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Benjamin Harrison to Virginia Delegates, 23 August 1782

Benjamin Harrison to Virginia Delegates

FC (Virginia State Library). In William Tatham’s hand and directed to “Virginia Delegates in Congress.”

Virginia Council Chamber Aust: 23th: 82.

Gentlemen

I recd. your favor of the 13th. instant. It gives me real pleasure to find the English Ministry seriously inclined to peace, yet I agree with you, it would be imprudent to relax in our preparations for War.1 I find by the resolutions of Congress that they are not inclined to any kind of restitution to the refugees.2 May not this be carried too far? those who have been in Arms have justly forfeited their Estates, but it is doubtful with me whether there is any kind of Justice in refusing restitution to those who have only differed with us in Opinion. A question will also arise whether in our Situation it would be prudent to continue the War at the expence of four Times the Sum we shall gain by the forfeitures and at a risque of loossing even Independence for I think you may rest assured our Allies3 will not stick by us (their own ends being served) for such a trifling consideration. I enclose you Colo. Lavaletes Letter4 on the demolition of the Works at York, if it has been mistranslated to me, you will find my charge against the good Gen. Lincoln was not so precipitate as he thinks. As the Colo. was the commanding Officer I had no right to dispute his Word, or to call for his Instructions, my Line of Conduct was to forbid in the most positive Manner his proceeding, even if he had the Orders. I am fully satisfied that Lavalete has been to blame, and that my good friend the General has acted with his usual prudence. You will please to give him a sight of the Colo. Letter and the Matter I expect will be made up: if he thinks it worth his while, which I do not, he may call on the Colo. who is now at the Head of Elk.5 Mr. Vaudrueil gave me no Intimation of his intention either to protect the Trade or to furnish Convoys which I am sorry for,6 as we have a great quantity of flour in the Country, the shipping which would have been advantageous to the State as well as to our friends in the West Indies.7 On the requis[it]ion of Congress thro’ Gen. Lincoln, I have ordered 150 Militia to strengthen fort Pitt,8 tho’ I really have no Authority to send Men out of the State,9 and have an Hundred Men already, besides the Militia of Monongalia in that Quarter,10 for the Defence of our Frontier and knowing the importance of that Post to this Country, I have ordered 1700 Men under the command of Gen. Edwd. Stevens to hold themselves in readiness to march at the shortest warning to its relief if it [p. 75] should be invested, tho’ I fear if the event takes place the fort must fall, before they can get to it. Ought not Gen: Irvine to have given me notice of his Situation at the same time that he gave it to Congress, knowing that relief could sooner come from this State than any other.11 I am with respect &c.

B. H.

1See Virginia Delegates to Harrison, 9 August and 13 August 1782.

2The Virginia delegates, in their reply of 10 September (q.v.), tactfully reminded the governor that he had misinterpreted the resolution of Congress of 12 August. This resolution is quoted in Virginia Delegates to Harrison, 13 August 1782, n. 4.

3Although Harrison used the plural, he probably had only France in mind.

4Not found. See McIlwaine, Official Letters description begins H. R. McIlwaine, ed., Official Letters of the Governors of the State of Virginia (3 vols.; Richmond, 1926–29). description ends , III, 289; Harrison to Virginia Delegates, 1 August, and n. 2; Virginia Delegates to Harrison, 13 August 1782, and n. 2.

5Now Elkton, Md. See Harrison to Virginia Delegates, 1 August 1782, nn. 2 and 6.

6See Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (5 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , IV, 447, n. 8; JM to Pendleton, 6 August, and n. 4; Virginia Delegates to Harrison, 13 August 1782, and nn. 10 and 11.

7See Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (5 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , IV, 260; 382, n. 5.

8On 6 August Benjamin Lincoln, secretary at war, had informed Congress that, since Indians were harrying “the farmers” upon whom the small garrison at Fort Pitt was dependent for food, the post either would have to be abandoned or speedily reinforced by enough soldiers to afford protection to the settlers. Two days later Congress instructed Lincoln and Robert Morris to supply Fort Pitt with sufficient munitions to withstand a siege and recommended that Pennsylvania and Virginia each send “immediately” 150 men to enable the commanding officer of the garrison “more effectually to cover and protect the country” (NA: PCC, No. 149, I, 541; JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXII, 457–58). On 20 August, upon being informed by Lincoln of these resolutions, Governor Harrison in Council decided to have the state commissioner of war dispatch at once to Fort Pitt from Frederick and Berkeley counties seventy-five militiamen each, “properly officered” and “with ten Days provision” (Journals of the Council of State description begins H. R. McIlwaine et al., eds., Journals of the Council of the State of Virginia (3 vols. to date; Richmond, 1931——). description ends , III, 134; McIlwaine, Official Letters description begins H. R. McIlwaine, ed., Official Letters of the Governors of the State of Virginia (3 vols.; Richmond, 1926–29). description ends , III, 301–2).

9The authority of the executive to send militia beyond the boundaries of the state had lapsed on 5 January 1782, with the adjournment of the General Assembly (Hening, Statutes description begins William Waller Hening, ed., The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia, from the First Session of the Legislature, in the Year 1619 (13 vols.; Richmond and Philadelphia, 1819–23). description ends , X, 310, 386, 401; Journal of the House of Delegates description begins Journal of the House of Delegates of the Commonwealth of Virginia; Begun and Held at the Capitol, in the City of Williamsburg. Beginning in 1780, the portion after the semicolon reads, Begun and Held in the Town of Richmond. In the County of Henrico. The journal for each session has its own title page and is individually paginated. The edition used is the one in which the journals for 1777–1786 are brought together in two volumes, with each journal published in Richmond in 1827 or 1828, and often called the “Thomas W. White reprint.” description ends , October 1781, pp. 72–74; Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (5 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , IV, 46, and n. 1).

10Ibid., IV, 80; 81, n. 5. Three additional West Virginia, and three Pennsylvania, counties have been created in whole or in part from Monongalia County.

11The governor had so ordered in a letter to Brigadier General Edward Stevens, of the state militia, on 21 August. On the same day he wrote to Brigadier General William Irvine (1741–1804), of the continental army, commanding the garrison at Fort Pitt, that he hoped the 150 militia (n. 8, above) would be willing to march beyond the boundary of Virginia; otherwise “I have no power to compel them to go over it” (McIlwaine, Official Letters description begins H. R. McIlwaine, ed., Official Letters of the Governors of the State of Virginia (3 vols.; Richmond, 1926–29). description ends , III, 300–301). Irvine on 3 September replied that if the Virginia militiamen reached Fort Pitt they would embarrass him, “particularly on account of feeding them, which is almost impossible” (C[onsul] W. Butterfield, ed., Washington-Irvine Correspondence. The Official Letters Which Passed between Washington and Brig.-Gen. William Irvine and between Irvine and Others Concerning Military Affairs in the West from 1781 to 1783 [Madison, Wis., 1882], p. 271). On 17 September 1782 the executive of Virginia ordered the discharge of the 150 militia (Journals of the Council of State description begins H. R. McIlwaine et al., eds., Journals of the Council of the State of Virginia (3 vols. to date; Richmond, 1931——). description ends , III, 143; McIlwaine, Official Letters description begins H. R. McIlwaine, ed., Official Letters of the Governors of the State of Virginia (3 vols.; Richmond, 1926–29). description ends , III, 324).

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