Thomas Jefferson Papers

15. A Bill for the Enlistment of Soldiers, Sailors and Marines, 18 June 1779

15. A Bill for the Enlistment of Soldiers, Sailors and Marines

Be it enacted by the General Assembly that every able bodied freeman who will enlist1 to serve during the continuance of the present war among the troops of this commonwealth either at home or in the Continental army as he shall be directed, or as a sailor or marine on board the armed vessels of this commonwealth shall receive so much money as with the continental bounty if he be put on that service shall make up seven hundred and fifty2 dollars, and the pay and rations allowed to the like soldiers sailors or marines in the continental service to begin from the day of his enlistment: he shall also be furnished at the public expence with a coat waistcoat pair of overalls3 two shirts, a pair of shoes and a hat to be delivered at the place of rendezvous, and with the like articles every year after during his service, to be delivered at his station, in lieu of such of those articles as are allowed by congress; which articles so allowed by congress shall be received by proper officers to be appointed by the Governor with advise of council, and applied to the discharge of the engagements of this act, or otherwise to the use of this commonwealth as the Governor with advice of the Council shall direct. At the end of the war every of the said sailors soldiers and marines shall be entitled to a grant of one hundred2 acres of any unappropriated land, within this commonwealth,4 which they shall locate according to the directions of the laws; for which no purchase money shall be acquired on behalf of the commonwealth: such of them as shall be disabled in the service and the widows of those slain or dying therein, shall be entitled to immediate releif and also to annual pensions as provided in one act of General Assembly passed at the last session entituled “an act for establishing a board of auditors for public accounts.”

Officers, soldiers, sailors and marines during their continuance in the service shall be exempted from all taxation in their persons.

Officers, soldiers, sailors and marines raised under the Laws of this commonwealth, shall, during their continuance in the service, be furnished by the agent or commissary of stores on behalf of this commonwealth at the principal encampments, with the following articles at the rates herein stated, to wit, Oznabrigs at one shilling and six pence by the Yard, coarse hats at seven shillings and six pence each, coarse shoes at eight shillings by the pair, coarse yarn hose at five shillings by the pair, rum or brandy at ten shillings by the gallon, whiskey at five shillings by the Gallon, brown sugar at one shilling2 by the pound, coffee at two shillings and sixpence2 by the pound and such other imported articles as may be necessary for them at one hundred and twenty per centum advance on their Costs at the European port whence they shall have been imported: and if they shall have been purchased on behalf of the public after their exportation from any European port so that their costs at such port shall not be known, their costs there shall be estimated by such agent or commissary as nearly as he shall be able, and they shall be vended at the same advance on that estimation.5

All general Officers of the army being citizens of this commonwealth, and all field officers, captains and subalterns commanding in the battalions of this commonwealth on Continental establishment or serving in the battalions raised for the immediate defence of this state who shall serve henceforward or from the time of their being commissioned until the end of the war6 and all such officers who have or shall become supernumerary on the reduction of any of the said battalions and shall again enter into the said service whenever required so to do, in the same or any higher rank and continue therein until the end of the war,7 shall be entitled to half pay during life, to commence from the determination of their command.

The field officers of every County shall from time to time during the continuance of the present war appoint one or more persons such as in their judgments are best fitted to the purpose of recruiting soldiers, sailors and marines under this act, who shall be removeable at their will. Every recruiting officer shall from time to time give notice of the men enlisted by him to the Governor who with the advice of council shall appoint such time and place within this commonwealth for their rendezvous as shall be convenient, and an officer then and there to review and receive them; to which place of rendezvous the said recruiting officer shall conduct them and in the mean time from their enlistment till their review shall have the same powers over them as if he were their proper commanding officer. For every man who shall be reviewed and received by the officer appointed for that purpose the officer recruiting him shall receive one hundred and fifty2 dollars to be paid on certificate of such review and receipt from the board of war to the Auditors and their warrant on the Treasurer.

