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Letter from Richard Henderson to John Williams
Henderson, Richard, 1735-1785
October 29, 1778 - November 06, 1778
Volume 13, Pages 490-494

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Williamsburg, Oct. 29th, 1778.

Dear Sir:

Your friends are all well—The day before I left home I waited on Mrs. Williams for her commands, as I intended writing you from this place, and am happy in informing you that she, and your nearest connections were very well, and would be happy if you were among them. Before you receive this, Mr. Springer (who is gone to the Northward) will inform you this, and no doubt, deliver a letter from your family, by which you will be informed of the Death of your Nephew, Jackey Williams. This melancholy part of the tale I wish to have omited, but it is needful you should know the truth. On this Lamentable Occasion, I advised Mrs. Williams to keep close possession of the books, and every paper belonging to or in keeping of the unfortunate lad.

In this I am sure of your approbation, as you must know how Essential it may be, to settling the Estate of your lately Deceased Brother.

In this letter you are not to expect the least regularity but must take matters as they Occur. At present my spirits are very low, owing to the Situation of my affairs. You know that is two years and a half, that I have waited on the Assembly of Virginia on the subject of our Transylvania purchase, and ought at least to have a hearing. Notwithstanding the Assembly began on the first Monday in the month, and our cause was by rules to come on the second, it is now the 29th without obtaining that end. Tomorrow is the day prefixed, and so it has been for many days, and it is uncertain whether we have a hearing or not, as many of the members seem roused from their Lethargy, and find that the house are not by Law or the Constitution Competent to the question. To avoid every kind of dispute of this kind, we today, presented a memorial, in which we signifyed our willingness to be concluded by “the Assembly. It lies on the Table, and we hope to have a hearing tomorrow on the Subject. Doctor Burke is here our Attorney, and I have no doubt will do us ample Justice. In my last which I wrote from Halifax, some mention was made of a destructive Storm, but am sorry to inform you, that the rains continued forty days and forty nights at least, and that the Damage has Occasioned a Scarcity, which renders Corn near 5 £ a Barrel

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and pork at least £10. How this will effect you as an individual I don't know, but make no doubt but Mr. Burton will do for the best. Thus much with respect to our Country and its calamities. You want to hear a little more about Transylvania. Of this I will inform you to-morrow evening, but believe the Virginians do not mean to be very liberal or generous.

30th October—This day, for the first time in two years and a half, the Assembly has deigned to hear Doctor Burke our Council in behalf of our Claim. The matter is deferred till to-morrow, and this may be a means of further delay. It is universally given up on all hands, that Mr. Burke did Justice to the Cause, and for my own part think we could not have been better served on or off the Continent. You must be informed, that in order to prepare the minds of our Judges, we found ourselves under a necessity of offering a surrender of the greater part of our claim to the Commonwealth in return for protection &c. In this affair, I hope you will think us right and be assured that in our negotiations proper regard will be paid to our Entry's. I cannot help observing that we may be much mistaken with respect to the opinion of the majority of the House, but believe they are much in our favour. This may be otherwise; to-morrow I hope will determine that question. No more of that. You in your last which I received, asked what our Assembly were called for in August last. If I am not mistaken these reasons were given in a letter of mine from Halifax, and if not, no doubt you have received official notice of that matter before now, but if otherwise, the true reason Assigned by the Governor and approved by the House, was, that Congress had not sent us the 500,000 dollars requested and that it was impossible without money to march the new raised troops from the Militia without money. I wish your fears in Congress, may not be the Occasion of another Assembly before the first of January, to which it stands adjourned. I don't know what information you may have had about the enemy, but do not believe a Syllable of their design of carrying on a campaign in South Carolina.

