Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to the Speaker of the House of Delegates, 3 March 1781

To the Speaker of the House of Delegates

In Council March 3d 1781


It is thought that the present Situation of the Enemy in this State affords an opportunity of undertaking Some military operations of Importance. To enable the Commanding Officer to carry them on, an additional Force on the Water is necessary. There are in James and Appamattox Rivers vessels of private Property suited and sufficient for the Purpose as is believed. I shall be glad to have the sanction of the General Assembly if they approve of it for impressing such vessels, their Tackle and crews for this particular Purpose and for a short Time only, a measure which I hope would not be disagreable to the owners if their vessels be ensured with whatever they may have on Board and a reasonable Pay allowed. An immediate Determination would be necessary if the measure be approved. I have the Honor to be with very great Respect, Sir, your, &c.,

T. J.

FC (Vi).

TJ’s letter was not read in the House until Monday, 5 Mch. and then “ordered to lie on the Table.” Immediately, however, a resolution was moved to grant the power requested and to approve the “conduct of the Governor in heretofore impressing such Vessels and Crews”; the resolution was adopted and sent to the Senate at once, but that body did not give its approval until 13 Mch. A copy of the resolution, dated 5 Mch., and signed by John Beckley, clerk of the House (Executive Papers, Vi) may have been transmitted to TJ and put into effect before the Senate concurred in the House’s action; indeed, TJ issued a commission to William Lewis on Sunday, 4 Mch., q.v., even before his request had been read to the House (JHD description begins Journal of the House of Delegates of the Commonwealth of Virginia (cited by session and date of publication) description ends , Mch. 1781, Va. State Libr., Bull., 1928, p. 9–10, 23). See also TJ to the Commanding Officer of the French Squadron, 4 Mch.

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