Thomas Jefferson Papers
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From Thomas Jefferson to the Treasurer, Register of the Land Office, Auditors, Commissioner of the Navy, and Clerks of the Assembly, General Court, and Court of Chancery, 19 April 1781

To the Treasurer, Register of the Land Office, Auditors, Commissioner of the Navy, and Clerks of the Assembly, General Court, and Court of Chancery

In Council April 19th. 1781.

Sir

We have received advice this morning that the enemy were in motion up James river in eleven vessels most of them square rigged, the foremost of which was in the afternoon of yesterday within sight from Burwells ferry.

Their destination being unknown to us and possibly for this Place we thought it our duty to give you notice of the above, as you may think it adviseable to prepare the papers and other valuable moveable things of your office for removal. It is not in our power to say we can certainly furnish you with waggons for their removal and would therefore advise your best Endeavours to procure them yourselves. Nevertheless whatever Aid we can furnish shall undoubtedly be furnished to the several Officers. I am &c.,

T. J.

FC (Vi). From the salutation and the text it seems clear that separate letters were addressed to the different officials and clerks.

In DLC: TJ Papers, 7: 1122a there is a clerk’s copy of an extract of Council minutes of 19 and 21 Apr. 1781 respecting the measures to be taken to protect the various archives of the state. Surprisingly, the Council’s advice of 19 Apr. indicates a greater sense of urgency than does the present letter; it was to the effect that the officers and clerks “be notified of the movements of the enemy and assured that such assistance as can be shall be afforded them to remove their papers and records, which the Board recommend to be done as speedily as possible.” In view of TJ’s sensitiveness over the loss of records during Arnold’s invasion, it is remarkable that he should not have conveyed in this letter the board’s recommendation that the papers be removed “as speedily as possible.” It is even more surprising that there should be no record of action taken by him on 21 Apr. 1781 in pursuance of the following advice of the Council: “A letter from Colonel Innes dated at Williamsburg seven o’Clock yesterday [Innes to TJ, 20 Apr. 1781, first letter] informing of the Enemy’s standing up the River being read, the Board advise that the several public boards be notified thereof in order that they may move off their papers” (DLC: TJ Papers, 7: 1122a; Va. Council Jour. description begins Journals of the Council of the State of Virginia, ed. H. R. McIlwaine description ends , ii, 339). A probable explanation is that TJ on 21 Apr. notified the officers and clerks as required, either orally or in writing, and that no record of his action survived. The Council also, on 19 Apr., advised that “the County Lieutenants [sic] of Charles City be desired to keep best lookout for the enemys vessels and give the earliest intelligence of their movements up the river” (Va. Council Jour. description begins Journals of the Council of the State of Virginia, ed. H. R. McIlwaine description ends , ii, 338), but if TJ wrote such a letter it is apparently not extant. On 21 Apr. Steuben reported to Washington and Lafayette: “Government is preparing to quit Richmond, from which place as well as from Petersburg many of the Inhabitants have already removed” (Dft of a letter from Steuben to Washington and Lafayette, 21 Apr. 1781, NHi).

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