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To George Washington from Thomas Jefferson, 16 December 1779

From Thomas Jefferson

Williamsburg Decr 16. 1779.


I take the liberty of putting under cover to your Excellency, some Letters to Generals Philips & Reidesel, uninformed whether they are gone into New York or not, and knowing that you can best forward them in either Case.1

I also trouble you with a Letter from the Master of the Flag in this State to the British Commissary of Prisoners in New York, trusting it will thus be more certainly conveyed than if sent to Mr Adams.2 It is my Wish the British Commissary should return his Answer through your Excellency or your Commissary of Prisoners, and that they should not propose under this pretext to send another Flag, as the Mission of the present Flag is not unattended by circumstances of Suspicion, and a certain information of the Situation of ourselves and our Allies here might influence the Measures of the Enemy.

Perhaps your Commissary of prisoners can effect the former method of Answer.

I inclose to you part of an Act of Assembly ascertaining the quantities of Land which shall be allowed to the Officers and Soldiers at the close of the War, and providing means of keeping that Country vacant which has been allotted for them.3

I am advised to ask the attention of your Excellency to the Case of Colo. Bland late commander at the Barracks in Albemarle. When that Gentleman was applied to, to take that Command, he attended the Executive here, and informed them, that he must either decline it, or be supported in such a way as would keep up that respect which was essential to his Command, without at the same time ruining his private fortune.

The Executive were sensible that he would be exposed to very great and unavoidable expence, they observed that his Command would be in a department separate from any other, and that he actually relieved a Major General from the same Service. They did not think themselves authorized to say what should be done in this Case, but undertook to represent the matter to Congress and in the mean time, gave it as their Opinion that a decent table ought to be found for him.

On this he undertook the command, and in the course of it incurred expences, which seemed to have been unavoidable unless he would have lived in such a way as is hardly reconcileable to the Spirit of an Officer, or the reputation of those in whose service he is—Governor Henry wrote on the Subject to Congress. Colo. Bland did the same; but we learn that they have concluded the allowance to be unprecedented and inadmissable, in the case of an Officer of his rank.4 The Commissaries on this have called on Colo. Bland for reimbursement: a Sale of his Estate was about to take place, when we undertook to recommend to them to suspend their demand, till we could ask the favor of you to advocate this Matter with Congress so far as you may think it right, otherwise the ruin of a very worthy Officer must inevitably follow.5

I have the honor to be with the greatest respect & esteem Your Excellency’s Most obedt & most humble servt6

Th: Jefferson

LS, DLC:GW; copy (misdated 10 Dec.), DLC: Thomas Jefferson Papers. GW marked the LS as received on 16 Jan. 1780. He replied to Jefferson on 22 Jan. (DLC:GW).

1The enclosed letters to major generals William Phillips and Riedesel, paroled Convention Army officers who arrived in New York City in early December, have not been identified. For their transmission to Phillips, see GW’s letter to that officer, 16 Jan. 1780 (DLC:GW).

2The enclosed letter, presumably to Joshua Loring, British commissary general of prisoners, has not been identified. John Adam served as an American commissary of prisoners.

3Jefferson enclosed a copy of the first two sections of a measure titled “An Act for more effectually Securing to the Officers and Soldiers of the Virginia line the Lands reserved to them, for discouraging present Settlements on the North West side of the Ohio river, and for punishing persons attempting to prevent the execution of Land Office Warrants,” which the Virginia legislature recently had adopted (DLC:GW; see also Va. 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. 1819–23. Reprint. Charlottesville, Va., 1969. description ends [Hening], 10:159–62).

4Neither Virginia governor Patrick Henry’s nor Col. Theodorick Bland’s letter has been identified, but see Bland to GW, 23 April 1779, and notes 2 and 3 to that document; see also GW to Bland, 28 February 1779.

5For GW’s appeal to Congress in Bland’s behalf, see his letter to Samuel Huntington, 26 Jan. 1780 (DNA:PCC, item 152). Congress acted on 11 Feb. to relieve Bland of his liabilities (see JCC, description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends 16:153–54, and Huntington to Jefferson, 12 Feb., in Smith, Letters of Delegates, description begins Paul H. Smith et al., eds. Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774–1789. 26 vols. Washington, D.C., 1976–2000. description ends 14:411–12).

6Jefferson wrote the previous six words on the LS.

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