Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to Robert Lawson, 8 May 1781

To Robert Lawson

Richmond May 8. 1781


Ld. Cornwallis being on his march for Virginia and Genl. Phillips setting out from Brandon to join his forces to those of the former, obliges us to call every man into the feild for whom arms can be procured, and to require the reinforcements of militia from below the Blue ridge intended for Genl. Greene or such of them as have not actually marched to rendezvous at Prince Edward C. H. or Taylor’s ferry, so that they may join in the opposition to Ld. Cornwallis or go on to Genl. Greene as exigencies shall require. I cannot yet get a council, so that it is out of my power to advise your conduct tho’ I thought it my duty to notify this determination as to the rendezvous of those militia. Should they have actually marched it is not our intention to recall them. I am with great respect Sir Your most obedt. servt,

Th: Jefferson

RC (H. R. Strauss); without indication of addressee, but may be confidently ascribed to Robert Lawson for the following reasons: (1) Lawson was at Prince Edward awaiting orders from TJ; (2) he acknowledged TJ’s “favor of the 8th instant” in one that he wrote TJ on 11 May, q.v.; (3) the substance of the present letter is in accord with information set forth in TJ’s letters to Lawson of 4 and 11 May and in Lawson’s to TJ of 1 and 11 May; and (4), though this would not necessarily be significant unless accompanied by the foregoing, TJ’s letters to Lawson (see those of 8 and 11 May) were usually in his own hand and end with the same distinctive complimentary close, “I am with great respect Sir,” &c.

I cannot yet get a council: TJ had already, in his letter of 4 May, informed Lawson that his “matter” would be taken up as soon as there was a Council. The last full meeting had been held on 25 April. On 7, 8, and 9 May Dudley Digges, David Jameson, and George Webb met with TJ and unofficially transacted business. On 10 May they were joined by Jacquelin Ambler, making a full board. At this time the proceedings “which have been done (through necessity) without the formality of a regular board” were read and approved (Va. Council Jour. description begins Journals of the Council of the State of Virginia, ed. H. R. McIlwaine description ends , ii, 344). The full Council did not meet again before TJ’s retirement from the governorship. This letter may have been sent out before the members of Council who were present on 8 May consulted with Lafayette (see TJ’s letters to the county lieutenants, following).

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