Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from William Davies, 23 April 1781

From William Davies

War Office [Richmond], 23 Apr. 1781. Encloses an extract of a letter from Gen. Greene “which came to hand this Morning.”

RC (Vi); 3 p.; addressed and endorsed. The enclosed extract of a letter from Greene to Davies was undoubtedly taken from that of 11 Apr. 1781, dated at Little River (Tr in CSmH). The extract was transmitted by TJ to Huntington on this date, but it has not been further identified. It may possibly have been that part in which Greene approved Davies’ going to the War Office (a subject on which Huntington had written TJ on 18 Apr.).

The following sentence in Greene’s letter may explain why Davies sent an extract to TJ rather than the full letter: “I believe no state abounded with such a plenty as Virginia ever experienced such a scarcity for want of order and a proper application of her supplies. From your abilities and application I am in hopes there will be a great reformation. …” Greene was far from consistent in statements that he made about this subject, and the temper of his remarks seems to have been gauged by the identity of his correspondent. To Washington, with whom Greene was flattering almost to the point of sycophancy, he had written on 18 Mch. 1781: “Virginia has given me every support I could wish, or expect, since Lord Cornwallis has been in North Carolina; and nothing has contributed more to this than the prejudice of the people in favor of your Excellency, which has been extended to me from the friendship you have been pleased to honor me with” (Tr in CSmH). There is no evidence in actual fact or in Greene’s correspondence with TJ, Davies, Steuben, or others in the spring of 1781 to justify this extreme statement. His comment to Davies also bears comparison with his letter of 7 Apr. 1781 to Thomas Sim Lee, Governor of Maryland, which contains a statement that Greene would never have made to the Governor of Virginia: “Had it not been for the very great exertions of Virginia the Southern States must have fallen. But it will be impossible for that State to give effectual aid to this army, while they have such a large body of the enemy in the bowels of the State” (Tr in CSmH). Greene’s habitual approach in matters of this sort was to shame, to press, and to harass officials rather than to encourage and to praise.

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