly of opinion with Your Excellency, that mutual agreement is necessary for a suspension of hostility, and, without this mutual agreement, either is free to act as each may judge expedient; yet I must, at the same time, frankly declare to you, that being no longer able to discern the object we contend for, I disapprove of all hostilities both by sea and land, as they only tend to multiply the miseries of individuals, when the public can reap no advantage from success. As to the savages, I have the best assurances, that from a certain period, not very long after my arrival here, no parties of Indians were sent out, and that messengers were despatched to recall those who had gone forth before that time; and I have particular assurances of disapprobation of all that happened to your party on the side of Sandusky, except so far as was necessary for self-defence.”

It would seem, from this paragraph, that the insidious object of a separate convention with America was still pursued.

The symptoms of an evacuation of New York became every day less apparent. Our next intelligence from Charleston will probably confirm our expectations as to that metropolis.

Edition: current; Page: [246]
James Madison
Madison, James
October 22, 1782
Edmund Randolph
Randolph, Edmund


Dear Sir,

By the vessel spoken of in my last, Congress have received a letter from Mr. Adams, dated Hague, August the eighteenth, which enclosed a copy of the plenipotentiary commission issued to Mr. Fitzherbert, the British Minister at Brussells. The following skeleton of the commission will give you an idea of its aspect towards America:

“Georgius tertius, etc., omnibus, etc., salutem. Cum, belli incendio jam nimis diu diversis orbis terrarum partibus flagrante, in id quam maxime incumbamus ut tranquillitas publica, tot litibus, etc., rite compositis, reduci, etc., possit,—cumque eâ de causa, virum quendam tanto negotio parem, ad bonum fratrem nostrum, Regem Chrismum mittere decrevimus: Sciatis igitur quod nos, fide, etc. Alleini Fitzherbert, etc., confisi, eundem nominavimus, etc., nostrum Plenipotentiarum, dantes, etc., eidem omnem potestatem, etc., nec non mandatum generale pariter ac speciale, etc., in aula prædicti bon. frat. Reg. Chrismi pro nobis et nostro nomine, una cum Plenipotentiariis, tam Celsorum et Præpotentium Dominorum, ordinum Generalium Fœderati Belgii, quam quorumcunque Principum et Statuum quorum interesse poterit, sufficiente auctoritate instructis, tam singulatim ac divisim quam aggregatim ac conjunctim, congrediendi, etc., atque cum ipsis de pace, concordia, etc., præsentibus, etc. etc. In palatio nostro, etc., 24 Julii, 1782.

Edition: current; Page: [247]

The only further circumstance contained in his letter, relative to the business of a pacification, is the appointment of a Plenipotentiary by the States General, who was to set out for Paris in about three weeks after the date of the letter.

The States of Holland and West Friesland had determined upon the proposed treaty of commerce, and Mr. Adams expected to have a speedy conference with the States General, in order to bring it to a conclusion.

The Secretary of War lately communicated to Congress an extract of a letter from General Washington of a very unwelcome tenor. It paints the discontents of the army in very unusual colors, and surmises some dangerous eruption, unless a payment can be effected within the present year. The Secretary is gone to head-quarters at the request of the General. How far their joint precautions will calm the rising billows, must be left to the result.

Congress have reduced the estimate for the ensuing year to six millions of dollars, and the requisitions on the States, for the present, to one-third of that sum. A call for the residue is suspended till the result of the applications for loans shall be known.

The combined fleets have certainly gone to support the siege of Gibraltar. The Dutch has returned to the Texel. According to the preconcerted plan, it was to have proceeded North, after disposing of its convoy, and have reinforced the combined fleet. The disappointment is traced up to the machinations of the Prince of Orange, whose attachment to the Edition: current; Page: [248] enemies of the Republic seems to be fatal to all her exertions. For other particulars taken from foreign gazettes, I refer to those herewith enclosed, and those enclosed to Mr. Ambler.

James Madison
Madison, James
October 29, 1782
Edmund Randolph
Randolph, Edmund


Dear Sir,

Some intelligence has been received from the frontiers of New York, which revives the apprehensions of further inroads from Canada, and co-operation on the part of the Vermonters. The tenor of Carleton’s letter to General Washington on this subject, and other circumstances, render this article at least extremely doubtful.

The British fleet at New York has been busy in preparing for sea, and will probably soon depart from that station. The West Indies most naturally occur as the object of its destination. It is said their preparations have been much expedited by the most direct and undisguised supplies from the people of New Jersey.

Congress have been occupied for several days past with the case of Lippencot, referred to them by General Washington. On one side it was urged, that the disavowal and promises by the British Commander, the abolition of the obnoxious board of refugees, and the general change of circumstances, rendered retaliation unnecessary and inexpedient. On the other side it was contended, that a departure Edition: current; Page: [249] from the resolution so solemnly adopted and repeated by General Washington, with equal solemnity ratified by Congress, would be an indelible blot on our character; that after the confessions on the part of the enemy of the deed complained of, a greater inflexibility on our part would be looked for; that after such confessions, too, the enemy would never suffer the innocent to perish, if we persisted in demanding the guilty; and finally, that if they should suffer it, the blood would be on their heads, not on ours. No definitive resolution has yet passed on the subject. All the intermediate steps have been very properly entered on the secret journals.

General Lincoln has just returned from the army. He has not yet made a report to Congress. He says, I understand, that his visit has had a very salutary operation, but that some pay must be found for the army. Where it is to be found, God knows. The state of the public finances has already compelled the Superintendant to give a discharge to the former contractors, and to accept of a new contract, by which thirty per cent. is added to the price of a ration in consideration of credit for three months. He has, on this occasion, written a pressing exhortation to the States, which, I suppose, is accessible to you.

Mr. Carroll moved, yesterday, a resolution for accepting the territorial cession of New York. It stands the order for to-day. I regret much, on this occasion, the absence of Mr. Jones.

Edition: current; Page: [250]

FROM NOVEMBER 4TH, 1782, TO FEBRUARY 13TH, 1783.mad. mss.


Elias Boudinot was chosen President by the votes of N. Hampshire represented by John Taylor Gilman and Phillips White—Rhode Island by Jonathan Arnold and David Howell—Connecticut by Benjamin Huntington & Eliphalet Dyer—N. Jersey by Elias Boudinot & John Witherspoon—Pennsylvania by Thomas Smith George Clymer, and Henry Wynkoop—Delaware by Thomas McKean & Samuel Wharton—Maryland by John Hanson, Daniel Carroll & William Hemsley. The votes of Virga represented by James Madison & Theodorick Bland & of S. Carolina represented by John Rutledge Ralph Izard, David Ramsay, & John Lewis Gervais, were given to Mr. Bland—The vote of N. York represented by James Duane and Ezra L’Hommedieu to Abner Nash. The vote of N. C. by Abner Nash, Hugh Williamson & William Blount to John Rutledge. Massachusts having no Delegate but Samuel Osgood had no vote. Georgia had no Delegate.

A Letter dated Ocr 30—1782 from Gel Washington, was read, informing Congress of his putting the army into Winter Quarters, & of the sailing of 14 ships of the line from N. York, supposed to be for the W. Indies & without Troops.

do. July 8 from Mr. Carmichael at St. Ildefonso informing Congress of the good effect in Europe of the rejection of the proposal of Carleton, by Congress & the States; that the King of Spain speaking of the news at table praised greatly the probity of the Edition: current; Page: [251] Americans, raising his voice in such a manner that all the foreign Ministers might hear him. Mr. Carmichael adds that He had discovered that the Imperial & Russian Ministers by directions from their Courts had renewed their offered mediation to His M. C. M. and that he suspected England was at the bottom of it.—Quere.

do. Nants Sepr 5. from Mr Laurens, notifying his intention to return to America; that being so advised by his friends he had applied to the Ct of London for a passport via Falmouth; that Cornwallis had interested himself therein & that the passport had been promised.1

Edition: current; Page: [252]


A Resolution passed authorizing Genl Washington to obtain the exchange of 2 foreign officers notwithstanding the Resoln of the 16 of Ocr. declaring that Congress will go into no partial Edition: current; Page: [253] exchanges until a general cartel be settled on national principles. This measure passed without due consideration by the votes of N. H., R. I., Cont: Del: Maryland N. C. & S. C. On the motion Edition: current; Page: [254] of Mr. Osgood it was reconsidered in order to refer the case to the Secy. of War & Genl Washington to take order. By Mr. Madison opposition was made agst. any partial exchange in the face of the solemn declaration passed on the 16 Ocr.,1 as highly dishonorable to Congress, especially as that declaration was made in order to compel the enemy to a national convention with the U. S. All exchanges had been previously made on the part of the former by the Military authority of their Generals. After the letter of Genl. Carleton & Admiral Digby notifying the purpose of the British King to acknowledge our Independence, it was thought expedient by Congress to assume a higher tone. It was supposed also at the time of changing this mode that it would be a test of the enemy’s sincerity with regard to Independence. As the trial had been made & the British Com̃ander either from a want of power or of will had declined treating of a cartel on national ground, it would be peculiarly preposterous & pusilanimous in Congress to return to the former mode. An adjournment suspended the vote on the question for referring the case to the Sey & General to take order.


No Congress.


On the reconsideration of the Resol: for exchanging the two for: officers Its repeal was unanimously agreed to.

A motion was made by Mr. Osgood to assign an early day for filling up the vacancy in the Court of Appeals. It was opposed on the principle of economy, and the expedient suggested by Mr. Duane, of empowering a single Judge to make a Court until the public finances would better bear the expense. In favor of the motion it was argued 1. that the proceedings of the Court were too Edition: current; Page: [255] important to be confided to a single Judge. 2. that the decisions of a single judge would be less satisfactory in cases where a local connection of the judge subsisted with either of the parties. 3. that a single judge would be more apt by erroneous decisions to embroil the U. S. in disputes with foreign powers. 4. that if there were more than one Judge, & one formed a court, there might at the same time be two interfering jurisdictions, and that if any remedy could be applied to this difficulty, the course of decisions would unavoidably be less uniform, & the provision of the confederation for a court of universal appellant Jurisdiction so far contravened. 5. as there was little reason to expect that the public finances wd. during the war be more equal to the public burdens than at present, and as the cases within the cognizance of this court would cease with the war, the qualification annexed to the expedient ought to have no effect. The motion was disagreed to & a committee which had been appointed to prepare a new ordinance for constituting the Court of Appeals, was filled up & instructed to make report.—on the above motion an opinion was maintained by Mr. Rutledge that as the court was according to the ordinance in force to consist of three Judges any two of whom to make a court, unless three were in actual appointment the decisions of two were illegal.

Congress went into the consideration of the report of the Com̃ittee on the case of Capt. Asgill the British officer allotted to suffer retaliation for the murder of Capt. Huddy. The report proposed.

“That considering the letter of the 29th of July last from the Count de Vergennes to Genl. Washington interceding for Capt. Asgill, the Commander-in-Chief be directed to set him at liberty.”

Previous to the receipt of this letter from the Count de Vergennes Congress had been much divided as to the propriety of executing the retaliation, after the professions on the part of the British commanders, of a desire to carry on the war on humane principles, and the promises of Sr G. Carleton to pursue as effectually as possible the real authors of the murder; some supposing that these circumstances had so far changed the ground that Congress ought to recede from their denunciations, others supposing Edition: current; Page: [256] that as the condition of the menace had not been complied with, and the promises were manifestly evasive, a perseverance on the part of Congress was essential to their honor & that moreover it would probably compel the enemy to give up the notorious author of the confessed murder. After the receipt of the letter from the Count de Vergennes, Congress were unanimous for a relaxation. Two questions however arose on the report of the committee. The 1st was on what considerations the discharge of Cap. Asgill ought to be grounded. On this question a diversity of opinions existed. Some concurred with the committee in resting the measure entirely on the intercession of the French Court: alledging that this was the only plea that could apologize to the world for such a departure from the solemn declaration made both by Congress and the Commander in Chief. Others were of opinion that this plea if publicly recited would mark an obsequiousness to the French Court and an impeachment of the humanity of Congress, which greatly outweighed the circumstance urged in its favor; and that the disavowal of the outrage, by the British Genl. and a solemn promise to pursue the guilty authors of it, afforded the most honorable ground on which Congress might make their retreat; others again contended for an enumeration of all the reasons which led to the measure; lastly others were against a recital of any reasons & for leaving the justification of the measure to such reasons as would occur of themselves. This last opinion after considerable discussions prevailed, and the Resol. left as it stands on the Journals. The 2d question was whether this release of Cap: Asgill should be followed by a demand on Gel Carleton to fulfil his engagement to pursue with all possible effect the authors of the Murder.

On one side it was urged that such a demand would be nugatory after the only sanction which could enforce it had been relinquished; that it would not be consistent with the letter of the Count de Vergennes which solicited complete oblivion, and that it would manifest to the public a degree of confidence in British faith which was not felt and ought not to be affected.

On the opposite side it was said that after the confession & promise of justice by Gel Carleton, the least that could be done by Gel. Washington would be to claim a fulfilment; that the Edition: current; Page: [257] intercession of the Ct de Vergennes extended no farther than to prevent the execution of Capt: Asgill, and the substitution of any other innocent victim; and by no means was meant to shelter the guilty; that whatever blame might fall on Congress for seeming to confide in the promises of the enemy, they would be more blamed if they not only dismissed the purpose of retaliating on the innocent, but at the same time omitted to challenge a promised vengeance, on the guilty, that if the challenge was not followed by a compliance on the part of the enemy, it would at least promulge and perpetuate, in justification of the past measures of Congress, the confessions & promises of the enemy on which the challenge was grounded; & would give weight to the charges both of barbarity and perfidy which had been so often brought agst. them.

In the vote on this question, 6 States were in favor of the demand & the others either divided or against it.


The preceding question having been taken again, on a further discussion of the subject. There were in favor of the demand, N. H., R. I., N. Y. Pa Del. Maryd. Virga. & of the other States some were divided.

A motion was made by Mr. Rutledge of S. C. “That the Comder in chief & of the S. Department be respectively directed whenever the Enemy shall commit any act of cruelty or violence contrary to the laws & usage of war on the Citizens of these States to demand adequate satisfaction for the same, and in case such satisfaction shall not be immediately given, but refused or evaded under any pretext whatsoever, to cause suitable retaliation to be forthwith made on British officers without waiting for directions from Congress on the subject.”

When this motion was first made it was espoused by many; with great warmth in particular by the Delegates of N. C & S. C., as necessary to prevent the delays & uncertainties incident to a resort by the Military Commanders to Congress, and to convince Edition: current; Page: [258] the enemy that notwithstanding the dismission of Capt: Asgill the general purpose of retaliation was firmly retained.1

Against the motion it was objected 1. that the time & place in which it stood would certainly convey an indirect reprehension of Genl Washington for bringing before Congress the case of Capt: Asgill & Huddy: 2. that it manifested a distrust in Congress which however well founded it might be with respect to retaliation ought not to be proclaimed by themselves. 3. that political & national considerations might render the interference of the Supreme authority expedient, of wch the letter from the Ct de Vergennes in the late case furnished an instance; that the resort of the Military Commanders to the Sover̃ign for direction in great and difficult cases, such as those of retaliation would often prove, was a right of which they ought not to be deprived; but in the exercise of which they ought rather to be countenanced. These objections reduced the patrons of the motion to the Delegates of N. C. & S. C. alone or nearly so. In place of it the declaratory motion on the Journals was substituted. This again was objected to as implying that in the cases of retaliation taken up by the Mily commanders, they had proceeded on doubtful authority. To remove this objection, the amendment was proposed, limiting the preamble to the single act of discharging Capt: Asgill. This however was not entirely satisfactory because that particular act could have no constructive influence on the Reputed authority of the Generals. It was acceded to by the votes of several who were apprehensive that in case of rejecting it, the earnestness of some might obtrude a substitute less harmless, or that the Resolution might pass without the preamble, & be more offensive to the Commander in Chief. The first apprehension was the prevailing motive with many to agree to the proposition on the final question.

Edition: current; Page: [259]

This day a letter was recd from Gel Washington, inclosing one of the 25 of Ocr from Sr G. Carleton relative to the demand made on him for a liquidation of accts and payment of the balance due for the maintenance of Prisoners of war, in which the latter used an asperity of language so much the reverse of his preceding correspondence that many regard it as portending a revival of the war against the U S.


No Congress.


The reappointment of Mr. Jefferson as Minister Plenipo: for negotiating peace was agreed to unanimously and without a single adverse remark.1 The act took place in consequence of its being Edition: current; Page: [260] suggested that the death of Mrs J. had probably changed the sentiments of Mr J. with regard to public life, & that all the reasons which led to his original appointment still existed and indeed, had acquired additional force from the improbability that Mr. Laurens would actually assist in the negotiation.

“A motion was made by Mr. Rutledge declaring that when a matter was referred to any of the departments to take order, it was the sense & meaning of Congress that the same should be carried into execution.” On this motion some argued that such reference amounted to an absolute injunction, others insisted that it gave authority, but did not absolutely exclude discretion in the Executive Departments. The explanation that was finally acquiesced in as most rational & conformable to practice was that it not only gave authority, but expressed the sense of Congress that the measure ought to be executed: leaving it so far however in the discretion of the Executive Department, as that in case it differed in opinion from Congress it might suspend execution & state the objections to Congress that their final direction might be given. In the course of debate it was observed by Mr. Madison that the practice of referring matters to take order, especially where money was to be issued, was extremely exceptionable inasmuch as no entry of such proceedings was made on the Journals, but only noted in a memorandum book kept by the Secretary, and then sent to the Department with the reference to take order indorsed by the Secy. but not signed by him. So that the transaction even where public in its nature, never came before the public eye, & the Dept was left with a precarious voucher for its justification. The motion was in the end withdrawn, the mover alledging that as he only aimed at rendering an uncertain point clear, & this had been brought about by a satisfactory explanation, he did not wish for any Resolution on the subject.


No Congress.

Edition: current; Page: [261]


The proceedings were confined to the Report of the Committee on the case of Vermont entered on the Journals. As it was notorious that Vermont had uniformly disregarded the Recommendation of Congress, of 1779, the Report which ascribed the evils prevalent in that district to a late act of N. Y. which violated that recommendation was generally admitted to be unjust & unfair. Mr. Howel was the only member who openly supported it. The Delegates from N. Y. denied the fact that any violation had been committed on the part of that State. The temper of Congress on this occasion as the yeas & nays shew, was less favorable to Vermont than on any preceding one,—the effect probably of the territorial Cession of N. York to the U. S. In the course of the debate Mr. Howel cited the case of Kentucky as somewhat parallel to that of Vermont, said that the late creation of a separate Court by Virga for the former resembled the issuing of Commissions by N. Y. to the latter that the jurisdiction would probably be equally resisted & the same violences would follow as in Vermont. He was called to order by Mr. Madison. The President & the plurality of Congress supported and enforced the call.

1 Under date of November 19th, Madison wrote to Randolph
“The prospect derived from the impost of the five Per Ct seems to be pretty thoroughly blasted by a unanimous & final veto by the Assembly of Rhode Island. This State, by its Delegates (who fully represent the aversion of their constituents to the impost) voted in Congress That 6 Millions of Dollars were necessary for the year ’83, that 2 Millions were as much as the States could raise & as ought to be required by Congress, and that applications for loans in Europe ought to be relied on for the residue. And yet they absolutely refuse the only fund which could be Satisfactory to lenders. The indignation against this perverse sister is increased by her shameful delinquency in the constitutional requisitions.
“The tribunal erected for the controversy between Connecticut and Pennsa was I hear to be opened to-day. The Judges who compose it are Mr. Whipple of N. Hampshire, Mr. Arnold of Rhode Island, the Chief Justice & another gentlemn of N. Jersey & Mr. C. Griffin of Virga. Mr. Rutledge, Mr. Jones & Genl Nelson have declined the service. On the part of Penna, appear Mr. Wilson Mr. Reed, Mr. Bradford & Mr. Sergeant. Mr Osborne assists in the capacity of Solicitor. On the part of Connecticut are deputed Mr. Dyer, Mr. Root, & Docr Saml Johnson. The first & the last I am told, are on the spot. It is supposed that the first object of Cont will be to adjourn the cause to a distant day on the plea that many of their essential documents are beyond the Atlantic. In a national view it is not perhaps advisable to invalidate the title of this State however defective it may be, until a more important controversy is terminated. I will make the earliest communication of the issue of this trial. You will not forget a like promise which your letter makes with respect to the case lately decided by the Court of Appeals.”—Mad. MSS.
No Congress till
Novr Monday 18 × The Journals sufficiently explain the proceedings of those days.1
Tuesday 19 ×
Edition: current; Page: [262]


Congress went into consideration of the Report of A Committee consisting of Mr. Carrol, Mr. McKean & Mr. Howel on two Memorials from the Legislature of Pennsylvania. The Memorials imported a disposition to provide for the Creditors of the U. S. within the State of Pena. out of the Revenues allotted for Congress, unless such provision could be made by Congress. The Report as an answer to the Memorials acknowledged the merit of the public Creditors, professed the wishes of Congress to do them justice; referring at the same time to their recommendation of the Impost of 5 Per Ct, which had not been acceded to by all the States; to the requisition of 1,200,000 Drs, for the payment of one year’s interest on the public debt, and to their acceptance of the territorial cession made by N. Y. After some general conversation in which the necessity of the Impost as the only fund on which loans could be expected & the necessity of loans to supply the enormous deficiency of taxes, were urged, as also the fatal tendency of the plan intimated in the Memorials, as well to the Union itself, as to the system actually adopted by Congress, the Report was committed.1

Edition: current; Page: [263]

A motion was made by Mr. Rutledge, 2ded by Mr. Williamson, to instruct the committee to Report the best mode of liquidating the domestic debts, and of obtaining a valuation of the land Edition: current; Page: [264] within the several States, as the Article of Confederation directs—The first part of the instruction was negatived, provision having been previously made on that head. In place of it the Superintendt of Finance was instructed to report the causes which impede that provision. The 2d part was withdrawn by the mover. A committee however was afterwards appointed, consisting of Mr. Rutledge, Mr. Nash Mr. Duane Mr. Osgood & Mr. Madison, to report the best scheme for a valuation.


A report was made by a Committee to whom had been referred several previous reports & propositions relative to the salaries of foreign Ministers, delivering it as the opinion of the Committee that the Salaries allowed to Ministers Plenipoty. to wit £2500 Sterlg. would not admit of reduction; but that the saly allowed to Secretaries of legations, to wit £1000. Sterlg, ought to be reduced to £500. This Committee consisted of Mr. Duane, Mr. Izard & Mr. Madison the last of whom disagreed to the opinion of his colleagues as to the reduction of the £2500 allowed to Mrs. Plenipoy

Agst a reduction it was argued that not only justice, but the dignity of the U. S. required a liberal allowance to foreign servants; that gentlemen who had experienced the expence of living in Europe did not think that a less sum would be sufficient for a Decent style; and that in the instance of Mr. A. Lee, the expences claimed by him & allowed by Congress exceeded the fixed salary in question.

In favor of a reduction were urged the poverty of the U. S., the simplicity of Republican Governments, the inconsistency of splendid allowances to Ministers whose chief duty lay in displaying the wants of their Constituents and soliciting a supply of them; and, above all, the policy of reconciling the army to the economical arrangements inposed on them, by extending the reform to every other Department.

The result of this discussion was a reference of the Report to another Committee, consisting of Mr. Williamson, Mr. Osgood & Mr. Carrol.

Edition: current; Page: [265]

A motion was made by Mr. Howel, 2ded. by Mr. Arnold, recommending to the several States to settle with & satisfy at the charge of the U. S. all such temporary corps as had been raised by them respectively with the approbation of Congress. The repugnance which appeared in Congress to go into so extensive & important a measure at this time, led the mover to withdraw it.

A motion was made by Mr. Madison seconded by Mr. Jones, “That the Secy of F. Affairs be authorized to communicate to Forn Ministers who may reside near Congress, all such articles of Intelligence recd by Congress as he shall judge fit & that he have like authority with respect to acts & Resolutions passed by Congress; reporting nevertheless the communications which, in all such cases he shall have made.”

It was objected by some that such a Resolution was unnecessary, the Secy being already possessed of the authority; it was contended by others that he ought previously to such communication, to report his intention to do so; others again were of opinion that it was unnecessary to report at all.

The motion was suggested by casual information from the Secy, that he had not com̃unicated to the French Minister the reappointment of Mr. Jefferson, no act of Congress having empowered or instructed him to do so.

The motion was committed to Mr. Williamson Mr. Madison & Mr. Peters.


A considerable time previous to this date a letter had been recd by Congress from Mr. H. Laurens, informing them of his discharge from captivity, and of his having authorized in the British Ministry an expectation that Earl Cornwallis sd in his turn be absolved from his parole. Shortly after a letter from Docr. Franklin informed Congress that at the pressing instance of Mr. L., and in consideration of the offer of Genl Burgoyne for Mr. L. by Congress, as well as the apparent reasonableness of the thing, he had executed an instrument setting Cornwallis at liberty from his parole, until the pleasure of Congress should be known. These papers had been committed to Mr Rutledge Mr Edition: current; Page: [266] Mongomery & Mr Madison, who reported in favor of the ratification of the measure, against the opinion however of Mr. R. the first member of the Committee. The Report after some discussion had been recommitted & had lain in their hands, until being called for, it was thought proper by the Committee to obtain the sense of Congress on the main question whether the act sd be ratified or annulled; in order that a report might be made correspondent thereto. With this view a motion was this day made by Mr. M., 2ded by Mr. Osgood that the Committee be instructed to report a proper act for the ratification of the measure. In support of this motion it was alledged, that whenever a public minister entered into engagements without authority from his Sovereign, the alternative which presented itself was either to recall the minister, or to support his proceedings, or perhaps both; that Congress had by their Resolution of the [seventeenth] day of [September] refused to accept the resignation of Mr. L. and had insisted on his executing the office of a Minister Plenipo: and that on the [twentieth] day of [September] they had rejected a motion for suspending the said Resolution; that they had no option therefore but to fulfil the engagement entered into on the part of that Minister; that it would be in the highest degree preposterous to retain him in so dignified and confidential a service, and at the same time stigmatize him by a disavowal of his conduct and thereby disqualify him for a proper execution of the service; that it was improper to send him into negotiations with the Enemy under an impression of supposed obligations; that this reasoning was in a great degree applicable to the part which Docr. Franklin had taken in the measure; that finally the Marquis de la Fayette, who in consequence of the liberation of Cornwallis, had undertaken an exchange of several officers of his family, would also participate in the mortification; that it was overrating far the importance of Cornwallis, to sacrifice all these considerations to the policy or gratification of prolonging his captivity.

On the opposite side it was said, that the British Govt having treated Mr. L. as a Traitor not as a Prisoner of war, having refused to exchange him for Genl Burgoyne, and having declared by the British Genl at N. York that he had been freely discharged, neither Mr. L. nor Congress would be bound either in honor or justice to Edition: current; Page: [267] render an equivalent; and that policy absolutely required that so barbarous an instrumt of war, and so odious an object to the people of the U. S. should be kept as long as possible in the chains of captivity; that as the latest advices rendered it probable that Mr. L. was on his return to America, the commission for peace would not be affected by any mark of disapprobation which might fall on his conduct; that no injury could accrue to Docr. Franklin, because he had guarded his act by an express reservation for the confirmation or disallowance of Congress; that the case was the same with the Marquis de la Fayette; that the declaration agst partial exchanges until a Cartel on national principles sd be established wd not admit even an exchange antecedt thereto.

These considerations were no doubt with some the sole motives for their respective votes. There were others however who at least blended with them, on one side, a personal attachment to Mr. L., and on the other, a dislike to his character, and a jealousy excited by his supposed predilection for G. B. by his intimacy with some of the new Ministry, by his frequent passing to & from G. B. by the eulogiums pronounced on him by Mr Burke in the House of Commons, and by his memorial whilst in the Tower, to the Parliamt. The last consideration was the chief ground on which the motion had been made for suspending the Resolution which requested his continuance in the Commission for peace.

In this stage of the business a motion was made by Mr. Duane 2ded by Mr. Rutledge to postpone the consideration of it; which being lost, a motion was made by Mr. Williamson to substitute a Resolution declaring, that as the B. Govt had treated Mr. L. with so unwarrantable a rigor & even as a Traitor, and Cornwallis had rendered himself so execrable by his barbarities, Congress could not ratify his exchange—An adjournment was called for in order to prevent a vote with so thin & divided a house.


No Congress till

A letter from the Lt Govr of R. I. was read containing evidence that some of the leaders in Vermt, and particularly Luke Nolton Edition: current; Page: [268] who had been deputed in the year 1780 to Congress as agent for that party opposed to its independence but who had since changed sides had been intriguing with the enemy in N. Y. The letter was committed. See Nor 27.

