Thomas Jefferson Papers

Certificate for Alexander Spotswood, 12 September 1798

Certificate for Alexander Spotswood

Virginia, to wit

I hereby certify that on an invasion of this state by the British troops under the command of Genl. Leslie, the continental officers retired from service within this state were requested by me as Governor of Virginia to take commands of the militia called into the field on that occasion; that Genl. Alexander Spotswood, in compliance with that request, repaired to the militia and remained with them during the continuance of the invasion: that it appears by the newspapers of the times, which I believe to be correct as to this matter, that Leslie’s troops entered the Chesapeake Oct. 20. 1780. & landed immediately, & that they got under weigh on their departure the 24th. of Novemb. following; that it is probable the militia were discharged soon after their departure was known at Richmond, and certainly before Arnold’s invasion which took place on the 30th. of Decemb., at which time it is well remembered there was no militia ready in the field to oppose the invaders. Given under my hand this 12th. day of September 1798.

Th: Jefferson

MS (DNA: RG 233, House Records, 5th Cong., 2d sess.); entirely in TJ’s hand; at foot of text in unknown hand:

“Genl. Spotswood servd to
the battle of german town
2 years & 5- 2–5
under Jefferson   2
under Harrison 3–

Enclosed in TJ to Spotswood, 12 Sep. 1798 (recorded in SJL but not found).

This certificate was one of the supporting documents presented to the House on 28 Feb. 1799 with Spotswood’s petition (now missing) for a grant of 6,000 acres of land from the United States for his service as colonel in the Continental Army. It was referred to the committee of claims in December, and on 16 Apr. 1800 was forwarded to the committee of the whole to be considered with similar claims. The same day the House authorized the president to grant patents to those officers of the Continental Army from Virginia who had received warrants from the state legislature for lands that were subsequently ceded to the federal government. On 13 May 1800, Adams signed an act setting aside up to 60,000 acres to honor the Virginia land grants, although it was estimated that the officers held claims for up to 100,000 acres (National State Papers: Adams description begins Martin P. Claussen, ed., National State Papers of the United States, 1789–1817. Part II: Texts of Documents. Administration of John Adams, 1797–1801, Wilmington, 1980, 24 vols. description ends , 9:320; JHR description begins Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1826, 9 vols. description ends , 3:501, 545, 666; Annals description begins Annals of the Congress of the United States: The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United StatesCompiled from Authentic Materials, Washington, D.C., Gales & Seaton, 1834–56, 42 vols. All editions are undependable and pagination varies from one printing to another. The first two volumes of the set cited here have “Compiled … by Joseph Gales, Senior” on the title page and bear the caption “Gales & Seatons History” on verso and “of Debates in Congress” on recto pages. The remaining volumes bear the caption “History of Congress” on both recto and verso pages. Those using the first two volumes with the latter caption will need to employ the date of the debate or the indexes of debates and speakers. description ends , 10:668–9, 672; U.S. Statutes at Large description begins Richard Peters, ed., The Public Statutes at Large of the United States … 1789 to March 3, 1845, Boston, 1855–56, 8 vols. description ends , 2:80).

For the invasion of the British forces commanded by General Alexander Leslie, see James Innes to TJ, [21? Oct. 1780]. Letters from Spotswood to TJ of 9 July and 30 Aug. 1798, recorded in SJL as received 12 July and 6 Sep., respectively, have not been found. A letter from TJ to Spotswood of 2 Aug. 1798, recorded in SJL, is also missing.

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