George Washington Papers

To George Washington from the Pennsylvania Committee of Safety, 17 August 1775

From the Pennsylvania Committee of Safety

Philadelphia August 17th 1775


The Committee of Safety for this City & Province, being informed on saturday last, that a Ship from Cork had come up to Gloucester with some passengers, Officers of the Ministerial Army, and a quantity of Cloathing for that Army at Boston, immediately sent down Capt. Bradford with thirty Men to take those officers prisoners, and at the same time an Armed Boat, to bring up the Cloathing, both which orders were accordingly executed.1 The Officers we have enlarged upon their written Parole, to render themselves at your Camp; and two Soldiers taken with them, being their Servants, on the Parole of Major French the Principal Officer, Copies of which Paroles are enclosed.2 The Major requested when he signed the Parole that we would for his Justification give him a Certificate of his making a Claim in behalf of himself & the others, and that his Claim was not admitted. We gratified him in this, and a Copy of our Certificate is Also enclosed.3 They were allowed to take with them their own Baggage, but the Baggage of some other Officers now in Boston, which he also requested, was refused, on account of the detention of the Effects of our Friends there by General Gage. So this Baggage with the Cloathing (an Invoice whereof is Also enclosed) which we understand is for two Regiments, is Stored, to remain for the Direction and disposition of the Congress.4 The Officers & Soldiers are to set out for your Camp on Tuesday the 22nd inst. accompanied by two respectable Gentlemen of this City Capt. Willing and Capt. Wharton, whom we beg leave to recommend to your notice, who will protect the Officers on the Road & forward their Journey.5

No more Gun powder is yet arrived here. On the 10th Instant we sent 2200 Wt to General Schuyler, which was all we could possibly spare.6 with great Esteem and Respect, we have the Honour to be, Sir, your most Obedient humble Serts

By Order

B. Franklin, Presidt

P.S. with this you will also receive a packet directed to an Officer of The Ministerial Army, which we have not open’d, but submit it to your discretion.


The Pennsylvania general assembly created a committee of safety on 30 June 1775 to oversee all military measures necessary for the defense of the colony. The original twenty-five committee members included Benjamin Franklin, who was unanimously elected president of the committee at its first meeting on 3 July. Franklin also served as a delegate to the Continental Congress during this time.

1The ship Hope from Cork, Ireland, commanded by George Curwin, was seized in the Delaware River near Gloucester, N.J., on 12 August. On board the vessel were 7,500 suits of clothing for the British army at Boston and three British gentlemen who were on their way to join regiments in that city: Maj. Christopher French, Ens. John Rotten, and Cadet Terrence McDermot. See Christopher French to GW, 15 Aug. 1775. William Bradford (1722–1791) was a prominent Philadelphia printer who joined a battalion of the city’s military associators as a captain sometime during the spring of 1775. In July 1776 he was commissioned a major in the 2d battalion of Pennsylvania militia, and he eventually became a colonel. Bradford was severely wounded at the Battle of Trenton, but he recovered sufficiently to act as chairman of the Pennsylvania state navy board from 1777 to 1778. Ill health and financial difficulties forced his withdrawal from public affairs after 1779.

2The particular copies of the paroles that were enclosed in this letter have not been found. The parole form that French, Rotten, and McDermot each signed on 12 Aug. appears in the minutes of the Philadelphia committee of safety, as does a copy of the parole that French signed four days later for the two private soldiers, William Goldthorp of the 22d Regiment and Alexander Allen of the 45th Regiment (Colonial Records of Pennsylvania, 1683–1800, 16 vols. [Philadelphia, 1852–53], 10:302–3, 306).

3The committee’s certificate of 12 Aug. reads: “Major Christopher French, having among other engagements, given his Parole to render himself with all convenient speed at the Camp of General Washington, and there to submit himself to the disposition of the said General, but requesting as a favour, that it may be Certified in his behalf, that he had previously claimed the being considered as no prisoner of war, he having come hither without any knowledge of the Hostilities between the Army and the People of America, and not being taken in Arms, We, in compliance with his request, do Certifiie that he did make the said claim, but after his being informed that Hostilities had been commenced in America, he declaring that if he joined his Corps he should act as his Superior Officers directed; his claim was overruled, and, thereupon, gave his parole as aforesaid” (ibid., 303).

4The invoice of clothing and baggage enclosed in this letter is in DLC:GW. Dated 17 Aug., it indicates that the baggage belonging to the three prisoners was to be “sent by Stage . . . to New York, to be forwarded from thence to the Camp of General Washington.” Christopher French asked the Pennsylvania committee of safety on 14 Aug. for permission to “take with him the Packages that came in Capt. Curwin, for the use of the 22nd & 40th Regiment, as well those directed to the different Officers in Boston,” but the committee did not consent (minutes of the Pennsylvania Committee of Safety, Pa. Col. Records, 10:305).

5On 15 Aug. Richard Willing and John Wharton volunteered to escort the prisoners to Cambridge “on Condition of their Expenses being paid,” and the next day the committee gave the two captains a letter of instructions regarding their mission (ibid., 305–6). Richard Willing (1745–1798), whom GW visited in Philadelphia on 21 May 1775 (Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 3:331), was a captain in one of the battalions of Philadelphia associators. His companion may have been John Wharton (c.1732–1799), a Philadelphia shipbuilder who served on the Continental Navy Board from 1778 to 1780.

6At the urging of Benjamin Franklin, the committee of safety resolved on 9 Aug. to send Schuyler the 2,244½ pounds of gunpowder that remained in the city’s magazine (minutes of the Pennsylvania Committee of Safety, Pa. Col. Records, 10:300). In letters to Schuyler and the Albany committee of safety, written on 10 Aug., Franklin said that he was sending 2,400 pounds of gunpowder, “which,” he told Schuyler, “actually empties our Magazine” (Leonard W. Labaree, William B. Willcox, et al., eds., The Papers of Benjamin Franklin [New Haven and London, 1959—], 22:160–61).

Index Entries