James Madison Papers

Case of Unsettled Claims from Dunmore’s War, 9 December 1776

Case of Unsettled Claims from Dunmore’s War

MS (Virginia State Library). Mostly in the hand of John Tazewell, clerk of the Virginia House of Delegates.

Editorial Note

On 29 June 1776, immediately after adopting the “form of government,” or state constitution, which it had framed, the Virginia Convention heeded the eleventh and twenty-second articles by electing a governor (Patrick Henry) and eight members of the Council of State. JM acted as one of the four tellers for each of these elections (Proceedings of the Convention, May 1776, pp. 78–79; Hening, Statutes description begins William Waller Hening, ed., The Statutes at Large; being a Collection of all the Laws of Virginia, from the First Session of the Legislature, in the Year 1619 (13 vols.; Richmond and Philadelphia, 1819–23). description ends , IX, 112–19). This council selected John Page to be its president, thereby also making him the lieutenant governor of the commonwealth. In accordance with Article XXII of the constitution, the adjournment of the Convention on 5 July transformed its members into the personnel of the House of Delegates of the legislature. Before it convened at Williamsburg on 7 October, the qualified voters, balloting on varying dates in August and September in the districts defined by an ordinance of the Convention, elected a Senate of twenty-four members (ibid., IX, 128–30). Thus the bicameral legislature of the sovereign Commonwealth of Virginia came into being, with JM a charter member of the House of Delegates. His term in that body expired with its adjournment on 21 December 1776.

Much of its business was channeled through three large committees—the Committee of Privileges and Elections, the Committee of Propositions and Grievances, and the Committee of “Publick” Claims. JM was named to the first of these, a group comprising over fifty delegates (Journal of the House of Delegates of Virginia, Anno Domini, 1776 [Richmond, 1828], p. 4). He served on the long-standing Committee for Religion, and on the special committees for unsettled claims against the state arising from Lord Dunmore’s War, for preparing a letter to the delegates of Virginia in the Continental Congress about the disputed boundary between that state and Pennsylvania, for drafting a bill to abolish some special privileges of the Anglican Church and some disabilities of dissenters, and for examining the enrolled bills (ibid., pp. 13, 14, 41, 68, 77).

If the journal of the House of Delegates and the remnant of other legislative papers in the Virginia State Library can be trusted, JM was not the chairman of any committee, nor the draftsman of any committee report, nor the introducer of any motion during this session. Although its journal omits mention of the participants in the debates, he probably spoke seldom, if ever, from the floor. Thomas Jefferson, one of the most prominent members of the House of Delegates, recalled many years later how youthful JM appeared to be and how silent his shyness kept him when in a large group. On the other hand, although possibly not referring to this particular session, Jefferson added that young Madison demonstrated unusual skill in the wording of committee reports and resolutions (Edward Coles to Hugh Blair Grigsby, 23 December 1854, reporting what Coles had been told by Jefferson, RC in Virginia Historical Society). No extant document of this session, however, is in his hand, nor is any so distinctive in expression or thought as to be confidently attributed to him. Moreover, he seems never to have mentioned this meeting of the House of Delegates as one to which he contributed significantly.

For these reasons, one sample only is furnished of the work of this session. This is a report of the “unsettled claims” committee of which JM was a member. It was chosen, not because it suggests JM more than any other manuscript, but merely because, in its length and the interest of its subject matter, it fairly well typifies the extant reports of the special committees.

[9 December 1776]

The Committee1 appointed have According to Order Examined the Reports of John Harvie & Joseph Neville2 to whom it was referred to Settle such of the Claims against the Public On Account of the late Expedition Against the Indians as remained Unsettled, and to revise those that had been Settled in West Augusta, have Agreed upon a report and Come to a resolution thereupon, as Follows.

