Virginia Delegates to Thomas Nelson
RC (Virginia State Library). Written by Joseph Jones. Docketed, “Virga Delegates Letter Dated Nov 20th 1781 recd. Nov. 29th. 81.”
Phila. 20th. Novr. 1781
Our Letter of the 17th. by Capt. Irish contains those communications, which would otherwise have been the subject of this weeks correspondence.1
We have now to acknowledge the receipt of Mr. Andrews’s Letter of the 9th. conveying to us the disagreeable information of your Excellencies indisposition from which however he gives us reason to hope you will be soon recovered and able to repair to Richmond. The requests contained in his Letter respecting the Guard and provisions furnished by the State for the security and support of the British prisoners at Winchester shall be attended to and answered as soon as it is in our power.2 We are informed the British fleet have all returned to the Hook, the Troops landed on Staten Island and that sixteen of the Ships of War are to repair to the W. Indies the others to continue at N. York3
We are respectfully Sr. yr. most obed servts.
Js Madison Jun.
2. The Reverend Robert Andrews (ca. 1747–1804) wrote the missing letter as secretary of Governor Nelson. Born in Pennsylvania, Andrews had come to Virginia in 1770, or earlier, after graduating from the College of Philadelphia. Following “several years” as a tutor of the children of John Page of Rosewell, Andrews went to England in 1772 to be ordained a minister of the established church—a denomination he devotedly served thereafter, first as clergyman and later (ca. 1788 ff.) as layman. At the outbreak of the Revolution he was a member of the Williamsburg Committee of Safety and soon became, successively, chaplain of the 2d Virginia Regiment, continental line, and the state regiment of artillery. In 1779, at the time of his appointment as professor of “Moral philosophy, the laws of nature and of nations, and of the fine arts” at the College of William and Mary and probably as rector of York-Hampton parish, he accepted membership with the Reverend James Madison on the Virginia-Pennsylvania commission which worked intermittently until 1785 before establishing the southwestern and western boundary between those states. His skill in applied science and his interest in public affairs were further demonstrated by his transfer in 1784 to the chair of mathematics at the college, his prominence in determining a feasible route for the Dismal Swamp Canal, his presidency (1802) of the canal company, and his participation in the Virginia Federal Constitutional Convention (1788) as a representative of James City County and in the General Assembly (1790–1799) as a delegate from the city of Williamsburg (Gwathmey, Historical Register of Virginians description begins John H. Gwathmey, Historical Register of Virginians in the Revolution: Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, 1775–1783 (Richmond, 1938). description ends , p. 17; 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, 69 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 , III, 614; IX, 330; 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, 519–37; XI, 554–56; 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, 421, 515, 588; 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 , May 1779, p. 64; Swem and Williams, Register description begins Earl G. Swem and John W. Williams, eds., A Register of the General Assembly of Virginia, 1776–1918, and of the Constitutional Conventions (Richmond, 1918). description ends , pp. 34–51, passim, 244; Frances Norton Mason, ed., John Norton & Sons: Merchants of London and Virginia … [Richmond, 1937], p. 271; George Maclaren Brydon, Virginia’s Mother Church and the Political Conditions under Which It Grew [2 vols.; Richmond, Philadelphia, 1947–52], II, 476, 612; Virginia Historical Register, III , 23; VI , 218; William and Mary Quarterly, 1st ser., IV [1895–96], 240 n.; 2d ser., II , 46; Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, XXIX , 140 n.; XLI , 306).
On 1 November 1781 the Virginia Council of State, with only two members in attendance, discussed “the safe keeping [of] the British Prisoners at Winchester” by a guard of militia drawn from four western counties. The council’s lack of confidence in the security which ill-trained militia could provide against the escape of these captives was the greater because the number of prisoners had vastly increased, both at Winchester and Fredericksburg, as a result of Cornwallis’ surrender (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, 397–401, 403; III, 10; 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, 88, 95). In the missing letter, Andrews had probably conveyed a request from Nelson that Congress assume the responsibility and cost of guarding, housing, and feeding the prisoners (Harrison to Virginia Delegates, 1 December 1781).