The consideration of the motion for ratifying the discharge of Cornwallis was resumed. Mr. Williamson renewed his motion which failed. Mr. McKean suggested the expedient of ratifying the discharge, on condition that a General cartel should be acceded to. This was relished at first by several members, but a development of its inefficacy and inconsistency with national dignity stifled it.

A motion was made by Mr. Rutledge, 2ded by Mr. Ramsay, that the discharge should be ratified in case Mr. L. should undertake the office of commissioner for peace. This proposition was generally considered as of a very extraordinary nature, and after a brief discussion withdrawn.

In the course of these several propositions most of the arguments stated on friday last were repeated. Col: Hamilton who warmly & urgently espoused the ratification, as an additional argument mentioned, that some intimations had been given by Colonel L. of the army with the privity of Genl W., to Cornwallis previous to his capitulation, that he might be exchanged for his father, then in the Tower.

The Rept of the Committee on Mr. Ms motion on the 21 inst: relative to the Secy of F. Affairs, passed without opposition.


No Congress but a Grand Committee composed of a member from each State.

The States of N. H. & Massts having redeemed more than their quota of the Emissions prior to the 18th of March 1780, had called on Congress to be credited for the surplus, on which the Superintendt of Finance reported that they ought to be credited at the rate of 1 Dollar specie for 40 of the sd Emission, according to the Act of March aforesaid.1 This report being judged by Congress Edition: current; Page: [269] unjust as the money had been called in by those States at a greater depreciation, was disagreed to. Whereupon a motion was made by Mr. Osgood, that the States who had redeemed a surplus should be credited for the same according to its current value at the time of redemption.

This motion with a letter afterwards recd from the State of Mass: on the same subject, was referred to the Grand Committee in question.

The Committee were unanimous that justice required an allowance to the States who sd sink a surplus, to be apportioned on the different States. The different expedients were

1. That Congress sd renew their call on the States to execute the Acts of the 18th of M., 1780 and leave it to the States to level the money by negotiations among themselves. This was Mr. Hamilton’s idea. The objections against it were that either nothing wd be done in the case or the deficient States wd be at the mercy of the hoarding States; altho the former were perhaps prevented from doing their part by invasions; & the prosperity of the latter enabled them to absorb an undue proportion.

By Mr. Madison it was proposed that Congress should declare that whenever it sd appear that the whole of the bills emitted prior to the 18th of M., 1780 shall have been collected into the treasuries of the several States, Congress wd proceed to give such credit for any surplus above the quotas assigned as equity might require, and debit the deficient States accordingly. In favor of this expedient it was supposed that it would give a general encouragement to the States to draw the money outstanding among individuals into the public treasuries, and render a future equitable arrangemt by Congress easy. The objections were that it gave no satisfaction immediately to the complaining States, & would Edition: current; Page: [270] prolong the internal embarrassments which have hindered the States from a due compliance with the requisitions of Congress.

It was lastly proposed by Mr. Fitzsimmons that the Commissioners appointed to traverse the U. S., for the purpose of settling accounts should be empowered to take up all the outstanding old money and issue certificates in place of it, in specie value according to a rule to be given them by Congress the amount of the certificates to be apportioned on the States as part of the public debt, the same rule to determine the credit for redemptions by the States. This proposition was on the whole generally thought by the Committee least objectionable and was referred to a subcommittee composed of Mr. Rutledge, Mr. Fitzsimmons & Mr Hamilton to be matured & laid before the G. Come. One consideration suggested by Mr. Hamilton in its favor was that it would multiply the advocates for federal funds for discharging the public debts, and tend to cement the Union.1

Edition: current; Page: [271]


The report of the Committee on the letter from the Lt Govr of R. Island (see Novr 25) was made & taken into consideration.

Edition: current; Page: [272]

It was moved by Mr. McKean to insert in the first clause on the Journal, after directing the apprehension by Genl W., “in order that the sd. persons may be brought to trial” The reason urged for the motion was that it might appear that the interposition was not meant to supersede civil process further than the necessity of the case required. Agst the motion it was urged, that it would lead to discussions extremely perplexing & dilatory & that it would be more proper after the apprehension sd have taken place—The motion was lost, 6 States only being for it.

With respect to the main question it was agreed on all sides that it was indispensable to the safety of the U. S. that a traitorous intercourse between the inhabitants of Vermont & the Enemy should be suppressed. There were however two modes proposed for the purpose, viz: the direct & immediate interposition of the military force according to the Report, and, 2dly A reference in the first instance to the acting Authority in Vermont, to be followed in case of refusal or neglect of Justice on the offenders, by an exertion of compulsive measures against the whole body.

In favor of the 1st mode it was sd., that it would be the only effectual one & the only one consistent with the part Congress had observed with regard to Vermont; since a reference to the Authority of Vermont, which had itself been suspected & accused would certainly be followed at the best by a mere mock trial; and would moreover be a stronger recognition of its independence than Congress had made or meant to make.

In favor of the 2d. mode it was alledged, that the body of the people in Vermont were well attached to the Revolution, that a sudden march of military force into the Country might alarm them, that if their Rulers abetted the Traitors, it wd disgrace them in the eyes of their own people, and that Congress would be justified in that event to “split Vermont up among the other States.” This expression, as well as the arguments on this side in general came from Mr. Howell, of R. I., whose object was to render the proceedings of Congress as favorable as possible to the independence of Vermont.

In order to compromise the matter Mr. Arnold moved that the Comander in Chief sd be directed to make a previous communication of his intentions & the evidence on which they were founded Edition: current; Page: [273] to the persons exercising authority within the district in question.

It was suggested by Mr. Madison, as a better expedient that he sd. be authorized to make the communication if he should deem it conducive to the more certain apprehension of the suspected persons.

The Delegates from N. Y. said they would agree that after the apprehension should have been effected, the Commander might give notice thereof to the Persons exercising authority in Vermont.

It was finally compromised as it stands on the Journal.

In the course of the Debate Mr. Clark informed Congress, that the Delegates of N. Jersey could not vote for any act which might oppose force to the Authority of Vermont, the Legislature of that State having so construed the Resolutions of the 7 & 20th. of Aug: as to be incompatible therewith & accordingly instructed their Delegates.

The communication directed to the States on this occasion thro’ the Commander in Chief was objected to by several members as an improper innovation. The object of it was to prevent the risk of discovery, if sent before the plans which might be taken by Genl W were sufficiently advanced, of which he was the proper Judge.


No Congress.

Mr. Livingston, Secy of F. Affairs called upon me & mentioned his intention to resign in a short time his office; observing that as he ultimately was decided to prefer his place of Chancellor in N. York to the other, and the two had become incompatible by the increase of Business in the former, he thought it expedient not to return to Phila, after a visit to N. Y. which was required by this increase. In the course of conversation he took notice that the expence of his appoint under Congress had exceeded his salary about 3000 Dollrs per Annum. He asked me Edition: current; Page: [274] whether it was probable Mr. Jefferson would accept the vacancy, or whether he would accept Mr. Jay’s place in Spain, and leave the vacancy to the latter. I told him I thought Mr. J. wd not accept it himself & doubted whether he would concur in the latter arrangement, as well as whether Congress would be willing to part with Mr. Jay’s services in the Negotiations of peace; but promised to sound Mr. J. on these points by the first opportunity.1


No Congress untill

The Secy of foreign Affairs resigned his office, assigning as a reason the increase of business in his office of Chancellor of N. Y., whereby it was become impossible for him to execute the duties of both; informing Congress at the same time as a rule for providing for his successor, that his expences exceeded his salary upwards of 3000 Dollrs. per annum. The letter of resignation was committed to Mr. McKean, Mr. Osgood, &c.2

Edition: current; Page: [275]


After a verbal report of the Committee above mentioned, who acquainted Congress that in conference with Mr. Livingston he professed a willingness to remain in office till the 1st of Jany, to give time for the choice of a Successor, Mr. McKean proposed the Resolution which stands on the Secret Journals; several alterations having been made however in the course of its consideration. With respect to the Preamble particularly, a change took place. As it was first moved it recited as the ground of the resignation the incompatibility of the office of foreign Affairs with the Chancellorship of N. Y. To this recital it was objected by Mr. Madison, that such a publication of preference of the office of Chancellor of a particular State to the office of foreign Affairs under the U. S., tended to degrade the latter. Whereupon the Preamble on the Journal was substituted. In the course of this business the expediency of augmenting the salary was suggested, but not much supported. Mr. Howel & Mr. Clark opposed it strenuously.

The Report of the Committee on the case of Vermont mentioned on Thursday the 14 of Novr. was called for by Mr. McKean, & postponed on his motion to make way for a set of Resolutions declaring that as Vermont in contempt of the authority of Congress & their Recommendations of — 1799,1 exercised jurisdiction over sundry persons professing allegiance to the State of N. Y., banishing them and stripping them of their possessions, the former be required to make restitution &c. and that in case of refusal or neglect Congress will enforce the same, &c. A motion was made by Mr. Clark 2nd by Mr. Howel to strike out the latter clause; in favor of which it was said that such a menace ought to be suspended until Vermont should refuse Edition: current; Page: [276] to comply with the Requisition, especially said Mr. Howel as the present proceeding being at the instance of Phelps & other exiles, was an ex parte one.

Against the motion for expunging the clause, it was observed that a requisition on Vermont without such a menace wd have no effect, that if Congress interposed they ought to do it with a decisive tone; that as it only enforced restitution in cases where spoliations had been committed and therefore was conditional, the circumstance of its being ex parte was of no weight, especially as Congress cd not call on Vermt to appear as a party after her repeated protestations agst appearing.

On this occasion, Mr. Carroll informed Congress that he had entirely changed his opinion with regard to the policy requisite with regard to Vermt being thoroughly persuaded that its leaders were perfidious men & that the interest of the U. S. required their pretensions to be discountenanced; that in this opinion he was not a little confirmed by a late conversation with Genl Whipple of N. Hampshire at Trenton in which this Gentleman assured him, that the Governing party in Vermont were perfidiously devoted to the British interests & that he had reason to believe that a British Com̃ission for a Govr of that district had come over & was ready to be produced at a convenient season. Some of the members having gone out of Congress & it being uncertain whether there would be more than six States for the clause, an adjournment was moved for & voted.

The proceedings on this subject evinced still more the conciliating effect of the territorial cession of N. York, on several States & the effect of the scheme of an ultra-montane State within Pennsa, on the latter State. The only States in Congress which stood by Vermont were Rhode Island, which is supposed to be interested in lands in Vermt, and N. Jersey whose Delegates were under instructions on the subject.


After the passing of the Resolution concerning Cap: P. Jones,1 Edition: current; Page: [277] a motion was made by Mr. Madison to reconsider the same, that it might be referred to the Agent of Marine to take order, as a better mode of answering the same purpose; since it did not become the sovereign body to give public sanction to a recommendation of Capt: Jones to the Commander of the French Squadron, especially as there was no written evidence that the latter had signified a disposition to concur in the project of Capt: Jones. The motion was lost; a few States only being in favor of it.

The reason assigned by those who voted against the promotion of Col:s to Brigads. according to districts was that such a division of the U. S. tends to foster local ideas, and might lead to a dismemberment.

The Delegates from Penna reminded Congress that no answer had been given to the memorials (see Novr 20) from that State that the Legislature were proceeding in the measure intimated in the said memorials and that they meant to finish it & adjourn this evening.1 The reasons mentioned by the Delegates as prevailing Edition: current; Page: [278] with the Legislature were 1st., the delay of Congress to give an answer which was deemed disrespectful 2d. the little chance of any funds being provided by Congress for their internal debts; 3dly, the assurance (given by one of their members Mr. Jos Mont—g—y, mentioned privately not on the floor) that no impediment to the support of the war cd arise from it, since Congress had provided means for that purpose in Europe.

A Committee consisting of Mr. Rutledge Mr. Madison & Mr. Hamilton was appointed to confer immediately with a Committee from the Legislature on the subject of the Memorials & were instructed to make such communications relative to our affairs abroad as would correct misinformations. The comittee which met them on the part of the Legislature, were Mr. Jos: Montgomery, Mr. Hill & Mr. Jacob Rush.

The Committee of Congress in the conference observed that the delay of an answer had proceeded in part from the nature of so large an assembly of which the Comittee of the Legislature cd not be insensible, but principally from the difficulty of giving a satisfactory one until Rhode Island sd accede to the Impost of Edition: current; Page: [279] 5 Per Ct. of which they had been in constant expectation; that with respect to the prospect from Congress for the public Creditors Congress had required of the States interest for the ensuing year, had accepted the territorial Cession of N. Y. and meant still to pursue the scheme of the impost; that as to their affairs in Europe the loan of 6 Millions of livres only last year had been procured from France by Dr. Franklyn, in place of 12 asked by him, the whole of which had been applied; that the loan of 5.000.000 Guilders opened by Mr. Adams had advanced to about 1½ Million only and there seemed little progress to have been made of late; that the application for 4 Million as part of the estimate for the ensuing year was not founded on any previous information in its favor but against every intimation on the subject, & was dictated entirely by our necessities; so that if even no part of the requisitions from the States sd be denied, or diverted, the support of the war the primary object, might be but deficiently provided for. That if this example which violated the right of appropriation delegated to Congress by the federal Articles, should be set by Pa, it would be both followed by other States & extended to other instances; that in consequence, our system of administration, and even our bond of Union wd be dissolved; that the enemy would take courage from such a prospect and the war be prolonged if not the object of it be endangered; that our national credit would fail with other powers, & the loans from abroad which had been our chief resource fail with it. That an assumption by individual States of the prerogative of paying their own Citizens the debts of the U. S. out of the money required by the latter was not only a breach of the federal system but of the faith pledged to the public Creditors; since payment was mutually guaranteed to each & all of the Creditors [by] each & all of the States; and that lastly it was unjust with respect to the States themselves on whom the burden would fall not in proportion to their respective abilities, but to the debts due to their respective Citizens; and that at least it deserved the consideration of Pa whether she would not be loser by such an arrangement.

On the side of the other Comittee it was answered that the measure cd not violate the confederation, because the requisition Edition: current; Page: [280] had not been founded on a valuation of land; that it would not be the first example, N. H. & N. Y. havg appropriated money raised under requisitions of Congress; that if the other States did their duty in complying with the demands of Congress no inconvenience would arise from it, that the discontents of the Creditors wd prevent the payment of taxes; Mr. Hill finally asking whether it had been considered in Congress how far delinquent States cd be eventually coerced to do justice to those who performed their part? To all which it was replied that a valuation of land had been manifestly impossible during the war—that the apportionments made had been acquiesced in by Pa, and therefore the appropriation could not be objected to; that altho other States might have set previous examples, these had never come before Congress, & it wd be more honorable for Pa to counteract than to abet them especially as the example from her weight in the Union & the residence of Congress wd be so powerful, that if other States did their duty the measure wd be superfluous; that the discontents of the Creditors might always be answered by the equal justice & more pressing necessity which pleaded in favor of the army, who had lent their blood & services to their Country, and on whom its defence still rested; that Congress unwilling to presume a refusal in any of the States to do justice, cd not anticipate it by a consideration of the steps wch such refusal might require, & that ruin must ensue if the States suffered their policy to be swayed by such distrusts. The Comittee appeared to be considerably impressed with these remarks, & the Legislature suspended their plan.


Mr. Lowel & Mr. Reed were elected Judges of the Court of Appeals. Mr. P. Smith, of N. Jersey had the vote of that State; and Mr. Merchant,1 of Rhode Island the vote of that State.

The Resolutions respecting Vermont moved by Mr. McKean on the [twenty-seventh] day of [November,] were taken into Consideration. They were seconded by Mr. Hamilton, as entered on the Journal of this day. Previous to the question on the Edition: current; Page: [281] coercive clause, Mr. Madison observed that as the preceding clause was involved in it, & the federal articles did not delegate to Congress the authority about to be enforced, it would be proper in the first place to amend the recital in the previous clause, by inserting the ground on which the Authority of Congress had been interposed. Some who voted against this motion in this stage having done so from a doubt as to the point of order, it was revived in a subsequent stage when that objection did not lie. The objections to the motion itself were urged chiefly by the Delegates from Rhode Island, and with a view in this as in all other instances, to perplex & protract the business. The objections were 1st that the proposed insertion was not warranted by the Act of N. Hampshire which submitted to the judgment of Congress merely the question of jurisdiction. 2dly That the Resolutions of Aug: 1781, concerning Vermont, havg been acceded to by Vermont, annulled all antecedent acts founded on the doubtfulness of its claim to independence. In answer To the 1st objn the Act of N. H. was read wch in the utmost latitude adopted the Resolus of Congress which extended expressly to the preservation of peace & order & prevention of acts of confiscation by one party agst another. To the 2d objn it was answered 1st that the sd. Resons of Aug: being conditional not absolute, the accession of Vermont cd not render them definitive; but 2dly that prior to this accession, Vermont havg in due form rejected the Resolns, and notified the rejection to Congress, the accession could be of no avail unless subsequently admitted by Congress, 3dly, that this doctrine had been maintained by Vermont itself wch had declared that inasmuch as the Resolns of Aug: did not correspond wth their overtures previously made to Congress these had ceased to be obligatory; wch act it was to be observed was merely declaratory, not creative, of the annulment.

The original motion of Mr. McKean & Mr. Hamilton [was agreed to] seven States voting for it; R. I. & N. J. in the negative.


An ordinance, extending the privilege of Franking letters to the Heads of all the Departments was reported & taken up. Various ideas were thrown out on the subject at large; some contending Edition: current; Page: [282] for the extension proposed some for a partial adoption of it, some for a total abolition of the privilege as well in members of Congress as in others. Some for a limitation of the privilege to a definite number or weight of letters. Those who contended for a total abolition, represented the privilege as productive of abuses, as reducing the profits so low as to prevent the extension of the establishment throughout the U. S. and as throwing the whole burden of the establishment on the mercantile intercourse.—On the other side it was contended that in case of an abolition The Delegates, or their Constitutents, would be taxed just in proportion to their distance from the seat of Congress; which was neither just nor politic, considering the many other disadvantages which were inseparable from that distance; that as the correspondence of the Delegates was the principal channel through which a general knowledge of public affairs, was diffused, any abridgment of it would so far confine this advantage to the States within the neighbourhood of Congress; & that as the correspondence at present however voluminous did not exclude from the mail any private letters which wd be subject to postage, and if postage was extended to letters now franked the no & size of them would be essentially reduced, the revenue was not affected in the manner represented. The Ordinance was disagreed to & the subject recommitted, wth instruction to the Committee giving them ample latitude for such Report as they should think fit.

A Boston Newspaper containing under the Providence Head, an extract of a letter purporting to be written by a Gentleman in Philada and misrepresenting the state of our loans, as well as betraying the secret proposal of the Swedish Court to enter into a Treaty with the U. S; with the view of disproving to the people of R. Island the necessity of the Impost of 5 P Ct.; had been handed about for several days. From the style and other circumstances, it carried strongly the appearance of being written by a Member of Congress. The unanimous suspicions were fixed on Mr. Howel. The mischievous tendency of such publications & the necessity of the interposition of Congress were also general subjects of conversation. It was imagined too that a detection of the person suspected would destroy in his State that influence which he exerted in misleading its counsels with respect to the Edition: current; Page: [283] Impost. These circumstances led Mr. Williamson to move the proposition on this subject.1

It was opposed by no one.

Mr. Clark supposing it to be levelled in part at him, rose & informed Congress, that not considering the article relative to Sweden as secret in its nature, and considering himself at liberty to make any communications to his Constituents, he had disclosed it to the Assembly of N. Jersey. He was told that the motion was not aimed at him, but the doctrine advanced by him was utterly inadmissible. Mr. Rutledge observed that after this frankness on the part of Mr. Clarke as well as from the respect due from every member to Congress & to himself, it might be concluded that if no member present should own the letter in question, no member present was the author of it. Mr. H. was evidently perturbated but remained silent.

The conference with the Committee of the Legislature of Penna., with subsequent information had rendered it very evident that unless some effectual measures were taken against separate appropriations & in favor of the public Creditors the Legislature of that State, at its next meeting, would resume the plan which they had suspended. Mr. Rutledge in pursuance of this conviction moved that the Superintendt of Finance be instructed to represent to the several States the mischiefs which such appropriations would produce. It was observed with respect to this motion that however it might be as one expedient, it was of itself inadequate; that nothing but a permanent fund for discharging the debts of the public would divert the States from making provision for their own Citizens; that a renewal of the call on R. Island for the impost ought to accompany the motion; that such a combination of these plans would mutually give efficacy to them, Edition: current; Page: [284] since R. Island would be solicitous to prevent separate appropriations, & the other States would be soothed with the hope of the Impost. These observations gave rise to the Motion of Mr. Hamilton, which stands on the Journal.1 Agst. Mr. Rutledge’s part of the motion no objection was made. But The sending a deputation to Rhode Island was a subject of considerable debate, in which the necessity of the impost, in order to prevent separate appropriations by the States, to do equal justice to the Public creditors, to maintain our national character & credit abroad, to obtain the loans essential for supplying the deficiencies of revenue, to prevent the encouragement which a failure of the scheme would give the Enemy to persevere in the war, was fully set forth. The objections, except those wch came agst the scheme itself from the Delegates of R. Island, were drawn from the unreasonableness of the proposition. Congress ought it was said to wait for an official answer to their demand of an explicit answer from R. I. before they could with propriety repeat their exhortations. To which it was replied that altho’ this objection might have some weight, Yet the urgency of our situation, and the chances of giving a favorable turn to the negotiations on foot for peace rendered it of little comparative significance. The objections were finally retracted, and both the propositions agreed to. The Deputation elected were Mr. Osgood, Mr. Mifflin & Mr. Nash taken from different parts of the U. S., & each from States that had fully adopted the Impost, and would be represented in Congress wthout them; except Mr. Osgood whose State, he being alone, was not represented without him.

Edition: current; Page: [285]


No Congress.

The Grand Committee met again on the business of the old paper emissions, and agreed to the plan reported by the sub-committee in pursuance of Mr. Fitzsimmons’ motion, vz: that the outstanding bills should be taken up & certificates issued in place thereof at the rate of 1 real Dollar for — nominal ds., and that the surpluses redeemed by particular States shod. be credited to them at the same rate. Mr. Carrol alone dissented to the plan, alledging that a law of Maryland was adverse to it which he considered as equipollent to an instruction. For filling up the blank, several rates were proposed. 1st., 1 for 40 on which the votes were no except Mr. Howell. 2d, 1 for 75 no Mr. White & Mr. Howell, ay. 3d, 1 for 100 no Mr. Hamilton & Mr. Fitzsimmons ay. 4th, 1 for 150 no Mr. Fitzsimmons ay. The reasons urged in favor of 1 for 40 were—first an adherence to public faith, secondly that the depreciation of the certificates would reduce the rate sufficiently low, they being now negotiated at the rate of three or four for one. The reason for 1 for 75, that the bills passed at that rate when they were called in, in the Eastern States; for 1 for 100—that as popular ideas were opposed to the stipulated rate, and as adopting the current rate might hurt the credit of other securities which derived their value from an opinion that they would be strictly redeemed, it was best to take an arbitrary rate, leaning to the side of liberality,—for 1 for 150 that this was the medium depreciation when the circulation ceased. The opposition to these several rates came from the Southern Delegates, in some of whose States none, in others but little had been redeemed, & in all of which the depreciation had been much greater. On this side it was observed by Mr. Madison, that the States which had redeemed a surplus, or even their quotas, had not done it within the period fixed by Congress but in the last stages of depreciation, & in a great degree, even after the money had ceased to circulate; that since the supposed Cessation the money had generally changed hands at a value far below any rate that had been named; that the principle established by Edition: current; Page: [286] the plan of the 18th of March 1780, with respect to the money in question was, that the Holder of it sd receive the value at which it was current, & at which it was presumed he had received it; that a different rule adopted with regard to the same money in different stages of its downfall wd. give general dissatisfaction. The Committee adjourned without coming to any decision.


No Congress.


A motion was made by Mr. Ramsay directing the Secy at War who was abt. to visit his family in Massachusetts, to take Vermont in his way & deliver the Resolutions passed a few days since to Mr. Chittenden. For the motion it was urged that it would ensure the delivery would have a conciliating effect, and would be the means of obtaining true and certain knowledge of the disposition & views of that people. On the opposite side it was exclaimed agst. as a degradation of so high a Servt of the U. S., as exposing him to the temerity of leaders who were on good ground suspected of being hostile to the U. S., and as treating their pretensions to Sovereignty with greater complaisance than was consistent with the eventual resolutions of Congress. The motion was rejected.

A motion was made by Mr. Gilman that a day be assigned for determining finally the affair of Vermont. The opposition made to the motion itself by Rhode Island & the disagreement as to the day among the friends of the motion prevented a decision & it was suffered to lie over.

For the letter of the Superintendt. of Finance to T[homas] B[arclay]1 Comr. for settling accounts in Europe, agreed to by Congr., see Secret Journal of this date.

Edition: current; Page: [287]


The Secy. at War was authorized to permit the British prisoners to hire themselves out on condition of a bond from the Hirers for their return. The measure was not opposed, but was acquiesced in by some, only as conformable to antecedent principles established by Congress on this subject. Col Hamilton in particular made this explanation.

Mr. Wilson made a motion referring the transmission of the Resolutions concerning Vermont to the Secy. at War in such words as left him an option of being the Bearer, without the avowed sanction of Congress. The votes of Virga & N. York negatived it. The Presidt informed Congress that he should send the Resolutions to the Commander in Chief to be forwarded.


The Report made by Mr. Williamson, Mr. Carrol, and Mr. Madison touching the publication in the Boston paper, supposed to be written by Mr. Howel, passed with the concurrence of R. Island; Mr. Howel hesitating & finally beckoning to Mr. Collins his collegue, who answered for the State in the affirmative. As the Report stood the Executive of Massachusetts, as well as of Rho. Island was to be written to, the Gazette being printed at Boston. On the motion of Mr. Osgood who had seen the original publication in the Providence Gazette and apprehended a constructive imputation on the Mass Delegates by such as would be ignorant of the circumstances, the Executive of Massts was expunged.


Mr. Howel verbally acknowledged himself to be the writer of the letter from which the extract was published in the Providence Gazette. At his instance the subject was postponed until Monday.

Edition: current; Page: [288]


No Congress.


The answer to the objections of Rho: Island,1 as to the Impost, penned by Mr. Howel, passed without opposition, 8 States being present, of which Rho: Isd was one, a few trivial alterations only being made in the course of discussion.

Mr. Howell, contrary to expectation, was entirely silent as to his affair.


Mr. Carrol in order to bring on the affair of Mr. Howel moved that the Secy of Foreign Affairs be instructed not to write to the Govt. of Rhode Island on the subject. The state in wch such a vote would leave the business unless the reason of it was expressed, being not adverted to by some, and others being unwilling to Edition: current; Page: [289] move in the case, this motion was incautiously suffered to pass. The effect of it however was soon observed, and a motion in consequence made by Mr. Hamilton, to subjoin the words, “Mr. Howel having in his place confessed himself to be the Author of the publication.” Mr. Ramsay thinking such a stigma on Mr. Howel unnecessary, & tending to place him in the light of a persecuted man whereby his opposition to the Impost might have more weight in his State, proposed to substitute as the reason, “Congress havg recd the information desired on that subject. The yeas & nays being called for by Mr. Hamilton, Mr. Howell grew very uneasy at the prospect of his name being thereby brought on the Journals; and requested that the subject might be suspended until the day following. This was agreed to & took place on condition that the ne[ga]tived counter direction to the Secy of F. A. should be reconsidered & lie over also.


This day was chiefly spent on the case of Mr. Howel, whose behaviour was extremely offensive, and led to a determined opposition to him, those who were most inclined to spare his reputation. If the affair could have been closed without an insertion of his name on the Journal, he seemed willing to withdraw his protest; but the impropriety which appeared to some, & particularly to Mr. Hamilton, in suppressing the name of the Author of a piece wch. Congress had so emphatically reprobated, when the author was found to be a member of Congress, prevented a relaxation as to the yeas & nays. Mr. Howell, therefore as his name was necessarily to appear on the Journal, adhered to the motion which inserted his protest thereon.1 The indecency of this paper, and Edition: current; Page: [290] the pertinacity of Mr. Howell in adhering to his assertions with respect to the non-failure of any application for foreign loans, excited great & (excepting his Colleagues or rather Mr. Arnold) universal indignation and astonishment in Congress; and he was repeatedly premonished of the certain ruin in wch. he wd. thereby involve his character & consequence; and of the necessity wch Congress wd be laid under of vindicating themselves by some act which would expose and condemn him to all the world.


See Journals.


