Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from William Davies, with Reply, 6 April 1781

From William Davies, with Reply

War office April 6. 1781.


Inclosed I lay before our Excellency the estimates you were pleased to mention some time ago. Mr. Ross’s indisposition prevented its being presented sooner. Some Gentlemen think them rather too small.

Mr. Clark’s proposals respecting the brick work at the point of fork, I have also enclosed, and beg the direction of the Executive.

Col. White applies for cloathing. I presume from the inclosed note of Mr. Armistead’s, that he is deficient in the articles expressed in it. Under the present circumstances I submit the matter to your Excellency, for your particular direction.

Not having received the opinion of the Executive of the 2d. instant till this morning, I had no opportunity of putting their ideas into execution with respect to the removal of the cannon. I enclose a letter from Mr. Baker, who lives at South quay and affords a hope that they may be removed. I have this day engaged the assistance of three teams in the neighborhood of that place who are already in public service, but can be spared, I am told, on this occasion. I shall, however, pay attention to the transportation by Blackwater, as proposed by the council.

I have the honor to be your Excellencys most hble Servt.,

William Davies

In Council Apr. 6. 1781.

The General assembly having put down the public store and discontinued the issues to officers, the Executive are not at liberty to direct the purchase of cloathing. On the settlement of the depreciation account those who have received the least cloathing will have the less to credit the state.

Th: Jefferson

RC (Vi); addressed and endorsed (by Davies). TJ’s reply, in his own hand, is on verso. Enclosures missing, except as noted below.

In view of Col. White’s uncivil letter of 5 Apr., it is significant that TJ’s reply to Davies’ varied requests only touched on White’s requisition of clothing. The clothing requested is as revelatory of White’s character as was his letter to the Governor; the memorandum from Armistead enclosed by Davies listed the following items that White desired: “Sumr wear for 3 Vests & 3 pr. breeches with trimings. 3 Yds 7/4 cloth Military colour, with trimmings. 1 hat. 3 pr. silk stockings. Cambrick for 3 stocks & for rufling. shirts. 1 pr. shoes.” To this Armistead added: “W. A. hath not the above articles & Mr. Ross’ asst. requires Col. Davis’s order to purchase them” (Vi). Such a list must have helped to inspire the wry observation with which TJ concluded his reply to Davies. Steuben, at this time, made requisitions of clothing that Davies and Ross omitted from the estimates as not being urgently needed; Davies wrote that he had made out “an ample estimate of our wants, with a view of regulating the purchases by the commercial agent. This had the approbation of the Executive; but upon being put into the hands of Mr. Ross, he assured me it would take almost the whole of the public funds to make the purchase, which he should be obliged to contract for in the northern states, and entirely prevent him from making those engagements he was anxious for in the West Indies and in Europe, from whence we might at a much cheaper rate be more amply supplied. Altho’ this might be somewhat slower, yet as our principal operations to the southward must be of necessity carried on chiefly in the cooler parts of the year, I could not help concurring with him in opinion that it would be better to content ourselves this season with the most necessary articles, and by that means secure an ample support to ourselves in future. From the uncommon abilities and extensive connexions of this gentleman I form great expectations, and think we may promise ourselves under his management, better times for our poor soldiers” (Davies to Steuben, 7 Apr. 1781, NHi).

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