James Madison Papers

To James Madison from David Jameson, 7 April 1781

From David Jameson

RC (LC: Rives Collection of Madison Papers). Endorsed, “Apl. 7. 1781,” by JM.

Richmond   April Ap 7 1781

Dr. Sir

In one of my former letters I acquainted you with some of the abuses committed by some of the Officers Gen Greene sent out to impress Horses for the Cavalry when he was obliged to retreat to Virga.1 they seized some of the most valuable stud horses they could meet with, one of which was valued at £750 Specie,2 others as high as 3 & 400. some were valued in Tobacco and some in paper Money at rates nearly equal to those in Spec[i]e. The Assembly taking the matter under consideration passed a resolution early in March directing that all the Horses valued at more than £50 Specie or £5000 paper should be returned, and determined that no Horse should be purchased at a price exceeding £50 Specie or £5000 paper.3 Notwithstandg. this, some of those officers have gone through the Country and after they were informed of those resolutions of the Assembly have dared to seize & carry off Horses of high value and even to break open Stables.

The very frequent calls of Militia to reinforce Gen Greene and for reliefs to those embodied for the defence of our lower Country is very distressing to our people. they are drafted to fill up our quota of Continental troops and are called on for two or three times that number as Militia. they have their provisions taken from them to feed all these diff. armies for which they have nothing but certificates. they have taxes to pay to sink 30 or 40 millions of paper money and at least 10 millions more in certificates for Provisions, Horses &c And, I fear there is little hope of relief. we have the burthen of four States on us, at least so far as respects money and necessaries to subsist the prin[c]ipal army, without aid from our Northern brethren. this was not the case when the Enemy bent their force against Massachusetts or N York. every State in the Union contributed at that time, and this, very largely.4 The Sum voted by the last Assembly is not yet exausted because it could not be made fast enough for the demands, indeed they now wait for Paper. If Paper can be got we shall have issued the 15 Millions by the time the next Assembly can vote more5

By what means we are to obtain Arms Ammunition & clothing for our troops I really do not know[.] our paper money will not pass beyond the limits of our State and we have very little Specie in the Country. the little there is Now sells as I am told as high as 150 for one. Tobacco does not exceed £80 P Ct. while our Bay was open Tobo. & Specie were nearly equal in value. we had then some chance of procuring necessaries6

With my last I sent you the Acts of the October Session. I [hop]ed by this time to send you the journals, but our printers are slow. Mr Hay is now fixing up his Press and I hope we shall be better served.7

Mr. Jefferson will certainly resign next Month which I am truly sorry for. I am quite at a loss to say who I think will succeed him8 The Enemy have provided themselves with large flat bottom’d Boats that will carry 100 Men[.] as they have made some movements, the people are much alarmed on this River. It is supposed Petersburg will if they come up the River be their object, but every part is accessible to them.9 It is generally supposed they mean to join Cornwallis. whether they will attempt it by way of the great bridge or run up Jas. River and land at some convenient place seems to be the doubt10 Yesterday a report was circulated in Town that Gen Green had had an engagemt. with Cornwallis, but we have no official accot. of it & therefore I disbelieve the report[.]11 with esteem I am Dr Sir Yr Obedt Sert

David Jameson

1Letter not found. See Jameson to JM, 3 March 1781, n. 7.

2This was Romulus, the property of David Deardon (Dearden, Deardin) of Mecklenburg County, impressed by Lieutenant Epaphroditus Rudder of the 1st Continental Dragoons and subsequently returned to his owner by command of General Greene (McIlwaine, Official Letters description begins H. R. McIlwaine, ed., Official Letters of the Governors of the State of Virginia (3 vols.; Richmond, 1926–29). description ends , III, 413; Journals of the Council of State description begins H. R. McIlwaine et al., eds., Journals of the Council of the State of Virginia (Richmond, 1931——). description ends , III, 157, 192 and n., 193; Heitman, Historical Register Continental description begins F. B. Heitman, Historical Register of Officers of the Continental Army during the War of the Revolution (Washington, 1893). description ends , p. 476).

3Boyd, 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, 155, 356, 360; VI, 37. On 7 and 15 March the Virginia General Assembly resolved that “all officers and Others impowered to collect Horses be restrained from impressing Stallions, breeding Mares, or Geldings above the value of fifty pounds in Specie” (Journal of the House of Delegates, March 1781 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 , pp. 13, 30; Journals of the Council of State description begins H. R. McIlwaine et al., eds., Journals of the Council of the State of Virginia (Richmond, 1931——). description ends , II, 321).

4Jameson’s comment to this point suggests the abortive “A Representation of the General Assembly of Virginia,” mentioned in n. 12 of Pendleton to JM, 26 March 1781.

6See Jefferson to Virginia Delegates, 6 April 1781, nn. 6 and 8. Although the control of Chesapeake Bay by British warships prevented Virginians from marketing their tobacco and thereby lowered its value, the selling price of this staple crop, even before the enemy’s blockade of the Bay became effective, had not increased as rapidly as the specie value of Virginia currency had declined in 1780. The average legal price of tobacco in 1780 was £60 a hundredweight in Virginia currency, or only 17 shillings in specie. Jameson’s quotation of £80 seems higher but at “150 for one” would be scarcely more than 10 shillings in specie (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, 572–73; IV, 88).

7See Virginia Delegates to Jefferson, 20 March 1781, n. 8. The public printers at this time were John Dixon and Thomas Nicolson. Though Jameson thought them slow in the performance of their functions, the Assembly by the close of 1781 had not paid them for their services during the present session (Journal of the House of Delegates description begins Journal of the House of Delegates of Virginia, March 1781 Session in Bulletin of the Virginia State Library, XVII, No. 1 (January 1928). description ends , October 1781, p. 60).

10Great Bridge, the site of several minor battles during the Revolution, was in Norfolk County about fifteen miles south of the city of Norfolk. Contrary to Jameson’s supposition, the union of the two British forces was not effected by the troops under General Phillips marching south from their Petersburg or Portsmouth bases to join Cornwallis’ army near Wilmington, N.C., but by Cornwallis coming north and reaching Petersburg on 20 May, just a week after Phillips’ death. As mentioned in Pendleton to JM, 26 March 1781, n. 8, Cornwallis had advised General Clinton, in a letter of 10 April, to transfer the principal theater of the war in the South from the Carolinas to Virginia. See also Benjamin F. Stevens, ed., Campaign in Virginia, I, 418, 476.

11The rumor had no basis in fact. See Greene to JM, 1 April 1781, n. 1.

Index Entries