A motion was made by Mr. Hamilton for revising the requisitions of the preceding and present years, in order to reduce them more within the faculties of the States. In support of the motion it was urged that the exorbitancy of the demands produced a despair of fulfilling them which benumbed the efforts for that purpose. On the other side it was alledged that a relaxation of the demand would be followed by a relaxation of the efforts; that unless other resources were substituted, either the States would be deluded by such a measure into false expectations, or, in case the truth sd be disclosed to prevent that effect, that the Enemy wd be encouraged to persevere in the war agst us. The motion meeting with little patronage it was withdrawn.

Edition: current; Page: [291]

The report of the committee on the motion of Mr. Hamilton proposed that the Secy. of Congress should transmit to the Executive of Rhode Island the several acts of Congress with a state of foreign loans. The object of the committee was that in case Rho: Island should abet or not resent the misconduct of their Representative, as wd most likely be the event, Congress should commit themselves as little as possible in the mode of referring it to that State. When the Report came under consideration it was observed, that the Presidt. had always transmitted acts of Congress to the Executives of the States, and that such a change on the present occasion might afford a pretext if not excite a disposition in Rho: Island not to vindicate the honor of Congress. The matter was compromised by substituting the Secy of F. A. who ex officio, corresponds with the Governors &c within whose department the facts to be transmitted as to foreign loans, lay. No motion or vote opposed the report as it passed.


The Committee to confer wth. Mr. Livingston was appointed the preceding day in consequence of the unwillingness of several States to elect either Genl Schuyler, Mr. Clymer, or Mr. Read the Gentlemen previously put into nomination, and of a hint that Mr. L might be prevailed on to serve till the spring. The Committee found him in this disposition and their report was agreed to without opposition.1 See the Journal.


The motion to strike out the words “accruing to the use of the U. S.,” was grounded on a denial of the principle that a capture & possession by the enemy of moveable property extinguished or effected the title of the original owners. On the other side this principle was asserted as laid down by the most approved writers, and conformable to the practice of all nations; to which was added that if a contrary doctrine were established by Congress, innumerable Edition: current; Page: [292] claims would be brought forward by those whose property had, on recapture been applied to the public use.1 See Journal.

Letters were this day recd. from Dr. Franklin, Mr. Jay & the Marquis de la Fayette. They were dated the 14th of Ocr. That from the first inclosed copy of the 2d Comission to Mr. Oswald with sundry prelimy articles, and distrusted the British Court. That from the 2d. expressed great jealousy of the French Govt, & referred to an intercepted letter from Mr. Marbois, opposing the claim of the U. S. to the Fisheries. This despatch produced much indignation agst the author of the intercepted letter, and visible emotions in some agst France. It was remarked here that our Ministers took no notice of the distinct comons. to Fitzherbert & Oswald; that altho’ on a supposed intimacy and joined in Edition: current; Page: [293] the same comon., they the Ministers, wrote separately & breathed opposite sentiments as to the views of France. Mr. Livingston told me that the letter of the Ct de Vergennes, as read to him by the Chevr Luzerne, very delicately mentioned & complained that American Ministers did not in the negotiations with the British Ministers, maintain the due com. with those of France. Mr. Livingston inferred on the whole that France was sincerely anxious for peace.

The Presidt acquainted Congress that Ct Rochambeau had communicated the intended embarkation of the French troops for the W. Indies, with an assurance from the King of France, that in case the war sd be renewed agst U. S. they should immediately be sent back.

Edition: current; Page: [294]


The letter from Mr. Jay, inclosing a copy of the intercepted letter from Marbois, was laid before Congress.1 The tenor of it with the comments of Mr. Jay, affected deeply the sentiments of Congress with regard to France. The policy in particular manifested by France, of keeping us tractable by leaving the British in possession of posts in this country awakened strong jealousies, corroborated the charges on that subject, and with concomitant circumstances may engender the opposite extreme of the gratitude & cordiality now felt towards France; as the closest friends on a Edition: current; Page: [295] rupture are apt to become the bitterest foes. Much will depend however on the course pursued by Britain. The liberal one Oswald seems to be pursuing will much promote an alienation of temper in America from France. It is not improbable that the intercepted letter from Marbois came thro’ Oswald’s hands. If G. B., therefore, yields the fisheries & the back territory, America will feel the obligation to her not to France, who appears to be illiberal as to the 1st & favorable to Spain as to the 2d object; and, consequently has forfeited the confidence of the States interested in either of them. Candor will suggest however that the situation of France is and has been extremely perplexing. The object of Edition: current; Page: [296] her blood & money was not only the independence, but the commerce and gratitude of America; the commerce to render independence the more useful, the gratitude to render that commerce the more permanent. It was necessary therefore she supposed that America should be exposed to the cruelties of her Enemies, and be made sensible of her own weakness in order to be grateful to the hand that relieved her. This policy if discovered tended on the other hand to spoil the whole. Experience shews that her truest policy would have been to relieve America by the most direct & generous means, & to have mingled with them no artifice whatever. With respect to Spain also the situation of France has been as peculiarly delicate. The claims & views of Spain & America interfere. The former attempts of Britain to seduce Spain to a separate peace, & the ties of France with the latter whom she had drawn into the war, required her to favor Spain, at least to a certain degree, at the expence of America. Of this G. B. is taking advantage. If France adheres to Spain G. B. espouses the views of America, & endeavours to draw her off from France. If France adheres to America in her claims B. might espouse those of Spain, & produce a breach between her & France; and in either case Britain wd divide her enemies. If France acts wisely, she will in this dilemma prefer the friendship of America to that of Spain. If America acts wisely she will see that she is with respect to her great interests, more in danger of being seduced by Britain than sacrificed by France.

The deputation to R. I. had set out on the 22d & proceeded ½ day’s journey. Mr. Nash casually mentioned a private letter from Mr. Pendleton to Mr. Madison1 informing Edition: current; Page: [297] that the Legislature of Virga. had in consequence of the final refusal of R. I. repealed her law for the impost. As this circumstance if true destroyed in the opinion of the deputies the chief argt to be used by them, viz: the unanimity of the other States, they determined to return & wait for the Southern post, to know the truth of it. The post failing to arrive on the 23d., the usual day the deputies on this day came into Congress & stated the case. Mr. Madison read to Congress the paragraph in the letter from Mr. Pendleton. Congress verbally resolved, that the departure of the Deputies for R. I. sd. be suspended until the further order of Congress; Mr. Madison promising to give any information he might receive by the post. The arrival of the post immediately ensued. A letter to Mr. Madison from Mr. Randolph confirmed the fact, & was communicated to Congress. The most intelligent members were deeply affected & prognosticated a failure of the Edition: current; Page: [298] Impost scheme, & the most pernicious effects to the character, the duration & the interests of the Confederacy. It was at length notwithstanding determined to persist in the attempt for permanent revenue, and a Committee was appointed to report the steps proper to be taken.

A motion was made by Mr. Rutledge to strike out the salvage for recaptures on land, on the same principle as he did the words “accruing to the use of the United States.” As the latter had been retained by barely 7 States, and one of these was not present the motion of Mr. Rutledge succeeded. Some of Those who were on the other side, in consequence, voted agst the whole resolution & it failed. By compromise it passed as reported by the Committee.

The Grand Committee reported after another meeting with respect to the old money, that it should be rated at 40 for 1. The Chair decided on a question raised, that according to rule the blank sd not have been filled up by the Comittee; so the rate was expunged.

From Tuesday 24 of Decr, the journals suffice untill


A motion made by Mr. Clarke, seconded by Mr. Rutledge, to revise the instructions relative to negotiations for peace, with a view to exempt the American Plenipotentiaries from the obligation to conform to the advice of France. This motion was the effect of impressions left by Mr. Jay’s letters, & the intercepted one from Marbois. This evidence of separate views in our Ally, and the inconsistency of that instruction with our national dignity, were urged in support of the motion. In opposing the motion, many considerations were suggested, and the original expediency of submitting the commission for peace to the Councils of France descanted upon. The reasons assigned for this expediency were that at the juncture when that measure took place the American affairs were in the most deplorable situation, the Southern States being overrun & exhausted by the enemy, & and the others more inclined to repose after their own fatigues than to exert their resources Edition: current; Page: [299] for the relief of those which were the seat of the war; that the old paper currency had failed, & with it public credit itself to such a degree that no new currency could be substituted; & that there was then no prospect of introducing specie for the purpose, our trade being in the most ruinous condition, & the intercourse with the Havana in particular unopened. In the midst of these distresses the mediation of the two Imperial Courts was announced. The general idea was that the two most respectable powers of Europe would not interpose without a serious desire of peace, and without the energy requisite to effect it. The hope of peace was therefore mingled with an apprehension that considerable concessions might be exacted from America by the Mediators, as a compensation for the essential one which Britain was to submit to. Congress on a trial found it impossible from the diversity of opinions & interests to define any other claims than those of independence & the alliance. A discretionary power therefore was to be delegated with regard to all other claims. Mr. Adams was the sole minister for peace, he was personally at variance with the French Ministry; his judgment had not the confidence of some, nor his partiality in case of an interference of claims espoused by different quarters of the U. S., the confidence of others; a motion to associate with him two colleagues, to wit, Mr. Franklin & Mr. Jay, had been disagreed to by Congress; the former of these being interested as one of the Land Companies in territorial claims which had less chance of being made good in any other way than by a repossession of the vacant country by the British Crown, the latter belonging to a State interested in such arrangements as would deprive the U. S. of the navigation of the Mississippi, & turn the western trade through N. Y.; and neither of them being connected with the So. States. The idea of having five ministers taken from the whole Union was not suggested until the measure had been adopted, and communicated to the Chevr de Luzerne to be forwarded to France, when it was too late to revoke it. It was supposed also that Mr. Laurens then in the tower would not be out, & that Mr. Jefferson wd. not go; & that the greater no. of Ministers, the greater the danger of discords & indiscretions. It was Added that as it was expected that nothing would be yielded by G. B. which was not extorted by the Edition: current; Page: [300] address of France in managing the Mediators, and as it was the intention of Congress that their minister should not oppose a peace recommended by them & approved by France, it was thought good policy to make the declaration to France, & by such a mark of confidence to render her friendship the more responsible for the issue. At the worst it could only be considered as a sacrifice of our pride to our interest.

These considerations still justified the original measure in the view of the members who were present & voted for it. All the new members who had not participated in the impressions which dictated it and viewed the subject only under circumstances of an opposite nature, disapproved it. In general however the latter joined with the former in opposing the motion of Mr. Clarke, arguing with them that supposing the instruction to be wrong, it was less dishonorable, than the instability that wd. be denoted by rescinding it; that if G. B. was disposed to give us what we claimed France could not prevent it; that if G. B. struggled agst those claims our only chance of getting them was thro’ the aid of France; that to withdraw our confidence would lessen the chance & degree of this aid; that if we were in a prosperous or safe condition compared with that in which we adopted the expedient in question, this change had been effected by the friendly succors of our Ally, & that to take advantage of it to loosen the tie, would not only bring on us the reproach of ingratitude, but induce France to believe that she had no hold on our affections, but only in our necessities; that in all possible situations we sd. be more in danger of being seduced by G. B., than of being sacrificed by France; the interests of the latter in the main necessarily coinciding with ours, and those of the former being diametrically opposed to them, that as to the intercepted letter, there were many reasons which indicated that it came through the hands of the Enemy to Mr. Jay that it ought therefore to be regarded even if genuine, as communicated for insidious purposes; but that there was strong reason to suspect that it had been adulterated if not forged; and that on the worst supposition, it did not appear that the doctrines maintained or the measures recommended in it had been adopted by the French Ministry and consequently that they ought not to be held responsible for them.

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Upon these considerations it was proposed by Mr. Wolcott, 2ded by Mr. Hamilton that the motion of Mr. Clarke should be postponed, which took place without a vote.

Mr. Madison moved that the letter of Docr. Franklin, of the 14 Octr, 1782 should be referred to a Committee, with a view of bringing into consideration the preliminary article proposing that British subjects & American Citizens sd reciprocally have in matters of commerce the privilege of natives of the other party; and giving to the American Ministers the instruction which ensued on that subject. This motion succeeded, and the committee appointed consisted of Mr. Madison Mr. Rutledge, Mr. Clarke, Mr. Hamilton & Mr. Osgood.

The contract of Genl. Wayne1 was confirmed with great reluctance; being considered as being improper with respect to its being made with individuals, as admitting of infinite abuses, as out of his military line, and as founded on a principle that a present commerce with G. B. was favorable to the U. S. a principle reprobated by Congress & all the States. Congress however supposed that these considerations ought to yield to the necessity of supporting the measures which a valuable officer from good motives, had taken upon himself.

TUESDAY, DECR. 31, 1782.

The report of the Committee made in consequence of Mr. Madison’s motion yesterday instructing the Ministers plenipo on the article of commerce, passed unanimously as follows: “Resolved, That the Ministers Plenipo for negotiating peace be Edition: current; Page: [302] instructed in any commercial stipulations with G. B. which may be comprehended in a Treaty of peace to endeavour to obtain for the Citizens and inhabitants of the U. S. a direct commerce to all parts of the British Dominions & Possessions, in like manner as all parts of the U. S. may be opened to a direct Commerce of British subjects; or at least that such direct Commerce be extended to all parts of the British Dominions & possessions in Europe & the West Indies; and the said Ministers are informed that this stipulation will be particularly expected by Congress, in case the Citizens & subjects of each party are to be admitted to an equality in matters of commerce with natives of the other party.


The decision of the controversy between Con. & Penna was reported.

The communications made from the Minister of France, concurred with other circumstances in effacing the impressions made by Mr. Jay’s letter & Marbois’s inclosed. The vote of thanks to Ct. Rochambeau passed with unanimity & cordiality & afforded a fresh proof that the resentment against France had greatly subsided.


Nothing requiring notice.


The vote of thanks to the Minister of France which passed yesterday was repealed in consequence of his having expressed to the President a desire that no notice might be taken of his conduct as to the point in question & of the latter’s communicating the same to Congress. The temper of Congress here again manifested the transient nature of their irritation agst. France.

The motion of Mr. Howel, put on the Secret Journal gave Congress a great deal of vexation. The expedient for baffling his scheme of raising a ferment in his State & exposing the foreign Edition: current; Page: [303] transactions was adopted only in the last resort; it being questioned by some whether the articles of Confederation warranted it.

The answer to the note of the French Minister passed unanimously & was a further testimony of the Abatement of the effects of Mr. Jay’s letter &c.

The proceedings of the Court in the dispute between Cont. & Pa. were after debates as to the meaning of the Confederation in directing such proceeding to be lodged among the acts of Congress entered at large on the Journals. It was remarked that the Delegates from Cont. particularly Mr. Dyer were more captious on the occasion than was consistent with a perfect acquiescence in the decree.


The Memorial from the Army was laid before Congress and referred to a grand Committee. This reference was intended as a mark of the important light in which the memorial was viewed.1

Mr. Berkley having represented some inconveniences incident to the plan of a Consular Convention between France & U. S., particularly the restriction of Consuls from trading & his letter having been committed, a report was made purposing that the Convention should for the present be suspended. To this it had been objected that as the convention might already be concluded such a step was improper; and as the end might be obtained by authorizing the Minister at Versailles to propose particular alterations Edition: current; Page: [304] that it was unnecessary. By Mr. Madison it had been moved that the report should be postponed to make place for the consideration of an instruction & authority to the sd Minister for that purpose; and this motion had in consequence been brought before Congress. On this day the business revived. The sentiments of the members were various, some wishing to suspend such part of the convention only as excluded Consuls from commerce; others thought this exclusion too important to be even suspended; others again thought the whole ought to be suspended during the war; & others lastly contended that the whole ought to be new modelled; the Consuls having too many privileges in some respects, & too little power in others. It was observable that this diversity of opinions prevailed chiefly among the members who had come in since the Convention had been passed in Congress; the members originally present adhering to the views which then governed them. The subject was finally postponed; 8 States only being represented, & 9 being requisite for such a question. Even to have suspended the convention after it had been proposed to the Court of France, & possibly acceded to would have been indecent and dishonorable; and at a juncture when G. B. was courting a commercial intimacy, to the probable uneasiness of France, of very mischievous tendency. But experience constantly teaches that new members of a public body do not feel the necessary respect or responsibility for the acts of their predecessors, and that a change of members & of circumstances often proves fatal to consistency and stability of public measures. Some conversation in private by the old members with the most judicious of the new in this instance has abated the fondness of the latter for innovations, and it is even problematical whether they will be again urged.

In the evening of this day the grand Committee met and agreed to meet again the succeeding evening for the purpose of a conference with the Superintendt of Finance.


See the Journals.

In the evening the grand Committee had the assigned conference with Mr. Morris who informed them explicitly that it was Edition: current; Page: [305] impossible to make any advance of pay in the present state of the finances to the army and imprudent to give any assurances with respect to future pay until certain funds should be previously established. He observed that if even an advance could be made it wd be unhappy that it sd. appear to be the effect of demands from the army; as this precedent could not fail to inspire a distrust of the spontaneous justice of Congress & to produce repetitions of the expedient. He said that he had taken some measures with a view to a payment for the army which depended on events not within our command, that he had communicated these measures to Genl Washington under an injunction of secrecy, that he could not yet disclose them without endangering their success; that the situation of our affairs within his department was so alarming that he had thoughts of asking Congress to appoint a Confidential Committee to receive communications on that subject and to sanctify by their advice such steps as ought to be taken. Much loose conversation passed on the critical state of things the defect of a permanent revenue, & the consequences to be apprehended from a disappointment of the mission from the army; which ended in the appointment of friday evening next for an audience to General McDougall, Col. Brooks & Col. Ogden, the Deputies on the subject of the Memorial, the Superintendt to be present.


On the Report1 for valuing the land conformably to the rule laid down in the federal articles, the Delegates from Connecticut contended for postponing the subject during the war, alledging the impediments arising from the possession of N. Y., &c. by the enemy; but apprehending (as was supposed) that the flourishing State of Connecticut compared with the Southern States, would render a valuation at the crisis unfavorable to the former. Others, particularly Mr. Hamilton and Mr. Madison, were of Edition: current; Page: [306] opinion that the rule of the confederation was a chimerical one since if the intervention of the individual States were employed their interests would give a bias to their judgments, or that at least suspicions of such bias wd prevail and without their intervention, it could not be executed but at an expense, delay & uncertainty which were inadmissible; that it would perhaps be therefore preferable to represent these difficulties to the States & recommend an exchange of this rule of dividing the public burdens for one more simple easy & equal. The Delegates from S. Carolina generally & particularly Mr. Rutledge advocated the propriety of the constitutional rule & of an adherence to it, and of the safety of the mode in question arising from the honor of the States. The debates on the subject were interrupted by a letter from the Superintendent of Finance; informing Congress that the situation of his department required that a committee sd be appointed with power to advise him on the steps proper to be taken; and suggesting an appointment of one consisting of a member from each State, with authority to give their advice on the subject. This expedient was objected to as improper, since Congress wd. thereby delegate an incommunicable power, perhaps, and would at any rate lend a sanction to a measure without even knowing what it was; not to mention the distrust which it manifested of their own prudence & fidelity. It was at length proposed & agreed to, that a special committee consisting of Mr. Rutledge Mr. Osgood & Mr. Madison, should confer with the Superintendt of Finance on the subject of his letter and make report to Congress. After the adjournment of Congress this Com̃ittee conferred with the Superintendt who after being apprized of the difficulties which had arisen in Congress, stated to them that the last account of our money affairs in Europe shewed that contrary to his expectations and estimates there were 3½ Millions of livres short of the bills actually drawn; that further drafts were indispensable to prevent a stop to the public service; that to make good this deficiency there was only the further success of Mr. Adams’ loan and the friendship of France to depend on, that it was necessary for him to decide on the expediency of his staking the public credit on those contingent funds by further drafts, and that in making this decision he wished for the sanction Edition: current; Page: [307] of a committee of Congress; that this sanction was preferable to that of Congress itself only as it wd confide the risk attending bills drawn on such funds to a smaller number, and as secrecy was essential in the operation as well to guard our affairs in general from injury, as the credit of the bills in question from debasement. It was supposed both by the Superintendt. & the Comittee that there was in fact little danger of bills drawn on France on the credit of the loan of 4 Millions of dollars, applied for, being dishonored; since if the negotiations on foot were to terminate in peace, France would prefer an advance in our favor to exposing us to the necessity of resorting to G. B. for it; and that if the war sd. continue the necessity of such an aid to its prosecution would prevail. The result was that the Committee should make such report as would bring the matter before Congress under an injunction of secrecy, and produce a resolution authorizing the Superintendt. to draw bills as the public service might require on the credit of applications for loans in Europe. The report of the Committee to this effect was the next day accordingly made & adopted unanimously. Mr. Dyer alone at first opposed it as an unwarrantable & dishonorable presumption on the ability & disposition of France; being answered however that without such a step or some other expedt which neither he nor any other had suggested, our credit would be stabbed abroad and the public service wrecked at home; and that however mortifying it might be to commit our credit, our faith & our honor to the mercy of a foreign nation, it was a mortification wch. cd not be avoided without endangering our very existence; he acquiesced and the resolution was entered unanimously. The circumstance of unanimity was thought of consequence as it wd. evince the more the necessity of the succour and induce France the more readily to yield it. On this occasion several members were struck with the impropriety of the late attempt to withdraw from France the trust confided to her over the terms of peace when we were under the necessity of giving so decisive a proof of our dependence upon her. It was also adverted to in private conversation as a great unhappiness that during negotiations for peace, when an appearance of vigor & resource were so desirable, such a proof of our poverty & imbecility could not be avoided.

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The conduct of Mr. Howel &c. had led several & particularly Mr. Peters into an opinion that some further rule & security ought to be provided for concealing matters of a secret nature. On the motion of Mr. Peters a committee composed of himself Mr. Williamson &c. was appointed to make a report on the subject. On this day the report was made. It proposed that members of Congress should each subscribe an instrument pledging their faith & honor not to disclose certain enumerated matters.

The enumeration being very indistinct and objectionable, and a written engagement being held insufficient with those who without it wd. violate prudence or honor, as well as marking a general distrust of the prudence & honor of Congress, the report was generally disrelished; and after some debate in which it was faintly supported by Mr. Williamson, the Committee asked & obtained leave to withdraw it.

A discussion of the report on the mode of valuing the lands was revived. It consisted chiefly of a repetition of the former debates.

In the evening according to appt on tuesday last, the grand Committee met, as did the Superintendt of Finance. The chairman Mr. Wolcot informed the committee that Cols Ogden & Brooks two of the deputies from the army had given him notice that Genl McDougal the first of the deputation, was so indisposed with the rheumatism as to be unable to attend, and expressed a desire that the Comittee would adjourn to his lodging at the Indian queen tavern the deputies being very anxious to finish their business among other reasons, on acct of the scarcity of money with them. At first the Com̃ittee seemed disposed to comply; but it being suggested that such an adjournment by a Comittee of a member from each State would be derogatory from the respect due to themselves, especially as the Mission from the army was not within the ordinary course of duty, the idea was dropped. In lieu of it they adjourned to Monday evening next, on the ostensible reason of the extreme badness of the weather which had prevented the attendance of several members.

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Report on the valuation of land was referred to a Grand Committee.

A motion was made by Mr. Peters, 2ded by Mr. Madison, “that a comite. be appointed to consider the expediency of making further applications for loans in Europe, & to confer with the Superint of Finance on the subject.” In support of this motion Mr. P. observed that notwithstanding the uncertainty of success the risk of appearing unreasonable in our demands on France, and the general objections agst indebting the U. S. to foreign nations, the crisis of our affairs demanded the experiment; that money must if possible be procured for the army and there was ground to expect that the Ct of France wd be influenced by an apprehension that in case of her failure & of a pacification G. B. might embrace the opportunity of substituting her favors. Mr. Madison added that it was expedient to make the trial because if it failed, our situation cd not be made worse, that it would be prudent in France & therefore it might be expected of her, to afford the U. S. such supplies as would enable them to disband their army in tranquillity, lest some internal convulsions might follow external peace, the issue of which ought not to be hazarded, that as the affections & gratitude of this Country as well as its separation from G. B. were her objects in the Revolution, it would also be incumbent on her to let the army be disbanded under the impression of deriving their rewards through her friendship to their Country; since their temper on their dispersion through the several States and being mingled in the public councils, would much affect the general temper towards France; and that if the pay of the army could be converted into a consolidated debt bearing interest, the requisitions on the States for the principal might be reduced to requisitions for the interest, and by that means a favorable revolution so far introduced into our finances.

The Motion was opposed by Mr. Dyer because it was improper to augment our foreign debts, & would appear extravagant to France. Several others assented to it with reluctance, and several others expressed serious scruples as honest men agst levying Edition: current; Page: [310] contributions on the friendship or fears of France or others, whilst the unwillingness of the States to invest Congress with permanent funds rendered a repayment so precarious. The motion was agreed to, and the Committee chosen—Mr. Gorham, Mr. Peters, Mr. Izard.

In the evening according to appointment the Grand Committee gave an audience to the deputies of the army,1 viz: Genl McDougal & Cols Ogden & Brooks. The first introduced the subject by acknowledging the attention manifested to the representations of the army by the appt. of so large a Com̃ittee; his observations turned chiefly on the 3 chief topics of the Memorial, namely an immediate advance of pay, adequate provision for the residue, and half-pay.—On the first he insisted on the absolute necessity of the measure to soothe the discontents both of the officers & soldiers, painted their sufferings & services, their successive hopes & disappointments throughout the whole war, in very high-colored expressions, and signified that if a disappointment were now repeated the most serious consequences were to be apprehended; that nothing less than the actual distresses of the army would have induced at this crisis so solemn Edition: current; Page: [311] an application to their country; but yt. the seeming approach of peace, and the fear of being still more neglected when the necessity of their services should be over, strongly urged the necessity of it. His two colleagues followed him with a recital of various incidents & circumstances tending to evince the actual distresses of the army, the irritable state in which the deputies left them, and the necessity of the consoling influence of an immediate advance of pay. Colonel Ogden said he wished not indeed, to return to the army if he was to be the messenger of disappointment to them. The deputies were asked 1st what particular steps they supposed would be taken by the army in case no pay cd be immediately advanced; to which they answered that it was impossible to say precisely; that although the Sergeants & some of the most intelligent privates had been often observed in sequestered consultations, yet it was not known that any premeditated plan had been formed; that there was sufficient reason to dread that at least a mutiny would ensue, and the rather as the temper of the officers at least those of inferior grades, would with less vigor than heretofore struggle agst it. They remarked on this occasion, that the situation of the officers was rendered extremely delicate & had been sorely felt, when called upon to punish in soldiers a breach of engagements to the public which had been preceded by uniform & flagrant breaches by the latter of its engagements to the former. General McDougal said that the army were verging to that state which we are told will make a wise man mad, and Col: Brooks said that his apprehensions were drawn from the circumstance that the temper of the army was such that they did not reason or deliberate cooly on consequences & therefore a disappointment might throw them blindly into extremities. They observed that the irritations of the army had resulted in part from the distinctions made between the Civil & military lists the former regularly receiving their salaries, and the latter as regularly left unpaid. They mentioned in particular that the members of the Legislatures would never agree to an adjournment with[out] paying themselves fully for their services. In answer to this remark it was observed that the Civil officers on the average did not derive from their appointments more than the means of their subsistence; and that the military altho not furnished with their Edition: current; Page: [312] pay properly so called were in fact furnished with the same necessaries.

On the 2d point to wit “adequate provision for the general arrears due to them,” the deputies animadverted with surprise, and even indignation on the repugnance of the States, some of them at least, to establish a federal revenue for discharging the federal engagements. They supposed that the ease not to say affluence with wch the people at large lived sufficiently indicated resources far beyond the actual exertions, and that if a proper application of these resources was omitted by the Country & the army thereby exposed to unnecessary sufferings, it must natural[ly] be expected that the patience of the latter wd. have its limits. As the deputies were sensible that the general disposition of Congress strongly favored this object, they were less diffuse on it. Genl McDougal made a remark wch may deserve the greater attention as he stepped from the tenor of his discourse to introduce it, and delivered it with peculiar emphasis. He said that the most intelligent & considerate part of the army were deeply affected at the debility and defects in the federal Govt, and the unwillingness of the States to cement & invigorate it; as in case of its dissolution, the benefits expected from the Revolution wd. be greatly impaired, and as in particular, the contests which might ensue amg the States would be sure to embroil the officers which respectively belong to them.

