From David Jameson
RC (LC: Rives Collection of Madison Papers). Docketed by JM, “Jany 26. 1782.”
Richmond Jan 26. 1782
I am sorry to inform you we have had no Mail this week from the North of Potowmack In my last I mentd. Gen Greenes requisition and I believe told you the Executive have no power to send Militia out of the State nor have they power to raise supplies of any sort. I expected they would call the Assembly but that is not determined on1 Cap Ragsdale went to Count Rochambeau who has consented to send the Legion of Lauzun (about 600 Horse & foot) to Peytonsburg, there to wait Gen. Washingtons orders whether they shall proceed to So. Carolina or not2—they are to leave Wmsbg. early in next Week. Febigers Batallion is still in this state also Col Armands Legion— I am very sorry they are not in motion. the Officers of the former it is said will not march without money, the latter waits for their clothes to be made up3
I send you one of the Acts of last Session on Acct of the scale of depreciation, wch. if I may give an opinion is not an equitable one.4 I send you Nicholson & Prentis’s paper— they ask the favour of you to give them now & then pieces of intelligence in exchange for this paper wch. I will convey to them while I am in this place. if you wish to have Hayes’s paper sent to yourself let me know it.5 Did I tell you that there is an act to collect 2 lb Bacon & half a bush. Wheat p[er] tithable but they may be commuted for at 6d. the pound & 3/ the bushel Speice— this act is not yet printed. I sent you the Revenue act last post6
adieu Yr obt Ser
1. Jameson’s earlier letter, probably written on 19 January, has not been found. Two days later Governor Harrison answered Nathanael Greene’s dispatch of 27 December 1781 before forwarding it to Congress (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, 132–33). Declaring that unless he was speedily reinforced he would have to withdraw from South Carolina and Georgia, Greene asked Virginia for at least two thousand well-equipped militia, as many fat cattle, and as much salt and rum as possible. Even if the considerable force of Tory troops were left out of the reckoning and even if the contingent of Pennsylvania continentals, marching to join him, were taken into account, Greene estimated that the enemy would soon outnumber his soldiers three to one. He had been told that the British, holding Charleston and other posts southward to Savannah, were expecting momentarily an increase in strength of over 100 per cent by the arrival of four thousand reinforcements from Ireland and New York City (NA: PCC, No. 172, I, 327–32; George Washington Greene, The Life of Nathanael Greene [3 vols.; New York, 1871], III, 423–25; Acomb, Journal of Closen description begins Evelyn M. Acomb, trans. and ed., The Revolutionary Journal of Baron Ludwig von Closen, 1780–1783 (Chapel Hill, N.C., 1958). description ends , p. 174). Although Harrison at once tried to start salt and rum on their way to the southern army, he replied to Greene that he could do no more, because the executive no longer had the authority to impress supplies or to order militia to serve outside the state; and that Virginia lacked sufficient funds to fill its continental troop quota. “We are at this Time,” he lamented, “the poorest and the most impotent Executive perhaps in the world. The credit of the State is lost and we have not a Shilling in the Treasury.” “I think,” Harrison continued, “of immediately calling the Assembly, laying before them your Letters and pressing for their exertions. These I am sure you might expect, but our situation is such that their best Endeavours will be but feeble Efforts” (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, 132; Journals of the Council of State description begins H. R. McIlwaine et al., eds., Journals of the Council of the State of Virginia (3 vols. to date; Richmond, 1931——). description ends , III, 32).
Not long after writing in this vein, Harrison probably heard that the reinforcement of the enemy in the South was far less than Greene had feared. Although in February the governor urged every county lieutenant and sheriff to collect taxes before their due date in order to enable recruiting agents to enlist soldiers (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, 154–57), he did not summon the General Assembly to meet in special session. He included in his message to the legislature, when it convened early in May, a reference to Greene’s letter of 27 December 1781 and added that if the British reinforcements expected by Greene had arrived, the executive “could only have remained the dejected Spectators of that great man’s fall & the total ruin of a Sister State.” Would “it not be better on such great occasions,” Harrison inquired, “to put a little confidence in the Executive? who are amenable to the Legislature and may be easily called to a severe account for the misapplication of power” (ibid., III, 213). Although the General Assembly provided by law on 2 July 1782 for “recruiting this state’s quota of troops in the continental service,” the members apparently believed that the military crisis had ended, for they conferred no emergency powers upon the executive (Minute Book, House of Delegates, May 1782 description begins Minute Book, House of Delegates, May 1782, MS in Virginia State Library. description ends , p. 86; 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 , XI, 14–20).
