James Madison Papers

Virginia Delegates to Benjamin Harrison, 2 April 1782

Virginia Delegates to Benjamin Harrison

RC (Virginia State Library). Written by Arthur Lee. Docketed, “Letter from Delegates April 2d 1782.”

Philadelphia April 2d. 1782


We had the honor of receiving your Excellency’s letter of the 23d. ult. with the Papers for Congress1 which we shall present.

We are obliged to your Excellency for your intelligence from the W. Indies, which we hope will be confirmed. Mr. Foster Webb will receive every assistance we can give him.2

The Copies enclosd3 will inform your Excellency of the arrangement made at the war-Office, relative to the arms and clothing for the Recruits of our line. We are apprehensive, that in the present state of things, it will not be enough for the recruiting Officer to assure the People that Clothing will be ready at the Rendezvous, for those that enlist; but that he must have some uniforms with him to convince it is not an imposition, & that they will not suffer, as others have done, for want of Cloths. But your Excellency will be better able to judge whether this is necessary; & therefore we shall not press for the Clothing to be sent previous to the Recruits being raisd, ’till we have the honor of hearing from you.4

We enclose a Resolution of Congress, for retaking such of the british Prisoners as may have escapd from confinement.5

With the greatest respect, We have the honor to be Yr. Excellency’s most Obedt. & most Humbe. Serts.

J Madison Jr.

A Lee

Jos: Jones

5The enclosure was an “Extract from the Minutes,” attested by Deputy Secretary of Congress George Bond, of the resolution of 30 March 1782 recommending that the states grant a reward of $8.00 at continental expense for the recapture of each enemy prisoner and that they provide for the punishment of any person “harboring, secreting, assisting, abetting, or comforting, any prisoner of war” (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXII, 154–56). Also filed with the delegates’ letter in the Virginia State Library is another copy of the resolution, which was made on 9 April 1782 by Major William Jackson, assistant secretary at war, and sent to Governor Harrison.

The resolution was particularly applicable to the situation in Virginia. Not only were numbers of convention captives moving about freely within the state, but soon after Cornwallis’ surrender at Yorktown many enemy soldiers had begun to roam the countryside, work for the inhabitants, or even conduct businesses of their own. Governor Harrison’s directives to county lieutenants and militia officers to round up these prisoners and return them to their cantonments were either unenforceable or unheeded. At Harrison’s urgent request, the Virginia General Assembly in its session of May 1782 enacted a measure “for apprehending British prisoners of war, and for other purposes,” but the statute has been lost (William M. Dabney, After Saratoga: The Story of the Convention Army [Albuquerque, 1954], pp. 76–77; Virginia Gazette description begins Virginia Gazette, or, the American Advertiser (Richmond, James Hayes, 1781–86). description ends , 6 July 1782).

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