On the 3d point to wit “half-pay for life,” they expressed equal dissatisfaction at the States which opposed it observing that it formed a part of the wages stipulated to them by Congress & was but a reasonable provision for the remnant of their lives which had been freely exposed in the defence of their Country, and would be incompatible with a return to occupations & professions for which military habits of 7 years standing unfitted them. They complained that this part of their reward had been industriously and artfully stigmatized in many States with the name of pension, altho’ it was as reasonable that those who had lent their blood and services to the public sd receive an annuity thereon, as those who had lent their money; and that the officers whom new arrangements had from time to time excluded, actually labored under the opprobrium of pensioners, with the additional mortification of Edition: current; Page: [313] not receiving a shilling of the emolums. They referred however to their Memorial to show that they were authorized & ready to commute their half-pay for any equivalent & less exceptionable provision.

After the departure of the Deputies, the Grand Committee appointed a sub-committee, consisting of Mr. Hamilton, Mr. Madison, & Mr. Rutledge to report arrangements, in concert with the Superintendt of Finance for their consideration.

TUESDAY JANY 15th [14th] 1783.

Congress adjourned for the meeting of The Grand Committee to whom was referred the report concerning the valuation of the lands and who accordingly met.

The Committee were in general strongly impressed with the extreme difficulty & inequality if not impracticability of fulfilling the article of the Confederation relative to this point; Mr. Rutledge however excepted, who altho’ he did not think the rule so good a one as a census of inhabitants, thought it less impracticable than the other members. And if the valuation of land had not been prescribed by ye federal articles, the Committee wd certainly have preferred some other rule of appointment, particularly that of numbers under certain qualifications as to Slaves. As the federal Constitution however left no option, & a few1 only were disposed to recommend to the States an alteration of it, it was necessary to proceed 1st to settle its meaning—2dly to settle the least objectionable mode of valuation. On the first point, it was doubted by several members wher the returns which the report under consideration required from the States would not be final and whether the Arts of Confn wd allow Congress to alter them after they had fixed on this mode; on this point no vote was taken. A 2d question afterwards raised in the course of the discussion was how far the Art required a specific valuation, and Edition: current; Page: [314] how far it gave a latitude as to the mode, on this point also there was a diversity of opinions; but no vote taken.

2dly. As to the mode itself referred to the Gd Come., it was strongly objected to by the Delegate from Cont, Mr. Dyer—by Mr. Hamilton,—by Mr. Wilson by Mr. Carol, & by Mr. Madison, as leaving the States too much to the bias of interest, as well as too uncertain & tedious in the execution. In favr of the Rept was Mr. Rutledge the father of it, who thought the honor of the States & their mutual confidence a sufficient security agst frauds & the suspicion of them. Mr. Ghoram favd the report also, as the least impracticable mode, and as it was necessary to attempt at least some compliance with the federal rule before any attempt could be properly made to vary it. An opinion entertained by Massachusetts that she was comparatively in advance to the U. S. made her anxious for a speedy settlement of the mode by which a final apportionment of the common burden cd be effected. The sentiments of the other members of the Committee were not expressed.

Mr. Hamilton proposed in lieu of a reference of the valuation to the States, to class the lands throughout the States under distinctive descriptions, viz: arable, pasture, wood, &c. and to annex a uniform rate to the several classes according to their different comparative value, calling on the States only for a return of the quantities & descriptions. This mode would have been acceptable to the more compact & populous States, but was totally inadmissible to the Southern States.

Mr. Wilson proposed that returns of the quantity of land & of the number of inhabitants in the respective States sd. be obtained, and a rule deducted from the combination of these data. This also would have affected the States in a similar manner with the proposition of Mr. Hamilton. On the part of the S. States it was observed that besides its being at variance with the text of the Confederation it would work great injustice, as would every mode which admitted the quantity of lands within the States, into the measure of their comparative wealth and abilities.

Lastly it was proposed by Mr. Madison, that a valuation shd. be attempted by Congress without the intervention of the States. He observed that as the expense attending the operation would come ultimately from the same pockets, it was not very material Edition: current; Page: [315] whether it was borne in the first instance by Congress or the States, and it at least deserved consideration whether this mode was not preferable to ye. proposed reference to the States.

The conversation ended in the appt of a sub-committee consisting of Mr. Madison, Mr. Carol & Mr. Wilson who were desired to consider the several modes proposed, to confer with the Superintendt of Finance, & make such report to the Gd. Come. as they shd judge fit.


A letter dated the 19th of December from Genl Greene was recd. notifying the evacuation of Charleston. It was in the first place referred to the Secy of Congs. for publication; excepting the passage which recited the exchange of prisoners, which being contrary to the Resolution of the 16 of Ocr. agst. partial exchanges, was deemed improper for publication. It was in the next place referred to a come, in order that some complimentary report might be made in favor of Genl Greene & the Southn army. Docr. Ramsay havg come in after this reference and being uninformed of it, moved that a committee might be appointed to devise a proper mode of expressing to Genl Greene the high sense entertained by Congress of his merits & services. In support of his motion he went into lavish praises of Gl. Greene, and threw out the idea of making him a Lieutent. General. His motion being opposed as somewhat singular and unnecessary after the reference of Genl Greene’s letter, he withdrew it.

A letter was red. from Genl Washington inclosing a certificate from Mr. Chittenden of Vermont acknowledging the receipt of the communication which Gl Washington had sent him of the proceedings of Congress on the [fifth] of [December.]1

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Mr. Rutledge informed Congress that there was reason to apprehend that the train of negotiation in Europe had been so misrepresented in the State of S. Carolina as to make it probable that an attempt might be made in the Legislature to repeal the confiscation laws of that State, & even if such attempt shd. fail, the misrepresentations cd. not fail to injure the sale of property confiscated in that State. In order therefore to frustrate these misrepresentations he moved that the Delegates of S. Carolina might be furnished with an extract from the letter of the 14th. of Oct. from Docr. Franklin, so far as it informed Congress “that something had been mentioned to the American Plenipotentiaries relative to the Refugees & to English debts, but not insisted on; it being answered on their part that this was a matter belonging to the individual States and on which Congress cd enter into no stipulations.” The motion was 2ded by Mr. Jarvais, & supported by Mr. Ramsay. It was opposed by Mr. Ellsworth & Mr. Wolcott as improper, since a communication of this intelligence might encourage the States to extend confiscations to British debts, a circumstance which wd. be dishonorable to the U. S., & might embarrass a treaty of peace. Mr. Fitzsimmons expressed the same apprehensions, so did Mr. Ghoram. His Colleague Mr. Osgood was in favr of the motion. By Mr. Madison the motion was so enlarged and varied as “to leave all the delegates at liberty to communicate the extract to their constents in such form & under such cautions as they shd. judge prudent.” The Motion so varied was adopted by Mr. Rutledge, & substituted in place of the original one. I was however still opposed by the Opponents of the original motion. Mr. Madison observed that as all the States had espoused in some degree the doctrine of confiscations, & as some of them had given instructions to their delegates on the subject, it was the duty of Congress without inquiring into the expediency of Confiscations, to prevent as far as they cd any measures which might impede that object in negotiations for peace, by inducing an opinion that the U. S. were not firm with respect to it; that in this view it was of consequence to prevent the repeal & even the attempt of a repeal of Edition: current; Page: [317] the confiscation law of one of the States and that if a confidential communication of the extract in question would answer such a purpose, it was improper for Congress to oppose it. On a question the motion was negatived, Congress being much divided thereon. Several of those who were in the negative, were willing that the Delegates of S. Carolina shd be licensed to transmit to their State what related to the Refugees, omitting what related to British debts and invited Mr. Rutledge to renew his motion in that qualified form. Others suggested the propriety of his contradicting the misrepresentations in general without referring to any official information recd by Congress. Mr. R. said he wd. think further on the subject, and desired that it might lie over.


The Com̃ite on the motion of Mr. Peters of the [thirteenth] day of [January] relative to a further application for foreign loans, reported that they had conferred with the Superintendt. of Finance, & concurred in opinion with him, that the applications already on foot were as great as could be made prudently, until proper funds should be established. The latent view of this report was to strengthen the argt in favr of such funds, and the report it was agreed should lie on the table to be considered along with the report which might be made on the memorial from the army, & which wd. involve the same subject.

The report thanking Genl. Greene for his services was agreed to without opposition or observation. Several however thought it badly composed, and that some notice ought to have been taken of Majr. Burnet Aid to Gl G., who was the bearer of the letter announcing the evacuation of Charleston.

Mr. Webster & Mr. Judd agents for the deranged officers of the Massachusetts & Cont. lines were heard by the Gd Committee in favr. of their Constituents. The sum of their representations was that the sd officers were equally distressed for, entitled to, & in expectation of provision for fulfilling the rewards stipulated to them, as officers retained in service.

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See Journals.

A letter from Mr. Adams, of the 8th. day of October 1782 containing prophetic observations relative to the expedition of Ld. Howe for the relief of Gibraltar & its consequences &c &c., excited &c &c

Another letter from do, relative to ye Treaty of Amity & Commerce & ye Convention with the States Genl. concerning vessels recaptured, copies of which accompanied the letters. These papers were committed to Mr. Madison Mr. Hamilton & Mr. Ellsworth.

Wednesday January 22 Congress adjourned to give the Come. on the Treaty & Convention time to prepare a report thereon.


The Report of the Come last mentioned consisting of a state of the variations in the Treaty of Amity & Commerce with the States General from the plan proposed by Congress, of a form of ratification of the sd. Treaty & of the Convention, & of a proclamation comprehending both was accepted & passed; the variations excepted wch were not meant to be entered on the journals. Both the Committee & Congress were exceedingly chagrined at the extreme incorrectness of the American copies of these national acts, and it was privately talked of as necessary to admonish Mr. Adams thereof, & direct him to procure with the concurrence of the other party a more correct & perspicuous copy. The Report of the Come as agreed to havg left a blank in the act of ratification for the insertion of the Treaty & Convention, & these being contained both in the Dutch & American languages the former column signed by the Dutch Plenipos. only & the latter by Mr. Adams only, the Secy asked the direction of Congress whether both columns or the American only ought to be inserted. On this point several observations were made & different opinions expressed. In general the members seemed to disapprove of ye. mode used & wd. he. preferred ye. use of a neutral language. As to the request of the Secy., Mr. Wilson was of opinion that the American columns only sd. be inserted. Several others concurred in this opinion; supposing Edition: current; Page: [319] that as Mr. Adams had only signed those columns, our ratifications ought to be limited to them. Those who were of a different opinion, considered the two parts as inseparable & as forming one whole, & consequently that both ought to be inserted. The case being a new one to Congress, it was proposed & admitted that the insertion might be suspended till the next day, by which time some authorities might be consulted on the subject.

A come, consisting of Mr. Madison, Mr. Mifflin & Mr. Williamson reported in consequence of a motion of Mr. Bland, a list of books proper for the use of Congress, and proposed that the Secy. should be instructed to procure the same. In favr. of the Rept it was urged as indispensable that Congress shd have at all times at com̃and such authors on the law of Nations, treaties, Negotiations &c as wd. render their proceedings in such cases conformable to propriety; and it was observed that the want of this information was manifest in several important acts of Congress. It was further observed that no time ought to be lost in collecting every book & tract which related to American antiquities & the affairs of the U. S., since many of the most valuable of these were every day becoming extinct, & they were necessary not only as materials for a Hist: of the U. S., but might be rendered still more so by future pretensions agst. their rights from Spain or other powers which had shared in the discoveries & possessions of the New World. Agst. the Report were urged 1st. the inconvenience of advancing even a few hundred pounds at this crisis; 2dly., the difference of expence between procuring the books during the war & after a peace. These objections prevailed, by a considerable majority. A motion was then made by Mr. Wilson, 2ded. by Mr. Madison, to confine the purchase for the present to the most essential part of the books. This also was negatived.


Some days prior to this sundry papers had been laid before Congress by the War office, shewing that a Cargo of supplies which had arrived at Wilmington for the British & German Prisoners of War under a passport from the Comander in chief and which were thence proceeding by land to their destination, had Edition: current; Page: [320] been seized by sundry persons in Chester County under a law of Pennsa, which required in such cases a license from the Executive authority, which exposed to confiscation all Articles not necessary for the prisoners, & referd. the question of necessity to the judgment of its own Magistrates. Congress unanimously considered the violation of the passport issued under yr. Authority as an encroachment on their constitutional & essential rights; but being disposed to get over the difficulty as gently as possible appointed a Come, consisting of Mr. Rutledge, Mr. Wolcot & Mr. Madison, to confer with the Executive of Pa. on the subject. In the first conference the Executive represented to the Committee the concern they felt at the incident, their disposition to respect & support the dignity & rights of the federal Sovereignty; and the embarrassments in which they were involved by a recent & express law of the State to which they were bound to conform. The Come. observed to them that the power of granting passports for the purpose in question being inseparable from the general power of war delegated, to Congress, & being essential for conducting the war, it could not be expected that Congress wd. acquiesce in any infractions upon it; that as Pa had concurred in the alienation of this power to Congress, any law whatever contravening it was necessarily void, and cd impose no obligation on the Executive. The latter requested further time for a consideration of the case & laid it before the Legislature then sitting; in consequence of which a Come of their body was appd, jointly with the Executive to confer with the Committe of Congress. In this 2d. conference the first remarks made by the Come. of Congress were repeated. The Come. of the Legislature expressed an unwillingness to entrench on the jurisdiction of Congress, but some of them seemed not to be fully satisfied that the law of the State did so. Mr. Montgomery lately a member of Congress observed that altho’ the general power of war was given to Congress yet that the mode of exercising that power might be regulated by the States in any manner which wd. not frustrate the power, & which their policy might require. To this it was answered that if Congress had the power at all, it could not either by the Articles of Confederation or the reason of things admit of such a controuling power in each of the States, & that to admit such a construction Edition: current; Page: [321] wd. be a virtual surrender to the States of their whole federal power relative to war, the most essential of all the powers delegated to Congress. The Come. of the Legisre. represented as the great difficulty with them, that even a repeal of the law wd. not remedy the case without a retrospective law which their Constitution wd. not admit of, & expressed an earnest desire that some accommodating plan might be hit upon. They proposed in order to induce the Seizors to waive their appeal to the law of the State, that Congress wd allow them to appt one of two persons who sd have authority to examine into the supplies & decide whether they comprehended any articles that were not warranted by the passport. The Come. of Congress answered that whatever obstacles might lie in the way of redress by the Legislature if no redress proceeded from them, equal difficulties wd lie on the other side, since Congress in case of a confiscation of the supplies under the law which the omission of some formalities reqd by it wd probably produce, would be obliged by honor & good faith to indemnify the Enemy for their loss out of the common treasury; that the other States wd probably demand a reimbursement to the U. S. from Pa., & that it was impossible to say to what extremity the affair might be carried. They observed to the Come of the Legre and the Executive, that altho’ Congress was disposed to make all allowances, and particularly in the case of a law passed for a purpose recom̃ended by themselves, yet they cd not condescend to any expedient which in any manner departed from the respect wch they owed to themselves & to the Articles of Union. The Come of Congress however suggested that as the only expedient wch wd. get rid of the clashing of the Power of Congress & the law of the State, wd be the dissuading the Seizors from their appeal to the latter, it was probable that if the Seizors wd apply to Congress for Redress such steps wd be taken as wd be satisfactory. The hint was embraced & both the Executive & the Come of the Legre. promised to use their influence with the persons of most influence among the Seizors for that purpose. In consequence thereof a memorial from1 [see Journal] was sent in Edition: current; Page: [322] to Congress, com̃ited to the same Come. of Congress, & their report of this day agreed to in wch. the Presidt of Pa. is requested to appt. one of ye referees. It is proper to observe that this business was conducted with great temper & harmony, & that Presidt. Dickinson, in particulr, manifested throughout the course of it as great a desire to save the rights & dignity of Congress as those of the State over which he presided. As a few of the Seizors only were parties to ye Memorial to Congress, it is still uncertain wher others may not adhere to their claims under the law in wch case all the embarrassments will be revived.

In a late report which had been drawn up by Mr. Hamilton, and made to Congress, in answr to a Memorial from the Legislature of Pa., among other things shewing the impossibility Congress had been under of payg their Creditors it was observed that the aid afforded by the Ct of France had been appropriated by that Court at the time to the immediate use of the army. This clause was objected to as unnecessary, & as dishonorable to Congress. The fact also was controverted. Mr. Hamilton & Mr. Fitzsimmons justified the expediency of retaing. it, in order to justify Congress the more completely in failing in their engagements to the public Creditors. Mr. Wilson & Mr. Madison proposed to strike out the words appropriated by France, & substitute the words applied by Congress to the immediate & necessary support of the army. This proposition wd have been readily approved had it not appeared on examination that in one or two small instances, & particularly in the paymt. of the balance due to A. Lee, Esqr., other applications had been made of the aid in question. The Report was finally recommitted.

A letter from the Supert of Finance was received & read, acquainting Congress that as the danger from the Enemy which led him into the Dept, was disappearing & that he saw little prospect of provision being made without which injustice wd take place of which he wod. never be the Minister, he proposed not to serve longer than may next, unless proper provision sd. be made. This letter made a deep & solemn impression on Congress. It was considered as the effect of despondence in Mr. Morris of seeing justice done to the public Credrs., or the public finances placed on an honorable establisht; as a source of fresh hopes to the enemy Edition: current; Page: [323] when known; as ruinous both to Domestic & foreign Credit; & as producing a vacancy which none knew how to fill, & which no fit man wd venture to accept. Mr. Ghoram, after observing that the Administration of Mr. Morris had inspired great confidence and expectation in his State, & expressing his extreme regret at the event, moved that the letter sd be com̃it̃ed. This was opposed as unnecessary & nugatory by Mr. Wilson, since the known firmness of Mr. Morris, after deliberately taking a step wd. render all attempts to dissuade him fruitless; and that as the Memorial from the Army had brought the subject of funds before Congress, there was no other object for a Come. The motion to commit was disagd to. Mr. Wilson then moved that a day might be assigned for the consideration of the letter. Agst. the propriety of this was observed, by Mr. Madison, that the same reasons which opposed a comitmt opposed ye. assignment of any day. Since Congress cd. not however anxious their wishes or alarming their apprehensions might be, condescend to solicit Mr. Morris, even if there were a chance of its being successful; & since it wd be equally improper for Congress however cogent a motive it might add in ye mind of every member to struggle for substantial funds, to let such a consideration appear in their public acts on that subject. The motion of Mr. Wilson was not passed. Congress supposing that a knowledge of Mr. Morris’s intentions wd. anticipate the ills likely to attend his actual resignation, ordered his letter to be kept secret.

Nothing being said to day as to the mode of insertion of the Treaty & Convention with the States General the Secy proceeded in retaining both Columns.1

In consequence of the report to the Grand Come on the memorial from the army, by the sub-come, the following report was made by the former to Congs., and came under consideration to-day.

*The Grand Come. having considered the contents of the Meml. presented by the army, find that they comprehend five different articles.

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1. present pay.

2. A settlement of accts of the arrearages of pay and security for what is due.

3. A commutation of the half pay allowed by differt. resolutions of Congress for an equivalent in gross.

4. A settlemt of the accts of deficiencies of rations and compensation.

5. A settlement of accounts of deficiencies of cloathing & compensation.

The Come. are of opinion with respt to the 1st., that the Superintendt. of finance be directed, conformably to measures already taken for that purpose, as soon as the State of the public finances will permit, to make such payt & in such manner as he shall think proper till the further order of Congress.

With respect to the 2d. Art., so far as relates to the settlement of accts, that the several States be called upon to compleate the settlemt, without delay, with their respective lines of the army up to the — day of Aug; 1780; that the Supt. be also directed to take such measures as shall appear to him most proper & effectual for accomplishing the object in the most equitable & satisfactory manner, havg. regard to former resolutions of Congs, & to the settlets. made in consequence thereof.—And so far as relates to the providing of security for what shall be found due on such settlemt: Resolved that the troops of the United States in common with all the Creditrs. of the same, have an undoubted right to expect such security—and that Congress will make every effort in their power to obtain from the respective States general & substantial funds adequate to the object of funding the whole debt of the U. S.; and that Congs. ought to enter upon an immediate & full consideration of the nature of such funds & the most likely mode of obtaining them.

With respect to the 3d Article, the Comme are of opinion that it will be expedient for Congs. to leave it to the option of all officers entitled to half pay, either to preserve their claim to that provision as it now stands by the several resolutions of Congs upon that subject or to accept—years full pay to be paid to them in one year after the conclusion of the war in money or placed upon good funded security bearing an annual interest of 6 Pr. Ct., provided Edition: current; Page: [325] that the allowance to widows & orphans of such officers as have died or been killed or may die or be killed in the service during the war shall remain as established by the resolution of the — day of —.

With respect to the 4 & 5 Arts, the Come beg leave to delay their report untill they have obtained more precise information than they now possess on the subject.

The 1st. Clause of this report relative to immediate pay passed without opposition. The Supt had agreed to make out 1 Month’s pay. Indeed, long before the arrival of the deputies from the army he had made contingent & secret provision for that purpose; and to ensure it now he meant if necessary to draw bills on the late application for loans. The words “conformably to measures already taken,” referred to the above secret provision and were meant to shew that the payment to the army did not originate in the Memol, but in an antecedent attention to the wants of the army.

In the discussion of the 2d clause, the epoch of Aug: 1780 was objected to by the Eastern delegates. Their States havg settled with their lines down to later periods, they wished now to obtain the sanction of Congress to them. After some debate, a compromise was proposed by Mr. Hamilton by substituting the last day of Decr 1780. This was agreed to without opposition altho’ several members disliked it. The latter part of the clause beginning with the word Resolved, &c. was considered as a very solemn point, and the basis of the plans by which the public engagements were to be fulfilled & the Union cemented. A motion was made by Mr. Bland to insert after the words “in their power,” the words “consistent with the Articles of Confederation.” This amendment as he explained it was not intended to contravene the idea of funds extraneous to ye federal articles, but to leave those funds for a consideration subsequent to providing constitutional ones. Mr. Arnold however eagerly 2ded it. No question however was taken on it, Congress deeming it proper to postpone the matter till the next day, as of the most solemn nature; and to have as full a representation as possible. With this view & to get rid of Mr. Bland’s motion they adjourned, & ordering all the members not present & in town to be summoned.

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The Secy. of Congress havg. suggested to a member that the Contract with the Ct. of France specifying sums Due from the U. S., altho’ extremely generous on the part of the former had been ratified without any such acknowledgmts by the latter, that this was the first instance in which such acknowledgmts. had been omitted, & that the omission wd. be singularly improper at a time when we were Soliciting further aids; the[se] observations being made to Congress, the ratification [was] reconsidered, and the words “impressed with,” &c., inserted.

The rept on the memorial was resumed. By Mr. Hamilton Mr. Fitzsimmons & one or two others who had conversed with Mr. Morris on the change of the last day of Decr for the — day of Augst., it was suggested that the change entirely contravened the measures pursued by his Department; and moved for a reconsideration of it in order to inquire into the subject. Without going into Details they urged this a reason sufficient. The Eastern Delegates, altho’ they wished for unanimity & system in future proceedings relative to our funds & finances were very stiff in retaining the vote wch. coincided with the steps taken by their Constituents, of this much complaint was made. Mr. Rutledge on this occasion, alledging that Congress ought not to be led by general suggestions derived from the office of finance, joined by Mr. Gervais, voted agst the reconsideration. The consequence was, yt S. Carola. was divided, & six votes only in favr. of the Reconsideration. Mr. Hamilton havg. expressed his regret at the negative & explained more exactly the interference of the change of the Epoch with the measures & plans of the Office of Finance, wch had limited all State advances & settlemts to Aug: 1780, Mr. Rutledge acknowledged the sufficiency of the reasons & at his instance the latter date was reinstated. On this 2d. question Cont. also voted for Augst.1

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Congress proceeded to the 3rd Clause relative to the commutation of half pay. A motion was made by Mr. Hamilton, to fill the blank with “six” this was in conformity to tables of Dr. Price, estimating the officers on the average of good lives. Liberality in the rate was urged by several as necessary to give satisfaction & prevent a refusal of the offer. For this motion there were 6 ayes 5 noes; the Southern States & New York being in the affirmative the Eastern & N. J. in the negative. Col. Bland proposed 6½ erroneously supposing the negative of 6 to have proceeded from its being too low. It was on the contrary rather doubtful whether the East States wd. concur in any arrangemt. on this head; so averse were they to what they call pensions. Several having calculated that the annual amount of half-pay was between 4 & 500,000 Drs and the interest of the gross sum funded at the rate of 6 years, nearly ⅔ of that sum, Congress were struck with the necessity of proceeding with more caution & for that purpose committed the report to a Committee of 5—Mr. Osgood, Mr. Fitzsimmons, Mr. Gervais, Mr. Hamilton, and Mr. Wilson.1

MONDAY, 27 JANY. 1783.

A letter from Genl Washington was recd. notifying the death of Lord Stirling & inclosing a report of the Officer sent to apprehend Knowlton and Wells.

The following is an extract from the report: “He (one Israel Smith) further sd. that Knowlton & Wells had recd a letter from Jonathan Arnold, Esqr at Congress part of which was made public, which informed them that affairs in Congress were unfavorable to them & wd have them to look out for themselves. What other information this letter contained he cd not say. I found in my March thro’ the State that the last mentioned Gentleman was much in favor with all the principal men in that State I had any conversation with.”

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Mr. Arnold being present at the reading informed Congress that he was surprised how such a notion should have prevailed with respect to him; that he had never held any correspondence with either Knowlton or Wells, and requested that he might be furnished with ye. extract above. In this he was indulged without opposition. But it was generally considered notwithstanding his denial of the correspondence, that he had at least at second hand, conveyed ye. intelligence to Vermont.

A long petition was read, signed as alledged by near two thousand inhabitants (but all in the same handwriting) of the territory lately in controversy between Pa. & Va, complaining of the grievances to which their distance from public authority exposed them & particularly of a late law of Pena interdicting even consultations about a new State within its limits; and praying that Congress wd. give a sanction to their independence & admit them into the Union. The Petition lay on the table without a single motion or remark relative to it.

The order of the day was called for, to wit the Resolution of saturday last in favor of adequate & substantial funds.

The subject was introduced by Mr. Wilson with some judicious remarks on its importance & the necessity of a thorough & serious discussion of it. He observed that the U. States had in the course of the revolution displayed both an unexampled activity in resisting the enemy, and an unexampled patience under the losses & calamities occasioned by the war. In one point only he said they had appeared to be deficient & that was a cheerful payment of taxes. In other free Govts it had been seen that taxation had been carried further & more patiently borne than in States where the people were excluded from the Govts. The people considering themselves as the sovereign as well as the subject; & as receiving with one hand what they paid with the other. The peculiar repugnance of the people of the U. S. to taxes he supposed proceeded first from the odious light in which they have been under the old Govt., in the habit of regarding them; 2dly, from the direct manner in wch. taxes in this country had been laid; whereas in all other countries taxes were paid in a way that was little felt at the time. That it could not proceed altogether from inability he said must be obvious: Nay that the Edition: current; Page: [329] ability of the U. S. was equal to the public burden might be demonstrated. According to calculations of the best writers the inhabitants of G. B. paid before the present war at the annual rate of at least 25s Sterlg per head. According to like calculations the inhabitants of the U. S. before the revolution paid indirectly & insensibly at the rate of at least 10s Sterlg. per head. According to the computed depreciation of the paper emissions, the burden insensibly borne by the inhabitants of the U. S. had amounted during the first three or four years of the war to not less than twenty Millions of dollars per annum, a burden too which was the more oppressive as it fell very unequally on the people. An inability therefore could not be urged as a plea for the extreme deficiency of the revenue contributed by the States, which did not amount during the past year, to ½ a Million of dollars, that is to ⅙ of a dollar per head. Some more effectual mode of drawing forth the resources of the Country was necessary. That in particular it was necessary that such funds should be established as would enable Congress to fulfill those engagements which they had been enabled to enter into. It was essential he contended that those to whom was delegated the power of making war & peace should in some way or other have the means of effectuating these objects; that as Congress had been under the necessity of contracting a large debt justice required that such funds should be placed in their hands as would discharge it; that such funds were also necessary for carrying on the war; and as Congress found themselves in their present situation destitute both of the faculty of paying debts already contracted, and of providing for future exigencies, it was their duty to lay that situation before their constitutents; and at least to come to an éclaircissement on the subject,1 he remarked that the establisht. of certain Edition: current; Page: [330] funds for payg. wd set afloat the public paper; adding that a public debt resting on general funds would operate as a cement to the confederacy, and might contribute to prolong its existence, after the foreign danger ceased to counteract its tendency to dissolution. He concluded with moving that it be Resold.

“That it is the opinion of Congress that complete justice cannot be done to the Creditors of the United States, nor the restoration of public credit be effected, nor the future exigencies of the war provided for, but by the establishment of general funds to be collected by Congress.”

