Session of Virginia Council of State
Friday May 1st 1778.
|John Page||James Madison &|
|David Jameson||Bolling Stark|
The Governor laid before the Board a Letter from Colonel Muter1 informing him that Phillips the noted Traitor has again made an Insurection in Princess Anne County at the head of fifty men;2 Whereupon they do Advise his Excellency to order one hundred men from the Militia of Nansemond to act in Conjunction with the party which Colonel Thomas R. Walker3 may raise for quelling these Insurgents—to offer a Reward of five hundred Dollars for apprehending Phillips the Ringleader dead or alive & to direct that the Booty taken from the said Insurgents be divided amongst the Captors thereof. His Excellency having written Letters to the County Lieutenant of Nansemond,4 Colo. Thomas R. Walker & Colonel John Wilson5 on the Subject the same were read approved of & ordered to be recorded.
Adjourned till tomorrow 10 oClock
Signed John Page
1. After serving for over a year as captain of the “Hero” galley, George Muter (d. 1811), a merchant of Scottish birth, was appointed on 18 November 1777 a lieutenant colonel of a newly recruited regiment of state artillery. Later he was commander of the state garrison regiment and commissioner of the state war office. In 1785 he became a judge in the district of Kentucky and also served as judge of the Appellate Court of Kentucky from 1792 until his retirement as Chief Justice in 1806 (Louis A. Burgess, ed., Virginia Soldiers of 1776, II, 685; Journal of the House of Delegates description begins Journal of the House of Delegates of the Commonwealth of Virginia; Begun and Held At the Capitol, in the City of Williamsburg. Beginning in 1780, the portion after the semicolon reads, Begun and Held in the Town of Richmond. In the County of Henrico. The Journal for each session has its own title page and is individually paginated. The edition used, unless otherwise noted, is the one in which the journals for 1777–1781 are brought together in one volume, with each journal published in Richmond in 1827 or 1828, and often called the “Thomas W. White reprint.” description ends , October 1777, pp. 28, 30; Journals of the Council of State, I, 53, 118, 393, 456; III, 449; Register of the Kentucky State Historical Society, XXVII , 468; Journal of the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Kentucky [Frankfort, 1806], p. 134; Kentucky Records Research Committee, Kentucky Cemetery Records, I [Lexington, 1960], 376).
2. Josiah Philips or Phillips (d. 1778), a former laborer of Princess Anne County who led a band of robbers which terrorized the southeastern corner of Virginia, had been in prison as recently as January 1778, when the council granted a reward to his captors (Journals of the Council of State, II, 58). Although Philips claimed to be acting under a commission from Dunmore—and thus to be a prisoner of war rather than a common bandit—Thomas Jefferson described him as “a mere robber, who availing himself of the troubles of the times, collected a banditti, retired to the Dismal swamp, and from thence sallied forth, plundering and maltreating the neighboring inhabitants, and covering himself, without authority, under the name of a British subject.” Shortly after Muter’s complaint, Jefferson drew up a bill to attaint Philips and his principal confederates “unless they render themselves to justice within a certain time.” This, the only bill of attainder passed by the Virginia legislature during the Revolutionary War, was introduced on 28 May and became a law three days later (Paul Leicester Ford, ed., The Works of Thomas Jefferson [12 vols.; New York, 1904–5], XI, 405–6; Journal of the House of Delegates description begins Journal of the House of Delegates of the Commonwealth of Virginia; Begun and Held At the Capitol, in the City of Williamsburg. Beginning in 1780, the portion after the semicolon reads, Begun and Held in the Town of Richmond. In the County of Henrico. The Journal for each session has its own title page and is individually paginated. The edition used, unless otherwise noted, is the one in which the journals for 1777–1781 are brought together in one volume, with each journal published in Richmond in 1827 or 1828, and often called the “Thomas W. White reprint.” description ends , May 1778, pp. 22–24, 28, 35; October 1778, p. 39; Hening, Statutes description begins William Waller Hening, ed., The Statutes at Large; being a Collection of all the Laws of Virginia, from the First Session of the Legislature, in the Year 1619 (13 vols.; Richmond and Philadelphia, 1819–23). description ends , VIII, 463–64; W. P. Trent, “The Case of Josiah Philips,” American Historical Review, I [1895–96], 444–54).
