George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General Charles Lee, 23 August 1775

From Major General Charles Lee

Prospect Hill [Mass.] August the 23d [1775] 8 oClock


A Gentleman whose name is Banister (as silly a Gentleman perhaps as lives) is accused by his Country men the People of Newport, of being a most violent Tory—I believe He is neither whig nor Tory, but an eater and drinker—it is in my opinion not worth troubling You with him—but I am oblig’d through complacency to the Corps herein, to refer him to your Excellency ⟨The⟩y will I suppose bring their charges against him.1 I am, Sir, Your most obed.

C. Lee

ALS, owned (1985) by Mr. Richard Maass, White Plains, N.Y.

1John Banister (1745–1807), a wealthy merchant from Newport, was visiting the camp at Prospect Hill when “he was seized as a Tory, at the Instance of Capt [John] Topham of Newport, who requested Gen. Lee to retain Mr Banister as a Hostage till Capt [James] Wallace of the Rose Man o’War should deliver up Capt Topham’s Negro” (Franklin Bowditch Dexter, ed., The Literary Diary of Ezra Stiles . . ., 3 vols., [New York, 1901], 1:608). Although Banister had a brother who was a Loyalist, he was apparently able to prove that he was not one and soon returned home. In June 1776 the Rhode Island general assembly awarded Banister £80 for damage done to his house by the colony’s troops quartered there. While the British occupied Newport from December 1776 to October 1779, they used both his house in Newport and his farm in nearby Middletown, and in 1781 Banister sailed to England to press a claim of £2,000 for damage to his property. The British rejected Banister’s claim because of his “rebellious principles” (John L. Sibley and Clifford K. Shipton, Biographical Sketches of Graduates of Harvard University [Cambridge, Mass., 1873—], 16:13–14). In America many thought that Banister went to England as a Loyalist refugee, but he again placated the Patriots and returned to Newport to live for the rest of his life.

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