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Instruction to Virginia Delegates in re Fortifications, 17 June 1783

Instruction to Virginia Delegates
in re Fortifications

RC (NA: PCC, No. 20, II, 313–14). Docketed: “Resolve of genl Assembly of Virginia That an application be made to Congress for 750 £ to level works at York Town July 31. 1783 Referred to Mr Read Mr Ellery Mr Williamson.”

In the House of Delegates

The 17th June 1783

Resolved that it be an instruction to the Delegates representing this State in Congress to make application to Congress to obtain an order on the Continental Treasurer in this State1 for a sum of Money not exceeding seven hundred and fifty Pounds for the purposes of levelling the fortifications erected by the Troops of His Most Christian Majesty at York Town in the County of York and at Gloucester Town in the County of Gloucester2

June 17th 1783 Teste
Agreed to by the Senate John Beckley CHD
Will Drew CS.
A Copy Teste
John Beckley CHD

1George Webb, continental receiver general in Virginia (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 , IV, 182, n. 6; Jones to JM, 14 June 1783, and n. 11).

2The fortifications were those occupied and in part constructed by the French troops, commanded by the Comte de Rochambeau, during the Franco-American siege in September and October 1781 that resulted in the surrender of the British army led by Earl Cornwallis. The French troops had left Virginia in July and August 1782, and their place in the fortifications was taken by contingents of the Virginia state line or militia (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, 253, n. 2; 268, n. 2; 276, n. 1; 280, nn. 6, 8, 9; 288, n. 1; 292, and n. 1; IV, 229, n. 18; 395, 397, n. 7; 401, nn. 3, 6, 7; 405–6, 406, nn. 1, 2; 446; Cal. of Va. 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, 280).

On 1 August 1782 Governor Harrison, apparently under a misapprehension that Major General Benjamin Lincoln, secretary at war, intended to have the fortifications destroyed, protested to the Virginia delegates in Congress that many of the defense works were “built by the State, & are necessary for the defence of” the York River “and its Trade” (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 , V, 6, and n. 2; 7, nn. 5, 6; 25; 46; 47, n. 2; 74). On 16 June 1783 the House of Delegates rejected a bill to have “the works around” Yorktown leveled “at public expense” (JHDV description begins (1828 ed.). Journal of the House of Delegates of Virginia, Anno Domini, 1776 (Richmond, 1828). description ends , May 1783, pp. 13, 21, 22, 59). The next day the present instruction, seeking to have Congress assume the expense of the demolition, passed both houses of the General Assembly (ibid., May 1783, pp. 62, 63). See also the letter from David Jameson, probably to JM, favoring the instruction (Jameson to JM, 16 July 1783).

The instruction, which Governor Harrison forwarded in his letter of 20 June (q.v.), was read to Congress on 31 July and referred to a committee composed of Jacob Read (S.C.), chairman, William Ellery (R.I.), and Hugh Williamson (NA: PCC, No. 185, III, 70; JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIV, 483, n. 2). On 3 September 1783 Read reported that even though Confederation funds had never before been sought to pay for the type of work mentioned in the instruction, and even though the request of the Virginia General Assembly should be deemed “consistent with justice,” Congress could not comply in view of the depleted “state of the public finances” (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXV, 533).

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