James Madison Papers

Session of Virginia Council of State, 17 November 1778

Session of Virginia Council of State

MS (Virginia State Library).

Tuesday November 17th 1778.

His Excellency;
Dudley Digges David Jameson
Thomas Walker James Madison
Nathaniel Harrison Bolling Stark &
Joseph Prentis Esquires1

Walter Batwell2 esquire a British Subject & formerly an Officer in the British Service having been for some years in this State and hitherto been unable to remove himself & family to Britain & having set forth his Distressed Situation to this Board & praying an allowance of Rations for the Support of himself & Family until next April by which Time he has reason to apprehend he shall be able to remove to some part of Europe; And as this Board consider the said Walter Batwell as a Prisoner of War, They advised his Excellency to Order that two Rations a Day be allowed by the Commissary at this Station unto the said Batwell until the first Day of May next taking his Draught upon the British Commissary General of Prisoners for the amount of such Rations; And his Excellency ordered accordingly.

To this Measure Bolling Stark Esquire Dissented,3 It not appearing to him that the said Walter Batwell can, with propriety, be considered as a prisoner of War, for altho’ he was a half pay Officer under the British King at the time of his comming to this State, as is set forth yet from his own confession it appears also that he some time ago resigned or sold the said Commission, consequently must stand in the same predicament with other British Subjects now residing in this State who have refused to take the oath of fidelity thereto. That the said Batwell is an object of Charity the Dissentient is fully convinced of; yet the proper mode to adopt for relieving him, as the Dissentient humbly conceives, is not by Rations out of the public Stock of provisions, but by private Contributions: Add to this that establishing such a precedent may possibly be attended with bad consequences at this juncture in as much as every person in a distressed Situation hath an equal claim on the public fund of provisions. Upon these principles & for these Reasons he entered his Dissent.

Adjourned till tomorrow 10 oClock

Signed  Dudley Digges
Thos Walker
Nathl Harrison
David Jameson
Jas Madison
Bolling Stark
Jos. Prentis

1Joseph Prentis (1754–1809) of Williamsburg was elected to the Council of State on 30 May 1778 but did not take his seat until 7 July (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. 26, 33; Journals of the Council of State, II, 161). He was frequently a member of the House of Delegates between 1777 and 1788, and was its speaker during his last year in that body. Thereafter he served as a judge of the General Court until his death (Lyon G. Tyler, ed., Encyclopedia of Virginia Biography, II, 31).

2Walter Battwell and his family, living in Williamsburg in 1774 and 1775, planned to leave Virginia during the summer of the following year, if by then he could pay his creditors. Evidently he either was unable to clear his debts or found no means of leaving the state (William and Mary Quarterly, 1st ser., I [1892–93], 16; Virginia Gazette [Williamsburg, Dixon and Nicolson], 18 May and 14 September 1776; Virginia Gazette [Williamsburg, Purdie], 13 December 1776).

3The Journals of the Council of State record no other dissent during JM’s tenure. This is negative evidence that he either approved of all decisions made by the council or at least was never sufficiently adamant in his disagreement to ask that it be noted in the journal.

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