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Benjamin Harrison to Virginia Delegates, 12 July 1783

Benjamin Harrison to Virginia Delegates

FC (Virginia State Library). In the hand of Thomas Meriwether. Addressed to “The Virginia Delegates in Congress.”

In Council July 12th. 1783.

Gentlemen

I had not the pleasure of your usual favor by the last post the reason of which I expect was explain’d by a proclamation of your President for the removal of Congress to Prince Town,1 a step that has given general Satisfaction here, indeed I think nothing could justify your staying so long after the various insults you have received but the Advantages derived from the Bank during the war.2 In my last I forwarded to you the invitation of our Assembly to this State and then promised to send by this Post the Determination of those who are to be affected if Williamsburg should be the Place fixed on respecting the Jurisdiction they were willing to give to Congress, I now fulfil my Promise as far as it rested with me, tho’ you will collect nothing from it, but that we are still jealous of our Liberty and are unwilling to give up any part of it even to Congress,3 however when your desires on the Subject are made known which I wish to be as speedily as possible I doubt not but they will by their Moderation remove the Apprehensions the Inhabitants of the District may be under of a loss of any part of their Liberty, and perhaps quiet some of the grave ones, on the score of the Luxury your Attendants will probably introduce.4 You have also two Depositions proving the illbehavior of a French Officer who was prize Master to the Brig Lord Cornwallis taken by the rode Island fleet and sent here, respecting some Cannon and Military Stores carried off by him, if you think they or their value can be recovered you’l please to take the necessary steps for doing it, but if it will be attended with Trouble or give uneasiness I by no means press it on you, it being of too trifling a Nature to bring on any serious Altercation.5

A report prevails here said to come from Philadelphia that our worthy General is become so unpopular in his Army that no Officer will dine with him, the report is so improbable that I give no Credit to it yet I am anxious to hear from you on the Subject,6 and also to know in what state the definitive Treaty is, and what now obstructs the signing of it.7

I am with respect Gent. Yrs &c.

B. H.

1Harrison could not have received the delegates’ letter of 5 July (q.v.), which almost certainly would have been written four days earlier, if Congress had remained in Philadelphia.

2Harrison’s comments reflect his reading of the delegates’ letter of 24 June (q.v.), and also, no doubt, of the Virginia Gazette of 12 July. That issue includes a copy of Elias Boudinot’s proclamation of 24 June 1783. For the Bank of North America, located in Philadelphia, see Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (7 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , III, 173; 175, n. 16; VI, 495, n. 7.

3Instructions to Delegates, 28 June, hdn., n. 2; Harrison to Delegates, 4 July, 1783, and n. 5. Residents of Williamsburg and of the countryside, within five miles of the town, at a meeting, with George Wythe, chairman, resolved unanimously that, although Congress had not made its extent of required control clear, they were “willing to submit to any such jurisdiction as may be compatible with their political welfare, and worthy of generous minds either to demand or yield” (NA: PCC, No. 46, fols. 89–92). Upon receiving a copy of these proceedings from the Virginia delegation on 23 July, Congress referred them to a committee which had been appointed five days earlier “to report what jurisdiction may be necessary for Congress in the place where they shall fix their permanent residence.” This committee by 23 July was composed of James Duane (N.Y.), chairman, James Wilson, Jacob Read, James McHenry, JM, and, beginning 3 September, Samuel Huntington, and Richard Peters (NA: PCC, No. 186, fol. 112; JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIV, 444, n. 1; XXV, 537). See also JM to Randolph, 28 July; Motion in re Permanent Site, 22 Sept. 1783, n. 1.

4JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXV, 603–4, 647–60; JM to Randolph, 13 Oct. 1783.

5The “two Depositions” have not been found. The acknowledgment of them by the Virginia delegates on 26 July states that the alleged “illbehavior” had been by a “Cap’n Camm.” In February 1781 Captain Arnaud Le Gardeur de Tilly, commanding a squadron comprising two frigates and the sixty-four gun “L’Eveille,” on which the Marquis H. Le Camus was a junior officer, captured in Chesapeake Bay several enemy vessels, including the privateer brig “Lord Cornwallis” (Baron Ludovic de Contenson, La Société des Cincinnati de France et la Guerre d’Amérique, 1778–1783 [Paris, 1934], p. 211; Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (7 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , II, 315; 316, n. 7; III, 4, n. 6; 42, n. 2; Wharton, Revol. Dipl. Corr description begins Francis Wharton, ed., The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States (6 vols.; Washington, 1889). description ends ., IV, 271; Edwin Martin Stone, Our French Allies … in the Great War of the American Revolution [Providence, R.I., 1884], p. 354). After acquiescing to a request to leave his prizes at Yorktown, Tilly and his ships rejoined the French fleet based at Newport, R.I. Governor Thomas Nelson, Jr., of Virginia appears to have loaned the French prizes, among them the “Lord Cornwallis,” at least “four Guns 4 pounders and 100 Boulets” (cannon balls), belonging to the state, to enable them more effectively to co-operate with Virginia’s ships in defending Chesapeake Bay and the neighboring rivers against British privateers and other enemy warcraft (Boyd, Papers of Jefferson description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson (18 vols. to date; Princeton, N.J., 1950——). description ends , IV, 659, 678; V, 306 n.).

On 4 April 1781 Washington wrote to Nelson, informing him that Ensign Le Camus, the bearer of the letter, had been ordered by the commander of the French fleet at Newport to proceed to Virginia and take charge of “an armed Vessel in York River.” Probably reaching Virginia later that month, at about the time of Lafayette’s arrival with his division of continental troops, Le Camus reported to the marquis and then assumed his command of the “Lord Cornwallis” at or near West Point on the York River (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 , XXI, 415; Louis Gottschalk, Lafayette and the Close of the American Revolution, pp. 219, 290, 296). Besides this vessel, Le Camus was commander of several other small ships before the close of the campaign in October 1781 (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 , XXIII, 215, 225). See also Delegates to Harrison, 26 July 1783.

6The Hessian Major Carl Leopold Baurmeister, who returned to New York City on 16 July 1783 following a mission to Philadelphia, ascribed Washington’s declining prestige to his subserviency to the unpopular Congress. Baurmeister also understood that the faction devoted to the political fortunes of former President Joseph Reed of Pennsylvania was “active” in spreading discontent with Washington throughout the state (Bernard A. Uhlendorf, trans. and ed., Revolution in America: Confidential Letters and Journals, 1776–1784, of Adjutant General Major Baurmeister of the Hessian Forces [New Brunswick, N.J., 1957], p. 576). See also Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (7 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , VI, 266; 269, n. 18; 286; Randolph to JM, 28 June, n. 7; Delegates to Harrison, 26 July 1783.

7Delegates to Harrison, 26 July; 1 Aug. See also Pendleton to JM, 4 May, n. 6; Va. Gazette description begins Virginia Gazette, or, the American Advertiser (Richmond, James Hayes, 1781–86). description ends , 12 July 1783.

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