George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Henry Lee, 7 December 1791

To Henry Lee

Philadelphia Dec. 7. 1791.


I have received your letter of Nov. 18. covering a resolution of the legislature of Virginia of Nov. 14. and a Memorial of sundry citizens of that commonwealth on the subject of their property carried away by the British, contrary, as they suppose, to the stipulations of the treaty of peace.1 a regular channel of communication with that government being now open, I shall not fail to pay due attention to this subject. I have the honor to be with due consideration Yr Excellency’s Most Obedt St

Df, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters; LB, DLC:GW. The body of the draft is in Thomas Jefferson’s writing. The complimentary close is in Tobias Lear’s writing, as are the words “His Excellency” in the internal address at the bottom of the page.

1The letter, which was signed by Henry Lee’s predecessor as governor of Virginia, Beverley Randolph, reads: “In obedience to the inclosed Resolution of the General Assembly of Virginia, I do myself the Honour to transmit to you the Memorial of sundry Inhabitants of the Counties of Princess Anne, Norfolk, Nansemond and Isle of Wight” (DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters). It covered a copy of two resolutions of the Virginia house of delegates, of 8 Nov. 1791, approved by the Virginia senate on 14 November: “Resolved, that the violation of the seventh Article of the treaty of peace on the part of his Britanic Majesty, has been highly injurious to the Citizens of this Commonwealth, and that measures ought to be taken by the Fœderal Government to enforce due execution of the said Article of the treaty. Resolved that the Memorial from the Counties of Princess Anne, Norfolk, Nansemond and Isle of Wight with the above resolution, be transmitted by the Executive of this Commonwealth, to the President of the United States” (DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters). The enclosed memorial, signed by Thomas Newton, Jr., and John Cowper, Jr., at the Norfolk County courthouse on 26 Aug. 1791, “Respectfully Sheweth. That your Memorialists in the course of the late war, lost a considerable number of Slaves, taken away by the British Armies, during the different Invasions of this State, and they conceive that the Slaves under a certain description, were, by the treaty of peace between the United States and his Britanic Majesty, to be restored to their owners. That your Memorialists resting in the solemn faith of engagements entered into between the two nations expected that their property would have been restored to them, but that they have been deceived, in those expectations is too well known, It cannot be supposed that your Memorialists can see themselves thus unjustly deprived of their property without emotions of concern, and some efforts to obtain satisfaction. Your Memorialists are fully sensible, that the treaty cannot now be literally complied with, yet they do encourage a hope, that their case is not without remedy; and to procure that relief, which they conceive themselves so justly to merit, they present themselves to your Honorable body. Your Memorialists are well aware, that the power of affording effectual relief, is not vested in the Legislature of ⟨this State⟩, but in the General Government of the United States. Your Memorialists hope that it will not be conceived, that they would insinuate a want of Justice in the General Government, yet they flatter themselves, that their pretensions will meet more attention when countenanced by the honorable Assembly, who are their immediate Representatives; they therefore pray, that you will take their case into your consideration, and take such measures in the premises as your Wisdom and Justice may suggest suitable to the occasion, and as may most likely contribute to the relief of your Memorialists, and your Memorialists as in duty bound, will ever pray &c” (DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters). The secretary of state raised this issue in a letter of 29 Nov. to the new British minister, George Hammond (see Jefferson Papers description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 40 vols. to date. Princeton, N.J., 1950—. description ends , 22:352–53).

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