Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to Heinrich Gerlach, 3 May 1781

To Heinrich Gerlach

Richmd May. 3. 1781.


I am very sorry for the delay which has happened in sending the passport. I received it the 20th. of Apr. and sent it the [same]1 day to Majr. Genl. Baron Steuben to be forwarded. He immediately delivered my letter covering it to an officer with orders to proceed. The papers being directed to Genl. Phillips the officer was uncertain whether he was at Portsm. or with the British army then coming up the river, and the movements here since prevented his going on with the letter. He will set out I am in hopes this day.

A letter from Gl. Phillips to me with a very improper address, come to hand since the 20th. of Apr., obliged me on seeing the officer to-day to recall my letter of that date which was written in the stile I had always used towards him and to put the passport under an address adapted to that which he had been pleased to use towards me. I shall be sorry if this shall prevent your being availed of the passport, as it will produce an eternal bar to the passage of any thing thro’ this state to the Convention troops. I have had yet no reason to repent the services I have endeavored to render the German part of the Convention officers and souldiers, and for them only feel concern should they be cut off from supplies by that want of [tem]per and decency which seems to be introducing on the part of our enemies in this state. To yourself personally I wish to give every assurance of regard & that I am with much respect Sir Your mo. ob. & mo. hble servt.

P.S. The German Convention troops are stationed at Winchester in this state which has occasioned the passport to be made out for Alexandria, that being equally convenient to both the German and British troops.

Dft (DLC); at foot of text: “Capt Gerlach on board the flag vessel Genl. Riedesel, Hampt. road”; also endorsed by TJ: Gerlach Capt.”

I received it the 20th.: Permission from the Continental Board of War was received on that day by TJ (see the board’s letter of 12 Apr. 1781). TJ forwarded the passport to Steuben on 20 Apr. TJ must have been mistaken in thinking that Phillips’ letter with the improper address came “to hand since the 20th. of Apr.”; that letter was undoubtedly Phillips’ communication to TJ of 6 Apr. 1781 which TJ received on 10 Apr. and forwarded the same day to Steuben, with the request that Steuben proceed with the matter in accord with conditions laid down by Phillips. There is no indication that TJ acknowledged Phillips’ letter of 6 Apr. other than in his letter to Phillips of 20 Apr. 1781 and apparently that was the last letter that Phillips addressed to TJ. In accordance with TJ’s request, Steuben (i.e., Davies) wrote Phillips on 15 Apr. 1781 to which Phillips replied on 18 Apr. TJ may possibly have been thinking of Phillips’ reply to Weedon of 12 Apr. 1781 which Weedon transmitted to TJ in his of 25 Apr., q.v. There is no need, however, to question TJ’s assertion that it was on this date that he recalled his letter of 20 Apr. and re-addressed it; possibly he gave it a new cover because of the “intolerably insolent and haughty” letters from Phillips to Lafayette of 28 and 29 Apr. which evidently came to TJ’s notice on 2 May (see depositions concerning the flag Alert). But see TJ to the Virginia delegates, 10 May 1781 and note there.

1MS mutilated so that one word is lost, but the above facts make it clear that the reading is “same.”

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