Benjamin Harrison to Virginia Delegates
FC (Virginia State Library). In the hand of Thomas L. Savage. Addressed to “Virginia Delegates in Congress.”
Richmond Novem: 8th: 1782.
Your favor of the 29th: Ulto: reached me yesterday. If the reports from Canada and New York are true, the English are certainly become the most faithless Nation on Earth, and mean by fraud and deceit to accomplish what they could not do by force.1 how far their Plan will succeed I can not say tho’ I fear it will give them an advantage in So: Carolina over our worthy General that they could not have obtain’d by any other Means.2 I enclose you a Letter from Gen: Greene in behalf of Capt. Pearce who thinks he has a right by Services to be promoted to a Majority in our Artilery Regiment notwithstanding it has a Major in being; what your regulations have been in such Cases I am to learn.3 if you have ever done it there is as much Justice in the present Instance as there can be in any, Major Holmer being totally unfit for Service and willing to retire on half-pay. I shall go no farther into the subject as the above letter and one from Colo. Carrington which I also enclose are very full.4 I beg the favor of you to introduce this Matter to Congress and use your Interest to have the Generals request comply’d with, and to send me the determination as soon as possible,5 and to return the Letters if the request should not be granted, that I may lay them before our Assembly, which I hope will have Members enough to go on Business to day.6
Our recruiting Business goes on but slowly and will continue to do so if our Soldiers are not clothed. I have no official Information of their wants, but I have private ones without Number that they are in the most wretched naked Condition that ever Men were. I entreat you to interest yourselves warmly in their behalf, all the Southern States are concern’d in it, for unless the wants of our Men are more attended to than they have been no army ever can be raised in them.7 The great scarcity of cash in this Country8 will I expect put it out of our power to comply with the demands of Congress unless the financier will agree to take Tobacco in Payment which I suppose he may dispose of to the Philedelphia Merchants.9 I beg you to sound him on this subject.10 The prises we now sell at you have enclosed but as Commission’s &ca. will be saved perhaps some deduction may be made if he does not altogether determine against the Mode of Payment.11
I am &c. &c.
2. Ibid., and nn. 5 and 6. In Harrison’s view, “fraud and deceit” characterized the ambivalent policy of the enemy. On the one hand, British representatives in both Paris and New York City were professing a desire to end the war or at least to continue the de facto truce on the American mainland. On the other hand, General Sir Guy Carleton, notwithstanding the pacific temper of his dispatches to Washington, was reinforcing the British forces in Canada, countermanding his earlier orders to evacuate Charleston, and probably intending to strengthen General Alexander Leslie’s command in and near that city sufficiently to menace the safety of “our worthy general” Nathanael Greene. If the enemy should invade northern New York, as in 1777, Washington would be unable to assist Greene.
3. Enclosure not found. For Captain William Leigh Pierce, Jr., his earlier effort to be promoted, the circumstances adverse to the success of his petition, and his attainment from Congress in September 1783 of the rank of major by brevet, see Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (5 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , IV, 167; 168, n. 2; 297; Virginia Delegates to Harrison, 26 November 1782, and n. 2.
Following Christian Holmer’s retirement from active service in January 1781 (Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (5 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , II, 274–75; 275, n. 4), the “Major in being” of the 1st Continental Regiment of Artillery, allocated to Virginia, had been William Brown (b. ca. 1747) of Cecil County, Md. A native of Ireland, he was first lieutenant of an independent artillery company in 1775 and its captain when on 30 May 1778 it was incorporated in the regiment mentioned. He served in the army until June 1783. The date of his death is unknown, but in 1830 his adopted daughter stated that she was his “Sole heiress” (Hall of Records Commission, Calendar of Maryland State Papers [Annapolis, 1943——], The Red Books, No. 4, Part I , p. 155; No. 4, Part 2 , pp. 49, 51; No. 4, Part 3 , p. 96; ledger of Thomas Green, attorney, p. 45, MS in Virginia Historical Society; Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington description begins John C. Fitzpatrick, ed., The Writings of George Washington, from the Original Sources, 1745–1799 (39 vols.; Washington, 1931–44). description ends , XVIII, 278 and n.; Heitman, Historical Register Continental description begins F. B. Heitman, Historical Register of Officers of the Continental Army during the War of the Revolution (Washington, 1914). description ends , p. 127).
4. Neither Greene’s nor Carrington’s letter has been found. If Thomas L. Savage made copies of them, they too are missing. For Carrington, see Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (5 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , IV, 61, n. 4.
5. Although unnoted in the printed journal, the Virginia delegates or one of them on 19 November submitted to Congress a copy of so much of Harrison’s letter as related to Pierce. Congress referred the matter to Secretary at War Benjamin Lincoln (NA: PCC, No. 185, III, 48). See also Lincoln to JM, 22 November; Virginia Delegates to Harrison, 26 November 1782.
6. In their letter to Harrison on 26 November (q.v.), the Virginia delegates apparently did not return either Greene’s or Carrington’s letter but did enclose copies of two ordinances of Congress relevant to Pierce’s plea for promotion. Both the delegates and Harrison seem to have concluded that the resolutions removed the subject from the purview of the General Assembly. Less convinced, Pierce himself revived the issue in June 1783 (Executive Letter Book, 1783–1786, pp. 185, 186, MS in Virginia State Library).
7. See Harrison to Virginia Delegates, 28 September. In a letter written two days earlier, David Ross had pointed out to Harrison that “under the present arrangement” Robert Morris, in his capacity as superintendent of finance, was to “Cloath the whole army” (Calendar of Virginia State Papers description begins William P. Palmer et al., eds., Calendar of Virginia State Papers and Other Manuscripts (11 vols.; Richmond, 1875–93). description ends , III, 328). After attributing the slowness of recruiting in Virginia to a lack of clothing rather than of money for bounties, Harrison remarked to Washington in a letter of 23 November 1782: “the Secretary of War seems altogether to have forgotten the Southern Army” and “I hope you will enquire into this neglect and rectify it, if it is not done no Men will ever be obtain’d from this Country” (McIlwaine, Official Letters description begins H. R. McIlwaine, ed., Official Letters of the Governors of the State of Virginia (3 vols.; Richmond, 1926–29). description ends , III, 384). See also ibid., III, 350–51; and Randolph to JM, 30 August 1782, and n. 9.
8. See Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (5 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , IV, 382; JM to Randolph, 24 September 1782, n. 29.
9. By “the demands of Congress” Harrison meant the $1,481,594 requisitioned of Virginia for 1782, and still unpaid (Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (5 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , IV, 104, n. 1; 307, n. 9; JM to Randolph, 16–17 September 1782, n. 13). The government of Virginia lacked specie but owned large amounts of tobacco—although rarely of prime quality—which had been received in payment of taxes (Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (5 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , IV, 153, n. 4; 377, n. 8). Probably at Robert Morris’ request, Congress had declined to accept commodities from states in satisfaction of their financial quotas (ibid., IV, 104, n. 1). See also McIlwaine, Official Letters description begins H. R. McIlwaine, ed., Official Letters of the Governors of the State of Virginia (3 vols.; Richmond, 1926–29). description ends , III, 353; and Randolph to JM, 7 September 1782.
10. For Morris’ reply to the Virginia Delegates, see their dispatch of 26 November 1782 to Harrison.
11. Enclosure not found. For prices paid in Virginia for tobacco, see Pendleton to JM, 12 August and n. 10; JM to Randolph, 20 August, n. 15.