Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to Edward Stevens, 19 July 1780

To Edward Stevens

Richmond July 19. 1780


I think it proper to inclose you a Paragraph from a late Act of Assembly putting the Militia with you under martial law. It is the only part of the Act which relates at all to the Militia, for which reason I do not send the whole Act, the Clearks being very busy. This Act having been made after the Militia went on duty may perhaps be thought by them to be in the nature of an ex post facto law; but as it is in your Power to restraint it’s Penalties from all Acts previous to its promulgation by you and even if you please from all subsequent ones except desertion, and such others as you shall find necessary, they may perhaps think it less hard. I am Sir with the greatest respect Your most obt. & most hum. Serv,

Th Jefferson

FC (DLC); signature as well as text in clerk’s hand. Endorsed: “Copy of a Letter from Governor Jefferson to Edward Stevens dated July 19. 1780.”

A late Act of Assembly: An Act for vesting “the executive with extraordinary powers for a limitted time”; by this Act the executive was authorized to call into service any number of the militia not exceeding 20,000; to send them out of the state; to remove or to confine disaffected persons in case of invasion; to call into service volunteer companies of cavalry, &c. The Act also provided that, in case of insurrection or invasion, anyone who gave aid to the enemy, acted as a guide or spy, encouraged desertion from the army, &c., was “declared to be subject to the law martial as declared by congress” on 20 Sep. 1776; it further provided that the militia in actual service should also be subject to the Continental articles of war (Hening, description begins William W. Hening, The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia description ends x, 309–15). When this bill was before the House and had passed its second reading on 11 July, an effort was made to delete the clause “for enforcing martial law in case of an invasion,” but this motion was defeated by a roll-call vote of 53 to 23 (JHD description begins Journal of the House of Delegates of the Commonwealth of Virginia (cited by session and date of publication) description ends , May 1780, 1827 edn., p. 83).

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