James Madison Papers

Virginia Delegates to Thomas Jefferson, 20 March 1781

Virginia Delegates to Thomas Jefferson

RC (Historical Society of Pennsylvania). Written by Bland and signed by JM and Bland. Addressed to “His Excellency Thomas Jefferson Esqr. Governor of Virginia” and franked by JM. Docketed, “Colo Blands Lr. March 81.”

Philadelphia March 20th 1781


Since our last1 nothing new has happened except the sailing of the French fleet Consisting of (as near as we can obtain intelligence) the Ships and Guns as p[er] list inclosed together with about twelve Hundred of their Chosen troops which we f[l]atter our selves are by this time actively and successfully employd in our Bay; And the departure of the M de la Fayette with about the same Number of Men (and a fine train of Artillery) who we hope is by this time acting in Conjunction with them, against Arnold[.]2 we must add to the above intelligence that a report is Current here and generally believed that the British have taken St. Eustatia and Curassau, with all the3 Dutch and american Vessels in their Harbors, together with a Dutch Line of Battle Ship[.] the Admiral who Commanded her said to be Slain4 and tis further added that they have saild up the Texel and Taken a great number of the Du[t]ch trading Vessels. this news comes by a Prize5 brought in here yesterday from Antigua—who has also brought a declaration of Reprisals6 against Holland by England whi[ch] we expect will be publishd in the paper of this day.7

we are Sr. Yr. Excellys Most obedt. sert.

James Madison Junr

Theok. Bland

PS. Mr. Hays set off a few days ago with his printing implements.8 We sent by him 50 Copies of the last French Memorial to be distributed as your Excellency thinks best.9 He has also a number of Skins of parchment for the Assembly.10

1The most recent letter which has been found is that of 6 March (q.v.). The delegates may have written also on the following Tuesday—13 March.

3Bland crossed out “french” before “Dutch.”

4Pendleton to JM, 19 March 1781, n. 11. The reports of the capture of the Dutch island of Curaçao, close to the Venezuelan coast in the Caribbean Sea, and of British depredations in the Texel, the channel between the mainland of Holland and Texel, a West Frisian island, were false. During the operations of the fleet of Admiral Rodney at or near St. Eustatius early in February, he captured 6 warships, about 150 merchant ships, and goods of great value on the docks and in the warehouses. The Dutch line-of-battle ship “Mars,” mounting sixty guns, was commanded by Rear Admiral Willem Crul until he was killed during an engagement with three vessels of Rodney’s fleet (Wm. L. Clowes, Royal Navy, III, 480; IV, 61–62; Pennsylvania Packet, 14 April 1781).

5The “Prize” from Antigua was the brig “Amelia,” captured by the Baltimore privateers “Felicity” and “Antelope.”

6Bland interlineated “Reprisals” above a deleted “War.”

7Pennsylvania Packet, 20 March 1781.

8Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (2 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , II, 69, 70 n., 314, 317 n. Although James Hayes, Jr., in April 1781 became a public printer for the Commonwealth and was able intermittently to continue this service thereafter, shortage of paper and other adverse circumstances delayed the appearance of the first issue of his Virginia Gazette until 22 December 1781 (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 , V, 519 n.; Calendar of Virginia State Papers description begins William P. Palmer et al., eds., Calendar of Virginia State Papers and Other Manuscripts (11 vols.; Richmond, 1875–93). description ends , II, 664; Clarence S. Brigham, History and Bibliography of American Newspapers, 1690–1820 [2 vols.; Worcester, Mass., 1947], II, 1150).

9The “French memorial” may have been a copy of La Luzerne’s letter to Congress of 26 February 1781, telling of the arrival of Captain Tilly’s squadron in Chesapeake Bay. This letter (NA: PCC, No. 95, I, 180–81) was endorsed, “A memorial from the honble the minister plenipotentiary of France Read 26 Feby 1781.” It and La Luzerne’s letter of 2 March reporting Tilly’s departure from Virginia are printed in Wharton, Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence description begins Francis Wharton, ed., The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States (6 vols.; Washington, 1889). description ends , IV, 267, 271.

10A bill was engrossed on parchment, signed by the speaker of each house of the General Assembly, and inserted into a metal tube for safekeeping (John W. Williams, comp., Index to Enrolled Bills of the General Assembly of Virginia, 1776 to 1910 [Richmond, 1911], p. 3).

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