James Madison Papers

Thomas Jefferson to Virginia Delegates in Congress, 26 January 1781

Thomas Jefferson
to Virginia Delegates in Congress

FC (Virginia State Library).

Richmond January 26th 1781.


I shall now beg leave to answer your Letter of the first inst. which inclosed a Paper from Baron de Arendt.1 Mr. William Lee was some Time ago invested with a special Agency from this State, having received however no instructions from him of his having engaged any other Person to transact any Part of it, we are uninformed as to his Stipulations with the Baron de Arendt. If he has left the particular one for twenty five Louis unfulfilled we think ourselves bound to discharge which we will do in such Sum of paper money as may purchase that quantity of hard money in Philadelphia for there being no hard money here there is no fixed exchange. If you will therefore settle this Sum with him we will make the Remittance either in money or by answering a Bill or otherwise as shall be most practicable. After a variety of Trials to effect the cloathing of our Troops and procuring of military Stores and failing in them all a particular Institution has been adopted here for those Purposes.2 into this Channel all our means must be turned to enable it to be effectual. Our Situation is too well known to suppose we have any Thing to spare. It is therefore not in our Power to enter into the Commerce with Prussia proposed by the Baron de Arendt however desirous we are of opening a Communication with that respectable State and willing under every other Circumstance to effect it by great Sacrifices were Sacrifices necessary. Should the Subject of Prussia chuse to adventure on Private Trade with our Citizens every Facility and encouragement in our Power will be certainly afforded. As the Speaker Harrison sets out within three or four Days for Philadelphia and can so much more fully explain to you by words the Steps taken for supporting our Opposition to the common enemy.3 I shall decline answering that Paragraph of your Letter and beg leave to refer you to him.4

(Signed)    Th Jefferson

P S   We have no Letters of Marque left[.] be so good as to send us some by the first Opportunity.5

1See Virginia Delegates to Jefferson, 1 January 1781, n. 4. For about two months before the date of this letter, the Prussian baron had been in Philadelphia—and he remained there until February 1782—seeking from Congress the money which he insisted was due him for his services as a colonel (NA: PCC, No. 78, VII, 331–62, 407, 410, 435–52).

2Jefferson here refers particularly to the act of the October 1780 session of the General Assembly for “supplying the army with clothes, provisions, and waggons” (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 , X, 338–43, 376–78). This measure directed each county and municipal “corporation” to supply a specified number of “suits of clothes,” consisting of “two shirts of linen or cotton, one pair of overalls, two pair of stockings, one pair of shoes, one wool, furr, or felt hat, or leather cap.” Jefferson charged Colonel William Davies of the 1st Virginia Continental Regiment with the enforcement of this measure, including the assembling of cloth, of old shoes to be repaired, and of leather for making new ones (Boyd, Papers of Jefferson description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson (16 vols. to date; Princeton, N.J., 1950——). description ends , IV, 414–15, 445–47, 453).

3If this period in the manuscript is changed to a comma, the meaning will be clarified.

4Benjamin Harrison, bearing this letter to the Virginia delegates, reached Philadelphia on 11 February (Pendleton to JM, 1 January 1781, n. 5; Boyd, Papers of Jefferson description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson (16 vols. to date; Princeton, N.J., 1950——). description ends , IV, 589; Virginia Delegates to Jefferson, first letter of 13 February 1781).

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