Philips and four of his companions were captured on 16 June and lodged in jail, but the council did not grant its promised reward to the “Voluntier Company” which captured them until nearly five months later (Virginia Gazette [Williamsburg, Purdie], 19 June 1778; Journals of the Council of State, II, 210). The dread with which his neighbors regarded Philips is shown by the “Petition signed by a number of Inhabitants of the Counties of Princess Anne & Norfolk praying that a strong & sufficient Guard may be kept over Philips & the rest of the Prisoners of his daring Party of Robbers lately taken & sent to the Public Jail in Williamsburg.” The council responded by increasing the number of sentries at the jail and directing the jailer to keep “a strict watch over the said Prisoners” (Journals of the Council of State, II, 169). The Virginia Gazette (Purdie) of 30 October 1778 reported: “On Friday the 16th commenced, and continued to the 21st, the trial of sundry prisoners from the publick jail, when Josiah Philips, James Hodges, Robert Hodges, and Henry M’Clellan, from Princess Anne for robbing the publick waggons (and who were accused of murder, treason, and sundry other outrages) were capitally convicted.” They were hanged on 23 November (Virginia Gazette [Williamsburg, Dixon and Hunter], 4 December 1778).
3. Thomas Reynolds Walker (d. 1788) served as an officer (captain to colonel) of Princess Anne County minutemen or militia from 1776 to 1779. He also held many other local offices, being a member of the Committee of Safety in 1774 and 1776, county escheator in 1779, and a vestryman of Lynnhaven Parish for many years. In 1777 he was commissioned to oversee the removal of Princess Anne and Norfolk residents who were considered enemies of America (Journals of the Council of State, I, 127, 200, 350, 481; John H. Gwathmey, Historical Register of Virginians in the Revolution, p. 801; Lower Norfolk County Virginia Antiquary, I [1895–96], 9, 46, 64; V [1904–5], 31; Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, XV [1907–8], 191; XVI [1908–9], 173).
4. Willis Riddick (1725–1800) was county lieutenant of Nansemond County. His inept defense of Suffolk against a British incursion in May 1779 brought him into public disfavor for several years (Jos[eph] B. Dunn, The History of Nansemond County, Virginia [n.p., 1907], pp. 43–44). Riddick was a burgess from 1757 to 1771; a member of the state Revolutionary conventions of March 1775 and May 1776; a delegate to the General Assembly from 1776 to 1779 and from 1784 to 1800; and a delegate to the Virginia Convention of 1788 to consider the Federal Constitution (William G. and Mary Newton Stanard, comps., The Colonial Virginia Register, pp. 141–88, passim, 202, 209; Earl G. Swem and John W. Williams, eds., Register of the General Assembly, pp. 1–8 and 20–56, passim, 244).
5. John Wilson (1730–1779) was Norfolk County lieutenant in 1777–1778, a burgess in 1769–1771, and a delegate to the General Assembly in 1776–1778. A bounty was first put on Philips’ head as a result of Wilson’s letter in June 1777 to the Governor in Council, stating that “sundry evil disposed persons, to the number of ten, or twelve, have conspired together, to foment a Dangerous Insurrection in the said County, and at present are lurking in secret places threatening and doing actual mischief to the peaceable and well affected Inhabitants of this Commonwealth; and that Livy Sykes, Josiah Phillips and John Ashley are the principles who govern and direct the said party in their atrocious actions.” The council then offered $150 to any person or persons who should capture any of the three (Earl G. Swem and John W. Williams, eds., Register of the General Assembly, pp. 1–6; Journals of the Council of State, I, 435–36).