James Madison Papers

Thomas Jefferson to Virginia Delegates in Congress, 31 August 1780

Thomas Jefferson
to Virginia Delegates in Congress

FC (Photostat in Virginia State Library of copy in British Museum: Addington MSS 38,650).

Richmond August 31. 1780.


We agree to employ mr. Dunlap according to his proposals inclosed in your Letter of the 15th instant1 except that we must adhere to our requisition that a complete sheet of his weekly paper shall be kept clear of advertisements, and reserved for intelligence, essays, &c., except that advertisements from the Legislature or Executive shall be put into the same sheet with the intelligence. The standing salary is to be fixed by the assembly, not by the executive, and we will recommend to them in settling it to consider the utility of the weekly paper and make liberal allowance for that over and above mr. Dunlaps services in printing the public acts, journals, proclamations, advertisements, &c. and this we can venture to undertake will be done. As to money which you say mr. Dunlap will want as soon as he comes we are not in a condition to make him any advances between this and the meeting of assembly but immediately after their meeting we have no doubt it will be in our power. I hope his press will be got to work before they meet. we will give him any aid in our power in procuring a house here, and if we should have any vessels coming from the head of Elk2 down the bay they shall take in any thing he pleases to have lodged here without charge.3 I wou’d recommend strongly to mr. Dunlap that his manager here obtain the postmaster’s office of the place besides that it will carry custom to his shop it will give him an exemption from militia duties which may otherwise be a considerable interruption.4 I have the honor to be with every sentiment of respect Gents., Your mo obedient servant,

Th: Jefferson

1Not found.

2Elkton, Md.

3By this letter, Jefferson sought to render effective a legislative authorization to him, “with the advice of council,” “to engage with, and employ, at the publick expense, and for the publick service, a good and able printer, of firm and known attachment to the independence of the United States, who may be willing to bring a good and well provided press into this commonwealth.” This authorization was embodied in a lengthy statute enacted at the most recent session of the Assembly and entitled, “An act for giving farther powers to the governor and council, and for other purposes” (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 , X, 309–15). In his now missing letter of ca. 26 July 1780 to the Virginia Delegates, Jefferson had probably initiated his effort to induce John Dunlap (1747–1812), publisher of the Pennsylvania Packet of Philadelphia and, for a time, of Dunlap’s Maryland Gazette of Baltimore and Annapolis, to become the public printer at Richmond. Although the negotiations were quickly successful, the loss of his “costly printing apparatus” by shipwreck and capture by the British delayed the appearance of the first issue of the Virginia Gazette or Weekly Advertiser until December 1781. Its publisher was James Hayes, Jr., with whom Dunlap had been associated between 1775 and 1778 in publishing the Maryland Gazette. For further details, see Boyd, Papers of Jefferson description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson (16 vols. to date; Princeton, N.J., 1950——). description ends , III, 580.

4On 8 July 1776 Congress resolved, “That the post masters, while in office, be excused from all military duty” (Journals of the Continental Congress, V, 526).

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