Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to Nathanael Greene, 24 March 1781

To Nathanael Greene

In Council March 24th. 1781


I do myself the Honour of inclosing to you some resolutions of General Assembly on the Subject of the Horses procured and to be procured for the 1st and 3d Regiments of Cavalry, in the Execution of which I shall need your Assistance.

Representations were made of the Conduct of the Persons who were or pretended to be entrusted with the Execution of the Impress Warrants which I had inclosed to you, very unfavorably to them. They are said to have transgressed extremely not only by exceeding the Tract of Country to which the warrants were restrained, but in the Kind of Horses on which they seised. This produced the resolutions of March 7th., the first of which is no doubt become unnecessary as I suppose the Departure of the Enemy from this State, and their present Tendency renders nugatory, warrants which were restrained to the neighbourhood and probable route of the Enemy. I should otherwise ask the favor of you to issue your Orders for the Discontinuance of Impresses under those warrants altogether. The second Resolution of the same Date obliges me to trouble you with ordering the several Persons who have been employed in these Impresses to make a report of their Proceedings therein which may be done by Way of Calendar under these Heads, to wit: 1st. The species of Horse impressed, that is, whether a Stone Horse, Gelding or brood mare. 2d A Description by the size, Age, and general Appearance, which Latter Circumstance I would only wish to have designated by such short Terms as those, ‘fine’; ‘Indifferent’ &c. &c. 3d. The Sum at which estimated. 4th. Whose Property. 5 In what County Impressed. 6th By whom impressed. 7th. To what Purposes applied. This I apprehend will answer most of the Purposes which the General Assembly had in view. Should there have been any other Circumstances in the Conduct of these Gentlemen which would become proper Subjects of Enquiry, they can only be gathered from those who would be interested in producing them. On view of such a report yourself also will be enabled to judge which particular Horses according to the same resolution, must be returned to their Owners.

Before it will be in our power to proceed in the Execution of the resolution of March 17th., I must give you the Trouble of procuring me Information what Number of Horses will be wanting to fill up the two regiments after withdrawing such of the impressed Horses as are by the resolution before mentioned to be returned. It would be the wish of the Executive to appropriate a certain Portion of the money for the Purchase of these and that this should be laid out by persons of your own appointment if it would be agreable to you. I am &c.,

T. J.

FC (Vi). Tr (Vi). Enclosures (Vi): Resolutions of Assembly of 7 and 17 Mch. 1781 (not to be confused with the resolutions of 16 Mch. concerning impressment of horses for state use; see TJ to Speaker, second letter of 16 Mch.).

The first of the enclosed resolutions, adopted by the House on 7 Mch., stated that the officers authorized to impress horses for mounting the 1st. and 3rd. regiments of dragoons had been represented as committing, under the warrant issued by TJ to Greene, “great abuses … by impressing stallions which as such are unfit for service and by being appraised to enormous sums must incur a debt too heavy to be borne”; directed them in the future not to impress any “Stallions, breeding mares or Geldings above the value of fifty pounds specie”; and required TJ to inquire into all abuses committed under the impress warrant granted to Greene, to cause all horses valued at prices above “those proper for dragoons to be disposed of to the best advantage,” and to cause prosecutions to be undertaken against those guilty of “flagrant violations of duty.” This resolution was approved by the Senate on 15 Mch., but with the following amendment to which the House agreed: instead of authorizing TJ to dispose of overvalued horses to the best advantage, the amendment directed that such horses should be “returned to their respective owners who shall be paid by the public the damages such Horses may have respectively received, the damage being previously ascertained by appraisers” (a MS copy of these resolutions as amended, in Vi, attested by John Beckley and William Drew, has the following note in TJ’s hand: “recd the above Mar. 20 in the evening”; the text of the resolutions before amendment is in 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, 13).

The second of the enclosed resolutions, adopted by the House on 17 Mch. and agreed to by the Senate on 19 Mch., directed the Governor with the advice of the Council “to take the speediest measures by purchase or otherwise to mount such of the Dragoons belonging to the first and third Regiments of Cavalry as are now dismounted, provided that the price to be given for such Horses, doth not exceed the sum of five thousand pounds each”; to determine in the best manner “the Executive can do the number absolutely wanting”; to apply for this purpose such proportion of the money emitted at this special session of Assembly “as the Governor with advice aforesaid shall be of opinion can consistently with the other public contingencies be spared”; and to appoint some “proper, careful and diligent person with authority to receive all the horses purchased” (same, 36–7, 39).

There is an undated order in Vi with the caption, “Instructions for Major Jones,” endorsed by TJ, “Baron Steuben. Horses,” and by a clerk, “instruction pour Maj: johns pour la reception des Cheveaux,” which may have been drawn up by Steuben at about this time to comply with the second resolution of 17 Mch.; or it may have been written in December, and enclosed in an unlocated letter of Steuben in reply to TJ’s letter to him of 23 Dec. 1780, q.v. By these instructions Jones was ordered to receive “Recruits, Horses, Equipment for men and Horses which this State is to furnish for the two Regiments of Cavalry at the Southward”; to rendezvous at Petersburg with the officers and men; to receive the horses at Richmond “from a Person Appointed by Government”; to inspect the horses; all horses to be “5 to 9 yrs. old, from 14 ½ to 15 Hands high, well limbed, trotting well, free from Spavin or Blemish in the Eye, no Stallion is to be received but the color matters not, provided the Horse is healthy and in good Order” (printed in CVSP description begins Calendar of Virginia State Papers … Preserved in the Capitol at Richmond description ends , i, 478–9, under January 1781). See TJ to Greene, 1 Apr., second letter; Greene to TJ, 6 and 28 Apr.; TJ to Speaker, 10 May.

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