Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to the County Lieutenants, 26 March 1781

To the County Lieutenants

In Council, March 26, 1781.


I INCLOSE you by express, three acts of the last session of Assembly for ascertaining the number of militia in the state; exempting artificers employed at iron works from militia duty, and remedying the inconveniencies arising from the interruption of the draught and the procuring clothes, provisions, and waggons for the army.

WE expect to send a vessel shortly with a flag, from this place to Charlestown, with tobacco, to be disposed of for our captive officers and soldiers there. Be so good as to give notice to the friends of any of them within your county, that any articles which they may think proper to send for their relief by that conveyance, shall have a free passage, if ready to be delivered here by the last of April, and not too much for the spare room in the vessel.

THE number of deserters from the British army who have taken refuge in this state, is now considerable, and daily augmenting. These people notwithstanding their coming over to us, being deemed in law alien enemies, and as such, not admissible to be citizens, are not within the scope of the militia and invasion laws, under which citizens alone can be embodied. I thought it necessary to observe this to you, lest any errour in this point should creep into practice, by incorporating those persons into the militia of the state.

I have the honour to be, with great respect, Sir, Your most obedient, and most humble servant,

Th: Jefferson

Broadside (DLC: Broadside Collection); signed by TJ; Swem, “Va. Bibliog.” description begins Earl G. Swem, “A Bibliography of Virginia,” Virginia State Library, Bulletin, VIII, X, XII (1915–1919) description ends No. 7291. Enclosures (missing): The three Acts of Assembly mentioned were evidently printed by Dixon & Nicolson, though no copies have been found (see invoice of Dixon & Nicolson, under 23 Mch. 1781, notes 5 and 8; Swem, Nos. 7264–6; the Acts are printed in Hening, description begins William W. Hening, The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia description ends x, 393–5, 396, 397).

This prompt printing of the three Acts and also of the session laws may have been in part a result of the action taken by the Assembly on 21 Mch., the day before the special session adjourned. On that day the House resolved “that the Governor with the advice of the Council be desired to adopt the most speedy and effectual methods to procure the printing and promulgating the Laws of the last and present Session of Assembly, And for that Purpose to impress any printing Implements Types, Press Materials, and necessaries whatsoever together with Artisans and workmen proper for accomplishing the above Purpose”; the Senate agreed to this resolution the same day (JHD description begins Journal of the House of Delegates of the Commonwealth of Virginia (cited by session and date of publication) description ends , Mch. 1781, Va. State Libr., Bull., Jan. 1928, p. 48, 50). There is no record that TJ found it necessary to invoke this power, but apparently its mere existence was effective, for on 21 Apr. the following notice appeared in Va. Gaz. (d & n): “The laws of October and March sessions of Assembly are printed, and ready to be delivered when called for.” Deserters from the British Army: TJ himself engaged a deserter to work at Monticello, as the following extract from his Account Book, under date of 3 Apr. 1781, indicates: “sent David Watson a British deserter, house joiner by trade, to work at Monticello @ 3000 ℔ tobo. a year or it’s worth in paper.” Watson and another soldier who worked at Monticello are described graphically by Isaac, one of TJ’s slaves: “Davy Watson and Billy were German soldiers: both workmen, both smoked pipes and both drinkers: drank whiskey; git drunk and sing: take a week at a time drinkin and singin” (Memoirs of a Monticello Slave, ed. Rayford W. Logan, Charlottesville, 1951, p. 33).

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