Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to Benjamin Harrison, 1 January 1781

To Benjamin Harrison

In Council Jan. 1. 1781.


The inclosed letter conveying intelligence of a fleet appearing in our bay, came to hand yesterday. It’s size has given suspicions that it may be hostile, more especially as we have been lately informed that an embarkation was taking place at New York. I have thought it my duty to communicate it to the General assembly before their rising, as they might perhaps wish to give some advice to the Executive on this subject. I have the honor to be with the greatest esteem & respect Sir Your most obedt. servt.,

Th: Jefferson

RC (Andre deCoppet, New York City, 1949). Addressed in TJ’s hand: “The honble Benjamin Harrison Speaker of the House of Delegates.” Endorsed: “Governor’s Letter January 1st: 1781. Respecting an Invasion. to lie on table.” FC (Vi).

The inclosed letter: No doubt the (missing) letter of Jacob Wray to Thomas Nelson which arrived in Richmond on 31 Dec., giving the first news of the impending invasion (see TJ to Steuben, 31 Dec. 1780; James Maxwell to TJ, following; TJ to Thomas Nelson, 2 Jan. 1781). There is no evidence in the proceedings of the House that further consideration was given to TJ’s letter. A message from the Senate, stating that it adhered to its amendments to the bill to revive and amend the Act for regulating and disciplining the militia, was considered by the House and a reply returned that the House adhered to its disagreement to the amendment. No further action was taken on the bill. The House then agreed to the following resolution (MS, Vi), to which the Senate agreed the same day: “Whereas the regiments on State Establishment are greatly reduced in their Numbers of Men insomuch that most of the Officers belonging to them are without Employment, the General Assembly taking the same into their Consideration, and sensible of the merit of the said Officers of whose Services they cannot now be availed for want of Men, induced by the exigencies of the State, have Resolved that the Governor with advice of Council be desired to discontinue for the present from actual service such of the said Officers who are supernumerary to the Men composing at present the several Regiments or Corps on State Establishment.” The only apparent recognition taken of the impending danger was a resolution of the following day (2 Jan.): “That in case the next meeting of the General Assembly at this place, be rendered inconvenient by the operations of an invading enemy; that the next meeting of the Assembly be at such proper place, as the Governor with the advice of the Council, shall appoint by proclamation” (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. 78–9).

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