James Madison Papers

Thomas Jefferson to Virginia Delegates, 14 May 1781

Thomas Jefferson to Virginia Delegates

FC (Virginia State Library). In clerk’s hand. Directed to “The Honble Virginia Delegates in Congress.”

Richmond May 14th. 1781


I have received your Favor of the 5th. Inst and am obliged to you for the notification of the State of the Continental Money of which we shall endeavour to arm ourselves to prevent Loss to the State.

We are much obliged to his Excellency the Chevalier de la Luzerne for his Readiness to secure us against the malice of the prisoners taken on Board the Romulus. We would beg Leave to add the name of Jonathan Eelbeck1 to the others whom we consider as capable of doing us particular Mischief and would not lessen further the Subjects of Exchange in the Hands of our Allies.2

The movements of the enemy in the neighbourhood of this place not admitting of that quiet necessary to the Deliberations of Public Bodies, the General Assembly have adjourned themselves to meet at Charlottesville on the 24th inst. I rather expect that the want of Accomodations there will oblige them to adjourn again to some other place.3 I am &c.

Tho Jefferson.

1Jonathan Eilbeck (ca. 1737–1817), an English merchant, migrated to Virginia in 1767. His loyalism obliged him in 1775 to leave Norfolk, where he possessed more than £1,000 in real estate. After taking refuge with Lord Dunmore, he went to Bermuda and later to New York. As a civilian participant in Major General Alexander Leslie’s invasion of Virginia in the autumn of 1780, he probably made himself especially offensive to his former friends in Norfolk and its environs. Taken prisoner by the French when they captured the “Romulus” in March 1781, he was interned in Rhode Island. Although he returned after the war to Virginia to reclaim his property, he collected only £16. 3s. 9d. In 1784, as a distressed Loyalist in England, he petitioned the British government for support. Later he resettled in Norfolk, probably living in the house on his one piece of property which the state had not confiscated (“American Loyalists Transcripts, 1783–1790,” LIX, 187–94, in New York Public Library; [Mrs. Calvert R. Dey, comp.], St. Paul’s Church, 1832, Originally the Borough Church, 1739, Elizabeth River Parish, Norfolk, Virginia [Norfolk, 1934], p. 63). For Leslie’s invasion, see Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (2 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , II, 90, n. 2; 156, n. 1; 187, n. 10; for the captives from the “Romulus,” see Jameson to JM, 3 March, n. 6; Jefferson to Virginia Delegates, 13 April; and Virginia Delegates to Jefferson, 17 April 1781.

2That is, because Eilbeck was a civilian, his indefinite detention would not result in prolonging the captivity of an American soldier who could be released only by an exchange of military personnel with the enemy.

3The Virginia General Assembly fled from Richmond on 10 May. On 28 May, when a quorum was finally present at Charlottesville, the approach of British troops forced the legislature to move still farther west to Staunton, where the members reconvened on 7 June (Journal of the House of Delegates description begins Journal of the House of Delegates of Virginia, March 1781 Session in Bulletin of the Virginia State Library, XVII, No. 1 (January 1928). description ends , May 1781, pp. 3, 4, 10; Pendleton to JM, 30 April 1781, n. 6).

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