James Madison Papers

Thomas Jefferson to Virginia Delegates in Congress, 22 February 1781

Thomas Jefferson
to Virginia Delegates in Congress

RC (NA: PCC, No. 71, II, 45–46). Docketed, “Feby 22 1781 Letter from Govr. Jefferson of Virginia—Read 26th.” FC is in Virginia State Library: Executive Letter Book.

In Council Feby 22d. 1781


The object of the inclosed Memorial of Messrs. Stodder, Kerr & North being attainable by Congress only and proper to be the Subject of a representation from them I take the Liberty of transmitting it to you that Justice may be done to the parties interested.1

I have the honor to be with great respect—Gentlemen your mo. ob. Hble Servant.

Th: Jefferson

P.S. We are and have long been without Letters of Marque2

1David Stodder, George Kerr, and William North and Company, apparently a partnership of blockade-runners, sent an undated memorial to Jefferson and the Virginia Council of State, complaining that their ship, the “Renown,” had been captured in August 1780 by the British while in the neutral Dutch port of St. Martin where, in accordance with the “law of nations,” the governor had guaranteed to protect the vessel (Jameson to JM, 30 August 1780). A part of its cargo consisted of ninety hogsheads of tobacco. The petitioners requested Jefferson to forward their plea to Congress if Virginia was unable to recover damages for them from the government of the Netherlands. On 26 March Congress agreed to JM’s motion by directing that the memorial be sent to John Adams at Amsterdam with instructions to seek redress from the States General (Journals of the Continental Congress, XIX, 312). The memorial with accompanying protests and affidavits is in NA: PCC, No. 41, IX, 133–51. David Stodder (d. 1781) was a shipbuilder and shipowner of Gosport, Va. From 1777 to 1779, a David Stodder of that port was employed by the continental agent as “Master Builder” of the two thirty-six-gun frigates being constructed at Gosport in Norfolk County (H. R. McIlwaine, ed., Official Letters of Virginia Governors, I, 95, 102, 256; II, 9; NA: PCC, Marine Committee Letter Book, 1776–1780, fols. 182, 202, 205; NA: PCC, No. 136, II, 215, 531; Journals of the Continental Congress, X, 326, 338). George Kerr (ca. 1745–1784) was a Sussex County merchant (Sussex County Court Records, Will Book D, p. 257, microfilm in Virginia State Library). William North (ca. 1750–1822) was a merchant from Norfolk County (Norfolk County Court Records, Audit Book, No. 5, p. 177, microfilm in Virginia State Library).

2Twenty-four letters of marque, in fulfillment of the request of Jefferson to the Virginia delegates on 26 January (q.v.), had been dispatched to him by Charles Thomson, secretary of Congress, on 19 February 1781 (Calendar of Virginia State Papers, I, 526).

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