This motion was seconded by Mr. Fitzsimmons. Mr. Bland desired that Congress wd. before the discussion proceeded farther receive a communication of sundry papers transmitted to the Virga Edition: current; Page: [331] Delegates by the Executive of that State; two of which had relation to the question before Congress. These were 1st., a Resolution of the Genl Assembly declaring its inability to pay more than £50.000 Va. currency towards complying with the demands of Congress. 2dly the Act repealing the Act granting the impost of 5 Per Ct. These papers were received and read.

Mr. Wolcot expressed some astonishment at the inconsistency of these two acts of Va; supposed that they had an unfavorable aspect on the business before Congress; & proposed that the latter sd be postponed for the present. He was not seconded.

Mr. Ghoram favored the general idea of the motion, animadverting on the refusal of Virga to contribute the necessary sums & Edition: current; Page: [332] at the same moment repealing her conCurrence in the only scheme that promised to supply a deficiency of contributions. He thought the motion however inaccurately expressed, since the word “general” might be understood to refer to every possible object of taxation as well as to the operation of a particular tax through [out] the States. He observed that the non-payment of the 1.200.000 Drs demanded by Congress for paying the interest of the debts for the year—demonstrated that the constitutional mode of annual requisitions was defective; he intimated that lands were already sufficiently taxed [&] that polls & commerce were the most proper objects. At his instance the latter part of the motion was so amended as to run “establishment of permanent & adequate funds to operate generally throughout the U. States.”

Mr. Hamilton went extensively into the subject; the sum of it was as follows he observed that funds considered as permanent sources of revenue were of two kinds 1st Such as would extend generally & uniformly throughout the U. S., & wd be collected under the authority of Congs 2dly, such as might be established separately within each State, & might consist of any objects which were chosen by the States, and might be collected either under the authority of the States or of Congs. Funds of the 1st kind he contended were preferable; as being 1st, more simple, the difficulties attending the mode of fixing the quotas laid down in the Confederation rendering it extremely complicated & in a manner insuperable; 2dly., as being more certain: since the States according to the secd. plan wd probably retain the collection of the revenue, and a vicious system of collection prevailed generally throughout the U. S. a system by which the collectors were chosen by the people & made their offices more subservient to their popularity than to the public revenue; 3d, as being more economical Since the collection would be effected with fewer officers under the management of Congress than under that of the States.

Mr. Ghoram observed that Mr. Hamilton was mistaken in the representation he had given of the collection of taxes in several of the States; particularly in that of Massachusetts; where the collection was on a footing which rendered it sufficiently certain. Mr. Wilson having risen to explain some things which had fallen from him; threw out the suggestion that several branches of the Edition: current; Page: [333] Revenue if yielded by all the States, would perhaps be more just & satisfactory than any single one; for example An impost on trade combined with a land tax.

Mr. Dyer expressed a strong dislike to a Collection by officers appointed under Congress & supposed the States would never be brought to consent to it.

Mr. Ramsay was decidedly in favor of the proposition. Justice he said entitled those who had lent their money & services to the U. S. to look to them for payment; that if general & certain revenues were not provided, the consequence wd be that the army & public Creditors would have soon to look to their respective States only for satisfaction; that the burden in this case wd. fall unequally on the States; that rivalships relative to trade wd. impede a regular impost & would produce confusion amg the States; that some of the States would never make of themselves provision for half pay and that the army wd be so far defrauded of the rewards stipulated to them by Congress; that altho it might be uncertain whether the States wd accede to plans founded on ye. proposition before the house, yet as Congress was convinced of its truth & importance it was their duty to make the experiment.

Mr. Bland thought that the ideas of the States on the subject were so averse to a general revenue in the hands of Congs. that if such a revenue were proper it was unattainable; that as the deficiency of the contributions from the States proceeded, not from their complaints of their inability1 but of the inequality of the apportionments, it would be a wiser course to pursue the rule of the Confederation, to-wit to ground the requisition on an actual valuation of lands; that Congress wd then stand on firm ground & try a practicable mode.

TUESDAY, JANY. 28TH, 1783.

The subject yesterday under discussion was resumed. A division of the question was called for by Mr. Wolcott so as to leave a distinct question on the words “to be collected by Congress,” wch he did not like.

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Mr. Wilson considered this mode of collection as essential to the idea of a general revenue. Since without it the proceeds of the revenue wd. depend entirely on the punctuality energy & unanimity of the States, the want of which led to the present consideration.

Mr. Hamilton was strenuously of the same opinion. Mr. Fitzsimmons informed Congress that the Legislature of Penna had, at their last meeting been dissuaded from appropriating their revenue to the payment of their own Citizens Creditors of the U. S., instead of remitting it to ye Continental treasury; merely by the urgent representations of a Committee of Congress & by the hope that some general system in favr. of all the public creditors would be adopted; that the Legislature were now again assembled; and altho sensible of the tendency of such an example, thought it their duty & meant in case the prospect of such a system vanished to proceed immediately to the separate appropriations formerly in contemplation.

On the motion of Mr. Madison, the whole proposition was newmodelled, as follows:

“That it is the opinion of Congress that the establishment of permanent & adequate funds to operate generally throughout the U. States is indispensably necessary for doing complete justice to the Creditors of the U. S., for restoring public credit and for providing for the future exigencies of the war.” The words “to be collected under the authority of Congress” were as a separate question left to be added afterwards.

Mr. Rutledge objected to the term “generally” as implying a degree of uniformity in the tax which would render it unequal. He had in view particularly a land tax according to quañty as had been proposed by the office of finance. He thought the prejudices of the people opposed the idea of a general tax; & seemed on the whole to be disinclined to it himself, at least if extended beyond an impost on trade; urging the necessity of pursuing a valuation of land, and requisitions grounded thereon. Mr. Lee 2ded the opposition to the term “general,” he contended that the States wd. never consent to a uniform tax because it wd. be unequal; that it was moreover repugnant to the articles of confederation; and by placing the purse in the same hands with the Edition: current; Page: [335] sword, was subversive of the fundamental principles of liberty. He mentioned the repeal of the impost by Virga, himself alone opposing it & that too on the inexpediency in point of time — as proof of the aversion to a general revenue. He reasoned upon the subject finally as if it was proposed that Congress sd. assume & exercise a power immediately & without the sanction of the States, of levying money on them in consequence.

Mr. Wilson rose & explained the import of the motion to be that Congress should recommend to the States the investing them with power. He observed that the Confederation was so far from precluding, that it expressly provided for future alterations; that the power given to Congress by that Act was too little not too formidable, that there was more of a centrifugal than centripetal force in ye States & that ye funding of a common debt in the manner proposed would produce a salutary invigoration and cement to the Union.

Mr. Elseworth acknowledged himself to be undecided in his opinion; that on one side he felt the necessity of continental funds for making good the continental engagements, but on the other desponded of a unanimous concurrence of the States in such an establishment. He observed that it was a question of great importance, how far the federal Govt can or ought to exert coercion against delinquent members of the confederacy; & that without such coercion no certainty could attend the constitutional mode which referred every thing to the unanimous punctuality of thirteen different councils. Considering therefore a continental revenue as unattainable, and periodical requisitions from Congress as inadequate, he was inclined to make trial of the middle mode of permanent State funds, to be provided at the recommendation of Congs, and appropriated to the discharge of the common debt.

Mr. Hamilton, in reply to Mr. Elseworth, dwelt long on the inefficacy of State funds. He supposed too that greater obstacles would arise to the execution of the plan than to that of a general revenue. As an additional reason for the latter to be collected by officers under the appointment of Congress, he signified that as the energy of the federal Govt. was evidently short of the degree necessary for pervading & uniting the States it was expedient to Edition: current; Page: [336] introduce the influence of officers deriving their emoluments from & consequently interested in supporting the power of, Congress.1

Mr. Williamson was of opinion that continental funds altho’ desirable, were unattainable at least to the full amount of the public exigencies. He thought if they could be obtained for the fereign debt, it would be as much as could be expected, and that they would also be less essential for the domestic debt.

Mr. Madison observed that it was needless to go into proofs of the necessity of payg. the public debts; that the idea of erecting our national independence on the ruins of public faith and national honor must be horrid to every mind which retained either honesty or pride; that the motion before Congress contained a simple proposition with respect to the truth of which every member was called upon to give his opinion. That this opinion must necessarily be in the affirmative, unless the several objects: of doing justice to the public creditors, &c &c. could be compassed by some other plan than the one proposed, that the 2 last objects depended essentially on the first; since the doing justice to the Creditors alone wd restore public credit, & the restoration of this alone could provide for ye. future exigencies of the war. Is then a continental revenue indispensably necessary for doing complete justice &c? This is the question. To answer it the other plans proposed must first be reviewed.

In order to do complete justice to the public creditors, either the principal must be paid off, or the interest paid punctually. The 1st is admitted to be impossible on any plan. The only plans opposed to the continl. one for the latter purpose are 1. periodical requisitions according to the federal articles; 2dly. permanent funds established by each State within itself & the proceeds consigned to the discharge of public debts.

Will ye. 1st. be adequate to the object? The contrary seems to Edition: current; Page: [337] be maintained by no one. If reason did not sufficiently premonish experience has sufficiently demonstrated that a punctual & unfailing compliance by 13 separate & independent Govts with periodical demands of money from Congress, can never be reckoned upon with the certainty requisite to Satisfy our present creditors, or to tempt others to become our creditors in future.

2dly. Will funds separately established within each State & the amount submitted to the appropriation of Congress be adequate to the object? The only advantage which is thought to recommend this plan is that the States will be with less difficulty prevailed upon to adopt it. Its imperfections are 1st that it must be preceded by a final and satisfactory adjustment of all accts. between the U. S. and individual States; and by an apportionment founded on a valuation of all the lands throughout each of the States in pursuance of the law of the confederation; for although the States do not as yet insist on these pre-requisites in ye case of annual demands on them, with wch they very little comply & that only in the way of an open acct, yet these conditions wd certainly be exacted in case of a permanent cession of revenue; and the difficulties & delays to say the least incident to these conditions can escape no one. 2dly the produce of the funds being always in the first instance in the hands & under the control of the States separately, might at any time & on various pretences, be diverted to State objects. 3dly, that jealousy which is as natural to the States as to individuals & of which so many proofs have appeared, that others will not fulfil their respective portions of the common obligations, will be continually & mutually suspending remittances to the common treasury, until it finally stops them altogether. These imperfections are too radical to be admitted into any plan intended for the purposes in question.

It remains to examine the merits of a plan of a general revenue operating throughout ye. U. S. under the superindtildeence of Congress.

One obvious advantage is suggested by the last objection to separate revenues in the different States; that is, it will exclude all jealousy among them on that head, since each will know whilst it is submitting to the tax, that all the others are necessarily at the same instant bearing their respective portions of the burden. Edition: current; Page: [338] Again, it will take from the States the opportunity as well as the temptation to divert their incomes from the general to internal purposes since these incomes will pass directly into the treasury of the U. S.

Another advantage attending a general revenue is that in case of the concurrence of the States in establishing it, it would become soonest productive; and would consequently soonest obtain the objects in view. Nay so assured a prospect would give instantaneous confidence and content to the public creditors at home & abroad, and place our affairs in a most happy train.

The consequences with respect to the Union, of omitting such a provision for the debts of the Union also claims particular attention. The tenor of the memorial from Penna, and of the information just given on the floor by one of its Delegates, (Mr. Fitzsimmons,) renders it extremely probable that that State would as soon as it sd. be known that Congress had declined such provision or the States rejected it, appropriate the revenue required by Congress to the payment of its own Citizens & troops, creditors of the U. S. The irregular conduct of other States on this subject enforced by such an example could not fail to spread the evil throughout the whole continent. What then wd become of the confederation? What wd. be the authority of Congress? wt the tie by which the States cd be held together? what the source by which the army could be subsisted & clothed? What the mode of dividing & discharging our foreign debts? What the rule of settling the internal accts.? What the tribunal by which controversies amg. the States could be adjudicated?

It ought to be carefully remembered that this subject was brought before Congress by a very solemn appeal from the army to the justice & gratitude of their Country. Besides immediate pay, they ask for permanent Security for arrears. Is not this request a reasonable one? Will it be just or politic to pass over the only adequate security that can be devised, & instead of fulfilling the stipulations of the U. S. to them, to leave them to seek their rewards separately from the States to which they respectively belong? The patience of the army has been equal to their bravery, but that patience must have its limits; and the result of despair cannot be foreseen, nor ought to be risked.

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It has been objected agst. a general revenue that it contravenes the articles of confederation. These Articles as has been observed have presupposed the necessity of alterations in the federal system, & have left a door open for them. They moreover authorize Congress to borrow money. Now in order to borrow money permanent & certain provision is necessary, & if this provision cannot be made in any other way as has been shewn, a general revenue is within the spirit of the Confederation.

It has been objected that such a revenue is subversive of the sovereignty & liberty of the States. If it were to be assumed without the free gift of the States this objection might be of force, but no assumption is proposed. In fact Congress are already invested by the States with the constitutional authority over the purse as well as the sword. A general revenue would only give this authority a more certain & equal efficacy. They have a right to fix the quantum of money necessary for the common purposes. The right of the States is limited to the mode of supply. A requisition of Congress on the States for money is as much a law to them; as their revenue Acts when passed are laws to their respective Citizens. If for want of the faculty or means of enforcing a requisition, the law of Congress proves inefficient; does it not follow that in order to fulfil the views of the federal constitution, such a change sd. be made as will render it efficient? Without such efficiency the end of this Constitution, which is to preserve order & justice among the members of the Union, must fail; as without a like efficiency would the end of State Constitutions wch. is to preserve like order & justice among their respective members.

It has been objected that the States have manifested such aversion to the impost on trade as renders any recommendations of a general revenue hopeless & imprudent. It must be admitted that the conduct of the States on that subject is less encouraging than were to be wished. A review of it however does not excite despondence. The impost was adopted immediately & in its utmost latitude by several of the States. Several also which complied partially with it at first, have since complied more liberally. One of them after long refusal has complied substantially. Two States only have failed altogether & as to one of them it is not Edition: current; Page: [340] known that its failure has proceeded from a decided opposition to it. On the whole it appears that the necessity & reasonableness of the scheme have been gaining ground among the States. He was aware that one exception ought to be made to this inference; an exception too wch. it peculiarly concerned him to advert to. The State of Virga, as appears by an Act yesterday laid before Congress has withdrawn its assent once given to the scheme. This circumstance cd. not but produce some embarrassment in a representative of that State advocating the Scheme, one too whose principles were extremely unfavorable to a disregd of the sense of Constituents. But it ought not to deter him from listening to considerations which in the present case ought to prevail over it. One of these considerations was that altho’ the delegates who compose Congress, more immediately represented & were amenable to the States from which they respectively come, yet in another view they owed a fidelity to the collective interests of the whole. 2dly., Although not only the express instructions, but even the declared sense of constituents as in the present case, were to be a law in general to their representatives, still there were occasions on which the latter ought to hazard personal consequences from a respect to what his clear conviction determines to be the true interest of the former; and the present he conceived to fall under this exception. Lastly the part he took on the present occasion was the more fully justified to his own mind, by his thorough persuasion that with the same knowledge of public affairs which his station commanded the Legislature of Va. would not have repealed the law in favor of the impost & would even now rescind the repeal.

The result of these observations was that it was the duty of Congress under whose authorytilde the public debts had been contracted to aim at a general revenue as the only means of discharging them; & that this dictate of justice & gratitude was enforced by a regard to the preservation of the confederacy, to our reputation abroad & to our internal tranquillity.

Mr. Rutledge complained that those who so strenuously urged the necessity & competency of a general revenue1 operating Edition: current; Page: [341] throughout all the States at the same time, declined specifying any general objects from which such a revenue could be drawn. He was thought to insinuate that these objects were kept back intentionally untill the general principle cd be irrevocably fixed when Congs would be bound at all events to go on with the project; whereupon Mr. Fitzsimmons expressed some concern at the turn wch the discussion seemed to be taking. He said, that unless mutual confidence prevailed no progress could be made towards the attainment of those ends wch. all in some way or other aimed at. It was a mistake to suppose that any specific plan had been preconcerted among the patrons of a general revenue.

Mr. Wilson with whom the motion originated gave his assurances that it was neither the effect of preconcert with others, nor of any determinate plan matured by himself, that he had been led into it, by the declaration on Saturday last by Congs. that substantial funds ought to be provided, by the memorial of the army from which that declaration had resulted by the memorial from the State of Pa, holding out the idea of separate appropriations of her revenue unless provision were made for the public creditors, by the deplorable & dishonorable situation of public affairs which had compelled Congress to draw bills on the unpromised & contingent bounty of their Ally, and which was likely to banish the Superintt. of Finance whose place cd. not be Supplied, from his department. He observed that he had not introduced detail [s] into the debate because he thought them premature, until a general principle should be fixed; and that as soon as the principle sd be fixed he would altho not furnished with any digested plan, contribute all in his power to the forming such a one.

Mr. Rutledge moved that the proposition might be committed in order that some practicable plan might be reported, before Congress sd. declare that it ought to be adopted.

Mr. Izard 2ded. the motion, from a conciliatory view.

Mr. Madison thought the commitment unnecessary; and would have the appearance of delay; that too much delay had already taken place, that the deputation of the army had a right to expect an answer to their memorial as soon as it could be decided by Congress. He differed from Mr. Wilson in thinking that a Edition: current; Page: [342] specification of the objects of a general revenue would be improper, and thought that those who doubted its practicabily had a right to expect proof of it from details before they cd be expected to assent to the general principle; but he differed also from Mr. Rutledge, who thought a commitment necessary for the purpose; since his views would be answered by leaving the motion before the house and giving the debate a greater latitude. He suggested as practicable objects of a general revenue. 1st an impost on trade 2dly. a poll tax under certain qualifications 3dly. a land-tax under do.1

Mr. Hamilton suggested a house & window-tax he was in favor of the mode of conducting the business urged by Mr. Madison.

On the motion for the commt., 6 States were in favor of it, & 5 agst it, so it was lost, in this vote the merits of the main proposition very little entered.

Mr. Lee said that it was a waste of time to be forming resolutions & settling principles on this subject. He asked whether these wd ever bring any money into the public treasury. His opinion was that Congress ought in order to guard agst the inconvenience of meetings of the different Legislatures at different & even distant periods, to call upon the Executives to convoke them all at one period, & to lay before them a full state of our public affairs. He said the States would never agree to those plans which tended to aggrandize Congress; that they were jealous of the power of Congress, & that he acknowledged himself to be one of those who thought this jealousy not an unreasonable one; that no one who had ever opened a page or read a line on the subject of liberty, could be insensible to the danger of surrendering the purse into the same hands which held the sword.

The debate was suspended by an adjournment.

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Mr. Fitzsimmons reminded Congress of the numerous inaccuracies & errors in the American column of the Treaty with Holland and proposed that a revision of it as ratified should take place in order that some steps might be taken for redressing this evil, he added that an accurate comparison of it with the treaty with France ought also to be made for the purpose of seeing whether it consisted in all its parts with the latter.1 He desired the Committee who had prepared the ratification to give some explanation on the subject to Congress.

Mr. Madison, as first on that Committee informed Congress, that the inaccuracies & errors consisting of mis-spelling, foreign idioms, & foreign words, obscurity of the sense &c were attended to by the Committee & verbally noted to Congress when their report was under consideration; that the Committee did not report in writing, as the task was disagreeable, and the faults were not conceived to be of sufficient weight to affect the ratification. He thought it wd be improper to reconsider the act as had been suggested, for the purpose of suspending it on that or any other acct, but had no objection if Congress were disposed, to instruct Mr. Adams to substitute with the consent of the other party a more correct counterpart in the American language. The subject was dropped, nobody seeming inclined to urge it.

On the motion of Mr. Rutledge & for the purpose of extending the discussion to particular objects of General Revenue Congress resolved itself into a Committee of the whole to consider of the most effectual means of restoring public credit; and the proposition relative to general revenue was referred to the Committee. Mr. Carroll was elected into the chair, & the proposition taken up.2

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Mr. Bland proposed to alter the words of the proposition so as to make it read establisht of funds “on taxes or duties, to operate generally &c.” This was agreed to as a more correct phraseology. Mr. Hamilton objected to it at first, supposing thro’ mistake that it might exclude the back lands which was a fund in contemplation of some gentlemen.

Mr. Madison, having adverted to the jealousy of Mr. Rutledge of a latent scheme to fix a tax on land according to its quantity, moved that between the words “generally” & “to operate” might be inserted the words “and in just proportion.”

Mr. Wilson said he had no objection to this amendmt, but that it might be referred to the taxes individually, & unnecessarily fetter Congress; since if the taxes collectively should operate in just proportion, it wd. be sufficient. He instanced a land-tax & an impost on trade, the former of which might press hardest on the Southn, & the latter on the Eastn, but both together might Edition: current; Page: [345] distribute the burden pretty uniformly. From this consideration he moved that the words “on the whole” might be prefixed to the words “in just proportion.” This amendt to the amendment of Mr. Madison was 2ded by Mr. Boudinot & agreed to without opposition as was afterwards the whole amendmt..

Mr. Wilson in order to leave the scheme open for the back lands as a fund for paying the public debts, moved that the proposition might be further altered so as to read “indispensably necessary towards doing complete justice &c.”—The motion was 2ded by Mr. Boudinot, & passed without opposition.

The main proposition by Mr. Wilson as thus amended then passed without opposition; in the words following: “That it is the opinion of Congress that the establishment of permanent & adequate funds on taxes or duties which shall operate generally & on the whole in just proportion throughout the U. S., are indispensably necessary towards doing complete justice to the public Creditors, for restoring public Credit, & for providing for the future exigencies of the War.”

Mr. Bland proposed as the only expedient that cd. produce immediate relief to the public Creditors, that, Congress sd by a fixed resolution appropriate to the payment of interest all the monies which should arise from the requisitions on the States. He thought this would not only give immediate relief to the public Creditors, but by throwing into circulation the stagnant securities, enliven the whole business of taxation. This proposition was not 2ded.

Mr. Wilson proceeded to detail to Congress his ideas on the subject of a continental revenue. He stated the internal debt liquidated & unliquidated at 21 Million of Dollrs. the foreign debt at 8 Million, the actual deficiency of 1782 at 4 Million, the probable deficiency of ’83 at 4 Million. Making, in the whole 37 Million; which in round numbers & probably without exceeding the reality may be called 40 Million. The interest of this debt at 6 Per Ct., is 2,400,000 Drs., to which it will be prudent to add 600,000, which if the war continues will be needed, and in case of peace may be applied to a navy. An annual revenue of 3 Million of Drs. then is the sum to be aimed at, and which ought to be under the management of Congs. One of the objects already Edition: current; Page: [346] mentioned from wch. this revenue was to be sought, was a poll tax. This he thought was a very proper one, but unfortunately the Constitution of Maryland which forbids this tax is an insuperable obstacle. Salt he thought a fit article to be taxed, as it is consumed in a small degree by all and in great quantities by none. It had been found so convenient a subject of taxation, that among all nations which have a system of revenue, it is made a material branch. In England a considerable sum is raised from it. In France it is swelled to the sum of 54,000,000 of Livres. He thought it would be improper to levy this tax during the war whilst the price wd continue so high, but the necessary fall of price at the conclusion of it wd render the tax less sensible to the people. The suspension of this particular tax during the war would not be inconvenient as it might be set apart for the debt due to France on which the interest would not be called for during the war. He computed the quantity of salt imported into the U. S. annually at 3 Million of Bushels, & proposed a duty of ⅓ of a Dollar per bushel which wd yield 100,000 Drs This duty he observed wd press hardest on the Eastern States, on acct of the extraordinary consumption in the fisheries.

The next tax which he suggested was on land. 1 Dollar on every 100 Acres according to the computation of the Superintendt. of finance would produce 500,000 Dollrs. This computation he was persuaded might be doubled. Since there could not be less than 100 Millions of Acres comprehended within the titles of individuals which at 1 Dr. per 100 Acres yields 1,000,000 of Dollars. This tax could not be deemed too high, & would bear heaviest not on the industrious farmer, but on the great land-holder. As the tax on Salt would fall with most weight on the Eastern States, the equilibrium would be restored by this which would be most felt by the Middle and Southern States.

The impost on trade was another source of revenue which altho’ it might be proper to vary it somewhat in order to remove particular objections, ought to be again & again urged upon the States by Congress. The office of Finance has rated this at 500,000 Dollars. He thought a peace would double it in which case the sum of 3,000,000 Drs. would be made up. If these computations however should be found to be too high there will still be other Edition: current; Page: [347] objects which would bear taxation. An Excise he said had been mentioned. In general this species of taxation was tyrannical & justly obnoxious, but in certain forms had been found consistent with the policy of ye. freest States. In Massachusetts a State remarkably jealous of its liberty, an Excise was not only admitted before but continued since the revolution. The same was the case with Penna, also remarkable for its freedom. An Excise if so modified as not to offend the spirit of liberty may be considered as an object of easy & equal revenue. Wine & imported spirits had borne a heavy Excise in other Countries, and might be adopted in ours. Coffee is another object which might be included. The amount of these three objects is uncertain but materials for a satisfactory computation might be procured. These hints & remarks he acknowledged to be extremely imperfect & that he had been led to make them solely by a desire to contribute his mite towards such a system as would place the finances of the U. S. on an honorable and prosperous footing.

Mr. Ghoram observed that the proposition of Mr. Bland, however salutary its tendency might be in the respects suggested, could never be admitted because it would leave our army to starve, and all our affairs to stagnate during its immediate operation. He objected to a duty on salt as not only bearing too heavily on the Eastn. States, but as giving a dangerous advantage to Rivals in the fisheries. Salt he sd. exported from England for the fisheries is exempted particularly from duties. He thought it would be best to confine our attention for the present to the impost on trade which had been carried so far towards an accomplishment, and to remove the objections which had retarded it, by limiting the term of its continuance, leaving to the States the nomination of the collectors, and by making the appropriation of it more specific.

Mr. Rutledge was also for confining our attention to the Impost, & to get that before any further attempts were made. In order to succeed in getting it however he thought it ought to be asked in a new form. Few of the States had complied [with] the recommendation of Congs., literally. Georgia had [not] yet complied. Rhode Island had absolutely refused to comply at all. Virga, which at first complied but partially has since Edition: current; Page: [348] rescinded even that partial compliance. After enumerating the several objections urged by the States agst the scheme, he proposed in order to remove them the following resolution; viz:

“that it be earnestly recommended to the several States to impose & levy a duty of 5 Per Ct. ad valorem, at the time & place of importation, on all goods, wares & merchandizes of foreign growth & manufacture wch. may be imported into the said States respectively, except goods of the U. S. or any of them, and a like duty on all prizes & prize goods condemned in the Court of admiralty of said States; that the money arising from such duties be paid into the continental Treasury, to be appropriated & applied to the payment of the interest and to sink the principal of the money which the U. S. have borrowed in Europe & of what they may borrow, for discharging the arrears due to the army & for the future support of the war & to no other use or purpose whatsoever; that the said duties be continued for 25 years unless the debts above md be discharged in the mean time, in which case they shall cease & determine; that the money arising from the said duties & paid by any State, be passed to the credit of such State on account of its quota of the debt of the U. States.” The motion was seconded by Mr. Lee.

Mr. Woolcot opposed the motion as unjust towards those States which having few or no ports receive their merchandize through the ports of others; repeating the observation that it is the consumer & not the importer who pays the duty. He again animadverted on the conduct of Virga in first giving & afterwards withdrawing her assent to the Impost recommended by Congress.

Mr. Elseworth thought it wrong to couple any other objects with the Impost; that the States would give this if any thing; and that if a land tax or an excise were combined with it, the whole scheme would fail. He thought however that some modification of the plan recommended by Congs would be necessary. He supposed when the benefits of this continl. revenue should be experienced it would incline the States to concur in making additions to it. He abetted the opposition of Mr. Woolcot to the motion of Mr. Rutledge which proposed that each State should be credited for the duties collected within its ports; dwelt on Edition: current; Page: [349] the injustice of it, said that Connecticut, before the revolution did not import 1/60, perhaps not 1/100, part of the merchandize consumed within it, and pronounced that such a plan wd never be agreed to. He concurred in the expediency of new-modelling the scheme of the impost by defining the period of its continuance; by leaving to the State the nomination, & to Congress the appointment of Collectors or vice versa; and by a more determinate appropriation of the revenue. The first object to which it ought to be applied was he thought, the foreign debt. This object claimed a preference as well from the hope of facilitating further aids from that quarter, as from the disputes into wch a failure may embroil the U. S. The prejudices agst making a provision for foreign debts which sd not include the domestic ones was he thought unjust & might be satisfied by immediately requiring a tax in discharge of which loan-office certificates should be receivable. State funds for the domestic debts would be proper for subsequent consideration. He added, as a further objection against crediting the States for the duties on trade respectively collected by them, that a mutual jealousy of injuring their trade by being foremost in imposing such a duty would prevent any from making a beginning.

