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The Jeffersonian cyclopedia;

a comprehensive collection of the views of Thomas Jefferson classified and arranged in alphabetical order under nine thousand titles relating to government, politics, law, education, political economy, finance, science, art, literature, religious freedom, morals, etc.;

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3085. FORMALITIES, Jefferson and.—
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3085. FORMALITIES, Jefferson and.—

General Phillips * * * having * * * taken great offence at a [recent] threat of
retaliation in the treatment of prisoners, enclosed
his answer to my letter [with respect
to a passport for a supply vessel] under this
address, “To Thomas Jefferson, Esq., American
Governor of Virginia”. I paused on receiving
the letter, and for some time would not
open it; however, when the miserable condition
of our brethren in Charleston occurred
to me, I could not determine that they should
be left without the necessaries of life, while
a punctilio should be discussing between the


Page 345
British General and myself; and, knowing that
I had an opportunity of returning the compliment
to Mr. Phillips in a case perfectly corresponding,
I opened the letter. Very shortly
after, I received, as I expected, the permission
of the Board of War for the British vessel,
then in Hampton Roads with clothing and
refreshments, to proceed to Alexandria, I enclosed
and addressed it, “To William Phillips,
Esq., commanding the British forces in the
Commonwealth of Virginia”. Personally knowing
Phillips to be the proudest man of the
proudest nation on earth, I well know he will
not open this letter; but having occasion at
the same time, to write to Captain Gerbach, the
flag-master, I informed him that the Convention
troops in this State should perish for want
of necessaries, before any should be carried to
them through this State, till General Phillips
either swallowed this pill of retaliation, or
made an apology for his rudeness. And in this,
should the matter come ultimately to Congress,
we hope for their support. [196]
To the Virginia Delegation in Congress. Washington ed. i, 308.
(R. 1781)


General Howe, in June 1776, sent a letter under a
flag of truce to General Washington addressed to
“George Washington, Esq.” It was returned, unopened.
Howe sent a second letter, and it also was
sent back. A third one addressed to “George
Washington, Esq., &c., &c., &c.,” was also refused.
The fourth one was addressed to General George
Washington and accepted. General Washington, in
writing to Congress on the subject said: “I would
not, on any occasion, sacrifice essentials to punctilio;
but, in this instance, I deemed it my duty to my
country, and to my appointment, to insist upon that
respect, which, in any other than a public view, I
would willingly have waived.” General Howe said
that he had adopted this style of address to save
himself from censure by his own government.——Editor.