Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to the County Lieutenants, 30 March 1781

To the County Lieutenants

IN COUNCIL, March 30, 1781.


THE act of October 1780, For recruiting this state’s quota of troops to serve in the continental army, allowed persons to exempt themselves from certain military duties, by enlisting a soldier after the first day of the ensuing month of April, to serve during the war, and delivering him to a person authorized by the Governour to receive him. Sensible that the burthens of your office are sufficiently great, we would not mean to put this duty on you, but beg the favour of you to appoint a proper person to receive such recruits within your county, and to take care of them until they can be delivered to continental officers, who are to be appointed to collect them.

Mr. Brown the commissary, being directed to have a deputy in every county, that deputy is to be applied to for subsistance, and is required to consider this as an order to furnish it. The custody of these recruits being a service of a military nature, we mean that you shall consider it as such, and exempt the receiving officer whilst so employed from all militia or military duties, except draughts, and this we expect will be a sufficient compensation for his trouble.

I am with great respect, Sir, Your most obedient servant,

Th: Jefferson

Broadside (DLC: Broadside Collection); signed by TJ, and addressed in his hand: “County Lieutenant of Frederick”; endorsed: “Governor Jefferson recruits. I do not recollect that any person was appointed. J. Smith Cy. Lt. Fr.”; Swem, “Va. Bibliog.,” description begins Earl G. Swem, “A Bibliography of Virginia,” Virginia State Library, Bulletin, VIII, X, XII (1915–1919) description ends No. 7292.

Since the substance of this order and of the Act on which it is based applied equally to all counties, TJ no doubt sent a copy to the county lieutenant or commanding officer in each of the counties. However, there is no record of this letter in the Council proceedings and the only copy found is the one described above. There were 150 copies printed (see invoice of Dixon & Nicolson, under date of 23 Mch. 1781, note 6). The exemption from military duty referred to above may have been that concerning which Claiborne wrote to Steuben: “In consequence of the conversation which Captain [Benjamin] Walker and myself had today respecting exemptions of men from Malitia draughts, I do myself the honor to inclose to you a copy of my letter to his Excellency Governor Jefferson, and his answer; which will discover the steps that I took in the matter, and that it was not in the power of the executive to do anything at that time. Since that period I waited upon the Governor in person and he informed me that he was about sending out orders to the different Counties to exempt from Malitia duties those that were engaged in the Continental employ for a certain length of time; but I have discovered very little relief from them. I will write again on the subject and acquaint you what I am able to effect” (Claiborne to Steuben, 18 Apr. 1781, NHi; the copies of letters that Claiborne enclosed with this are Claiborne to TJ, 16 Feb. 1781 and TJ to Claiborne, 17 Feb. 1781, qq.v.).

Index Entries