George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Thomas Wharton, Jr., 23 January 1778

From Thomas Wharton, Jr.

Lancaster [Pa.] January 23rd 1778


A controversy having arisen, in this borough, between a tavern-keeper and one of the officers which your Excellency permitted to come out of philadelphia with cloathing for the British and Hessian prisoners, about the price to be paid for the provisions with which the officer had been supplied—Lieutenant Patterson laid the bill, together with his own, before the Council, who sent for the tavern keeper, examined into the complaint, and were satisfied that, altho the charge was high, it was no more than is now charged to all travellers for such articles. But it seems the officer expect a considerable abatement is to be made in consideration of his paying in gold and silver: Against this there is a positive penal law of the state, intended to prevent, as much as possible, the depreciation of the continental currency—And congress have ordered into close confinement one of the philadelphia quaker prisoners, in Virginia, for having sent a few half Joe’s to this borough and had them sold at an advanced price for continental money.1

The officer also pleads that it is stipulated with you, that provisions are to be supplied to them at reasonable rates: The Council are of opinion that this is done when they are supplied at the rates which are charged to our own officers travelling the same road; but, were it otherwise, we have no authority to make regulations of prices and to compel a supply in such cases. Lieutenant patterson represents, that on the officer being informed of this opinion he has determined to return back immediately, which obliges me to trouble Your Excellency with this representation of the facts.

Copy, PHarH: Records of Pennsylvania’s Revolutionary Governments, 1775–1790. No direct reply from GW to this letter has been found, and Wharton may never have sent it. Within a few days the British officers had been arrested on suspicion of passing counterfeit bills; for further discussion of the disputes arising from British attempts to supply clothing to their prisoners held by the Americans, see William Stephens Smith to GW, 25 January.

1Owen Jones, Jr. (1744–1825), a Philadelphia merchant, was one of a group of Quakers arrested at the beginning of September 1777 by order of the Pennsylvania supreme executive council and by recommendation of the Continental Congress. That autumn Jones was sent with his fellow Quakers to Winchester, Va., where he engaged in correspondence that he described as amounting to no more than “sending sixteen half Joes down the Country to be exchanged for continental money,” but which the Continental Board of War interpreted as “a Traffick, highly injurious to the Credit of the Continental Currency by exchanging Gold at a most extravagant Premium for paper money.” Jones accordingly was ordered on 8 Dec. 1777 to be “removed under Guard to Staunton in the County of Augusta [Va.], there to be closely confined in Gaol and debarr’d the use of Pen, Ink & Paper, unless for such Purposes and on such occasions as the Lieutenant of the said County, or some person appointed by him for that purpose shall deem expedient,” although it does not appear that either he or the other Quakers, who also had been ordered to Staunton, ever left Winchester (Pa. Archives description begins Samuel Hazard et al., eds. Pennsylvania Archives. 9 ser., 138 vols. Philadelphia and Harrisburg, 1852–1949. description ends , 1st ser., 6:74, 102–3; see also ibid., 53–56, 67, 106, and 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 , 8:708, 718–19, 9:1005, 1008, 1012–13). Jones apparently was released in the late spring of 1778, and he returned to his business in Philadelphia.

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