Monday 2nd November—No answer has yet been given to the reasoning of Doctor Burke in our favour, but we are promised by some, a farther hearing to-morrow, or rather that the House will take up the Consideration of the affair. Mr. Willie Jones, one of our agents (and who has been of great service) sett off

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home yesterday to the fair at Halifax. Mr. Johnston and myself only remain. God only knows what we shall be able to do. I shall not close this letter till something certain shall be done. News yesterday at 4 o'clock P. M. A vessel with a Flag arrived at Hampton, informing that fourteen passengers were on board from N. York, most of them refugees from this place, praying the priviledge of becoming again Citizens of this Commonwealth. A Committee was immediately appointed to Examine into their former Conduct & character, and report their opinion to the House. They went on the business and am now informed, that they will be ready to-morrow, to report in favour of four of them among which a Lady is included. The rest will be ordered away immediately. I am fully persuaded this will be done. We here think this occupation a very favourable Omen.

I have not yet mentioned the aftair of the Manifesto. Inclosed are the Virginia papers containing a full account of that Transaction, to which I beg leave to refer.

I begin now to entertain great hopes of seeing you by Christmas or the first of January, as Dr. Burke, on receiving a letter lately from Mr. Harnett, has taken a resolution of being at Congress by the first of December. He cannot well perform that, but hopes he will be there soon after.

Some pages past I informed you that I expected corn would be £5 a barrel and pork not less than £10. There has none of these commodities been sold in our Country, but, since I came here, pork has sold for £10 Va. Money (a small parcel for family use) and I verily believe it will not be bought in our Country, even for less than £10 and I verily believe corn will not be bought long at £5. Our fodder is almost entirely destroyed and in short, we shall have but a bad time of it. Mr. Burton was at Petersburg as we came down, was advised of the high offers then lately made there for pork and I make no doubt conducted himself according with respect to your family as well as his own, immediately on his return.

My father seemed very thankful for the kind manner you mentioned him in your last, but has little hopes of ever seeing you again. He has had two years severe returns of his disorder since you went away, and I fear his dissolution must be near at hand. When I left home it was a very small Share of my hope that I

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should ever see him in life; Mr. Burke, who came by afterwards informs that he had recovered that paroxysm, and I hope to find him on foot. In the fore part of this letter I informed you that Mrs. Williams was well. This was true, but you must not think from that expression that she was or has for some time been so well as I could wish. You know her, & I am sure, don't expect from her anxiety, that her spirits and health are not impaired. Truth is, that from our observation she is much so. You ought not to desert your duty to the public, but should come home as soon as you can, and determine between yourselves, whether so long a separation shall take place. You don't wait to be told that we all rejoiced much, on your easy recovery from the Small pox, but believe me, I am alarmed on your account. The pox was much too slight, & I am afraid that an ulcer or abcess will form in your Lungs, for want of a Sufficient discharge the other way of the disturbed matter—pray have you not an habitual cough? or do you feel no oppression in your breast? If either of these should be the case, consult some Physician, and do for the best.

On Thursday last you know the race between Sterne and Jason was to be run. Sterne did not before he went away give great proofs of his speed, but am in hopes he did the business. Mr. Willie Jones sent his man Austin, to keep Sterne, who was with him about a month before the day, who mended him greatly, but the rains was much against us. How this matter turned out, I shall in all probability know before you. I hope it will be well.

Friday 6th November.

You will not be astonished at any thing done by a Large assembly, when under the Circumstances which attend our Claim. Day before yesterday, the House of Delegates resolved that our claim to Transylvania was Void. We had several advocates in the house, I mean Gentlemen, who took some pains to prevent such a resolve and gave strong reasons in our favour, but upon putting the Question, there appeared by the Loud Voices in the affirmative against the feeble Negative that a Division on the Question was not required, so that I don't know how large the Majority were, in favour of this Act of power. The Senate has not yet concurred with the Delegates in this resolve, but am well persuaded they will, and therefore we are left to the Generosity of the Assembly

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as to what reward we shall have, for Expence & Trouble. Here we have some small hope as the Delegates also resolved that as Henderson & Co., had been at very great Expense and trouble in carrying out many Families to that Country and rendered considerable service to the Commonwealth of Virg. &c., they should be reimbursed &c., but as you will best judge of the Temper of those Gentlemen By

[the rest is lost.—Ed.]