James Madison Papers

Motion on Instructions to George Washington, [1 January] 1781

Motion on Instructions to George Washington

Printed text (Journals of the Continental Congress, XIX, 2).

[1 January 1781]

That so much of the letter from Mr. Adams1 as relates to the probable operations of the enemy against the southern states be transmitted to the Commander in Chief;2 and that he be informed that it is the desire of Congress that he should immediately make such a distribution of the forces under his command, including those of our allies under the Count de Rochambeau as will most effectually counteract the views of the enemy and support the southern states.

1Although John Adams had warned Congress in a letter of 23 August 1780 that the British were planning an all-out campaign against Virginia and North Carolina in 1780–1781, he felt certain that the continued support of France and Spain could be relied upon (Wharton, Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence description begins Francis Wharton, ed., The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States (6 vols.; Washington, D.C., 1889). description ends , IV, 41). On 1 January the report on this letter by a committee was discussed and recommitted. During the debate, JM presented this motion, which was seconded by Thomas Bee.

2On the motion of William Sharpe, the remainder of the resolution was struck out. Only Virginia, South Carolina, and Georgia voted to retain this portion. On the motion of Thomas Burke (N.C.), it was replaced by the words “And that he be desired to give his opinion to Congress on the expediency of ordering the forces of his Most Christian Majesty, now at Newport in Rhode Island, to take post in Virginia” (Journals of the Continental Congress, XIX, 2–3).

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