Mr. Williamson said, that Mr. Rutledge’s motion at the same time that it removed some objections, introduced such as would be much more fatal to the measure. He was sensible of the necessity of some alterations, particularly in its duration & the appointment of the Collectors. But the crediting the States severally for the amount of their collections was so palpably unjust & injurious that he thought candor required that it should not be persisted in. He was of opinion that the interest of the States, which trade for others, also required it, since such an abuse of the advantage possessed by them would compel the States for which they trade to overcome the obstacles of nature & provide supplies for themselves. N. Carolina he said would probably be supplied pretty much thro Virga., if the latter forbore to levy a tax on the former, but in case she did not forbear, the ports of N. C., which are nearly as deep as those of Holland, might & probably wd be substituted. The profits drawn by the more commercial States from the business they carry on Edition: current; Page: [350] for the others, were of themselves sufficient & ought to satisfy them.

Mr. Ramsay differed entirely from his colleague (Mr. Rutledge). He thought that as the consumer pays the tax, the crediting the States collecting the impost, unjust. N. Carolina, Maryland, N. Jersey & Connecticut would suffer by such a regulation and would never agree to it.

Mr. Bland was equally agst. the regulation. He thought it replete with injustice & repugnant to every idea of finance. He observed that this point had been fully canvassed at the time when the impost was originally recommended by Congress, & finally exploded. He was indeed he said opposed to the whole motion (of Mr. Rutledge). Nothing would be a secure pledge to Creditors that was not placed out of the Countrol of the grantors. As long as it was in the power of the States to repeal their grants in this respect, suspicions would prevail, & wd. prevent loans. Money ought to be approatildeted by the States as it is by the Parliament of G. B. He proposed that the revenue to be Solicited from the States should be irrevocable by them without the consent of Congress, or of nine of the States. He disapproved of any determinate limitation to the continuance of the revenue, because the continuance of the debt could not be fixed and that was the only rule that could be proper or satisfactory. He said he should adhere to these ideas in the face of the Act of Virga. repealing her assent to the impost; that it was trifling with Congs to enable them to contract debts, & to withhold from them the means of fulfilling their contracts.

Mr. Lee said he seconded the motion of Mr. Rutledge, because he thought it most likely to succeed; that he was persuaded the States would not concur in the impost on trade without a limitation of time affixed to it. With such a limitation and the right of collection, he thought Virga., R. Island & the other States probably wd. concur. The objection of his Colleague, (Mr. Bland) he conceived to be unfounded: No Act of the States could be irrevocable, because if so called it might notwithstanding be repealed. But he thought there wd. be no danger of a repeal, observing that the national faith was all the security that was given in other countries, or that could be given. He was sensible that Edition: current; Page: [351] something was of necessity to be done in the present alarming crisis; and was willing to strike out the clause crediting the States for their respective collections of the revenue on trade, as it was supposed that it wd impede the measure.

Mr. Hamilton disliked every plan that made but partial provision for the public debts; as an inconsistent & dishonorable departure from the declaration made by Congs on that subject. He said the domestic Creditors would take the alarm at any distinctions unfavorable to their claims; that they would withhold their influence from any such measures recommended by Congress; and that it must be principally from their influence on their respective legislatures that success could be expected to any application from Congs for a general revenue.


The answer to the Memorials from the Legislature of Penna. was agreed to as it stands on the Journal, N. Jersey alone dissenting.1

In the course of its discussion several expressions were struck out which seemed to reprehend the States for the deficiency of their contributions. In favor of these expressions it was urged that they were true and ought to be held forth as the cause of the public difficulties in justification of Congress. On the other side Edition: current; Page: [352] it was urged yt. Congress had in many respects been faulty as well as the States, particularly in letting their finances become so disordered before they began to apply any remedy; and that if this were not the case, it would be more prudent to address to the States a picture of the public distresses & danger, than a satire on their faults; since the latter would only irritate them; whereas the former wd tend to lead them into the measures supposed by Congress to be essential to the public interest.

The propriety of mentioning to the Legislature of Penna. the expedt into which Congress had been driven of drawing bills on Spain & Holland without previous warrant; the disappt attending it, and the deductions ultimately ensuing from the aids destined to the U. S. by the Ct of France, was also a subject of discussion. On one side it was represented as a fact which being dishonorable to Congress ought not to be proclaimed by them, & that in the present case it cd answer no purpose. On the other side it was contended that it was already known to all the world, that as a glaring proof of the public embarrassmts. it would impress the Legislature with the danger of making those separate appropriations which wd increase the embarrassments; and particularly would explain in some degree the cause of the discontinuance of the French interest due on the loan office certificates.

Mr. Rutledge & some other members having expressed less solicitude about satisfying or soothing the Creditors within Pa through the legislature than others thought ought to be felt by every one, Mr. Wilson, adverting to it with some warmth, declared Edition: current; Page: [353] that if such indifference should prevail, he was little anxious what became of the answer to the Memorials. Pena, he was persuaded would take her own measures without regard to those of Congress, and that she ought to do so. She was willing he said to sink or swim according to the common fate, but that she would not suffer herself, with a mill-stone of 6,000,0001 of the Continl debt about her neck to go to the bottom alone.


The instruction to the Va. delegates from that State relative to tobo exported to N. Y., under passport from the Secy of Congress was referred to a Committee. Mr. Fitzsimmons moved that the information received from sd State of its inability to contribute more than — towards the requisitions of Congress, sd. be also committed. Mr. Bland saw no reason for such commitment. Mr. Ghoram was in favr of it. He thought such a resolution from Va was of the most serious import; especially if compared with her withdrawal of her assent to the Impost. He said with much earnestness, that if one State should be connived at in such defaults others would think themselves entitled to a like indulgence. Massts., he was sure had a better title to it than Va. He said the former had expended immense sums in recruiting her line, which composed almost the whole Northn. Army; that 1,200,000 £ (dollar at 6s) had been laid out; & that without this sum the army would have been disbanded.

Mr. Fitzsimmons abetting the animadversions on Virga, took notice that of — Dollars reqd. by Congress from her for the year 1782, she had paid the paltry sum only of 35,000 Drs and was notwithstanding endeavouring to play off from further contributions.—The com̃itment took place without opposition.

The sub-committee, consisting of Mr. Madison, Mr. Carroll & Mr. Wilson had this morning a conference with the Superintendt. of Finance on the best mode of estimating the value of land through the U. S. The Superintendt was no less puzzled on the subject than the Committee had been. He thought some essay Edition: current; Page: [354] ought to be made for executing the Confederation, if it sd be practicable, & if not to let the impracticability appear to the States. He concurred with the sub committee also in opinion that it would be improper to refer the valuation to the States, as mutual suspicions of partiality, if not a real partiality, would render the result a source of discontent; and that even if Congs. should expressly reserve to themselves a right of revising & rejecting it, such a right could not be exercised without giving extreme offence to the suspected party. To guard agst these difficulties it was finally agreed, & the Sub committee accordingly reported to the G Comittee,

“That it is expedient to require of the Several States a return of all surveyed & granted land within each of them; and that in such return the land be distinguished into occupied & unoccupied.

“That it also was expedient to appoint one Commissr. for each State who should be empowered to proceed without loss of time into the several States; & to estimate the value of the lands therein according to the returns above mentioned, & to such instructions as should from time to time be given him for that purpose.”

This report was hurried in to the Grand Com̃itee for two reasons; 1st., it was found that Mr. Rutledge, Mr. Bland, & several others relied so much on a valuation on land, and connected it so essentially with measures for restoring public credit that an extreme backwardness on their part affected all these measures, whilst the valuation of land was left out. A 2d. reason was that the Sub-Committee were afraid that suspicions might arise of intentional delay, in order to confine the attention of Congs to general funds as affording the only prospect of relief.

The Grand Committee for like reasons were equally impatient to make a report to Congress; and accordingly after a short consultation the question was taken whether the above report of the Sub-come, or the report referred to them sd be preferred. In favor of the 1st. were Mr. Wilson, Mr. Carrol, Mr. Madison, Mr. Elmore, Mr. Hamilton. In favor of the 2d. were Mr. Arnold, Mr. Dyer, Mr. Hawkins, Mr. Ghoram, Mr. Rutledge & Mr. Gilman. So the latter was immediately handed in to Congress, & Edition: current; Page: [355] referred to a committee of the whole into which they immediately resolved themselves.

A motion was made by Mr. Bland, 2ded. by Mr. Madison, that this report sd be taken up in preference to the subject of General funds. Mr. Wilson opposed it as irregular & inconvenient to break in on an unfinished subject; and supposed that as some further experiment must be intended than merely a discussion of the subject in Congress, before the subject of Genl. funds would be seriously resumed, he thought it unadvisable to interrupt the latter.

Mr. Madison answered that the object was not to retard the latter business but to remove an obstacle to it, that as the two subjects were in some degree connected as means of restoring public credit, & inseparably connected in the minds of many members, it was but reasonable to admit one as well as the other to a share of attention; that if a valuation of land sd. be found on mature deliberation to be as efficacious a remedy as was by some supposed, it wd be proper at least to combine it with the other expedient, or perhaps to substitute it altogether; if the contrary should become apparent, its patrons wd. join the more cordially in the object of a general revenue.

Mr. Hamilton concurred in these ideas & wished the valuation to be taken up in order that its impracticability & futility might become manifest. The motion passed in the Affirmative, & the report was taken up.

The phraseology was made more correct in several instances.

A motion was made by Mr. Boudinot 2ded. by Mr. Elseworth to strike out the clause requiring a return of “the names of the owners,” as well as the quantity of land. Mr. Elseworth also contended for a less specific return of the parcels of land. The objection agst. the clause were that it would be extremely troublesome & equally useless. Mr. Bland thought these specific returns wd. be a check on frauds & the suspicion of them. Mr. Williamson was of the same opinion, as were also Mr. Lee, Mr. Ghoram, & Mr. Ramsay.1 The motion was withdrawn by Mr. Boudinot.

saturday & monday. No Congress.

Edition: current; Page: [356]


An indecent & tart remonstrance was red from Vermont agst. the interposition of Congs. in favor of the persons who had been banished & whose effects had been confiscated. A motion was made by Mr. Hamilton 2ded by Mr. Dyer to commit it. Mr. Wolcot who had always patronized the case of Vermont wished to know the views of a committment. Mr. Hamilton said his view was to fulfill the resolution of Congress wch. bound them to enforce the measure. Mr. Dyer sd his was that so dishonorable a menace might be as quickly as possible renounced. He said Genl Washington was in favour of Vermont, that the principal people of N. England were all supporters of them, and that Congress ought to rectify the error into which they had been led, without longer exposing themselves to reproach on this subject. It was committed without dissent.

Mr. Wilson informed Congress that the Legislature of Pena. having found the Ordinance of Congs erecting a Court for piracies so obscure in some points that they were at a loss to adapt yr laws to it, had appointed a Come to confer with a Come. of Congress. He accordingly moved in behalf of the Pa delegation that a Come might be appd for that purpose. After some objections by Mr. Madison agst the impropriety of holding a communication with Pa through committees when the purpose might be as well answered by a Memorial or an instruction to its Delegates, a Come. was appd, consisting of Mr. Rutledge, Mr. Madison & Mr. Wilson.

The Report proposing a commutation for the half-pay due to the army, was taken up. On a motion to allow 5½ years whole pay in gross to be funded & bear interest, this being the rate taken from Dr. Price’s calculation of annuities, N. H. was no, R. I. no, Cont no, N. J., no, Virginia ay (Mr. Lee no) other States ay. So the question was lost.—5 years was then proposed, on which N. H. was no, R. I. no, Ct. no, N. J. no. So there were but 6 ays, & the proposition was lost. Mr. Williamson proposed 5¼ & called for the yeas & nays. Messrs. Wolcot & Dyer observed, yt. they were bound by instructions on this subject. Mr. Arnold said the case was the same with him. They also Edition: current; Page: [357] queried the validity of the Act of Congs which had stipulated half pay to the army, as it had passed before the Confederation, and by a vote of less than seven States. Mr. Madison sd. that he wished if the yeas & nays were called it might be on the true calculation, and not on an arbitrary principle of compromise, as the latter standing singly on the Journal wd. not express the true ideas of the yeas, and might even subject them to contrary interpretations. He sd that the act was valid because it was decided according to the rule then in force, & that as the officers had served under the faith of it, justice fully corroborated it; & that he was astonished to hear these principles controverted. He was also astonished to hear objections agst. a commutation come from States in compliance with whose objections agst the half pay itself this expedt. had been substituted. Mr. Wilson expressed his surprise also that instructions sd be given which militated agst the most peremptory & lawful engagements of Congs, and said that if such a doctrine prevailed the authority of the Confederacy was at an end. Mr. Arnold said that he wished the report might not be decided on at this time, that the Assembly of R. I. was in session & he hoped to receive their further advice. Mr. Bland enforced the ideas of Mr. Madison & Mr. Wilson.—Mr. Gilman thought it wd be best to refer the subject of ½ pay to the several States to be settled between them & their respective lines. By general consent the Report lay over.

Mr. Lee communicated to Congress a letter he had received from Mr. Samuel Adams dated Boston Decr. 22, 1782, introducing Mr. — from Canada, as a person capable of giving intelligence relative to affairs in Canada & the practicability of uniting that Province with the confederated States. The letter was committed.

In Come. of the whole on the Report concerning a valuation of the lands of the U. States—

A motion was made by Mr. Rutledge wch took the sense of Congs. on this question whether the rule of apportionment to be grounded on the proposed valuation sd. continue in force until revoked by Congs., or a period be now fixed beyond which it sd. not continue in force. The importance of the distinction lay in the necessity of having seven votes on every act of Congs. Edition: current; Page: [358] The Eastern States were generally for the latter, supposing that the Southern States being impoverished by the recent havoc of the enemy would be underrated in the first valuation. The Southern States were for the same reason interested in favor of the former. On the question there were 6 ays only, which produced a dispute whether in a Committee of the whole a majority wd. decide, or whether 7 votes were necessary.

In favor of the first rule it was contended by Mr. Ghoram & others, that in Committees of Congress the rule always is that a majority decides.

In favr of the latter it was contended that if the rule of other committees applies to a come of the whole, the vote sd. be individual per capita, as well as by a majority, that in other deliberative assemblies, the rules of voting were not varied in Commes of the whole, & that it wd. be inconvenient in practice to report to Congs. as the sense of the body, a measure approved by 4 or 5 States, since there could be no reason to hope that in the same body in a different form 7 States wd. approve it, and consequently a waste of time would be the result.

Come rose & Cons. Adjourned.


In order to decide the rule of voting in a Come. of the whole, before Congrs should go into the said Come, Mr. Bland moved that the rule sd. be to vote by States, & the majority of States in Come to decide. Mr. Wilson moved to postpone Mr. Bs motion in order to resolve that the rule be to vote by States and according to the same rules which govern Congress; as this genl question was connected in the minds of members with the particular question to which it was to be immediately applied. The motion for postponing was negatived, Chiefly by the Eastern States. A division of the question on Mr. Bland’s motion was then called for & the first part was agreed to as on the Journal. The latter clause, to wit, a majority to decide, was negatived; so nothing as to the main point was determined. In this uncertainty Mr. Osgood proposed that Congrs. should resolve itself into a Come of the whole. Mr. Carroll as chairman observed that as the same Edition: current; Page: [359] difficulty would occur, he wished Congs would previously direct him how to proceed. Mr. Hamilton proposed that the latter clause of Mr. Bland’s motion shd. be reconsidered and agreed to wrong as it was, rather than have no rule at all. In opposition to which it was sd. that there was no more reason why one & that not the minor side sd wholly yield to the inflexibility of the other yn. vice versa; and that if they sd. be willing to yield on the present occasion, it wd be better to do it tacitly, than to saddle themselves with an express & perpetual rule which they judged improper. This expedient was assented to and Congress accordingly went into a Committee of the Whole.

The points arising on the several amendmts proposed were 1st. the period beyond wch. the rule of the first valuation sd not be in force, on this point Mr. Collins proposed 5 years, Mr. Bland 10 years, Mr. Boudinot 7 years, N. Jersey havg. instructed her Delegates thereon. The Cont delegates proposed 3 years. On the question for 3 years, N. H. no, Mas. no, R. I. ay, Cont ay, all the other States no. On the question for 5 years, all the States ay except Cont

The 2d. point was whether & how far the rule sd be retrospective. On this point the same views operated as on the preceding. Some were agst any retrospection, others for extending it to the whole debt, and others for extendg it so far as was necessary for liquidating and closing the accounts between the United States and each individual State.

The several motions expressive of these different ideas were at length withdrawn, with a view that the point might be better digested, & more accurately brought before Congress. So the rept. was agreed to in the Come. & made to Congress. When the question was about to be put Mr. Madison observed that the report lay in a great degree of confusion, that several points had been decided in a way too vague & indirect to ascertain the real sense of Congs, that other points involved in the subject had not recd. any decision; and proposed the sense of Congs shod be distinctly & successively taken on all of them & the result referred to a special Come to be digested &c. The question was however put & negatived the votes being as they appear on the Journal. The reasons on which Mr. Hamilton’s motion was grounded appear from its preamble.

Edition: current; Page: [360]


On motion of Mr. Lee who had been absent when the Report was yesterday negatived, the matter was reconsidered. The plan of taking the sense of Congs on the several points as yesterday proposed by Mr. Madison, was generally admitted as proper.

The first question propd. in Come. of the whole by Mr. Madison, was: Q: Shall a valuation of land within the U. S. as directed by the Articles of confederation be immediately attempted?—8 ays N. Y. only no. The States present were N. H., Mas. Cont N. Y. N. J. Pa. Va. N. C. S. C. R. I. 1 member, Mard. 1 do.

By Mr. Wilson,

Q. Shall each State be called on to return to the U. S. in Congs assd. the no of acres granted to or surveyed for any person, and also the no of buildings within it? 8 ayes—N. C. no—supposing this not to accord with the plan of referring the valuation to the States, which was patronized by that Delegation. A supplement to this question was suggested as follows.

Q. Shall the male inhabitants be also returned, the blacks & whites being therein distinguished? ay, N. C. no for the same reason as above. Cont divided.

By Mr. Madison,

Q. Shall the States be called on to return to Congs an estimate of the value of its lands with the buildings & improvements within each respectively? After some discussion on this point in whch. the inequalities which wd result from such estimates were set forth at large; and effects of such an experiment in Virga had been described by Mr. Mercer, and a comparison of an Average valuation in Pa. & Va which amounted in the latter to 50 PCt more than in the former, altho’ the real value of land in the former was confessedly thrice that of the latter had been quoted by Mr. Madison, the apprehensions from a reference of any thing more to the States than a report of simple facts increased, and on the vote the States were as follows: N. H. Mas N. J. Pa. Va. no Mr. Bland ay Mr. Lee silent Cont: N. C. S. C. ay, N. Y. divd.: so it passed in the negative.

By Mr. Madison,

Edition: current; Page: [361]

Q. Shall a period be now fixed beyond which the rule to be eventually estabd. by Congs shall not be in force? ay, unanimously.

By Mr. Madison,

Q. What shall that period be? Cont. was again for 3 years, which being rejd 5 yrs passed unanimously.

By Mr. Madison,

Q. Shall the rule so to be estabd have retrospective operation so far as may be necessary for liquidating & closing the accts. between the U. S. & each particular State? Ay—Cont no. Mr. Dyer & Mr. Mercer understood this as making the amt of the several requisitions of Congs, and not of the paymts. by ye. States, the standard by which the accts were to be liquidated and thought the latter the just quantum for retrospective appointment. Their reasoning however was not fully comprehended.


Come of the Whole.

Mr. Mercer revived the subject of retrospective operation; and after it had been much discussed & the difference elucidated wch might happen between apportiong, according to the first valuation which sd. be made, merely the sums paid on the requisitions of Congs, & apportiong the whole Requisitions, consisting of the sums paid & the deficiencies, which might not be pd. until some distant day, when a different rule formed under different circumstances of the States sd be in force, the assent to the last question put yesterday was reversed, & there was added to the preceding question, after “5 years,”—“and shall operate as a rule for apportioning the sums necessary to be raised for supporting the public credit & other contingent expenses & for adjusting all accounts between the U. States & each particular State for monies paid or articles furnished by them & for no other purpose whatsoever.” On this question there were 6 ays—so it became a vote of the Come of the whole.

Edition: current; Page: [362]


For The Report of the Committee on the Resolutions of Va, concerning the contract Under which Tobo. was to be exported to N. Y.1 and the admission of circumstantial proof of accts. agst. the U. S., where legal vouchers had been destroyed by the enemy, see the Journal of this date.

Mr. Mercer informed Congress that this matter had made much noise in Va.; that she had assented to the export of the first quantity, merely out of respect to Congs.; and under an idea that her rights of Sovereignty had been encroached upon; and that, as a further quantity had been exported without the license of the State, the question was unavoidable, whether the authority of Congs extended to the act. He wished therefore that Congress wd proceed to decide the question.

Mr. Fitzsimmons in behalf of the Committee, observed that they went no further than to examine whether the proceedings of the officers of Congs. were conformable to the Resoln. of Congs & not whether the latter were within the power of Congs.

Mr. Lee sd. the Rept. did not touch the point that, the additional quantity had been exported without application to the State, altho’ the first quantity was licensed by the State with great reluctance, in consequence of the request of Congs, and of assurances agst a repetition, and that the Superintendt & Secy. of Congs ought at any rate to have made application to the Executive before they proceeded to further exportations.

Mr. Rutledge sd. the Rept went to the very point, that V. suspected the Resols of Congs. had been abused by the officers of Congs, and the Rept shewed that no such abuse had taken place; that if this information was not satisfactory, and the State sd. contest the right of Congs in the case, it wd then be proper to answer it on that point, but not before. He sd., if the gentleman (Mr. Lee) meant that the Come authorized by Congs. on the—day of—to make explanations on the subject to the Legislature of Va. had given the assurances he mentioned, he must be mistaken; Edition: current; Page: [363] for none such had been given. He had he sd. formed notes of his remarks to the Lege but accordg. to his practice had destroyed them after the occasion was over, and therefore cd. only assert this from Memory; that nevertheless his memory enabled him to do it with certainty.

Mr. Lee, in explanation sd he did not mean the Come.; that the abuse complained of was not that the Resoluns of Congs had been exceeded, but that the export had been undertaken without the Sanction of the State. If the acts were repeated, he said, great offence wd be given to Va.

The Report was agd to as far as the Tobo. was concerned without a dissenting voice, Mr. Lee uttering a no, but not loud enough to be heard by Congress or the chair. The Part relating to the loss of Vouchers was unanimously agd. to.

Come of the Whole.

The Rept for the valuation of land was amended by the insertion of “distinguishing dwelling houses from others.”

The Come. adjourned & the report was made to Congs.

Mr. Lee & Mr. Jervais moved that the Report might be postponed to adopt another plan to wit “to call on the States to return a valuation; and to provide that in case any return sd. not be satisfactory to all parties, persons sd be appd. by Congs. & others by the States respectively to adjust the case finally.”—On this question N. H. was divd.; Mas, no, R. I., ay: Cont, no, N. Y. divd., N. J., no, Pa, no, Va., no, Mr. Madison & Mr. Jones, no;—Mr. Lee & Mr. Bland, ay, N. C. ay, S. C. ay, so the motion failed.


The Rept made by the Come. of the whole havg. decided that ye mode to be grounded on the return of facts called for from ye. States ought now to be ascertained.

Mr. Rutledge proposed 2d by Mr. Gilman, that ye States sd be required to name Comrs, each of them one, who or any nine of them sd be appd. & empowerd. by Congs. to settle the valuation. Mr. Ghoram was agst it as parting with a power which might be turned by the States agst. Congs., Mr. Wolcot agst it; declares his Edition: current; Page: [364] opinion that the Confederation ought to be amended by substituting numbers of inhabitants as the rule; admits the difference between freemen & blacks; and suggests a compromise by including in the numeration such blacks only as were within 16 & 60 years of age. Mr. Wilson was agst. relinquishing such a power to the States, proposes that the commissioners be appd by Congs, and their proceedings subject to the ratification of Congs. Mr. Mercer was for submitting them to the revision of Congs, & this amendment was recd.. Mr. Peters agst. the whole scheme of valuation, as holding out false lights & hopes to the public. Mr. Rutledge thinks Comrs. appd by the States may be trusted as well as Comrs appd. by Congs., or as Congs. themselves. Mr. Wilson observes, that if appd by the States they will bring with them the spirit of agents for their respective States—if appd. by Congs. they will consider themselves as servants of the U. S. at large & be more impartial.

Mr. Ghoram, 2ded by Mr. Wilson, proposes to postpone in order to require the States to appt. Comrs, to give Congs information for a basis for a valuation.—On the question N. H. no, Mas: ay, R. I. ay, Cont ay, N. Y. ay, N. J. ay, Pa. ay, Va no, N. C. no, S. C. no, so it was decided in the negative.

To make the resolution more clear, after the words “or any nine of them,” the words “concurring therein” were added. Mr. Rutledge says that subjecting the acts of the Comrs to the revision of Congs had so varied his plan that he sd be agst it.—On the main question N. H. ay, Mas: ay, R. I. ay, Cont ay, N. Y. no, N. J. no, Pa. ay, Va. ay (Mr. Madison no), N. C. ay, S. C. ay, so it was agreed to & the resolution declaring that a mode sd. now be fixed struck out as executed. The whole report was then committed to a special Come. consisting of Mr. Rutledge Mr. Ghoram & Mr. Gilman to be formed into a proper act.1

Edition: current; Page: [365]


The declaration of Congs as to Genl Funds, Passed of Jany. the 29, as appears on the Journals;1 & Congress resolved itself into a Come of the whole in order to consider the funds to be adopted and recommended to the States. On motion of Mr. Mifflin the impost of 5 Per Ct was taken into consideration. As it seemed to be the general opinion that some variations from the form in which it had been first recomended wd be necessary for reconciling the objecting States to it, it was proposed that the sense of the Come should be taken on that head. The following questions were accordingly propounded:

Que 1. Is it expedient to alter the impost as recommended on the — day of —, 1781?

Mr. Lee said the States particularly Virga. wd never concur in the measure unless the term of years were limited, the collection left to the States, & the appropriation annually laid before ym.

Edition: current; Page: [366]

Mr. Wolcot thought the revenue ought to be commensurate in point of time as well as amount to the debt; that there was no danger in trusting Congs., considering the responsible mode of its appt and that to alter the plan wd. be a mere condescension to the prejudices of the States.

Mr. Ghoram favored the alteration for the same reason as Mr. Lee. He said private letters informed him that the opposition to the impost law was gaining ground in Massts., and the repeal of Virga. would be very likely to give that opposition the ascendance. He said our measures must be accommodated to the sentiments of the States whether just or unreasonable.

Mr. Hamilton dissented from the particular alterations suggested, but did not mean to negative the question.

Mr. Bland was for conforming to the ideas of the States as far as wd. in any manner consist with the object.

On the Question the affirmative was unanimous excepting the voice of Mr. Wolcot.

Que 2d. Shall the term of duration be limited to 25 years?

Mr. Mercer professed a decided opposition to the principle of general revenue, observed that the liberties of Engd had been preserved by a separation of the purse from the sword; that untill the debts sd. be liquidated & apportioned he wd. never assent in Congs or elsewhere to the scheme of the Impost.

Mr. Bland proposed an alternative of 25 years, or until the requisitions of Congs, according to the Articles of Confedn, shall be found adequate. On this proposition the votes were of N. H. divd, R. I. no, Cont. no, N. Y. no N. J. no, Pa. no, Virga ay, N. C. divd.; S. C. ay, so the proposition was not agreed to.

On the main question for 25 years it was voted in the affirmative.

Q. 3. Shall the appointmt of Collectors be left to the States, they to be amenable to & under the controul of, Congs.?—ay; several States as N. Y. & Pa. dissenting.1

Edition: current; Page: [367]


The Come. report to Congs the alterations yesterday agreed on with respect to the 5 Per Ct Impost.

The Deputy Secy at War reported to Congress the result of the inquiry directed by them on the [24th] day of [January,] into the seizure of goods destined for the British Prisoners of war under passport from Genl Washington. From this report it appeared that some of the Seizors had pursued their claim under the law of the State & that in consequence the goods had been condemned & ordered for sale. The papers were referred to a Come consisting of Mr. Rutledge, Mr. Ghoram & Mr. Lee, who after havg retired for a few moments reported, that the Secy of War should be authorized & directed to cause the goods to be taken from the places where they had been deposited, to employ such force as wd be sufficient, and that the Duke de Lauzun whose Legion was in the neighbourhood, should be requested to give the Secy such aid as he might apply for.

