Motion on Commissaries of Prisoners of War
MS (NA: PCC, No. 149, I, 480). In JM’s hand.
[3 July 1782]
That the Secretary at War be authorized to appoint proper persons to take charge of the prisoners of war at the said places until the said1 Commissaries shall be discharged from their arrests, or Congress shall otherwise direct2
1. Following “said,” JM wrote and deleted “trials shall be had.”
2. On 3 July the secretary at war informed Congress that the commissaries of British prisoners at Lancaster, York, and Reading, Pa., were reported to be disobeying orders and exercising “independent, uncontrollable power.” His informant had alleged that the commissaries, in spite of positive instructions to the contrary, had allowed the captives “to work in the boroughs, towns and country,” thus enabling many of them to escape. Following the reading of Benjamin Lincoln’s communication, John Rutledge moved that the secretary at war be empowered to try the accused “commissaries and assistant commissaries” by courts-martial. Apparently JM then added to Rutledge’s motion a second paragraph, as given above. Congress or Charles Thomson altered its phraseology by inserting “And” at the beginning, and “and he is hereby” between “be” and “authorized.” Before voting upon this resolution, a second resolution was paired with it—to authorize Lincoln, “in the absence of the Commander in Chief,” to try by courts-martial all persons charged with disobeying “any orders which he is empowered to issue” (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXII, 321, 372–73).
For further action in 1782 by Congress on the same general subject, see JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXII, 382, 403; XXIII, 785, 867. See also Virginia Delegates to Harrison, 2 April 1782, n. 5.