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To James Madison from David Jameson, 23 August 1780

From David Jameson

RC (LC: Rives Collection of Madison Papers).

Richmond Aug 23. 1780

Dr Sir

I have to acknowledge your favour of the 8th. mentioning the reports from the West Indies.1 Notwithstanding our Bay is so closely watched by the Enemy’s private armed Vessels we have had some arrivals, and they give us reason to believe Jamaica is invested by the combined Fleets. If it is, I must suppose so great an Armament will find little difficulty in taking it.2 The Governor went last week to Albemarle, and will not return till Monday or tuesday next. before he set out he recd a letter from the President of Congress acquainting him what States had acceded to the Act of Congress of the 18t. of March. This notification he did not think sufficient for him to put our Act in execution, And I suppose the certificate you inclosed from the board of Treasury will have no greater weight. In his letter to Congress on this subject he required authentic copies of the Acts of the several States, and until he has such I doubt if he will issue his proclamation. You will see by our Act of Assembly Assessors are to be appointed, and the property valued in October, and unless this matter is soon put in motion, the distant Counties will not be able to execute the Law in proper time. several other ills will attend a delay. I wish authenticated copies of the several Acts to be sent as soon as possible3 By the last Post Mr Thompson sent some letters of Marque directed to the Governor. on the packet he wrote “on public service” and undersigned “Charles Thompson”. The postmaster says nothing is free of postage by authority of Mr Thompson. The charge on this packet is £149.6.8. there was in another packet the Journals of Congress for July, postage £7.13.4. And on the letter from the Treasury office, a charge of £5.6.8. I supposed all letters & packets from the public offices of Congress were free, and mention the matter to you that the postMaster may be called to Accot.4 I am very sorry to inform you we have nearly issued the two Millions, what we are to do from this time to the setting of the Assembly is out of my power to say—indeed what can or will be done then, is not easy to foresee We are really in most deplorable condition. We have no Blankets nor Tents for the 3000 recruits and very little clothing—not enough for our old Soldiers—no Money—no Credit. The subject is too affecting to dwell on5

Adieu    Your affe. hum. Servt

David Jameson

We have nothing from the South since my last.6

1The present whereabouts of JM’s letter of 8 August is unknown. It probably mentioned the apparent threat of the combined French and Spanish fleets to the British island of Jamaica, as reported in a letter of 7 July from Martinique to William Bingham of Philadelphia (Burnett, Letters description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress (8 vols.; Washington, D.C., 1921–36). description ends , V, 315, 316).

2Contrary to Jameson’s expectation, the Comte de Guichen, with fourteen French warships, sailed from the West Indies on 16 August for home, arriving at Brest in late September. The British squadron under Admiral George B. Rodney had crippled but not decisively defeated Guichen’s force in several engagements, but the official French explanation of the latter’s departure from the Caribbean was the flat refusal of the Spanish admiral there to co-operate in the capture of any British island in the West Indies (Doniol, Histoire description begins Henri Doniol, Histoire de la participation de la France à l’établissement des États-Unis d’Amérique (5 vols.; Paris, 1886–92). description ends , V, 498–99; Vicomte de Noailles, Marins et soldats français en Amérique pendant la guerre de l’indépendance des États-Unis, 1778–1783 [Paris, 1903], p. 126). This depletion of the French naval force in the West Indies allowed Rodney, with a dozen of his ships, to leave the area temporarily. He reached New York on 14 September.

3Jefferson left Richmond on 15 August. Thirteen days later, following his return, he issued a proclamation declaring in force the Virginia statute passed earlier in the summer for carrying into effect the act of Congress of 18 March 1780. Contrary to what Jameson states, Jefferson in his letter of 27 July to President Samuel Huntington (Boyd, Papers of Jefferson description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson (16 vols. to date; Princeton, N.J., 1950——). description ends , III, 510) did not request “authentic copies” of the statutes of at least five other states for carrying out that act of Congress, but merely, as the Virginia legislature stipulated, “authentic advices” that five other states had already complied. Before releasing the proclamation mentioned above, he had received these “advices.” See Jefferson to JM, 26 July 1780, n. 2.

4Charles Thomson (1729–1824) of Philadelphia was secretary of Congress from 1774 to 1789. For his circular letter of 28 July 1780 to Jefferson and the other state governors, see Boyd, Papers of Jefferson description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson (16 vols. to date; Princeton, N.J., 1950——). description ends , III, 515. Jameson’s complaint about the postage due on official mail may have been relayed by JM to Congress. In any event, Congress on 19 September resolved: “That all the Journals of Congress and other public papers transmitted by the secretary of Congress to the supreme executive or general assembly of any of the United States shall go free of postage, and that they be accordingly franked by the secretary” (Journals of the Continental Congress, XVIII, 837).

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