Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to the Virginia Delegates in Congress, 31 August 1780

To the Virginia Delegates in Congress

Richmond August 31. 1780.


We agree to employ Mr. Dunlap according to his proposals inclosed in your Letter of the 15th instant except that we must adhere to our requisition that a complete sheet of his weekly paper shall be kept clear of advertisements, and reserved for intelligence, essays, &c., except that advertisements from the Legislature or Executive shall be put into the same sheet with the intelligence. The standing salary is to be fixed by the assembly, not by the executive, and we will recommend to them in settling it to consider the utility of the weekly paper and make liberal allowance for that over and above Mr. Dunlaps services in printing the public acts,Journals, proclamations, advertisements, &c. and this we can venture to undertake will be done. As to money which you say Mr. Dunlap will want as soon as he comes we are not in a condition to make him any advances between this and the meeting of assembly but immediately after their meeting we have no doubt it will be in our power. I hope his press will be got to work before they meet. We will give him any aid in our power in procuring a house here, and if we should have any vessels coming from the head of Elk down the bay they shall take in any thing he pleases to have lodged here without charge. I wou’d recommend strongly to Mr. Dunlap that his manager here obtain the postmaster’s office of the place. Besides that it will carry custom to his shop it will give him an exemption from militia duties which may otherwise be a considerable interruption. I have the honor to be with every sentiment of respect Gent., Your mo. obedient servant,

Th: Jefferson

FC (Vi, photostat from Brit. Mus.: Add. MSS 38,650).

The Delegates’ letter of the 15th instant, with its Proposals from Mr. Dunlap enclosed, has not been found. Obviously, however, they were made by John Dunlap (publisher of the Pennsylvania Packet at Philadelphia and until lately of Dunlap’s Maryland Gazette at Baltimore) in reply to proposals from TJ transmitted by the Virginia delegates. In their recent session the General Assembly had authorized the executive “to engage with, and employ, at the publick expense, and for the publick service, a good and able printer, of firm and known attachment to the independence of the United States, who may be willing to bring a good and well provided press into this commonwealth” (Hening, description begins William W. Hening, The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia description ends x, 313). TJ very likely opened negotiations in his missing letter to the delegates of ca. 26 July 1780 (see TJ to Madison of that date). What happened afterward may be traced in a series of documents printed in Swem, “Va. Bibliog.” description begins Earl G. Swem, “A Bibliography of Virginia,” Virginia State Library, Bulletin, VIII, X, XII (1915–1919) description ends pt. ii, App. J. An agreement was quickly reached with John Dunlap and James Hayes (until recently the publisher of the Maryland Gazette at Baltimore and Annapolis, part of the time in partnership with Dunlap), who “shipped a costly printing apparatus with materials of great worth, on board the Bachelor, a ship belonging to Philadelphia, in order to begin a business in this commonwealth”; the ship was driven ashore by bad weather in Chesapeake Bay and taken by the enemy; and in November Dunlap and Hayes petitioned for compensation (JHD description begins Journal of the House of Delegates of the Commonwealth of Virginia (cited by session and date of publication) description ends , Oct. 1780, 1827 edn., p. 28). On 14 Dec. the Assembly agreed to compensate the partners for their loss and to encourage them to try again (same, p. 49). Their equipment was this time sent by land (see Joseph Jones’ letter to the Auditors, 16 Mch. 1781, and references there), and at length in Dec. 1781 the Virginia Gazette or Weekly Advertiser was established by James Hayes at Richmond (Brigham, Amer. Newspapers, 1690–1820). Dunlap petitioned for payment for his captured press as late as Mch. 1788 (Swem, as cited above).

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