A Guide to the Executive Papers of Governor Patrick Henry, 1784-1786 Henry, Patrick, Executive Papers of Governor, 1784-1786 39700

A Guide to the Executive Papers of Governor Patrick Henry, 1784-1786

A Collection in
the Library of Virginia
Accession Number 39700


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Processed by: Craig Moore

Library of Virginia
Accession number
Executive Papers of Governor Patrick Henry, 1784-1786
Physical Characteristics
3.05 cubic feet.
Physical Location
State Records Collection, Governor's Office (Record Group 3)

Administrative Information

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Preferred Citation

Virginia Governor Patrick Henry, Executive Papers, 1784-1786. Accession 39700, State Records Collection, The Library of Virginia, Richmond, Virginia.

Acquisition Information

No acquisition information available.

Alternative Form Available

Also available on microfilm - Miscellaneous Reel 4918-4921.

Biographical/Historical Information

Patrick Henry was born on 29 May 1736 in Studley, Hanover County, Virginia, the second son of John Henry and Sarah Winston Syme. Henry married twice; first to Sarah Shelton in 1754, and later to Dorothea Spotswood Dandridge in 1776. He was admitted to the bar on 15 April 1760 and was elected to his first public office as a member of the Virginia House of Burgesses on 29 May 1765. As a member of this body, Henry fought against the Stamp Act and helped defend the rights of the colonies against British tyranny. He assisted in the establishment of committees of correspondence among the colonies and was a delegate to the first Continental Congress in 1774-1775. Henry was a staunch supporter for the independence of the colonies from Great Britain. Well-known for his extraordinary oratory abilities, Henry's famous "Give me liberty or give me death" speech on 23 March 1775 helped galvanize Virginian's resolve for independence. In May 1776, he was elected to the Fifth Revolutionary Convention where he advocated a bill of rights and constitution for Virginia. The Convention named Henry the first governor of the newly independent commonwealth and he served three consecutive one-year terms until 1778. Following these terms as governor, Henry returned the legislature, but was again elected governor for two additional terms from 17 November 1784 to November 1786. Retiring from political office in 1791, Henry declined appointments to be a United States Senator in 1794, Secretary of State in 1795, Chief Justice, Minister of France & Spain, and a sixth term as Governor. Patrick Henry died on 6 June 1799 in Red Hill, Virginia.

Scope and Content Information

Governor Henry's Executive papers are organized chronologically with undated items and pardons arranged at the end of each year. These papers primarily consist of incoming correspondence during Henry's fourth & fifth terms as Governor from 30 November 1784 to 30 November 1786. The correspondence relates to a variety of topics including recommendations, resignations, & appointments for state positions; Indian atrocities & treaties; Revolutionary War claims; internal improvements; militia; taxation; the Point of Fork Arsenal & arms; the public prison & prisoners; state finances; slave labor in the lead mines; the State of Franklin; piracy; foreign affairs; elections; trade; etc. In addition to correspondence, there are accounts; appointments; commissions; contracts; depositions; various lists of escheators, invalid soldiers, justices, magistrates, county commissioners, militia officers, prisoners, etc.; judicial records; quarterly militia returns & returns of stores; payrolls; oaths of qualification; ordinances; pardons; petitions; proceedings; receipts; resolutions of Congress and the Virginia House of Delegates; and treaties with various Indian tribes & European powers.

Noteworthy correspondence originates from the United States government, Virginia State government, and miscellaneous sources. Prominent correspondents from the United States government include Thomas Jefferson, Minister of France; Charles Thomson, Secretary of Congress; John Jay, Secretary of Foreign Affairs; Henry Knox, Secretary of War; Joseph Martin, Andrew Pickens, & Benjamin Hawkins, Agents for Indian Affairs; and the Virginia Delegates to Congress: Richard Henry Lee, James Monroe, William Grayson, Samuel Hardy, Edward Carrington & Henry Lee.