This report was generally regarded by Congs. as intemperate, and the proposed recourse to the French Legion as flagrantly imprudent. Mr. Hamilton said that if the object had been to embroil the country wth their Allies the expedient would have been well conceived.1 He added that the exertion of force would not under these circumstances meet the sense of the people at large. Mr. Ghoram sd he denied this with respect to the people of Massachusetts.

Mr. Lee on the part of the Come said that the D. de Lauzun had been recurred to as being in the neighbourhood & having Cavalry under his Command which would best answer the occasion; Edition: current; Page: [368] and that the Report was founded on wise & proper considerations.

Mr. Mercer, Mr. Williamson Mr. Ramsay Mr. Wilson & Mr. Madison, strenuously opposed the Report, as improper altogether as far as it related to the French Legion, and in other respects so until the State of Pa. sd. on a summons refuse to restore the articles seized.

Mr. Rutledge with equal warmth contended for the expediency of the measures reported.

Mr. Mercer & Mr. Madison at length proposed that Congress sd assert the right on this subject & summon the State of Pena. to redress the wrong immediately. The Report was recommitted with this proposition & Mr. Wilson & Mr. Mercer added to ye. Come.

The speech of the K. of G. B. on the 5th. of Decr, 1782, arrived & produced great joy in general, except among the merchts who had great quantities of merchandize in store the price of which immediately & materially fell. The most judicious members of Congs. however suffered a great diminution of their joy from the impossibility of discharging the arrears & claims of the army & their apprehensions of new difficulties from that quarter.1


Mr. Jones Mr. Rutledge & Mr. Wilson to whom had been referred on Tuesday last a letter from Mr. Jefferson stating Edition: current; Page: [369] the obstacles to his voyage, reported that they had conferred with the Agent of Marine who sd there was a fit vessel ready for sea in this port but was of opinion the arrival of the British King’s Speech would put a stop to the sailing of any vessels from the ports of America untill something definite should take place; and that if Congress judged fit that Mr. Jefferson sd proceed immediately to Europe it would be best to apply to the French Minister for one of the Frigates in the Chesapeake. The general opinion of Congs seemed to be that under present circumstances he sd suspend his voyage untill the further order of Congs; and on motion of Mr. Ghoram, seconded by Mr. Wolcot the Secy of Foreign Affairs was accordingly without opposition directed to make this known to Mr. Jefferson.

The Report of the Come for obtaining a valuation of land was made & considered. See the Journal of this date.


The report respecting a valuation of land being lost as appears from the Journal, it was revived by the motion of Mr. Dyer seconded by Mr. Mercer as it stands,1 the appointment of Commissrs. by Congs for adjusting the quotas, being changed for a grand Committee consisting of a delegate present from each State, for that purpose.

A motion was made to strike out the clause requiring the concurrence of nine voices in the report to Congress; and on the question, shall the words stand? the States being equally divided the clause was expunged. It was thereafter reconsidered & re-inserted.

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The whole report was agreed to with great reluctance by almost all, by many from a spirit of accommodation only, & the necessity of doing something on the subject. Some of those who were in the negative particularly Mr. Madison, thought the plan not within the spirit of the Confederation, that it would be ineffectual, and that the States would be dissatisfied with it.

A motion was made by Mr. Hamilton 2ded by Mr. Fitzsimmons to renew the recommendation of the — Feby, 1782 for vesting Congress with power to make abatements in favor of States parts of which had been in possession of the Enemy. It was referred to a committee.

Come. of the whole on the subject of genl funds.

Mr. Rutledge & Mr. Mercer proposed that the Impost of 5 Per Ct. as altered & to be recommended to the States, should be appropriated exclusively, first to the interest of ye. debt to the army & then in case of surplus to the principal. Mr. Rutledge urged in support of this motion that it would be best to appropriate this fund to the army as the most likely to be obtained as their merits were superior to those of all other Creditors, and as it was the only thing that promised, what policy absolutely required, some satisfaction to them.

Mr. Wilson replied that he was so sensible of the merits of the army that if any discrimination were to be made among the public creditors, he should not deny them perhaps a preference, but that no such discrimination was necessary; that the ability of the public was equal to the whole debt, and that before it be split into different descriptions the most vigorous efforts ought to be made to provide for it entire. That we ought first at least to see what funds could be provided, to see how far they would be deficient, and then, in the last necessity only to admit discriminations.

Mr. Ghoram agreed with Mr. Wilson. He said an exclusive appropriation to the army would in some places be unpopular and would prevent a compliance of those States whose Citizens were Edition: current; Page: [371] the greatest Creditors of the United States; since without the influence of the public creditors, the measure could never be carried through the States, and these if excluded from the appropriation would be even interested in frustrating the measure & keeping by that means their cause a common one with the army.

Mr. Mercer applauded the wisdom of the Confederation in leaving the provision of money to the States, said that when this plan was deviated from by Congress, their objects should be such as were best known & most approved; that the States were jealous of one another, & wd. not comply unless they were fully acquainted with & approved the purpose to which their money was to be applied, that nothing less than such a preference of the army would conciliate them, that no Civil Creditor would dare to put his claims on a level with those of the army, and insinuated that the speculations which had taken place in loan office certificates might lead to a revision of that subject on principles of equity, that if too much were asked from the States they would grant nothing. He said that it had been alledged, that the large public debt if funded under Congress would be a cement of the Confederacy. He thought on the contrary it would hasten its dissolution; as the people would feel its weight in the most obnoxious of all forms that of taxation.1

Edition: current; Page: [372]

On the question the States were all no except S. Carolina, which was ay.1

A motion was made by Mr. Rutledge, 2ded. by Mr. Bland to change the plan of the impost in such a manner as that a tariff might be formed for all articles that would admit of it, and that a duty ad valorem sd be collected only on such articles as would not admit of it.

In support of such an alteration it was urged that it would lessen the opportunity of collusion between Collector & importer & would be more equal among the States. On the other side it was alledged that the States had not objected to that part of the plan, and a change might produce objections—that the nature & variety of imports would require necessarily the collection to be ad-valorem on the greater part of them, that the forming of a book of rates wd be attended with great difficulties & delays, and that it would be in the power of Congress by raising the rate of the article to augment the duty beyond the limitation of 5 per ct. and that this consideration would excite objections on the part of the States—The motion was negatived—

A motion was made by Mr Hamilton 2ded. by Mr Wilson; that whereas Congres was desirous that the motives & views of their Edition: current; Page: [373] measures sd. be known to their constituents in all cases where the public safety wd admit, that when the subject of finances was under debate the doors of Congs sd be open. Congs. adjourned it being the usual hour & the motion being generally disrelished—The Pa. delegates said privately that they had brought themselves into a critical situation by dissuading their Constituents from separate provision for creditors of U. S. within Pena hoping that Congs wd. adopt a general provision, & they wished their constituents to see the prospect themselves & to witness the conduct of their Delegates. Perhaps the true reason was that, it was expected the presence of public creditors numerous & weighty in Philada wd. have no influence & that it wd. be well for the public to come more fully to the knowledge of the public finances.

Letter recd from Wm Lee at Ghent notifying the desire of the Emperor [of Austria] to form a commercial treaty with the U. S., and to have a residt from them. Comd to Mr. Izard, Ghoram & Wilson.


The motion made yesterday by Mr. Hamilton for opening the doors of Congress when the subject of the finances should be under debate was negatived, Penna alone being ay.

A motion was made by Mr. Hamilton seconded by Mr. Bland to postpone the clause of the report made by the Come of the whole, for altering the Impost, viz. the clause limiting its duration to 25 years, in order to substitute a proposition declaring it to be inexpedient to limit the period of its duration; first because it ought to be commensurate to the duration of the debt, 2dly. because it was improper in the present stage of the business, and all the limitation of which it wd admit had been defined in the resolutions of—, 1782.

Mr. Hamilton said in support of his motion that it was in vain to attempt to gain the concurrence of the States by removing the objections publickly assigned by them against the Impost, that these were the ostensible & not the true objections; that the true objection on the part of R. I. was the interference of the impost Edition: current; Page: [374] with the opportunity afforded by their situation of levying contributions on Cont, &c, which recd. foreign supplies through the ports of R. I. that the true objection on the part of Va. was her having little share in the debts due from the U. S. to which the impost would be applied; that a removal of the avowed objections would not therefore, remove the obstructions whilst it would admit on the part of Congs that their first recommendation went beyond the absolute exigencies of the public; that Congs. having taken a proper ground at first, ought to maintain it till time should convince the States of the propriety of the measure.

Mr. Bland said that as the debt had been contracted by Congress with the concurrence of the States, and Congs was looked to for payment by the public creditors, it was justifiable & requisite in them to pursue such means as would be adequate to the discharge of the debt; & that the means would not be adequate if limited in duration to a period within which no calculations had shewn that the debt wd be discharged.

On the motion the States were N. Hampshire divided, Masts no, R. Island ay; Cont divd.; N. York, ay, N. Jersey ay, Pena. ay, Virga. no (Mr. Bland ay) N. Carolina ay S. Carolina, ay. Mr. Rutledge said he voted for postponing not in order to agree to Mr. Hamilton’s motion but to move & he accordingly renewed the motion made in Come of the whole, viz that the Impost should be appropriated exclusively to the army. This motion was seconded by Mr. Lee.

Mr. Hamilton opposed the motion strenuously declared that as a friend to the army as well as to the other Creditors & to the public at large he could never assent to such a partial distribution of Justice; that the different States being differently attached to different branches of the public debt would never concur in establishg. a fund wch. was not extended to every branch; that it was impolitic to divide the interests of the civil & military Creditors, whose joint efforts in the States would be necessary to prevail on them to adopt a general revenue.

Mr. Mercer favored the measure as necessary to satisfy the army & to avert the consequences which would result from their disappointment on this subject; he pronounced that the army would not disband until satisfactory provision should be made, & Edition: current; Page: [375] that this was the only attainable provision; But he reprobated the doctrine of permanent debt supported by a general & permanent revenue & said that it would be good policy to separate instead of cementing the interests of the Army & the other public creditors, insinuating that the claims of the latter were not supported by justice & said that the loan office certificates ought to be revised.

Mr. Fitzsimmons observed that it was unnecessary to make a separate appropriation of the Impost to one particular debt, since if other funds sd be superadded, there would be more simplicity & equal propriety in an aggregate fund for the aggregate debt funded; and that if no other funds should be superadded it wd. be unjust & impolitic; that the States whose Citizens were the chief creditors of the U. S. wd never concur in such a measure; that the mercantile interest which comprehended the chief Creditors of Pena. had by their influence obtained the prompt & full concurrence of that State in the Impost, and if that influence were excluded the State would repeal its law. He concurred with those who hoped the army wd. not disband unless provision sd. be made for doing them justice.

Mr. Lee contended that as every body felt and acknowledged the force of the demands of the army, an appropriation of the Impost to them wd recommend it to all the States; that distinct & specific appropriations of distinct revenue was the only true System of finance, and was the practice of all other nations who were enlightened on this subject; that the army had not only more merit than the mercantile creditors; but that the latter would be more able on a return of peace to return to the business which would support them.

Mr. Madison said that if other funds were to be superadded as the Gentleman (Mr. Rutledge) who made the motion admitted, it was at least premature to make the appropriation in question; that it wd be best to wait till all the funds were agreed upon & then appropriate them respectively to those debts to which they sd be best fitted that it was probable the impost would be judged best adapted to the foreign debt; as the foreign Creditors could not like the domestic ever recur to particular States for separate payments and that as this wd be a revenue little felt it would be Edition: current; Page: [376] prudent to assign it to those for whom the States wd. care least, leaving more obnoxious revenues for those Creditors who wd excite the Sympathy of their Countrymen and cd stimulate them to do justice.

Mr. Williamson was agst. the motion; said he did not wish the army to disband until proper provision should be made for them; that if force sd be necessary to excite justice, the sooner force was applied the better.

Mr. Wilson was against the motion of Mr. Rutledge, he observed that no instance occurred in the British history of finance in which distinct appropriations had been made to distinct debts already contracted; that a consolidation of funds had been the result of experience; that an aggregate fund was more simple & would be most convenient; that the interest of the whole funded debt ought to be paid before the principal of any part of it; and therefore in case of surplus of the impost beyond the interest of the army debt, it ought at any rate to be applied to the interest of the other debts, and not, as the motion proposed, to the principal of the army debt. He was fully of opinion that such a motion would defeat itself, that by dividing the interest of the civil from that of the military Creditors provision for the latter would be frustrated.

On the question on Mr. Rutledge’s motion the States were, N. H. no, Mass. no, Cont no, N. J. no, Virga. no, (Mr. Lee and Mr. Mercer ay) N. C. no, S. Carolina, ay.

On the clause reported by the Come of the whole in favor of limiting the impost to 25 years, the States were N. H. ay Mas. ay Cont divd; (Mr. Dyer ay, Mr. Wolcot no) N. Y. no, N. J. no, Pa. ay (Mr. Wilson & Mr. Fitzsimmons no) Va ay (Mr. Bland no) N. Carolina ay, S. Carolina ay, so the question was lost.

On the question whether the appointment of Collectors of the Impost shall be left to the States, the Collectors to be under the controul, & be amenable to Congs, there were 7 ays N. Y. & Pena being no & N. J. divided.

THURSDAY, FEBY. 20, 1783.

The motion for limiting the impost to 25 years having been yesterday lost, and some of the gentlemen who were in the Edition: current; Page: [377] negative desponding of an indefinite grant of it from the States, the motion was reconsidered.

Mr. Wolcot & Mr. Hamilton repeat the inadequacy of a definite term. Mr. Ramsay & Mr. Williamson repeat the improbability of an indefinite term being acceded to by the States, & the expediency of preferring a limited impost to a failure of it altogether.

Mr. Mercer was against the impost altogether but would confine his opposition within Congress: He was in favor of the limitation as an alleviation of the evil.

Mr. Fitzsimmons animadverted on Mr. Mercer’s insinuation yesterday touching the loan-office Creditors; & the policy of dividing them from the military Creditors, reprobated every measure which contravened the principles of justice & public faith; and asked whether it were likely that Mas: & Pa, to whose Citizens half the loan office debt was owing would concur with Virga, whose Citizens had lent but little more than three hundred thousand dollars, in any plan that did not provide for that in common with other debts of the U. S. He was against a limitation to 25 years.

Mr. Lee wished to know whether by Loan office Creditors were meant the original subscribers or the present holders of the certificates, as the force of their demands may be affected by this consideration.

Mr. Fitzsimmons saw the scope of the question, and said that if another scale of depreciation was seriously in view he wished it to come out, that every one might know the course to be taken.

Mr. Ghoram followed the Sentiments of the Gentleman who last spoke, expressed his astonishment that a Gentleman (Mr. Lee) who had enjoyed such opportunities of observing the nature of public credit, should advance such doctrines as were fatal to it. He said it was time that this point sd. be explained, that if the former scale for the loan office certificates was to be revised and reduced as one member from Virga (Mr. Mercer) contended, or a further scale to be made out for subsequent depreciation of Certificates, as seemed to be the idea of the other member, (Mr. Lee,) the restoration of public credit was not only Edition: current; Page: [378] visionary but the concurrence of the States in any arrangemts. whatever was not to be expected. He was in favor of the limitation as necessary to overcome the objections of the States.

Mr. Mercer professed his attachment to the principles of justice but declared that he thought the scale by which the loans had been valued unjust to the public & that it ought to be revised & reduced.

On the question for the period of 25 years it was decided in the affirmative seven States being in favor of it; N. Jersey & N. York only being no.

Mr. Mercer called the attention of Congress to the case of the goods seized under a law of Pena, on which the Come had not yet reported, and wished that Congs. would come to some resolution declaratory of their rights & which would lead to an effectual interposition on the part of the Legislature of Pena. After much conversation on the subject in which the members were somewhat divided as to the degree of peremptoriness with which the State of Pa should be called on, the Resolution on the Journal, was finally adopted; having been drawn up by the Secy, & put into the hands of a member.

The Resolution1 passed without any dissent.2

[The evening of this day was spent at Mr. Fitzsimmons’ by Mr. Edition: current; Page: [379] Ghoram, Mr. Hamilton, Mr. Peters, Mr. Carrol, & Mr. Madison. The conversation turned on the subject of revenue under the consideration of Congress, and on the situation of the army. The conversation on the first subject ended in a general concurrence (Mr. Hamilton excepted) in the impossibility of adding to the impost on trade any taxes that wd operate equally throughout the States, or be adopted by them. On the second subject Mr. Hamilton & Mr. Peters who had the best knowledge of the temper, transactions & views of the army, informed the company that it was certain that the army had secretly determined not to lay down their arms until due provision & a satisfactory prospect should be afforded on the subject of their pay; that there was reason to expect that a public declaration to this effect would soon be made; that plans had been agitated if not formed for subsisting themselves after such declaration; that as a proof of their earnestness on this subject the Com̃ander was already become extremely unpopular among almost all ranks from his known dislike to every unlawful proceeding, that this unpopularity was daily increasing & industriously promoted by many leading characters; that his choice of unfit & indiscreet persons into his family was the pretext and with some the real motive; but the substantial one a desire to displace him from the respect & confidence of the army in order to substitute Genl [erased & illegible] as the conductor of their efforts to obtain justice. Mr. Hamilton said that he knew Genl. Washington intimately and perfectly, that his extreme reserve, mixed sometimes with a degree of asperity of temper, both of which were said to have increased of late, had contributed to the decline of his popularity; but that his virtue his patriotism & his firmness would it might be depended upon never yield to any dishonorable or disloyal plans into which he might be called that he would sooner suffer himself to be cut to pieces; that he, (Mr. Hamilton) knowing this to be his true character wished him to be the conductor of the army in their plans for redress, in order that they might be moderated & directed to proper objects, & exclude some other leader who might foment and misguide their councils; that with this view he had taken the liberty to write to the Genl. on this subject and to recommend such a policy to him.]

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Mr. Mercer made some remarks tending to a re-consideration of ye act declaring general funds to be necessary, which revived the discussion of that subject.

Mr. Madison said that he had observed throughout the proceedings of Congress relative to the establishment of such funds that the power delegated to Congress by the Confederation had been very differently construed by different members & that this difference of construction had materially affected their reasonings & opinions on the several propositions which had been made; that in particular it had been represented by sundry members that Congress was merely an Executive body; and therefore that it was inconsistent with the principles of liberty & the spirit of the Constitution, to submit to them a permanent revenue which wd be placing the purse & the sword in the same hands; that he wished the true doctrine of the Confederation to be ascertained as it might perhaps remove some embarrassments; and towards that end would offer his ideas on the subject.

He said, that he did not conceive in the first place that the opinion was sound that the power of Congress in cases of revenue was in no respect Legislative, but merely Executive; and, in the second place that admitting the power to be Executive a permanent revenue collected & dispensed by them in the discharge of the debts to wch. it sd. be appropriated would be inconsistent with the nature of an Executive body, or dangerous to the liberties of the Republic.

As to the first opinion he observed that by the Articles of Confederation, Congs had clearly & expressly the right to fix the quantum of revenue necessary for the public exigencies, & to require the same from the States respectively in proportion to the value of their land; that the requisitions thus made were a law to the States, as much as the Acts of the latter for complying with them were a law to their individual members; that the federal constitution was as sacred and obligatory as the internal constitutions of the several States; and that nothing could justify the States in disobeying acts warranted by it, but some previous abuse and infraction on the part of Congs.; that as a proof that Edition: current; Page: [381] the power of fixing the quantum & making requisitions of money, was considered as a legislative power over the purse, he would appeal to the proposition made by the British Minister of giving this power to the B. Parliamt., & leaving to the American Assemblies the privilege of complying in their own modes, & to the reasonings of Congress & the several States on that proposition. He observed further that by the articles of Confederation was delegated to Congs. a right to borrow money indefinitely, and emit bills of Credit which was a species of borrowing, for repayment & redemption of which the faith of the States was pledged & their legislatures constitutionally bound. He asked whether these powers were reconcileable with the idea that Congress was a body merely Executive? He asked what would be thought in G. B., from whose Constitution our Political reasonings were so much drawn, of an attempt to prove that a power of making requisitions of money on ye Parliament & of borrowing money for discharge of which the Parlt sd be bound, might be annexed to the Crown without changing its quality of an Executive branch, and that the leaving to the Parliamt the mode only of complying with the requisitions of the Crown would be leaving to it its supreme & exclusive power of Legislation?

As to the second point he referred again to the British Constitution & the mode in which provision was made for the public debts, observing that although the Executive had no authority to contract a debt, yet that when a debt had been authorized or admitted by the Parliament a permanent & irrevocable revenue was granted by the Legislature, to be collected & dispensed by the Executive; and that this practice had never been deemed a subversion of the Constitution, or a dangerous association of a power over the purse with the power of the Sword.

If these observations were just as he conceived them to be, the establishment of a permanent revenue not by any assumed authority of Congress, but by the authority of the States at the recommendation of Congs, to be collected & applied by the latter to the discharge of the public debts, could not be deemed inconsistent with the spirit of the federal Constitution, or subversive of the principles of liberty; and that all objections drawn from such a supposition ought to be withdrawn. Whether other objections of Edition: current; Page: [382] sufficient weight might not lie agst. such an establisht, was another question. For his part although for various reasons1 he had wished for such a plan as most eligible, he had never been sanguine that it was practicable & the discussions which had taken place had finally satisfied him that it would be necessary to limit the call for a general revenue to duties on commerce & to call for the deficiency in the most permanent way that could be reconciled with a revenue established within each State separately & appropriated to the Common Treasury. He said the rule which he had laid down to himself in this business was to concur in every arrangemt. that sd appear necessary for an honorable & just fulfilment of the public engagements; & in no measure tending to augment the power of Congress which sd appear to be unnecessary; and particularly disclaimed the idea of perpetuating a public debt.

Mr. Lee, in answer to Mr. Madison, said the doctrine maintained by him was pregnant with dangerous consequences to the liberties of the confederated States; that, notwithstanding the specious arguments that had been employed it was an established truth that the purse ought not to be put into the same hands with the Sword; that like arguments had been used in favor of ship money Edition: current; Page: [383] in the reign of Charles I it being then represented as essential to the support of the Govt, that the Executive should be assured of the means of fulfilling its engagements for the public service. He said it had been urged by several in behalf of such an establishment for public credit that without it Congress was nothing more than a rope of sand. On this head he would be explicit; he had rather see Congress a rope of sand than a rod of Iron. He urged finally as a reason why some States would not & ought not to concur in granting to Congress a permanent revenue, that some States as Virga, would receive back a small part by paymt from the U. S. to its Citizens, whilst others as Pena, wd. receive a vast surplus; & consequently by draining the former of its wealth.

Mr. Mercer said if he conceived the federal compact to be such as it had been represented he would immediately withdraw from Congress & do every thing in his power to destroy its existence; that if Congs had a right to borrow money as they pleased and to make requisitions on the States that wd be binding on them, the liberties of the States were ideal; that requisitions ought to be consonant to the Spirit of liberty; that they should go frequently & accompanied with full information, that the States must be left to judge of the nature of them, of their abilities to comply with them & to regulate their compliance accordingly; he laid great stress on the omission of Congs to transmit half yearly to the States an acct of the monies borrowed by them &c. and even insinuated that this omission had absolved the States in some degree from the engagements. He repeated his remarks on the injustice of the rule by which loan office Certificates had been settled & his opinion that some defalcations would be necessary.

Mr. Holten was opposed to all permanent funds, and to every arrangement not within the limits of the Confederation.

Mr. Hamilton enlarged on the general utility of permanent funds to the federal interests of this Country, & pointed out the difference between the nature of the Constitution of the British Executive & that of the U. S. in answer to Mr. Lee’s reasoning from the case of Ship money.

Mr. Ghoram adverted with some warmth to the doctrines advanced by Mr. Lee & Mercer, concerning the loan office Creditors. He said the Union could never be maintained on any other Edition: current; Page: [384] ground than that of Justice; that some States had suffered greatly from the deficiencies of others already; that if Justice was not to be obtained through the federal system & this system was to fail as would necessarily follow, it was time this should be known that some of the States might be forming other confederacies adequate to the purposes of their safety.

This debate was succeeded by a discharge of the Committee from the business of devising the means requisite for restoring Public credit, &c &c. and the business referred to a Come., consisting of Mr. Ghoram, Mr. Hamilton, Mr. Madison, Mr. Fitzsimmons & Mr. Rutledge.1

Edition: current; Page: [385]


No Congress till

In favor of the motion of Mr. Gilman (see the Journal of this date) to refer the officers of the army for their half-pay to their respective States it was urged that this plan alone would secure to Edition: current; Page: [386] the officers any advantage from that engagement;1 since Congress had no independent fund out of which it could be fulfilled, and the States of Cont. & R. I., in particular would not comply with any recommendation of Cong nor even requisition, for that purpose. It was also said that it would be satisfactory to the officers; and that it would apportion on the States that part of the public burden with sufficient equality. Mr. Dyer said that the original promise of Congress on that subject was considered by some of the States as a fetch upon them, and not within the spirit of the authority delegated to Congress. Mr. Wolcot said the States wd. give Congs nothing whatever unless they were gratified in this particular. Mr. Collins said R. I. had expressly instructed her delegates to oppose every measure tending to an execution of the promise out of monies under the disposition of Congress.

On the other side it was urged that the half pay was a debt as solemnly contracted as any other debt; and was, consequently, as binding under the 12th article of the Confederation on the States, & that they could not refuse a requisition made for that purpose; that it would be improper to countenance a spirit of that sort by yielding to it that such concessions on the part of Congs wd produce compliances on the part of the States, in other instances, clogged with favorite conditions, that a reference of the officers to the particular States to whose lines they belong would not be Edition: current; Page: [387] satisfactory to the officers of those States who objected to half pay, and would increase the present irritation of the army; that to do it without their unanimous consent would be a breach of the contract by which the U. S. collectively were bound to them; and above all that the proposed plan, which discharged any particular State which should settle with its officers on this subject, altho’ other States might reject the plan, from its proportion of that part of the public burden, was a direct and palpable departure from the law of the Confederation. According to this instrument the whole public burden of debt must be apportioned according to a valuation of land, nor cd any thing but a unanimous concurrence of the States dispense with this law. According to the plan proposed so much of the public burden as the ½ pay sd. amount to, was to be apportioned according to the number of officers belonging to each line; the plan to take effect as to all those States which should adopt it, without waiting for the unanimous adoption of the States; and that if Congress had authority to make the number of officers the rule of apportioning one part of the Public debt on the States, they might extend the rule to any other part or to the whole, or might substitute any other arbitrary rule which they should think fit. The motion of Mr. Gilman was negatived. See the ays & noes on the Journal.1


Mr. Lee observed to Congress that it appeared from the Newspapers of the day that sundry enormities had been committed by the refugees within the State of Delaware, as it was known that like enormities had been committed on the Shores of the Chesapeak, notwithstanding the pacific professions of the Enemy; that it was probable howẽr that if complaint were to be made to the British Commander at N. York the practice would be restrained. He accordingly moved that a Committee might be appointed to take into consideration the means of restraining such practices. Edition: current; Page: [388] The motion was 2ded by Mr. Peters. By Mr. Fitzsimmons the motion was viewed as tending to a request of favors from Sr Guy Carleton. It was apprehended by others that, as Genl Washington & the commanders of separate armies had been explicitly informed of the sense of Congress on this point, any fresh measures thereon might appear to be a censure on them; and that Congress cd not ground any measure on the case in question, having no official information relative to it. The motion of Mr. Lee was negatived. But it appearing from the vote to be the desire of many members that some step might be taken by Congress, the motion of Mr. Madison & Mr. Mercer as it stands on the Journal was proposed and agreed to as free from all objections.1

A motion was made by Mr. Hamilton to give a brevet comm̃ion. to Majr Burnet, aid to Genl Greene & messenger of the evacuation of Charleston, of L Colonel; there being six ayes only the motion was lost. N. H., no, Mr. Lee & Mercer no.

The Committee consisting of Mr. Lee &c. to whom had been referred the motion of Mr. Hamilton recommending to the States to authorize Congress to make abatements in the retrospective apportionment by a valuation of land in favor of States whose ability from year to year had been most impaired by the war; reported that it was inexpedient to agree to such motion because one State (Virga) having disagreed to such a measure, on a former recom̃endation to Congress, it was not probable that another recommendation would produce any effect; and because the difficulties of making such abatements were greater than the advantages expected from them.

Mr. Lee argued in favor of the report & the reasons on which it was grounded. The Eastern delegations were for leaving the matter open for future determination when an apportionment should be in question.

