Thomas Jefferson to Virginia Delegates
FC (Virginia State Library). Written by a clerk.
In Council March 8th. 1781
The inclosed papers so fully explain themselves, that I need say nothing more to apprize you of the Subject.1 Should the Governor of Maryland2 and President of Maryland3 not close with my third proposition4 you are hereby authorized to treat with the Delegates of those two States or any other Person appointed by the States and to settle the best method of availing the Southern Army of their Supplies. The proposition from Govr Lee nor any thing like it can possibly be admitted on our part.5 I have the Honor to be with great respect & esteem
1. The “inclosed papers,” now missing, were most probably copies of the letter of 27 February from Governor Thomas Sim Lee of Maryland to Jefferson and of Jefferson’s reply on 6 March (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 , V, 16, 77–78). The “Subject” had been defined by a resolution of Congress on 20 February, recommending to the executives of Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina that they arrange to supply “the southern army with provisions” and “to establish such mode of transportation as will be most convenient and least expensive to the whole” (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XIX, 178). Governor Lee suggested that Jefferson select Alexandria as the place where Maryland should deliver its supplies. In his answer, Jefferson demurred at burdening Virginia with the entire cost and labor of transporting to the southern army the materiel furnished by Maryland and Virginia. He also asked whether detailed arrangements could not be agreed upon more quickly through a conference among the delegates of the four states in Congress than by a long-range correspondence among the four state executives. The present letter was read in Congress on 15 March (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XIX, 262).
2. Thomas Sim Lee (1745–1819) served as governor of Maryland from 1779 to 1783 and from 1792 to 1794. In 1798 he declined a third term, after being unanimously chosen by the legislature. An able and energetic chief executive, he strove during 1781 to help General Nathanael Greene’s army with troops and supplies from Maryland.
3. Jefferson surely meant Delaware rather than Maryland. The president of Delaware was Caesar Rodney (1728–1784), a signer of the Declaration of Independence, a militia major general, member of Congress, 1774–1776 and 1777–1778, and president of his state, 1778–1782. If Jefferson wrote to Rodney about the matter at issue, the letter is now missing.
4. Jefferson’s “third proposition” in his letter to Governor Lee was “For each State to appoint it’s own agent and to procure their quota of Specifics as near as they can to the army[,] replacing their money by Sale of such Specifics as might be raised within their State by Taxation” (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 , V, 78).
5. See n. 1 above.