Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Edmund Randolph, 9 February 1781

From Edmund Randolph

Friday P.M. [9 February 1781]

Dear Sir

Reflecting upon what I wrote this morning respecting the capture, made by the unarmed countrymen, I am inclined to think, that I was inaccurate. As well as I recollect, Vattel was said to be against their claim; but that daily usage was in favor of it. So far perhaps he is right.

But if they have title to what they take; it is certainly wrong to affirm, that military stores are to be excepted. For they seem to be excepted in the case of a soldier, only because he has devoted himself, by his engagement, to his country, and the time spent in the acquisition of the booty would be so much withdrawn from the public service. Sed aliter with a peasant.

I am Dr Sir with sincere respect yr. mo. ob. serv:,

Edm: Randolph

RC (Vi); addressed and endorsed.

See preceding letter and note. Randolph was mistaken in arguing that Vattel’s exception of military stores was due to the reason assigned; actually the exception was argued by Vattel as being justified not because of the time the soldier spent “withdrawn from the public service,” but because artillery, magazines, &c. were needed “for the wants and use of the army” as a whole -an argument that would apply to unarmed citizens as well as to soldiers. The Governor and Council made no such distinction as to the status of the captor.

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