To William Davies
Richmond March 19th. 1781
My Letter of the 13 will have answered your former Letters and part of your last and the superscription will explain to you why it was so late coming. One article I omitted to answer, that is whether you should receive Deserters from Colo. Syme in Lieu of the Levies under the last law.
The Description in the act of those who are to be received is that they be recruits fit for present Duty, between 18 and 50, of able body and sound mind, who is neither a Prisoner of war, a Deserter from the enemy, nor engaged &c. The term recruit seems clearly to exclude one who, tho’ a Deserter, is still belonging to the Army. Deserters would not have been received under the former law instead of recruits had it not been expressly provided in the Law and such proviso being omitted in the Law now under a Course of Execution, I should suppose they should not be received. Nevertheless the receiving Officers and not the Executive are the proper Judges of this matter. I am, &c.,
See Davies to TJ, 18 Mch., for some of the difficulties that had been experienced with deserters. On the qualifications of recruits, the following excerpt from Davies’ letter to Steuben of 10 Mch. is enlightening: “The new Recruits are coming in daily, and since the treatment the two men from Brunswick met with, the people seem afraid to bring in the little dwarfs and children they formerly counted upon. Those that have been lately brought me are tolerably likely, but they all expect to get furloughs from me, which I invariably refuse” (NHi).