Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to Steuben, 15 February 1781

To Steuben

Richmond Feb. 15 1781.


I am glad my proclamation has offended Arnold: it proves it to be right. The exchange of the prisoners must await a board of Council, which I doubt having immediately. I will have every thing done which can be done here for providing the deficient clothing.

Doctor Pope set out about three days ago for Genl. Muhlenberg’s camp, with powers to employ assistants, so that I hope there will be no want of Surgeons.

I am with much respect Sir Your most obedt. servt.,

Th: Jefferson

RC (NHi); addressed: “The honble. Majr. Genl. Baron Steuben Chesterfd. C. house”; endorsed.

Major John Graves Simcoe, writing from Portsmouth on 14 Mch., gave the following estimate of TJ’s proclamation of 19 Jan. concerning paroles: “Your pretended Governor has absolved the Inhabitants of this Colony from their voluntary Paroles, authorizing Breach of Faith in the profligate, and by penalties enforcing it on the more Virtuous, and has rendered Virginian Probity a bye Word to Posterity. These, Sir, are Acts of Barbarism; they are the growth of Rebellion, and I trust they will remain its Monopoly” (Simcoe to Parker, 14 Mch. 1781, NHi). Simcoe was usually temperate in expression; hence, in the absence of Arnold’s comment on TJ’s proclamation, Simcoe’s remarks may be taken as a pale reflection of his commander’s opinion. It is important to note that TJ’s proclamation accused the British of violating the law of nations in issuing paroles to unarmed citizens and that the opinion of Simcoe and other British officers treated TJ’s proclamation as a violation of the law of the realm, the one being based on a concept of war between sovereigns and the other on the assumption that the conflict was a rebellion. Hence there was no common ground from which to view the legality of the act Simcoe complained of, though in such matters as the conduct of flags by which these and other completely conflicting opinions had to be interchanged, the laws and customs of nations were tacitly accepted and acted upon by both sides.

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