Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Richard Claiborne, 9 April 1781

From Richard Claiborne

Richmond 9th. April 1781.


I have received the extract from the Marquis’s letter respecting Wagons to transport ammunition, with an order affixed from your Excellency to take Measures to answer the demand.

However easy it was for your Excellency to Issue such an order, the business is attended with so many difficulties that I am very fearful it will not be in my power to comply with it; I beg leave to recommend to your Excellency my situation. I have failed in all my endeavours towards obtaining the Wagons, agreable to the late provision law, that were to have been in actual service long before this! I am disappointed in the Waggons that were to be Brigaded by the County Commissioners agreable to the orders of the Executive, and I have not a farthing of money! It is true that I have obtained a Warrant upon the State Treasury for a sum, but it has availed me nothing; I have made daily and almost hourly applications but without success. Thus circumstanc’d and having no Public Waggons in the State but what are already appropriated, and that very necessarily; I ask Government for aid, or I must decline the attempt, as I have no possible prospect of accomplishing the business.

I have the honor to be with the highest respect & esteem Your Excellency’s Most obedient Humble Servant,

Rd. Claiborne DQMr. S.V.

RC (Vi); in a clerk’s hand; addressed and endorsed. Tr (Vi); enclosed in a letter from Claiborne to William Davies of the same date (also Vi), explaining why it is impossible for Claiborne to obtain wagons to transport military stores from the Laboratory in accordance with Davies’ request. To this Claiborne added: “It would be the most useless thing in nature to attempt to hire Wagons to go out of the state without the ready money; indeed, I am fearful they could not be induced to go so far as the Southern Army, for any sum that I could offer them.” The same extract from Lafayette’s letter of 4 Apr. 1781, q.v., was sent by Davies to Steuben with the following comment: “This has been communicated to Major Claiborne, who informs me he is utterly unable to give the least assistance towards bringing on this ammunition, or of sending on any we may have prepared here. I hope something will be done by Captain Young, for with a peculiar degree of absurdity the government had placed the whole department of waggons, teams and forage into the hands of the purchasing commissary of provision, which I have at length got out of his hands and placed into its proper course”; Davies added that there were some wagons at Muhlenberg’s camp that might be used to remove the artillery near Suffolk and that he had heard Weedon had some that could be spared (Davies to Steuben, 10 Apr. 1781, NHi).

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