George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Edmund Randolph, 11 October 1776

From Edmund Randolph

Wmsburg [Va.] Octr 11. 1776.

Dear Sir

I congratulate your Excellency, as a Friend to the Reputation of Virginia, and the Interests of the Continent, that Colo. Harrison is again restored to the Councils of America. During his Absence at the Northward, he had been appointed one of our privy Council, but refused to qualify, as such. This afforded him an Opportunity, to vindicate himself from those malicious Insinuations, which first brought about his Disgrace. For he informed the Assembly, that his Honour, which had been so deeply wounded on a former Occasion, forbid him to accept any Office whatever, until the Stigma, impliedly fixed upon his Character by recalling him Home, was wiped away. His Defence, if that could be called a Defence, the Object of which was to efface unworthy Impressions, made by Accusers, who whispered Poison, and dar’d not shew themselves in open Day—was spirited without any Degree of Bravadoing, and satisfactory even to those, who were prejudiced against him. With this happy Revolution in their Opinion of an honest, and able Statesman, the Senate and House of Delegates, in the whole amounting to seventy four Members, have sent him back to Congress, in the Room of Mr Jefferson, who has resigned, with a Ballot of 69 to 5. These five are supposed to be the Remains of a certain Party, not unknown to your Excellency. Nor was this all. they farther thanked him for his past Services Nem: Con: In short, his late Disappointment has served to raise his Credit to a higher Pitch.1

Our Soldiery are in a Situation, truly distressing to themselves, and the Country. To themselves, as they are now labouring under severe Autumnal Disorders, many of which prove Mortal, and to the Country, as we are apprehensive, that the upland People, on whom we chiefly depend for the Recruits, should be disgusted with the Service in the lower Parts which engender such Maladies. From what Cause the present general Sickness proceeds, I know not: but Wmsburg, which has hitherto been proverbial for general Health, is now notorious for the Contrary. The Assembly talk out of Doors upon the Subject of new Levies: but for God’s Sake from whence are they to be obtained? I hear, that our second Regiment, whose Term of Inlistment expired in September last, has little Prospect of Renewal: An ungenerous Neglect prevails in the upper Counties concerning the Defence of the lower. To be ingenuous, I am afraid, we can get neither Clothing or Arms for any more Troops. I am Dr Sir yr Excellency’s much oblig’d affte Servt

Edm: Randolph

ALS, DLC:GW.

1Benjamin Harrison was not reelected a delegate to the Continental Congress by the Virginia convention on 20 June 1776, in part at least because it was rumored that he had influenced Congress to appoint his son-in-law, Dr. William Rickman, as physician and director general of the Continental hospital at Williamsburg instead of the Virginia committee of safety’s choice, Dr. James McClurg (see Scribner and Tarter, Revolutionary Virginia description begins William J. Van Schreeven et al., eds. Revolutionary Virginia: The Road to Independence. A Documentary Record. 7 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1973–83. description ends , 7:557–58, and William Fleming to Thomas Jefferson, 27 July, in Boyd, Jefferson Papers description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 40 vols. to date. Princeton, N.J., 1950–. description ends , 1:474–76). Harrison’s omission from the delegation may have been engineered, as Randolph and some other contemporaries believed, by a hostile political faction (see Randolph to Jefferson, 23 June 1776, ibid., 407–8; and Edmund Pendleton to Jefferson, 22 July 1776, ibid., 471–72; and Benjamin Harrison, Jr., to Willing, Morris, & Co., 29 June 1776, cited in Scribner and Tarter, Revolutionary Virginia description begins William J. Van Schreeven et al., eds. Revolutionary Virginia: The Road to Independence. A Documentary Record. 7 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1973–83. description ends , 7:560–61, n.9). Prominent among Harrison’s political enemies at this time was Richard Henry Lee, with whom Harrison had disagreed on western land policy and the pace of the movement toward independence (see source note in Boyd, Jefferson Papers description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 40 vols. to date. Princeton, N.J., 1950–. description ends , 2:16–18).

Harrison was appointed to the Virginia council by the convention on 29 June 1776 (see Scribner and Tarter, Revolutionary Virginia description begins William J. Van Schreeven et al., eds. Revolutionary Virginia: The Road to Independence. A Documentary Record. 7 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1973–83. description ends , 7:655). The general assembly elected him a delegate to Congress on 10 Oct., and the house of delegates then “resolved unanimously, that the thanks of this House are justly due to the said Benjamin Harrison, for the diligence, ability, and integrity, with which he executed the important trust reposed in him as one of the delegates for this country in the General Congress. The Speaker accordingly delivered the thanks of the House to the said Benjamin Harrison in his place, who expressed the great pleasure he received for this distinguished testimony of his country’s approbation of his services” (Va. House of Delegates Journal description begins Journal of the House of Delegates of Virginia. Anno Domini, 1776. Williamsburg, Va., [1776]. description ends , Oct.–Dec. 1776 sess., 7–8; see also Va. Senate Journal description begins Journal of the Senate. Williamsburg, Va., 1776. (Microfilm Collection of Early State Records.) description ends , Oct.–Dec. 1776 sess., 4–5). The Latin phrase nemine contradicente means that the action was taken without dissent.

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