<br /> Lee Letter: n777

Washington and Lee University

Sender: Richard Henry Lee
Recipient: James Madison

Dear Sir,

Your favor of the 11th1 reached me ten days
after its date and after the post had gone out for that week, so that I
fear this letter will not get to Richmd. before the adjournment. The
proceedings of last Assembly respecting B. debts have not yet been
before Congress, because they have not arrived at this place. It seems
that they were deposited in Mr. Hardys Trunk which a variey of
accidents have prevented him from getting brought here before the
adjournment of Congress, which took place on the
24th.2 They have determined to make New York
the place of their temporary residence, & the permanent one is to
be on the banks of Delaware within 8 miles of this place, where the
fœderal buildings are to be erected as soon as possible. The new
Congress meets on the first Monday in Novr. annually. Now it is plain
that since the meeting of our Assembly is not until late in October,
and as they seldom convene until long after the stipulated time, there
is no probability of Virginia being represented for a considerable time
after the fœderal time appointed.3 North
Carolina [is] in the same situation, and to avoid the inconvenience has
already sent forward her choice of Delegates for 1786 to take their
seats on the 2d Monday in Novr. 1785.4 The
Confederation says, to meet on the 1st Monday, yet the Credentials of
most States, & ours among the number, has it From the 1st Monday,
which inaccuracy has caused some debates in Congress, and is fitted to
exclude Members for one day, and thereby, in some instances may be
productive of inconvenience – this should be alter’d in our next form. I
think that the Assize law will improve much the dispensation of Justice
in our Country, a thing devoutly to be wished. I am very apprehensive
that a war with the Southern Indians will take place. Land Speculators,
& Spanish jealousy will probably force it on, before our treaty
with them can take place. We have such momentous concerns with the two
courts of Madrid & London, that we shall be obliged to send special
Ministers to each of them, or else a war may be the consequence of
neglect. Mr. Madison has been nominated for
Spain,5 and is much approved by the Southern
States. The conversation concerning a Continental Convention has ceased
for some time, so that perhaps it may not be revived again. The pointed
manner in which Spain insists upon the exclusive navigation of
Mississippi renders it of more important consequence to explore &
improve the navigation of the waters running thro our States. In a few
days I proceed for N. York, having given a little time for fitting a
Presidents House there. The Members of Congress, except two or 3, are
already departed for N. York & Philadelphia.


Receiver’s copy, Madison Papers, Library of Congress. In Lee’s hand;
complimentary closing and signature clipped.

1 See Madison, Papers (Hutchinson), 8: 180 – 81.

2 The June 22 resolves of the Virginia assembly “respecting B. debts” may
have been received by the Virginia delegates in early July, for which
see Samuel Hardy to Benjamin Harrison, July 2, 1784. The assembly
sought a remonstrance to the British court concerning the removal
from New York of slaves taken during the war by British troops – a
violation of the 7th article of the peace treaty. The assembly also
informed the delegates that until proper reparations were made, it
would not repeal wartime measures inhibiting the recovery of British
debt – a clear infringement of the 4th article of the treaty. It is
not known when these instructions may have been presented to
Congress, but they appeared on the journals as part of John Jay’s
report of October 13, 1786, on noncompliance with the treaty of
peace. See JCC, 31:825 – 27; and Madison, Papers (Hutchinson),

3 See Lee to Madison, November 26, note 2.

4 These credentials were apparently lost, however, and a new commission
issued by Governor Caswell was retrospectively entered on the
journals May 3, 1786. See JCC, 30:229 – 30.

5 Lee mistakenly wrote Madison’s name for “Mr. Jefferson.”