Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to James Callaway, 5 April 1781

To James Callaway

In Council April 5th. 1781


Before you receive this a circular letter will I expect have come to your hands from me accompanied by a resolution of Council for suspending your Draft till further order. It is intended to be revived when all your Militia shall be returned. It is our opinion that such of the Conspirators as knew of the Act of pardon and failed to comply with the Condition of it by taking the Oath of fidelity before the last Day of February, and those who did not know of it and on being informed shall refuse to take the Oath ought to be put into a due Course of prosecution.

Your proceedings for the Assistance of General Greene meet our highest Approbation. On receiving information from him dated the 23d of the last Month, that the Virginia Militia were about to leave him, we were obliged to call for more Militia to go to his Aid. Your County was called on for a fourth of it’s Militia. Those you may have lately sent will be counted as part. I cannot say they will be wanting no more than precisely a Month tho’ I do not expect they will. The New Levies in those Counties which for that very purpose were kept undisturbed ’till they could get through their Draft, and the Pensylvania Line may both be expected to join General Greene within a Month. I am &c,

T. J.

FC (Vi).

A circular letter … from me: No copy of this letter has been found, but evidently fifty copies of it were printed; see invoice of Dixon & Nicolson, under date of 23 Mch. 1781. For the opinion of Council advising such a course, see Va. Council Jour. description begins Journals of the Council of the State of Virginia, ed. H. R. McIlwaine description ends , ii, 316; see also Callaway to TJ, 23 Mch. At the Oct. 1780 session of the Assembly an act of pardon was passed stating that “a number of ignorant people in the south western parts of this state have been deluded and misled by the emissaries of the common enemy, who have given a fresh proof that they spare no expense, and employ means the most dishonourable for accomplishing their purposes, bribing and seducing where their valour cannot subdue, and imposing by direct falsehoods upon the credulous, ignorant, and unwary, whereby some of the citizens of this commonwealth have been induced to take an oath of allegiance to the king of Great Britain, and engaged to enlist for or into his service.” This Act provided that those who had “not superadded to the taking such oath and enlistment, any overt act criminal by law” and who on or before 28 Feb. 1781 should take the oath of fidelity to the commonwealth should be “fully and absolutely pardoned … for the said offences.” It provided also that the Governor might pardon sixteen individuals (all named in the Act) who had been imprisoned and who should also comply with the conditions named in the Act (Hening, description begins William W. Hening, The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia description ends x, 324–6). The counties involved were Henry, Bedford, Pittsylvania, Botetourt, Montgomery, and Washington.

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