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From Thomas Jefferson to the Speaker of the House of Delegates, 6 March 1781

To the Speaker of the House of Delegates

In Council Mar. 6. 1781.


I beg leave to lay before the General assembly the inclosed letter from the honble. Majr. Genl. Baron Steuben containing some propositions for the internal defence of our state. I have the honour to be with very great respect Sir your most obedt & most humble servt,

Th: Jefferson

RC (Vi); addressed; docketed: “Governors Letter enclosing Baron Steubens plan for the internal defence of the State. March 6th: 1781. Referred to Mr. Henry, Mr. Steven, Mr. Taylor, Mr. Peachey, Mr. Richeson & Mr. Holmes. March 8th: 1781. Commee appd. as above discharged and this Letter &c. Referrd to next Session of Assembly.” Enclosure (Vi): Steuben to TJ, 5 Mch. 1781, q.v.

On 3 Mch. the Virginia Gazette (Dixon & Nicolson) made the following comment upon the need of a reform of the militia laws and at the same time set forth apparently the first demand for an investigation of the causes of the collapse of the defense system: “It is much to be hoped, that the present General Assembly, avoiding the fatal ill policy of temporary expedients, pursued by former Assemblies, will now devise a permanent system of defence, and that while we see them amending the late recruting law by voting their full quota of men required by Congress during the war, without admitting an alternative, we shall see them equally attentive to the internal defence of the state, and the restoration of publick credit. That a reform in the finances will take place, and an enquiry be set on foot, as to the cause of our late losses and disgrace.” However, the House took no other action on Steuben’s proposal in this session than that set forth in the docketing noted above (JHD description begins Journal of the House of Delegates of the Commonwealth of Virginia (cited by session and date of publication) description ends , Mch. 1781, Va. State Libr., Bull., 1928, p. 12, 17). One reason for this was undoubtedly the prevalent feeling in some Virginia quarters that the Northern states had failed to support those in the South when the theater of war moved to that region. This feeling was reflected in the appointment in Mch. of a committe of the House of Delegates to draw up a protest to Congress. The committee consisted of Patrick Henry, John Taylor of Caroline, and John Tyler and the Remonstrance, drawn by Taylor, read in part as follows: “Ere the war began, we heard the cries of our brethren at Boston and paid the tax due to their distress. We accompanied our Northern allies during almost every progressive stride it made where danger seemed to solicit our ardor. We bled with them at Quebec, at Boston, at Harlaem, at White Plains, at Fort Washington, at Brandywine, at Germantown, at Mud Island, at White Marsh, at Saratoga, at Monmouth and at Stony Point. We almost stood alone at Trenton and Princeton, and during the winter campaign which followed. But when we came to look for our Northern allies, after we had thus exhausted our powers in their defence, when Carolina and Georgia became the theatre of the war, they were not to be found. We felt that they were absent at Stono, at Savannah, at Charleston, at Monk’s Corner, at Buford’s defeat, at Lanneau’s Ferry, at Camden, at King’s Mountain, at the Cowpens, and at Georgetown” (Tyler’s Quart. description begins Tyler’s Quarterly Historical and Genealogical Magazine description ends , xii, 40). The Remonstrance, containing exaggeration and inaccuracies, was not adopted, partially, no doubt, because the approach of Lafayette’s army made some of its statements obsolete. TJ sent an urgent request to the Assembly for a revision of the militia laws when that body reconvened in May (TJ to the Speaker of the House of Delegates, 10 and 28 May 1781).

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