Letters from Thomas Jefferson, in Paris, regard arrangements for Monsieur Houdon's sculpting of a bust of the Marquis de la Fayette and a statue of George Washington for the State of Virginia (1785 Jan. 12, June 16, July 8, July 11, Aug. 22; 1786 Jan. 24). Noteworthy is Houdon's contract written in French (1785 July 8). There is also a letter from Jefferson concerning resolutions of Congress to improve commerce between France and the United States (1786 May 31). Both Jefferson and Thomas Barclay, Consul-General, endeavored to have arms manufactured in France and transported to Virginia for the use of the militia (1785 Aug. 23, Oct. 12; 1786 Jan. 16, July 22). The letter from Barclay, dated Jan. 16, encloses French contract for 3,400 stand of arms to be constructed at the Royal Manufactory at Tulle.

Charles Thomson, Secretary of Congress, corresponded often with Henry. He enclosed resolutions and acts of Congress, monthly States of Representation, treaties, etc. Significant documents transmitted to Thomson include resolutions regarding the establishment of a federal town (1784 Dec. 20); an act of Congress for negotiating a treaty with Southern Indians (1785 March 24); an act of Congress for laying out into distinct states the Western Territory ceded to the Union (1785 May 28); and the treaty between the United States and Prussia (1786 June 9).

Correspondence from John Jay relates to his position as Secretary of Foreign Affairs. On 6 July 1786, Jay enclosed a letter from John Adams regarding a state of grievances from British merchants and other subjects owed debts in America. Jay also encloses a letter to him from Thomas Jefferson, a contract between Farmers General of France and Robert Morris, and a letter to Jefferson from the Comte de Vergennes (1786 Aug. 28). Henry Knox, Secretary of War, writes Henry regarding two companies ordered to the rapids of the Ohio by Maj. North (1786 July 13) and instructions to the senior officer of the troops to be raised in Virginia by the act of Congress passed on 20 Oct. 1786 (1786 Oct. 21).

As Agents for Indian Affairs, Joseph Martin, Andrew Pickens, and Benjamin Hawkins corresponded with Governor with respect to issues relating to Native Americans. On 25 March 1785, Joseph Martin requested a commission in case of invasion by the Cherokee, Creek and Chickamauga Indians. Martin also requested a certificate from Governor Henry to be forwarded to Congress with the offer of his services as Indian Commissioner fo the entire Southern Department (1785 April 17). The three agents wrote Henry on 10 June 1785 regarding their commission to treat with the Cherokees and other southern tribes. Present are articles of treaty between the agents concluded at Hopewell, S.C. (1786 Jan. 3).

The Virginia delegates to the Continental Congress submitted various documents to the Governor for his examination. Included is letter from Samuel Hardy and James Monroe on the subject of public buildings at the falls of the Delaware and the intermediate residence of Congress in New York. The delegates discuss a federal town and the decision to appropriate money for more than one town (1785 March). Richard Henry Lee, William Grayson, and James Monroe enclosed copies of treaties with Indian tribes at Fort Stanwix and Fort McIntosh on 22 Oct. 1784 and 21 Jan. 1785. They also include an act appointing a treaty to be held at post St. Vincent (1785 May 16). Lee and Grayson also informed Governor Henry of the death of Samuel Hardy in a letter dated 24 Oct. 1785. In addition, there is a resolution of Congress respecting Hardy's death from 17 Oct. 1785.

Significant correspondents from Virginia State government include John Beckley, Clerk of the House of Delegates; J. Brooke, Clerk of the Senate; Capt. John Peyton, Superintendent of the Point of Fork Arsenal; Col. Thomas Meriwether, Commissioner of Army Accounts; William Rose, Keeper of the Public Jail; Edmund Randolph, Attorney General; Leighton Wood, Jr., Solicitor General; Andrew Dunscomb, Assistant Commissioner of Military Claims; Capt. James Barron, Virginia Navy; and Jacquelin Ambler, Treasurer.

John Beckley enclosed resolutions from the legislature to the Governor. On 15 Nov. 1785, Beckley submitted the ballot in Congress electing Richard Henry Lee, William Grayson, James Monroe, Edward Carrington, and Henry Lee to the Continental Congress. Beckley also submitted the election of James Innes to replace Edmund Randolph as Attorney General (1786 Nov. 23). J. Brooke submitted similar documents from the Senate as Clerk of that body.

