George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Thomas Jefferson, 2 August 1780

From Thomas Jefferson

Richmond Aug. 2. 1780.


In obedience to the act of our assembly, a copy of which I now do myself the honor of inclosing you, I am, in the name of the General assembly, “to request you to proclaim pardon to all deserters from the Virginia line of the continental army, who shall within two months after the publication of the act” (which took place about a week ago) “return to their several companies, if on land, & if at sea, within two months after their return, and serve during the war, if so engaged, & if otherwise, shall serve two years over and above the time for which he or they engaged.”1 the capture of the Virginia line took place during the session of the assembly, & probably was not known when this act passed.2 this will account to your Excellency for the requisition to deserters to join their companies; and will no doubt point out to you the necessity of changing it in that part. Your Excellency having had experience of the efficacy of Proclamations can better judge what expectations may be formed from the one now asked: from that part of the act which makes it the duty of the militia captains to seek for deserters I do hope that very good effects will proceed.3 I have the honor to be with every possible sentiment of esteem & respect Your Excellency’s Most obedient & most humble servt

Th: Jefferson

ALS, DLC:GW; LB, UkLoBM: Add. MSS 38650.

1The undated printed enclosure, “ACT the more effectually to prevent and punish DESERTION,” passed by the Virginia legislature in its session that began in May, in addition to calling for the proclamation of pardon, directed the commanding officers of militia companies to apprehend all deserters from the Continental army and the state regiments. It also imposed fines on any militia commanders who failed to arrest deserters and on any ship captains convicted of embarking deserters (DLC:GW, filed with July 1780 documents; see also Va. 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. 1819–23. Reprint. Charlottesville, Va., 1969. description ends [Hening], 10:263–67).

2Jefferson is referring to the surrender of the garrison at Charleston, S.C., on 12 May. The city’s defenders included most of the Virginia Continental regiments.

3GW sent a draft of a revised proclamation with his reply to Jefferson of 29 Aug. (both DLC:GW). For an earlier proclamation of pardon for deserters in Virginia, see Proclamation to Deserters, 15 Aug.; see also GW to Jefferson, 14 Aug., postscript.

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