Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Katherine Sprowle Douglas, 21 June 1785

From Katherine Sprowle Douglas

London, 21 June 1785. She had sent to TJ by Dr. John Witherspoon, when he was there, a memorial and copies of the correspondence between the Committee of Safety and Andrew Sprowle of Gosport, Virginia, “your once worthyly Esteemd freind …, who you well know fell a martyar to Tyranny and oppression.” Not having heard from TJ and, learning he is in Paris, she encloses other copies. Asks if he advises that she and her son go to Virginia to claim their property, which is still undisposed of by the state; she and her six fatherless children will turn to the “Justice and Clemency, of the Assembly of Virginia.” She hopes for a reply through John Adams.

RC (ViWC); 2 p.; upper left corner and edge of MS are torn away. The enclosure has not been found, but it was doubtless similar to, if not a copy of, the “Petition and Memorial of Kath. Douglas, late widow of the deceased Andrew Sproule Esqr. of Gosport in Virginia, to His Excellency Benjamin Harrison Governor there” (Vi; see below).

Andrew Sprowle, a Virginia merchant, had signed the non-importation associations of 1770 and 1774, but was later accused of having dealings with Lord Dunmore. A letter from Sprowle to Peter Paterson was published in Purdie’s Va. Gaz. for 29 Dec. 1775 as proof of his “strict adherence to the association,” in which he is quoted as saying that “I would have no fear in bringing in a vessel with osnabrugs, Irish linens, and other sortable goods; would be protected by man of war … some forces, and ships of war, daily looked for from Britain. God send them soon. While the soldiers remains at Gosport, I am safe.” And in the Va. Gaz. (D & H) for 15 June 1776 there appeared the following: “We learn from Gloucester … that his [Lord Dunmore’s] old friend Andrew Sprowle is dead.” But Katherine Sprowle Douglas in her memorial declared that in the fall of 1775 Dunmore with his entire retinue appeared at her husband’s house and that he, “being aged and infirm, was easily terrify’d by their threats, and forced not only to lay open his Stores, Cellars &c to their Ravenous and Rapacious pleasure; but to go on board the fleet then in Elizabeth River, together with your Petitioner and the rest of his family, after they had devoured great part of his property by living and Rioting for five months solely at his expence”; and that Sprowle, “wore out with age and infirmity, and repining bitterly at his misfortune, in being in the power of such an unmercifull Tyrant, broke his heart and departed this life, uttering the most bitter execrations, against the said Dunmore and his associates” (MS in Vi, dated at London 28 Nov. 1783, and signed “Kath Sprowle, Now Douglas”).

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