George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Philip Livingston and John Jay, 29 June 1776

To Philip Livingston and John Jay

Head Quarters [New York] 29th June 1776.

Genl Washington presents his Complimts to Mr Livingston & Mr Jay—thanks them most cordially for their kind Information & Invitation; but is so exceedingly hurried just at this time, that it is not in his power to attend the examination of G. Forbes. He begs it may go on, and will take it exceedingly kind if Forbes and the examination when taken, be sent to head Quarters at half after four Oclock, when the General will have an Officer or two present to question him, & compare his answers with the information given Mr Livingston and Mr Jay.1


1The secret committee of the New York provincial congress, of which Livingston and Jay were members, was investigating allegations of a Loyalist conspiracy, and Gilbert Forbes, a gunsmith in New York City, was a prime suspect (see the source note to the Arrest Warrant from a Secret Committee of the New York Provincial Congress, 21 June). Forbes, who was arrested on 22 June, refused at first to talk to the provincial congress, but when he was told that “his time was very short, not having above three days to live,” he agreed to divulge all that he knew (extract of an anonymous letter, 24 June 1776, in Force, American Archives description begins Peter Force, ed. American Archives. 9 vols. Washington, D.C., 1837–53. description ends , 4th ser., 6:1054). In his statement to Livingston of this date, Forbes admitted that Governor Tryon had promised him a company if he enlisted a number of men for the king’s service and that he had sent a few rifles and muskets to the governor’s ship, but he denied receiving the promised payment for them. Forbes also said that a Sergeant Graham, “an old soldier, discharged from the Royal Artillery,” had scouted the city’s defenses and had given Tryon a plan for capturing the American batteries at Red Hook and the ferry landing on Long Island. When those works were secured, British troops would sail up the Hudson and East rivers and land above the city (ibid., 1178–79).

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