John Page, Lieutenant-Governor, to Thomas Jefferson, 20 July 1776
Letter text, July 20. 1776
My Dear Jefferson
We are very much at a Loss here for an Engraver to make our Seal18- Mr Wythe19 & myself have therefore thought it proper to
apply to you to assist us in this Business- Can you get the Work done in Philadelphia? If you can, we must get the Favour [sic] of you to have it done immediately- the inclosed [sic] will be all the Directions you will require- the Engraver may want to know the Size- this you may determine, unless Mr Wythe shd direct the Dimensions- He may also be at a Loss for a Virtus & Libertas, but you may refer him to Spence’s Polymetis which must be in some Library in Philadelphia- Pray let us know by the first opportunity whether you can get it done. Before this can reach you, you will have heard of the Glorious News from South Carolina- Dunmores Fleet was at the Mouth of Potowmack when I heard last from it- it had been at Anchor 16 Hours with a fair Wind up the River & Bay- so that it is evident they did not know where to go to- there is no Danger of their returning to the Island unless they get a very considerable Reinforcement & even then we may give them a severe Check & retreat to the Main- they can not enter Norfolk Harbour [sic] without receiving great Damage for we have Batteries mounting 4, 24, & 5, 16 Pounders besides a number of smaller cannon- if half these Guns had been mounted in Octr as I advised, Norfolk would not have been burnt- 2.16 Pounders at Gwynn’s Island almost beat the Dunmore to Pieces, & drove off the whole Fleet. Danny & Chas Harrison behaved admirably well on that Occasion, so well, that no one seems to regret the Loss of Arundel20, who lost his Life by the bursting of a wooden Mortar which was foolishly constructed & he obstinately persisted in his Resolution to fire, though dissuaded from it by every one who saw it- I must refer you to the Papers of this Week for the Particulars of the late Cannonade- they were written by Officers & may depend upon- We have taken a little Tender, since their Flight, which was cruising off the Eastern Shore, in quest of Provisions- little Jemmy Parker was taken in her- She carried 12 Swivels & 18 Men- We have a fine Brigg mounting 12 4 Pounders under the Command of Captn Jas Cocke a brave & experienced Officer now cruising in the Bay- & a Row, Galley carrying 2 18 Pounders is gone down Jas River- but I do not like the Galley she is Clumsey, & I think can not carry the 2 heavy Guns to any Advantage- We expect Lilly will cruise next week- If we had got our whole Fleet ready before the Attack at Gwynn’s Island, we might have taken every Ship the Enemy had except the Roebuck- If they do not get a Reinforcement in 6 Weeks we shall give a good Account of them yet- If General Washington & Howe can but hear of the Affair of Sullivan’s Island before they engage, it will go a great Way towards deciding the Dispute- it is impossible it should not animate our Men to the highest Degree, & Dispirit the Enemy. Can not you stop Burgoines Career? I hope you have taken Care of the Lakes- Fort Pitt you know is a Post of the last Importance to Virginia & Pennsylvania- the Indians have murdered a Man within 3 miles of it- it is an extensive Work much out of Repair, very weakly Garrisoned, by only 100 Men, & is within 4 or 5 Days March of Niagara where our Enemies have Men enough with Savages to spare a Detachment which might come in 24 Hours 100 Miles of their
way, & might take the Fort before it could be reinforced- this State of things I had from a very sensible Officer who came down last Week as an Express. The Shawne have sent in 4 hostages to Fort Pitt but then he observes they sent no Interpreter with them- do consider these Things & either reinforce Fort Pitt, or send an Army against Detroit & Niagara- Give my Love to Nelson tell him that I have not Time to write another Line being beset with the Gouvernours [sic] Business who is still unable to attend to it-Adieu-JOHN PAGE
I am highly pleased with your Declaration- God preserves the united States- We know that Race is not to the swift nor the Battle to the strong- Do you not think an Angel rides in the Whirlwind & directs this Storm?
I had forgotten to mention till this Moment that there are 2 french Gentn here, who made their Escape from Ld Dunmore, when he was under his Confusion & flying from Gwynns Island- they were taken by a Tender, some Time ago, when they were coming into Norfolk with a Cargo of Arms Powder & Medicine-which when they had disposed of, they intended to have offered their Service to us as Officers in a Troop of Horse- one of them having commanded a Troop in old France, the other had been in the Foot but was willing to serve in the same Corps with his Friend- they say that the Governour [sic] of Martinique recommended it to them to come & introduce themselves to us in that Manner- they appear to be Gentn- the Council have ordered them to be boarded at Southalls, have given them 20 Pounds a Piece, as they lost all their Clothes with the Enemy & had been plundered by them of their Cash & we promised to write to the Congress to know whether they may expect any Encouragement if they should go to Philadelphia- one of them * * * [illegible] chuse to return to Martinique to complain of the ill Treatment he received from Ld Dunmore- they both lament that their Papers of Credit were taken from them- These may be valuable Men – I for my Part want to detain them here til we can be better acquainted with them. The Chevalier De St Aubin says he is perfectly acquainted with every Maneuvre [sic] of the Horse- if so, which we may soon know when one or 2 of our Troops come to Town, I hope he may be appointed Majr- but what would you advise us to do? We have advised them to stay here til we can hear from our Delegates –
once more adieu
[Indorsed:] Page, John July 20. 1776.
18 On July 5, 1776, the last day of the Convention of 1776, George Mason, from the committee to which the matter had been referred, reported a device, the same as that now used, and George Wythe (who is believed to have suggested the design) and John Page were desired to superintend the proper engraving of a seal. See Evans, “Seals of Virginia”.
19 George Wythe (1726-1806), made attorney-general by Governor Dinwiddie, in the absence of Peyton Randolph, in 1754; burgess, clerk of the House of Burgesses until 1775; member of the Committee of Correspondence; opposed the resolutions of Patrick Henry in 1765, as hasty and premature; member of Congress, August, 1775; signed the Declaration of Independence. A compiler of the Code of 1769, he was chosen in 1776 as a member of the committee to revise the laws of Virginia. He was speaker of the House of Delegates in 1777, and in the same year was appointed one of the three judges of the new Court of Chancery. Appointed to William and Mary in 1779, he became the first professor of law in the United States. In 1789 he resigned his professorship to become chancellor of Virginia. He was vice-president of the Virginia State Convention that ratified the work of the Federal Convention. He was the instructor in law of both Thomas Jefferson and John Marshall, the latter of whom declared him one of the greatest men of his age.
Wythe died from the effects of poison, believed to have been administered to him by his great-nephew, George Wythe Sweeney, who, however, was acquitted of the charge.20Johicky Arundell, commissioned captain of artillery, Feb. 5, 1776; killed July 8.