It appears to your Committee by the Testimony of Sundry Witnesses, that while the Forces under the Command of the Earl of Dunmore, on the late Expedition Against the Indians, were encamped near the Shawanese Towns, Colo. William Crawford was Ordered to take the Command of a Detachment of two hundred and fifty men, and to march against a Town of the Seneca Nation of Indians, Distant from the Camp about thirty miles, his Lordship at the same time Assuring him, that if any Plunder was taken, it shou’d be Equally Divided among the Captors. It further Appears that the Party took at the said Town Several Prisoners, with Plunder in Indian Goods, Horses[?], Silver Trinkets, and Other Articles, which were sold by Consent of the said Captors, the sale Amounting to three hundred & five Pounds fifteen Shillings & a half Penny, when the Captains of Each Company, became Responsible for the Purchases made by their men.3 It Likewise appears that another Party Commanded by Colo. McDonald, on an Expedition against the upper Shawanese Towns, after distroying the same, took Plunder which was sold in like Manner, to the Amount of thirty five Pounds Eleven Shillings & three Pence.4 It further Appears to your Committee that the Commissioners on Settling the Expences of the late Indian War, Stopped Out of the pay of the Different Officers, the said two sums, Amounting in the whole to three Hundred and forty One Pounds six Shillings and three Pence half Penny.

Resolved as the Opinion of this Committee, that the Captors had an Undoubted right to the said Plunder, and in Order that Strict Justice shou’d be Done them, a Commissioner Ought to be Appointed, to Recieve from the Treasury, the said sum of three hundred & forty One Pounds Six Shillings and three Pence half Penny, and to Call upon each of the Officers who Commanded Parties in the said Detachments, (on Oath) for lists of the Names of the Men who Served, and the said Commissioner Pay each of them, their Proportionate Parts of the said Sum of Money.

Agreed to by the House of Delegates

John Tazewell5 C. H. D.

Ordered that Mr. James Wood6 be appointed a Commissioner for the purposes mentioned in the within Resolution.

John Tazewell C. H. D.

Agreed to by the Senate

J. Pendleton8 C. S.

1Unsettled monetary claims arising from military service in, or goods furnished for, Lord Dunmore’s expedition of 1774 against the western Indian tribes were presented to the Virginia Convention of July 1775. Even that early, John Harvie (1742–1807), from the West Augusta district, was named to one or another of the special committees appointed to determine the validity of these claims (Proceedings of the Convention, July 1775, pp. 14–15, 21, 23–24). On 16 January 1776, the Convention, which had assembled on 1 December 1775, named Harvie to settle the rightful claims of this nature of petitioners living in five western counties, and named Joseph Neaville (Neavill, Neville, 1730–1819) of Hampshire County to act in the same capacity for four other counties. They were ordered to render an accounting at the next convention (The Proceedings of the Convention of Delegates held at the Town of Richmond, in the Colony of Virginia, on Friday, the 1st of December, 1775. and afterwards by adjournment in the City of Williamsburg [Richmond, 1816], p. 99). At the sessions of 25 and 27 May of this “next convention,” the reports of Harvie and Neaville were referred for examination to a committee of sixteen delegates, with Archibald Cary of Chesterfield County as its chairman and JM as one of its members. This committee reported on 14 June 1776 (Proceedings of the Convention, May 1776, pp. 25, 47, 54). It was the Cary committee, “revived” by the House of Delegates on 15 October 1776, but with Thomas Lewis of Augusta County as its new chairman because of Cary’s election to the Senate, which rendered the present report. It was accepted by the House of Delegates on 9 December and by the Senate two days later rather than on 10 December as is indicated at the close of the manuscript report. Included in the report printed in the journal was a separate recommendation by the committee to pay Private John Hardin, Jr., £20 “in Consideration of the wound he received in the service of this Country” when under the command of Captain Daniel Morgan on his “Expedition against the upper Shawanowo Towns” (Journal of the House of Delegates, 1776, pp. 14, 88, 91). Hardin had been wounded while on the expedition mentioned in n. 4, below (Reuben G. Thwaites and Louise P. Kellogg, eds., Documentary History of Dunmore’s War, p. 155 n.).

