Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to the Commissioners of the Provision Law, 7 September 1780

To the Commissioners of the Provision Law

In Council Sepr. 7th 1780


As it appears by the returns made to us that the spirits already procured under the provision Law are sufficient to answer the public purposes for a considerable time, and that the quantities of rum imported, and of brandy and corn spirits likely to be made is such as shoud justly reduce the price of these articles far below what has been allowed by the act of assembly; you are therefore desired to make an immediate return of the quantities you have and to discontinue from the time of receiving this, the taking any more than is already actually seized. [As soon as the season is such as that wheat of the late crop will keep either in bulk or manufacture, you will be pleased to procure as much as will make pounds of flour, and have the same manufactured, barrelled and stored at the places pointed out in your first instructions. The seconds shoud be made into biscuits if you can have it done; otherwise have it barrelled and stored as before directed with respect to the flour. The cleanings and bran may serve as forage for the horses you use in transportation or may be bartered for any other article you are directed to procure or given in payment for manufacturing or other service.] Corn of the present years growth is not to be taken till further orders, and your powers as to salt have been discontinued by the act of Assembly, since the first of last month. In all other respects you will continue to pursue the instructions heretofore given, making your returns regularly once a month. You are also desired to transmit to me a list of the certificates you have given, specifying the persons name, the sum due him, and the date of the certificate, that it may be lodged with the auditors as a check on counterfeit certificates, and hereafter let such a list accompany every return. I am Gentlemen, Your most ob: humble servt,

Tho: Jefferson

FC (Vi, photostat from Brit. Mus.: Add. MSS 38,650). Another FC, identical in substance and differing only in negligible points of phrasing, occurs a few pages earlier in the Governor’s Letter Book with the date “sepr. 1780.” The latter text contains no indication of the counties to which it was sent, but the former lists the counties both in the caption and in a table appended to the text which also lists the several flour quotas in pounds as follows: Dinwiddie 180,000, Chesterfield 180,000, Amelia 300,000, Cumberland 300,000, Powhatan 180,000, Prince Edward 120,000, Goochland 240,000, Hanover 150,000, Henrico 150,000, Spotsylvania 150,000. There is also, just preceding the present letter in the Governor’s Letter Book, a copy of a letter to the Commissioners of the Provision Law in most of the other counties in the state; this has the same text except for the omission of the passage relating to flour enclosed in square brackets (supplied) in our text. Its caption indicates that it was sent to Northampton, Accomack, Hampshire, Frederick, Berkeley, Loudoun, Fauquier, Prince William, Fairfax, Westmoreland, Northumberland, Orange, Culpeper, Stafford, Caroline, King George, Richmond, Essex, Middlesex, Lancaster, Gloucester, New Kent, King William, King and Queen, York, Warwick, Bedford, Buckingham, Amherst, Albemarle, Fluvanna, Louisa, Prince George, Charles City, Surry, James City, Williamsburg, Isle of Wight, Nansemond, Norfolk, Princess Anne, Elizabeth City, Halifax, Charlotte, Lunenburg, Mecklenburg, Brunswick, Sussex, Southampton, Augusta, and Botetourt.

The duties and powers of the Commissioners of the Provision Law are enumerated in the Act for procuring a supply of provisions and other necessaries for the use of the army (Hening, description begins William W. Hening, The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia description ends x, 233–7). For all articles taken the Commissioners were to give receipts at certain rates fixed and enumerated in the Act, and “All such receipts or certificates shall be payable at the treasury within six months from the date, with an interest at the rate of six per centum thereon; allowing always for the difference of value between the time of payment and the delivery of the articles; … or otherwise any person holding such receipt or certificate, may pay them to the collector in discharge of his or her next money tax, or his or her next specifick tax, in like kind and quantity.” Among TJ’s papers survives an interesting tabulation of the results of the collection of supplies made under the Provision Law of 1780 (3 pages, in a clerk’s hand, without date; DLC: TJ Papers, 235: 42248–42249). It lists in four columns the places of storage, the counties, the articles, and the names of the commissioners (some gaps occur here); appended is a separate table listing the return of the “Flour called for September 7th. 1780” by counties.

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