Mr. Madison said he thought that the principle of the motion was conformable to justice & within the spirit of the Confederation; Edition: current; Page: [389] according to which apportionmts ought to have been made from time to time throughout the war according to the existing wealth of each State. But that it would be improper to take up this case separately from other claims of equity which would be put in by other States; that the most likely mode of obtaining the concurrence of the States in any plan wd. be to comprehend in it the equitable interests of all of them; a comprehensive plan of that sort would be the only one that would cut off all sources of future controversy among the States. That as soon as the plan of revenue sd be prepared for recom̃endation to the States it would be proper for Congs to take into consideration & combine with it every object1 which might facilitate its progress, & for a complete Edition: current; Page: [390] provision for the tranquillity of the U. States. The question on Mr. Hamilton’s motion was postponed.

The letter from Mr. Morris requesting that the injunction of secrecy might be withdrawn from his preceding letter signifying to Congress his purpose of resigning, was committed to.


On the report of the Come on Mr. Morris’s letter the injunction of secrecy was taken off without dissent or observation.

The attention of Congress was recalled to the subject of half Edition: current; Page: [391] pay by Messrs. Dyer & Wolcot, in order to introduce a reconsideration of the mode of referring it separately to the States to provide for their own lines.

Mr. Mercer favored the reconsideration, representing the commutation proposed, as tending in common with the funding of other debts, to establish & perpetuate a monied interest in the U. S.; that this monied interest would gain the ascendance of the landed interest, would resort to places of luxury & splendor, and, by their example & influence, become dangerous to our republican constitutions. He said however that the variances of opinion & indecision of Congress were alarming & required that something should be done; that it wd be better to new-model the Confederation, or attempt any thing, rather than to do nothing.

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Mr. Madison reminded Congs, that the commutation proposed was introduced as a compromise with those to whom the idea of pensions was obnoxious & observed that those whose scruples had been relieved by it had rendered it no less obnoxious than pensions by stigmatizing it with the name of a perpetuity. He said the public situation was truly deplorable. If the payment of the capital of the public debts was suggested, it was said & truly said to be impossible; if funding them & paying the interest was proposed, it was exclaimed agst as establishing a dangerous moneied interest, as corrupting the public manners, as administering poison to our republican constitutions. He said he wished the revenue to be established to be such as would extinguish the capital as well as pay the interest within the shortest possible period; and was as much opposed to perpetuating the public burdens as any one. But that the discharge of them in some form or other was essential, and that the consequences predicted therefrom could Edition: current; Page: [393] not be more heterogeneous to our republican character & constitutions, than a violation of the maxims of good faith and common honesty. It was agreed that the report for commuting ½ pay should lie on the table till to-morrow, in order to give an opportunity to the Delegates of Connecticut to make any proposition relative thereto which they should judge proper.

The report of the Comme, consisting of Mr. Ghoram Mr. Hamilton Mr. Madison Mr. Rutledge & Mr. Fitzsimmons, was taken up. It was proposed that in addition to the impost of 5 Per Ct. ad valorem the States be requested to enable Congs to collect a duty of ⅛ of a dollar per bushel on salt imported; of 6/90 per Gallon on all wines do. and of 3/90 per Gallon on all rum & brandy do.

On the first article it was observed on the part of the East: States, that this would press peculiarly hard on them on acct of the salt consumed in the fisheries; and that it would besides be injurious to the national interest by adding to the cost of fish. And a drawback was suggested.

On the other side it was observed that the warmer climate & more dispersed settlements of the Southern States, required a greater consumption of salt for their provisions, that salt might & would be conveyed to the fisheries without previous importation, that the effect of the duty was too inconsiderable to be felt in the cost of fish & that the rum in the N. E. States being in a great degree manufactured at home, they would have greater advantage in this respect, than the other States could have in the article of Salt, that a drawback could not be executed in our complicated governt with ease or certainty.

Mr. Mercer on this occasion declared that altho’ he thought those who opposed a general revenue right in their principles, yet as they appeared to have formed no plan adequate to the public exigencies, and as he was convinced of the necessity of doing something, he should depart from his first resolution and strike in with those who were pursuing the plan of a general revenue.

Mr. Holten said he had come lately into Congress with a predetermination against any measures for discharging the public engagements other than those pointed out in the Confederation, & that he had hitherto acted accordingly. But that he saw now so clearly the necessity of making provision for that object, and Edition: current; Page: [394] the inadequacy of the Confederation thereto, that he should concur in recommending to the States a plan of a general revenue.

A question being proposed on the duties on salt there were 9 ays, N. H. alone being no, R. I. not present.

It was urged by some that the duty on wine should be augmented; but it appeared on discussion & some calculations, that the temptation to smuggling wd be rendered too strong, & the revenue thereby diminished. Mr. Bland proposed that, instead of a duty on the Gallon an ad-valorem duty should be laid on wine, and this idea after some loose discussion, was agreed to, few of the members interesting themselves therein, and some of them having previously retired from Congress.


A motion was made by Mr. Wolcot and Mr. Dyer to refer the half pay to the States, little differing from the late motion of Mr. Gilman, except that it specified 5 years’ whole pay as the proper ground of composition with the Officers of the respective lines. On this proposition the arguments used for and agst. Mr. Gilman’s motion were recapitulated. It was negatived, Cont. alone answering in the affirmative, and no division being called for.

On the question to agree to the report for a commutation of 5 years’ whole pay, there being 7 ays only it was considered whether this was an appropriation or a new ascertainment of a sum of money necessary for the public service. Some were of opinion at first that it did not fall under that description, viz of an appropriation. Finally the contrary opinion was deemed almost unanimously safest, as well as the most accurate. Another question was whether 7 or 9 votes were to decide doubts whether 7 or 9 were requisite on any question. Some were of opinion that the Secretary ought to make an entry according to his own judgment and that that entry sd. stand unless altered by a positive instruction from Congs. To this it was objected that it wd. make the Secy. the Sovereign in many cases, since a reversal of his entry wd be impossible, whatever that entry might be; that particularly he might enter 7 votes to be affirmative on a question where 9 Edition: current; Page: [395] were necessary, and if supported in it by a few States it wd. be irrevocable. It was said, by others, that the safest rule wd be to require 9 votes to decide in all cases of doubt whether 9 or 7 were necessary. To this it was objected that one or two States, and in any situation 6 States might by raising doubts, stop seven from acting in any case which they disapproved. Fortunately on the case in question there were 9 States of opinion that nine were requisite, so the difficulty was got over for the present.

On a reconsideration of the question whether the duty on wine should be on the quantity or on the value the mode reported by the Come was reinstated, and the whole report recom̃itted to be included with the 5 Per Ct ad valorem, in an Act of recom̃endation to the States.


The Comme on revenues, reported in addition to the former articles recommended by them, a duty of ⅔ of a dollar per 112 lbs on all brown sugar, 1 dollar on all powdered, lumped & clayed sugars, other than loaf sugar, 1⅓ dollar per 112 lbs. on all loaf sugars, 1/30 of a dollar per lb on all Bohea Teas, and 1/15 of a dollar on all finer Indian Teas. This report without debate or opposition was recommitted to be incorporated with the general plan.


The motion of Mr. Hamilton on the Journal, relative to the abatement of the quotas of distressed States1 was rejected, partly because the principle was disapproved by some, and partly because it was thought improper to be separated from other objects to be recommended to the States. The latter motive produced the motion for postponing which was lost.

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The Committee to whom had been referred the letters of resignation of Mr. Morris reported as their opinion that it was not necessary for Congs immediately to take any steps thereon. They considered the resignation as conditional, and that if it sd eventually take place at the time designated, there was no necessity for immediate provision to be made.

Mr. Bland moved that1 &c (see Journal of Mar. 5).

This motion produced on these two days lengthy & warm debates, Mr. Lee & Mr. Bland on one side disparaging the Administration of Mr. Morris, and throwing oblique censure on his character. They considered his letter as an insult to Congs, & Mr. Lee declared that the man who had published to all the world such a picture of our national character & finances was unfit to be a Minister of the latter. On the other side Mr. Wilson & Mr. Hamilton went into a copious defence & Panegyric of Mr. Morris, the ruin in which his resignation if it sd take effect wd. involve public credit and all the operations dependent on it; and the decency altho’ firmness, of his letters. The former observed that the declaration of Mr. Morris, that he wd. not be the minister of Injustice cd not be meant to reflect on Congs, because they had declared the funds desired by Mr. Morris to be necessary; and that the friends of the latter could not wish for a more honorable occasion for his retreat from public life, if they did not prefer the public interest to considerations of friendship. Other members were divided as to the propriety of the letters in question. In general however they were thought reprehensible, as in general also a conviction prevailed of the personal merit & public importance of Mr. Morris. All impartial members foresaw the most Edition: current; Page: [397] alarming consequences from his resignation. The prevailing objection to Mr. Bland’s motion was that its avowed object & tendency was to re-establish a board in place of a single minister of finance. Those who apprehended that ultimately this might be unavoidable, thought it so objectionable that nothing but the last necessity would justify it. The motion of Mr. Bland was lost; and a Comme appointed generally on the letters of Mr. Morris.1


The come on Revenue made a report which was ordered to be printed for each member, and to be taken up on monday next.


Printed copies of the Report above-mentioned were delivered to each member, as follows, viz.

(1.) “Resolved, that it be recommended to the several States, as indispensably necessary to the restoration of public credit, and the punctual & honorable discharge of the public debts, to vest in the U. S. in Congs assemd. a power to levy for the use of the U. S. a duty of 5 Per Ct ad valorem, at the time and place of importation, upon all goods, wares & merchandizes of foreign growth & manufactures, which may be imported into any of the said States, from any foreign port, island or plantation, except arms, Edition: current; Page: [398] ammunition, clothing, and other articles imported on account of the U. States or any of them; and except wool cards, cotton cards, & wire for making them; and also except Salt during the war:

(2.) Also a like duty of 5 Per Ct ad valorem, on all prizes & prize goods condemned in the Court of Admiralty of any of these United States as lawful prize:

(3.) Also to levy a duty of ⅛ of a dollar per bushel on all salt imported as aforesaid after the war; 1/15 of a dollar per gallon on all wines, 1/30 of a dollar per gallon on all rum and brandy; ⅔ of a dollar per 112 lbs on all brown sugars, 1 dollar per 112 lbs on all powdered, lump and clayed sugars other than loaf sugars, 1⅓d° per 112 lbs on all loaf sugars; 1/30 of a dollar per pound on all Bohea Tea, and 1/15 of a dollar per lb on all finer India teas, imported as aforesaid, after —— ——, in addition to the five per Ct above-mentioned:

(4.) Provided that none of the said duties shall be applied to any other purpose than the discharge of the interest or principal of the debts which shall have been contracted on the faith of the U. S. for supporting the present war, nor be continued for a longer term than 25 years: and provided that the collectors of the said duties shall be appointed by the States within which their offices are to be respectively exercised, but when so appointed, shall be amenable to & removable by the U. S. Congs. assd. alone; and in case any State shall not make such appointment within — ——, after notice given for that purpose, the appointment may then be made by the U. S. in Congs assd.

(5.) That it be further recommended to the several States to establish for a like term not exceeding 25 years, and to appropriate to the discharge of the interest & principal of the debts which shall have been contracted on the faith of the U. S., for supporting the present war, substantial and effectual revenues of such a nature as they may respectively judge most convenient, to the amount of —— —— ——, and in the proportion following viz.

The said revenues to be collected by persons appointed as aforesaid, but to be carried to the separate credit of the States within Edition: current; Page: [399] which they shall be collected and be liquidated and adjusted among the States according to the quotas which may from time to time be allotted to them.

(6.) That an annual account of the proceeds and application of the aforementioned revenues shall be made out & transmitted to the several States, distinguishing the proceeds of each of the specified articles, and the amount of the whole revenue received from each State.

(7.) That none of the preceding resolutions shall take effect untill all of them shall be acceded to by every State, after which accession however, they shall be considered as forming a mutual compact among all the States, and shall be irrevocable by any one or more of them without the concurrence of the whole, or a majority, of the United States in Congs. assembled:

(8.) That, as a further means, as well of hastening the extinguishment of the debts, as of establishing the harmony of the U. States, it be recommended to the States which have passed no acts towards complying with the resolutions of Congress of the 6th of Sepr and the 10th of Octr, 1870, relative to territorial cessions, to make the liberal cessions therein recommended, & to the States which may have passed acts complying with the said resolutions in part only, to revise & complete such compliance.

(9.) That, in order to remove all objections against a retrospective application of the constitutional rule of apportioning to the several States the charges & expenses which shall have been supplied for the common defence or general welfare, it be recommended to them to enable Congress to make such equitable exceptions and abatements as the particular circumstances of the States from time to time, during the war, may be found to require:

(10.) That conformably to the liberal principles on which these recommendations are founded, and with a view to a more amicable and complete adjustment of all accounts between the U. S. and individual States, all reasonable expenses which shall have been incurred by the States without the sanction of Congs., in their defence agst. or attacks upon British or Savage enemies, either by sea or by land, and which shall be supported by satisfactory proofs, shall be considered as part of the common charges incident to the present war, and be allowed as such:

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(11.) That as a more convenient and certain rule of ascertaining the proportions to be supplied by the States respectively to the common Treasury, the following alteration in the articles of confederation and perpetual union between these States, be and the same is hereby, agreed to in Congress, & the several States are advised to authorize their respective delegates to subscribe and ratify the same, as part of the said instrument of Union, in the words following, to wit.

(12) “So much of the 8th of the Articles of Confederation & perpetual Union between the thirteen States of America as is contained in the words following to wit ‘All charges of war &c (to the end of the paragraph)—[and all other expenses that shall be incurred for the common defence or general welfare, and allowed by the United States in Congress assembled, shall be defrayed out of a common treasury, which shall be supplied by the several States, in proportion to the value of all land within each State granted to, or surveyed for, any person, as such land, and the buildings and improvements thereon, shall be estimated according to such mode as the United States in Congress assembled shall, from time to time, direct and appoint,]’—is hereby revoked and made void, and in place thereof, it is declared and Concluded, the same having been agreed to in a Congress of the United States, that all charges of war, and all other expenses that shall be incurred for the common defence or general welfare and allowed by the U. S. in Congress assembled shall be defrayed out of a common treasury, which shall be supplied by the several States in proportion to the number of inhabitants of every age, sex & condition, except Indians not paying taxes in each State; which number shall be triennially taken & transmitted to the U. S. in Congs assembled, in such mode as they shall direct and appoint; provided always that in such numeration no persons shall be included who are bound to servitude for life, according to the laws of the State to which they belong, other than such as may be between the ages of1—years.”

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See the Journal. Much debate passed relative to the proposed commutation of half pay; Some wishing it to take place on condition only that a majority of the whole army should concur others preferring the plan expressed on the journal, and not agreed to.1


The Report entered on Friday, the 7 of March was taken into consideration. It had been sent by order of Congs. to the Supt of Finance for his remarks which were also on the table. These remarks were in substance: that it wd be better to turn the 5 per ct ad valorem into a Tariff, founded on an enumeration of the several classes of imports, to which ought to be added a few articles of exports; that instead of an apportionment of the residue on the States, other general revenues from a land tax, reduced to ¼ of a dollar Per Hundred Acres, with a house tax regulated by the numbers of windows, and an excise on all Spirituous liquors to be collected at the place of distillery ought Edition: current; Page: [402] to be substituted and as well as the duties on trade made co-existent with the public debts; the whole to be collected by persons appd. by Congs. alone. And that an alternative ought to be held out to ye States, either to establish these permanent revenues, for the interest or to comply with a constitutional demand of the principal within a very short period.

In order to ascertain the sense of Cons on these ideas it was proposed that the following short questions sd be taken:

1. Shall any taxes to operate generally throughout the States, be recommended by Congs other than duties on foreign commerce?

2. Shall the 5 Per C ad valorem be exchanged for a tariff?

3. Shall the alternative be adopted, as proposed by the Superintendt of Finance?

On the 1st. question the States were, N. H. no, Mas: no, Cont no, N. J. no, Maryd no, Virga. no, 6 noes & 5 ays.

On the 2d question there were 7 ays.

The 3d. question was not put, its impropriety being generally proclaimed.

In consequence of the 2d. vote in favor of a tariff, the 3 first paragraphs of the Rept. were recommitted together with the letter from the Superintedt. of Finance.

On the fourth Par. on motion of Mr. Dyer, after the word “war,” in line 5, was inserted “agreeably to the resolution of the 16 of Decr. last.”

A motion was made by Mr. Hamilton and Mr. Wilson to strike out the limitation of 25 years and to make the revenue co-existent with the debts. This question was lost, the States being N. H., no, Mas., no, Contt divd, N. Y., ay, N. J., ay, Pa, ay, Del., ay, Maryd., ay, Va., no, N. C., ay, S. C., no.

A motion was made by Mr. Hamilton & Mr. Wilson to strike out the clauses relative to the appointment of Collectors, and to provide that the Collectors sd be inhabitants of the States within which they sd collect should be nominated by Congs, and appointed by the States, and in case such nomination should not be accepted or rejected within — days it should stand good. On this question there were 5 ayes and 6 noes.1

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WEDNESDAY 12, TH. 13, F. 14, S. 15 OF MARCH.

These days were employed in reading the despatches brought on Wednesday morning by Capt. Barney commanding the Washington Packet. They were dated from Decr. 4 to 24, from the Ministers Plenipo: for peace, with journals of preceding transactions, and were accompanied by the Preliminary articles signed on the 30th of Novr., between the said Ministers & Mr. Oswald the British Minister.

The terms granted to America appeared to Congs. on the whole extremely liberal.1 It was observed by several however that the Edition: current; Page: [404] stipulation obliging Congs. to recommend to the States a restitution of confiscated property, altho’ it could scarcely be understood that the States would comply, had the appearance of sacrificing the dignity of Congs., to the pride of the British King.

The separate & secret manner in which our Ministers had proceeded with respect to France & the confidential manner with respect to the British Ministers affected different members of Congs. very differently. Many of the most judicious members thought they had all been in some measure ensnared by the dexterity of the British Minister; and particularly disapproved of the conduct of Mr. Jay in submitting to the Enemy his jealousy of the French without even the knowledge of Dr. Franklin, and of the unguarded manner in which he, Mr. A. & Dr. F., had given in writing sentiments unfriendly to our Ally, and serving as weapons for the insidious policy of the Enemy. The separate Article was most offensive, being considered as obtained by G. B. Edition: current; Page: [405] not for the sake of the territory ceded to her, but as a means of disuniting the U. S. & France, as inconsistent with the spirit of the Alliance, and a dishonorable departure from the candor rectitude & plain dealing professed by Congs.. The dilemma in wch. Congs. were placed was sorely felt. If they sd communicate to the F. Minister every thing they exposed their own Ministers, destroyed all confidence in them on the part of France & might engage them in dangerous factions agst Congs, which was the more to be apprehended, as the terms obtained by their management were popular in their nature. If Congs sd conceal every thing, & the F. Court sd. either from the Enemy or otherwise come to the knowledge of it all confidence wd. be at an end between the allies; the enemy might be encouraged by it to make fresh experiments, & the public safety as well as the national honor be endangered. Upon the whole it was thought & observed by many that our Ministers particularly Mr. Jay, instead of making allowances for & affording facilities to France in her delicate situation between Spain & the U. S., had joined with the enemy in taking advantage Edition: current; Page: [406] of it to increase her perplexity; & that they had made the safety of their Country depend on the Sincerity of Ld Shelburne, which was suspected by all the world besides, and even by most of themselves. See Mr. L’s, letter Decr 24th.

The displeasure of the French Court at the neglect of our Ministers to maintain a confidential intercourse & particularly to communicate the preliminary articles before they were signed, was not only signified to the Secy of F. A., but to sundry members by the Chevr de la Luzerne. To the former he shewed a letter from Ct. de Vergennes directing him to remonstrate to Congs agst the conduct of the American Ministers; which a subsequent letter countermanded alledged that Docr F. had given some explanations that had been admitted; & told Mr. Livingston that the American Ministers had deceived him (de Vergennes) by telling him a few days before the preliminary articles were signed, that the agreement on them was at a distance; that when he carried the articles signed into Council, the King expressed great indignation, & asked if the Americans served him thus before peace was made, & whilst they were begging for aids, what was to be expected after peace &c To several Members he mentioned that the King had been surprised & displeased & that he said he did not think he had such allies to deal with. To one of them who asked whether the Ct. of F. meant to complain of them to Congs., M. Marbois answered that Great Powers never complained but that they felt & remembered. It did not appear from any circumstances that the separate article was known to the Court of F., or to the Chevr de la Luzerne.

The publication of the preliminary articles excepting the separate article in the Newspaper was not a deliberate act of Congs. A hasty question for enjoining secrecy on certain parts of the despatches which included those articles, was lost; and copies havg been taken by members & some of them handed to the Delegates of Pena, one of them reached the printer. When the publication appeared Congs in general regretted it, not only as tending too much to lull the States, but as leading France into suspicions that Congress favored the premature signature of the articles and were at least willing to remove in the minds of the people the blame of delaying peace from G. B. to France.

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A letter was recd from Genl Washington inclosing two anonymous & inflammatory exhortations to the army to assemble for the purpose of seeking by other means, that justice which their Country shewed no disposition to afford them. The steps taken by the Genl to avert the gathering storm & his professions of inflexible adherence to his duty to Congress & to his Country, excited the most affectionate sentiments towards him. By private letters from the army & other circumstances there appeared good ground for suspecting that the Civil creditors were intriguing in order to inflame the army into such desperation as wd produce a general provision for the public debts. These papers were committed to Mr. Gilman Mr. Dyer, Mr. Clark Mr. Rutledge & Mr. Mercer. The appt. of These Gentlemen was brought about by a few members who wished to saddle with this embarrassment the men who had opposed the measures necessary for satisfying the army viz. the half pay & permanent funds; agst one or other of which the individuals in question had voted.

This alarming intelligence from the army added to the critical situation to wch. our affairs in Europe were reduced by the variance of our Ministers with our Ally, and to the difficulty of establishing the means of fulfilling the Engagemts & securing the harmony of the U. S. & to the confusions apprehended from the approaching resignation of the Superintt of Finance, gave peculiar awe & solemnity to the present moment, & oppressed the minds of Congs. with an anxiety & distress which had been scarcely felt in any period of the revolution.1

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On the report of the Committee to whom the 3 paragraphs of the Report on revenues (see March the 6 & 7) had been recommitted, the said paragraphs were expunged so as to admit the following amendments which took place without opposition, viz

Resolved That it be recommended &c &c (see 1vl 1 P).1

Upon all rum of Jamaica proof per Gallon 4/90
Upon all other spirituous liquors 3/90
Upon Madeira wine 12/90
Upon the wines of Lisbon, Oporto, those called Sherry & upon all French wines 5/90
Upon the wines called Malaga or Teneriffe 5/90
Upon all other wines 4/90
Upon common Bohea Tea, Per lb 6/90
Upon all other Teas 24/90
Upon pepper, per lb 3/90
Upon Brown Sugar per lb 12/90
Upon loaf Sugar 2/90
Upon all other Sugars 1/90
Upon molasses per Gallon 1/90
Upon Cocoa & Coffee, per lb 1/90
Upon Salt after the war, per bushel,

And upon all goods, except arms, ammunition & clothing or other articles,1 imported for the use of the U. S., a duty of 5 Per Ct ad valorem:

Provided that there be allowed a bounty of ⅛ of a dollar for every Quintal of dried fish exported from the U. S., and a like sum for every Barrel of Pickled fish, beef or pork to be paid or allowed to the exporter thereof at the port from which they shall be so exported.

The arguments urged by Mr. Wilson in behalf of his motion (see Journal) for a land tax [of ¼ of a dollar for 100 acres] other than those heretofore generally urged were that it was more moderate than had been paid before the revolution & it cd not be supposed the people wd grudge to pay as the price of their liberty what they formerly paid to their oppressors; that if it was unequal, this inequality wd be corrected by the States in other taxes—that as the tax on trade would fall chiefly on the inhabitants of the lower Country who consumed the imports, the tax on land would affect those who were remote from the Sea & consumed little.

On the opposite side it was alledged that such a tax was repugnant to the popular ideas of equality & particularly wd never be acceded to by the S. States at least unless they were to be respectively credited for the amount; and if such credit were to be given, it wd be best to let the States chuse such taxes as would best suit them.

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A letter came in & was read from the Secy. of F. A. stating the perplexing alternative to which Congs. were reduced by the secret article relating to West Florida, either of dishonoring themselves by becoming a party to the concealment or of wounding the feelings & destroying the influence of our Ministers by disclosing the article to the French Court; and proposing as advisable on the whole

1. That he be authorized to communicate the article in question to The French Minister in such manner as would best tend to remove the unfavorable impressions which might be made on the Ct. of F. as to the sincerity of Congress or their Ministers.

2. That the sd. Ministers be informed of this communication, and instructed to agree that the limit for W. F., proposed in the separate article be allowed to whatever power the said colony may be confirmed by a Treaty of peace.

3. That it be declared to be the sense of Congress that the preliminary articles between the U. S. & G. B. are not to take effect untill peace shall be actually signed between the Kings of F. & G. B.1

Ordered that to-morrow be assigned for the consideration of the said letter.


A letter was read from the Superintendt. of Finance, inclosing letters from Docr. Franklin, accompand with extracts from the Ct de Vergennes relative to money affairs, the Supt thereupon declaring roundly that our credit was at an end & that no further pecuniary aids were to be expected from Europe. Mr. Rutledge denied these assertions, & expressed some indignation at them. Mr. Bland said that as the Supt. was of this opinion it would be absurd for him to be Minister of Finance and moved that the Come on his motion for arranging the department might be instructed to report without loss of time. This motion was Edition: current; Page: [411] negatived as censuring the Come, but it was understood to be the sense of Congs that they sd. report.

The order of the day viz the letter from the Secretary of F. A. was taken up.

Mr. Wolcot conceived it unnecessary to waste time on the subject as he presumed Congs would never so far censure the Ministers who had obtained such terms for this country as to disavow their conduct.

Mr. Clarke was decided agst. communicating the separate article, which wd be sacrificing meritorious Ministers, & wd. rather injure than relieve our national honor. He admitted that the separate article put an advantage into the hands of the Enemy, but did not on the whole deem it of any great consequence. He thought Congress ought to go no farther than to inform the Ministers that they were sorry for the necessity which had led them into the part they had taken, & to leave them to get rid of the embarrassmt as to the separate article in such a way as they sd. judge best. This expedient would save Congress & spare our Ministers who might have been governed by reasons not known to Congress.

Mr. Mercer said that not meaning to give offence any where, he should speak his sentiments freely. He gave it as his clear & decided opinion that the Ministers had insulted Congress by sending them assertions without proof as reasons for violating their instructions, & throwing themselves into the confidence of G. B. He observed that France in order to make herself equal to the Enemy had been obliged to call for aid & had drawn Spain agst her interest into the war; that it was not improbable that she had entered into some specific engagements for that purpose; that hence might be deduced the perplexity of her situation, of which advantage had been taken by G. B. an advantage in which our Ministers had concurred for sowing jealousies between F. & U. S. & of which further advantage wd be taken to alienate the minds of the people of this Country from their ally, by presenting him as the obstacle to peace. The British Court he said havg. gained this point may easily frustrate the negotiation & renew the war agst divided enemies. He approved of the conduct of the Count de Vergennes in promoting a treaty under the 1st. Comissn. to Oswald as preferring the substance to the shadow & proceeding Edition: current; Page: [412] from a desire of peace. The conduct of our Ministers throughout, particularly in giving in writing every thing called for by the British Minister expressive of distrust of France was a mixture of follies which had no example was a tragedy to America & a comedy to all the world beside. He felt inexpressible indignation at their meanly stopping, as it were to lick the dust from the feet of a nation whose hands were still dyed with the blood of their fellow-citizens. He reprobated the chicane & low cunning wch. marked the journals transmitted to Congress, and contrasted them with the honesty & good faith which became all nations & particularly an infant republic. They proved that America had at once all the follies of youth and all the vices of old age; thinks it wd be necessary to recall our Ministers; fears that France may be already acquainted with all the transactions of our Ministers, even with the separate article, & may be only waiting the reception given to it by Congs. to see how far the hopes of cutting off the right arm of G. B. by supporting our revolution may have been well founded; and in case of our basely disappointing her, may league with our Enemy for our destruction and for a division of the Spoils. He was aware of the risks to which such a league wd. expose France, of finally losing her share, but supposed that the British Islands might be made hostages for her security. He said America was too prone to depreciate political merit, & to suspect where there was no danger; that the honor of the King of F. was dear to him, that he never wd. betray or injure us unless he sd be provoked & justified by treachery on our part. For the present he acquiesced in the proposition of the Secy of Fn. As. But when the question should come to be put, he sd be for a much more decisive res