2After serving as a delegate of Virginia in the Continental Congress from May 1777 until December 1778, Harvie became in May 1779 the register of the Virginia Land Office, a position which he continued to hold for twelve years. For a time during the Revolution he had the rank of colonel in the Virginia militia by virtue of his role as a purchasing agent. Briefly in 1788 he was secretary of the commonwealth. Besides serving as a captain in Dunmore’s War, a burgess from 1773 to 1776, a member of the conventions of 1775 and 1776, and of the House of Delegates in 1777, 1780, and 1781, Neaville was a militia brigadier general during the Revolution and helped determine the boundary between Pennsylvania and Maryland. He represented Virginia in the United States Congress, 1793–1795.

3Late in October 1774, with his force of about 250 men, Major William Crawford (1732–1782) destroyed a settlement of Mingo Indians on the west bank of the Scioto River, near the present site of Columbus, Ohio. The Mingos were said to be an offshoot of the Senecas and were often called the “Iroquois of the Ohio” (ibid., pp. 28 n., 303–4; Virgil A. Lewis, History of the Battle of Point Pleasant … [Charleston, W.Va., 1909], p. 12). Born in Berkeley County, Va., Crawford moved to Pennsylvania in 1768 after serving as an officer in the French and Indian War and in the campaign against Pontiac. Crawford’s activities as a surveyor of western lands brought him into close association with Washington. His military career on the frontier during the Revolution ended tragically in 1782 when the Wyandottes captured him in the Ohio country and tortured him to death at Sandusky.

4Early in August 1774, a detachment led by Major Angus McDonald (1733–1779) burned five Shawnee villages, near the present town of Dresden on the Muskingum River in Ohio (Reuben G. Thwaites and Louise P. Kellogg, eds., Documentary History of Dunmore’s War, pp. 151–56). McDonald, whose home was near Winchester in Frederick County, had fought in the French and Indian War. By his surveying activities in 1774 on behalf of Washington and other veterans of that conflict, he had helped to precipitate Dunmore’s War. Loyalist in his sympathies, McDonald declined Washington’s offer of a lieutenant colonel’s commission in April 1777 (Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington description begins John C. Fitzpatrick, ed., The Writings of George Washington, from the Original Sources, 1745–1799 (39 vols.; Washington, D.C., 1931–44). description ends , III, 211 n.; VII, 297 n.; XXXVII, 505–6).

5John Tazewell (ca. 1741–1781), a Williamsburg lawyer, served as clerk of the Virginia conventions of 1775 and 1776, and of the House of Delegates from 1776 to 30 October 1777. In May 1778 he became an associate justice of the General Court of Virginia.

6James Wood (1750–1813) of Frederick County had commanded a company in Dunmore’s War, and served as a colonel of the Virginia continental troops from 12 November 1776 to 1 January 1783. His long political career included service in the House of Burgesses, the Convention of 1776, the legislature for twelve years, and the Privy Council for twenty years, as lieutenant governor, and as governor of Virginia from 1796 to 1799. He was president of the Society of the Cincinnati in Virginia from 1784 until his death (Proceedings of the Convention, December 1775, pp. 75, 77, 86; Journal of the House of Delegates, 1776, p. 52; Lyon G. Tyler, ed., Encyclopedia of Virginia Biography, II, 46).

7From this date to the end, the paper is in Pendleton’s hand rather than Tazewell’s.

8John Pendleton, Jr. (ca. 1749–ca. 1807), of Richmond and Henrico County, was a nephew of Edmund Pendleton. He was clerk of the Virginia Committee of Safety in 1775–1776 and clerk of the state Senate in the session of May–June 1777. Following a term on the Richmond Common Council, 1783–1784, he retired to his Henrico County farm (Proceedings of the Convention, December 1775, p. 102; Journal of the House of Delegates description begins Journal of the House of Delegates of the Commonwealth of Virginia; Begun and Held At the Capitol, in the City of Williamsburg. Beginning in 1780, the portion after the semicolon reads, Begun and Held in the Town of Richmond. In the County of Henrico. The Journal for each session has its own title page and is individually paginated. The edition used, unless otherwise noted, is the one in which the journals for 1777–1781 are brought together in one volume, with each journal published in Richmond in 1827 or 1828, and often called the “Thomas W. White reprint.” description ends , May 1777, p. 109).

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