The board of war shall cause accounts to be raised with every county in which each shall have credit for the men so recruited by their officers and received by the officer of review: and whensoever afterwards it shall become necessary for the public exigencies to call for any greater number of regular troops than shall have been raised under this act, the number of all those raised under this act shall be added to the number to be called for and the quota of the aggregate number being settled for each county in proportion to their militia, where it shall appear that any County has furnished under this act a number equal to such their quota, they shall not be subject to furnish any part of those then called for, and where they shall have furnished a part of such quota, they shall be subject to furnish so many only of those as shall make up their deficiency.8

The bounties and other allowances given by this act to officers, soldiers, sailors, and marines shall be deemed in lieu of those of the same kind given by any act of assembly, ordinance, or resolution of Congress heretofore passed.9

MS (Vi), in clerk’s hand, with several alterations in hand of TJ. Docketed: “A Bill <for the enlistment of> concerning officers, soldiers, sailors & marines. May 21st. 1779. first reading. 22d. comd. to whole on Wednesday next. Engrossed.” The deletion in the title just quoted was made by TJ, who interlined the words “concerning officers” as a substitution for those struck out. This is perhaps explained by TJ’s attitude toward dependence upon volunteers (see TJ to R. H. Lee, 5 June 1778). Accompanying MS of the Bill is a one-page list of amendments offered in the House. The Bill is not printed in Report description begins Report of the Committee of Revisors Appointed by the General Assembly of Virginia in MDCCLXXVI, Richmond, 1784 description ends , p. 12, but instead, under the same title as given above, is the following: “This was a bill designed to answer a temporary and occasional purpose during the war, and was incorporated into a law in the May session 1779‥‥ It is now expired and was deemed unnecessary to be here inserted.” The Act as adopted at the session of May 1779 is in Hening, description begins William W. Hening, The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia description ends x, 23–7; the major differences between the Act and the Bill as reported by TJ are indicated in the notes below.

On 21 May 1779 TJ was appointed head of a committee to bring in a “bill concerning officers, soldiers, sailors and marines”; he reported it the same day. These facts show that the Bill was already in the corrected state as described above when the committee was appointed. The Bill was amended by both the House and the Senate and finally agreed to 16 June (JHD description begins Journal of the House of Delegates of the Commonwealth of Virginia (cited by session and date of publication) description ends , May 1779, 1827 edn., p. 16–17, 25–7, 45, 50, 51).

1The Act as adopted also included those who had previously enlisted for a specified term that was unexpired and who were willing to reenlist for the duration of the war.

2The figures were inserted by amendment to the Bill at this and other points, the MS having blank spaces for this purpose.

3The word “breeches” was deleted in MS and “overalls” interlined in TJ’s hand.

4At this point the Act as adopted includes a proviso that commanding officers are to be entitled to the same quantity of lands as allowed to officers of equivalent rank in Virginia regiments on the continental establishment.

5At this point the Act as adopted includes the following proviso: “that every of the said officers shall, in any one year, be entitled to receive … the following articles of imported dry goods, to wit: Six yards of cloth, seven quarters of a yard wide, with trimmings for a suit of clothes, stuff for six summer vests and breeches, linen for six shirts, cambrick for ruffles to them, and buttons, six stocks, three pair of silk, and three pair of thread hose, six handkerchiefs, two pair of good shoes, and one hat, and no more.” Considering the enormous difficulties being experienced in obtaining essential materials for the conduct of the war (see, for example, notes to Bill No. 89, below), it is fairly certain that the amendment entitling officers to silk stockings and cambric ruffles was not one proposed by TJ.

6The Act as adopted extends the half-pay-for-life provision to chaplains, physicians, surgeons, and surgeons’ mates.

7The proviso concerning supernumerary officers was inserted in MS in TJ’s hand.

8Following this point there are, in the Act as adopted, several provisions not found in MS of the Bill: (1) authorization of the raising of a troop of horse for the defense of Illinois county; this possibly was suggested by TJ (see his comment on the raising of such troops vis-à-vis the problem of depending on volunteers in his letter to R. H. Lee, 5 June 1778); (2) the granting of land bounties of 200 acres to each of those volunteers who were with Clark in the Illinois country; and (3) authorization for the raising of four troops of horse for the defense of the eastern part of the commonwealth.

9This paragraph of the Bill is in TJ’s hand.

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