Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from William Phillips, 6 April 1781

From William Phillips

Portsmouth 6th. April 1781.


I have received your letter dated the 31st. ulto. and am much obliged to you, Sir, for the attention you have given to the Flag of Truce. I did not, as you observe, know of the German Troops of Convention being moved out of Virginia. As it is, I will hope the Flag may be permitted to go to the head of Elk from whence there may be a conveyance by land supposing, as you say, the Troops of Convention are in Pennsylvania.

I will permit a Flag Vessel laden with Tobacco to proceed to Charles Town in order that such Tobacco may be sold there and the purchase Money appropriated for the payment of the debts of the American Prisoners of War there, and for their subsistence, but this Vessel must go under regulations to be settled between the American General Officer in Command of Your Troops in this Province and our Naval Commanding Officer and myself, and upon the Flags arrival at Charles Town it must abide by the decision of the Commandant there, respecting its being admitted or sent back, in which latter case there shall be full surety given for the Vessel and the Tobacco it contains returning safely to Virginia. And I am also to inform you that an Officer from hence must go in this Vessel with a Passport to prevent his being taken or made a prisoner of War.

I am, Sir, Your most obedient humble servant,

W Phillips

RC (Lloyd W. Smith, Madison, N.J., 1946); in an aide’s hand, signed by Phillips; endorsed: “Genl Philips’s Letter April 10th 1781” (date of receipt). The cover of this letter is now lost, but the style of address there used by Phillips touched off a controversy that might have continued longer if Phillips had not died at Petersburg on 13 May. According to TJ’s letter to the Virginia Delegates in Congress, 10 May, the letter was addressed “To Thos. Jefferson Esqr. American Governor of Virginia”; it is to be noted, however, that Phillips’ aide-de-camp wrote “Governor Jefferson” at the foot of the letter. For TJ’s manner of “returning the Compliment,” see note on his reply to Phillips, 20 Apr. An extract of Phillips’ letter was enclosed by TJ to Steuben in a letter of 10 Apr., q.v. See also note to Weedon to TJ, 8 Apr., and Steuben to Phillips, 15 Apr. 1781.

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