2. Drury Ragsdale, Jr., of King William County, Va., was captain of a continental regiment of artillery with Greene’s army. The troops of the Comte de Rochambeau were still encamped near Yorktown. Having been selected by Rochambeau to carry the news of Cornwallis’ surrender to the court of Versailles, the Duc de Lauzun had embarked on the frigate “Surveillante” in November and did not arrive back in the United States until September 1782 (François Barrière, ed., Mémoires du Duc de Lauzun, Bibliothèque des mémoires, relatifs à l’histoire de France, pendant le 18e siècle, XXV [Paris, 1882], 203–4). To be more readily available in the event that Greene needed help, Lauzun’s legion moved its winter quarters from the Virginia Tidewater to Peytonsburg in Pittsylvania County, about twenty miles above the North Carolina border (Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington description begins John C. Fitzpatrick, ed., The Writings of George Washington, from the Original Sources, 1745–1799 (39 vols.; Washington, 1931–44). description ends , XXIII, 493–94; XXIV, 1, 152, 157).
3. The recruits of the continental line, assembled at or near Cumberland Old Court House (a town no longer extant, in western Powhatan County) by Colonel Christian Febiger, continental chief recruiting officer, suffered from a lack of provisions, pay, and adequate clothing. He was obliged to help quell a small mutiny on 14 February before the four hundred troops under Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Posey would consent to begin their long march to the southern army. As late as May, Febiger was still engaged in the difficult business of bringing recruits to the same place of rendezvous and starting them on their way to General Greene (ibid., XXIV, 2, 35, 61; 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, 134–35, 149; 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, 67, 73–74, 93–95, 127, 154). See also Harrison to Virginia Delegates, 1 March 1782.
For Governor Harrison’s troubled relations with Colonel Armand, see Harrison to Virginia Delegates, 11 January 1782, n. 5. In August 1782 Washington ordered Armand to move his legion from Virginia to reinforce Greene in South Carolina (Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington description begins John C. Fitzpatrick, ed., The Writings of George Washington, from the Original Sources, 1745–1799 (39 vols.; Washington, 1931–44). description ends , XXIV, 469–70).
4. “An act directing the mode of adjusting and settling the payment of certain debts and contracts, and for other purposes,” passed on 5 January 1782 (Journal of the House of Delegates 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 1777–1786 are brought together in two volumes, with each journal published in Richmond in 1827 or 1828, and often called the “Thomas W. White reprint.” description ends , October 1781, p. 74; 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, 471–74). This statute defined a “scale of depreciation,” in terms of silver and gold, for the settlement of all debts or contracts incurred or entered into between 1 January 1777 and 1 January 1782, and for the discharge of which the debtor had not pledged to pay with specie, tobacco, or “other specific property.” Although Jameson does not make his position clear, he may have believed that the depreciation scale was inequitable to creditors. The act also included a stay-law provision whereby, except for sums owed to the Commonwealth, creditors were barred until 1 December 1783 from instituting suits for the recovery of debts.
5. Insofar as the editors know, JM did not comply with the request of Nicolson and Prentis. Both the Virginia Gazette, and Weekly Advertiser (Nicolson and Prentis) and the Virginia Gazette, or, the American Advertiser (James Hayes, Jr.) were published in Richmond. Thomas Nicolson and William Prentis (ca. 1740–ca. 1824) also printed for the Commonwealth until 1785, when their partnership was dissolved. Quitting Richmond, Prentis in 1786 established (with Miles Hunter, who died in 1788) the pioneer Virginia Gazette, and Petersburg Intelligencer, which, shortened in title to The Petersburg Intelligencer in 1800, he continued to publish until his retirement four years later. He had also published (in partnership with Daniel Baxter) the Norfolk and Portsmouth Chronicle between 1789 and 1792. Prentis was mayor of Petersburg for several terms between 1793 and 1806 (Petersburg City Records, Hustings Court Deed Book, No. 7, p. 199; Petersburg Personal Property Tax Book, 1823, microfilm and MS, respectively, both in the Virginia State Library; Clarence S. Brigham, History and Bibliography of American Newspapers, 1690–1820 [2 vols.; Worcester, Mass., 1947], II, 1123–24, 1131, 1134; Edward A. Wyatt IV, ed., “Preliminary Checklist for Petersburg, 1786–1876; Virginia Imprints Number 9” [mimeographed, Richmond, 1949], pp. 209, 211).