Captain John Peyton often wrote Colonel Thomas Meriwether, Clerk of the Council and Commissioner of Army Accounts, and Governor Henry regarding the state of the Point of Fork Arsenal. Peyton's letters concern public negroes working at the lead mines, clothing and provisions for his guard at the arsenal, the repair of public arms, and quarterly returns of arms and military stores. Additionally, there is a letter from Meriwether resigning as Commissioner of Army Accounts (1785 April 1).

William Rose as Keeper of the Public Jail authored letters concerning provisions and repairs to the Jail. On 6 December 1784, Rose drafted a letter to Col. Meriwether for the construction of a wall around the jail. In addition, on 2 Oct. 1786, he submitted a complete list of prisoners to the Governor. Captain James Barron, Virginia State Navy, submitted payrolls for his state boats Liberty and Patriot, and correspondence regarding smugglers, pirates in Warwick Creek Bay, and the necessity of an additional ship to patrol the James and Norfolk rivers.

Andrew Dunscomb's correspondence relates to specific Revolutionary War claims with the United States while he served as Assistant Commissioner of Military Claims. Dunscomb's oath of qualification as Commissioner of Military Claims can also be found in these papers (1785 March 18). Similarly, there is extensive correspondence from Leighton Wood, Jr., Solicitor General, regarding claims against the state, delinquencies of sheriffs in paying taxes, etc. Treasurer Jacquelin Ambler's letters too relate to the financial matters of the state.

Edmund Randolph, Attorney General, wrote opinions on various issues including the power fo the executive to aid foreign consuls (1785 May 8), the appointment of sheriffs (1785 May 12), slaves brought into Virginia (1785 June 21), and the duties of searchers (1786 March 8).

Other noteworthy correspondents include Arthur Campbell, county lieutenant and justice, and later as a member of the House of Delegates from Washington County; Col. Jacques Le Maire, a Frenchman who fought in the American Revolution; George Washington; Robert Mitchell & John Harvie, Mayors of Richmond; and other state governors including James Bowdoin, Governor of Massachusetts, Edward Telfair, Governor of Georgia, & John Sevier, Governor of the break-away State of Franklin.

Arthur Campbell figured prominently in Governor Henry's executive papers. Campbell voiced concerns about the militia law, the State of Franklin, the murder of Frenchman Major Le Brun., and Indian outrages. In 1785, Campbell was charged with misconduct, specifically for advising persons to refuse payment of taxes, advising freeholders against sending members to the Assembly, and attempting to induce inhabitants to separate from the Commonwealth. Numerous depositions were taken in February and March of 1786 with regards to this case.

Colonel Le Maire wrote to Governor Henry regarding foreign affairs between France and Prussia, admission into the Order of Cincinnati, a commission as lieutenant-colonel of dragoons, American citizenship, and a petition for the settlement of his claim against the State of Virginia. On 3 Dec. 1785, Le Maire requested to be sent to France in order to obtain a frigate to protect the Chesapeake Bay against Algerine pirates.

George Washington writes Governor Henry concerning the cutting of the Elizabeth River to Albemarle Sound and the Great Dismal Swamp (1785 Nov. 30) (letter separated to Vault - George Washington Papers).

Robert Mitchell, Mayor of Richmond, wrote Governor Henry on 13 May and 26 July 1785 regarding the use of convict labor in the city. He also writes with respect to escaped prisoners on 8 Nov. 1785. Mitchell's successor, John Harvie, declines the use of prisoners as labor in a letter written 9 Jan. 1786.

The governors corresponding with Virginia included Governor James Bowdoin of Massachusetts. Bowdoin writes about trade with Great Britain and encloses an act of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for the suspension of the act for the regulation of navigation and commerce (1786 July 10). Governor Edward Telfair of Georgia writes concerning 500 stand of arms given to Georgia from the State of Virginia in order to fight Indians (1786 May 27). Lastly, John Sevier discusses the formation of the State of Franklin from the western waters of North Carolina and his appointment as governor (1785 July 19).


Arranged chronologically.

Contents List

Executive Papers of Governor Patrick Henry
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Executive Papers of Governor Patrick Henry - Oversize (Clamshell box)
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Executive Papers of Governor Patrick Henry - Oversize (Newspaper Box)
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