George Washington Papers

To George Washington from the Continental Congress Executive Committee, 9 January 1777

From the Continental Congress Executive Committee

Philadelphia January 9. 1777.


We do Ourselves the Honor to transmit you the inclosed Report or Relation of Joseph Traversie a Canadian by which your Excellency will learn the secret Machinations of some of his Countrymen of Rank who are Prisoners in this State.1 It is from an Apprehension of what is there intimated that a Release of these Prisoners is about to take place, that we early make you acquainted with this Circumstance respecting their Conduct, and your Excellency will best judge how far they ought to be indulged with a Favour of this kind while they labour under such Suspicions.

Upon Enquiry we learn that Traversie has always manifested a warm Attachment to the American Cause and we suggest to You as a Matter that has occurred to Ourselves whether it would not be proper to suffer this Man to return to Canada in order to give Information concerning the Design mention’d in the Report as the best Means of defeating its Execution. Our Information concerning Traversie is through Mr Bondfield late of Quebec, who tells Us he will undertake this Service and lives near St Francis. We are Your Excellency’s obedt hum. Servts

Robt Morris

Geo. Clymer

Geo. Walton

LS, in Clymer’s writing, DLC:GW; LB, DNA:PCC, item 133.

1The executive committee enclosed intelligence that Joseph Traversie, a French-Canadian scout employed by the Continental army in the northern department, had obtained of an alleged plot to invade the colonies from Canada, said to be planned by Luc de La Corne, René-Ovide Hertel de Rouville, Pierre-Joseph Hertel de Beaubassin, and John Fraser, four prominent Canadian prisoners who were captured by Brig. Gen. David Wooster in the fall of 1775 and later sent to Reading, Pennsylvania. The prisoners, Traversie says in his report, allegedly had concocted a scheme “to penetrate by the River St francis & y a Masca into the province of New Hampshire and to fall in upon the Back of Scheensborough and fort Edward with a Numerous Body of Canadians and Indians thereby to cut of[f] all communication and Supplies to Fort George & Ticonderoga” (DLC:GW). The prisoners consulted Traversie about the plausibility of executing such a plan, promising that they “would amply reward him and would engage to obtain his pardon with the peacable repossession of his property” in exchange for his delivering letters to Canada relative to their designs. Before Traversie could assist them, however, the prisoners abandoned their intrigues in favor of an appeal to GW for their own exchange. Fraser and Rouville apparently wrote to GW but their letters have not been found (see GW to the Executive Committee, 12 January). Traversie gave an account of the plot to John Taylor Bondfield, a Quebec merchant of Mount Pleasant in Sillery and an ardent supporter of the colonies’ grievances against Great Britain, who passed the information on to the executive committee. For GW’s reaction to the proposed plan, see GW to the Executive Committee, 12 January.

Joseph Traversie, who received a captain’s commission in the militia during the American occupation of Trois Rivières, was a French Canadian from St. François who in the summer of 1776 sought refuge in Vermont before making his way to the American army in the northern department (see Reuben Foster to John Sullivan, 22 July 1776, in Hammond, Sullivan Papers description begins Otis G. Hammond, ed. Letters and Papers of Major-General John Sullivan, Continental Army. 3 vols. Concord, 1930-39. In Collections of the New Hampshire Historical Society, vols. 13–15. description ends , 1:289, and Horatio Gates to Philip Schuyler, 18 Aug. 1776, in Force, American Archives description begins Peter Force, ed. American Archives. 9 vols. Washington, D.C., 1837–53. description ends , 5th ser., 1:1050–51). Because of his familiarity with the region of St. François and its inhabitants, Traversie was employed as a scout and courier to the Penoboscot and St. François Indians for the next several years (see JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends , 32:70). In 1780 Congress resolved that it was “inexpedient” to give Traversie any military rank in the Continental army, but in August 1782 Congress gave him a pension for his “secret service to the Northward” (see ibid., 18:1086, 22:407, 456–57).

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