George Washington Papers

To George Washington from a Continental Congress Camp Committee, 11 February 1778

From a Continental Congress Camp Committee

Moore Hall [Pa.] Feby 11th 1778


The travelling is so bad that we wish you wou’d not attempt to meet us, while it continues.1 We shall employ ourselves in that part of our business which can be done without your personal attendance.

We have been considering General Howe’s letter which you was pleased to lay before us yesterday, and seem agreed and confirmed in the opinion that he hath some latent meaning in those parts of it whic[h] were then pointed out. We flatter ourselves you will not take it amiss that we express to you our sentiments upon the proposition of a general exchange made at this time, by General Howe. We think he wou’d not do this, but for very cogent reasons, and altho’ we are not able to conjecture what they are with any very strong probability: yet this is clear that he confines his proposed exchange to Officers and Soldiers, and is totally silent as to Citizens. As the latter were expressly comprehended in the original Cartel proposed by himself, and agreed upon between you; and as he has been called upon by Congress, if not by yourself, to explain certain passages in his former letter which you laid before Congress, and explicitly to declare in what light he held the faithful Citizens of these States, who by the fortune of war, or other accident had fallen, or shoud fall under his power: yet he has never deemed proper as we can learn, to make any reply at all, much less a full and satisfactory answer on that subject. We cannot but think that he affects to consider every such Citizen as a rebel unexchangeable; and amesnable to the Laws of England, and therefore treats them, if possible, with more rigour and cruelty than those whom he is pleased to say, properly fall under the denomination of prisoners of war. Impressed with the manifest injustice of such apprehensions which if well grounded, we deem a breach of his faith plighted in the Cartel, we cannot but think the present a happy opportunity of drawing forth from General Howe the most explicit declarations on a subject of so great importance to every mere Citizen of these States, and making a renewal of the Cartel, the sine qua non of an exchange2—We are Sir with much esteem & respect your obedient humble Servants

Fra. Dana by Order

LS, in Francis Dana’s writing, DLC:GW; Df, DNA:PCC, item 33.

1Henry Melchior Muhlenberg referred to the bad weather in his diary entry of this date: “Last night a heavy rain fell upon the deep snow, and it still continues to rain today, which will result in high water and impassable roads” (Tappert and Doberstein, Muhlenberg Journals description begins Theodore G. Tappert and John W. Doberstein, trans. and eds. The Journals of Henry Melchior Muhlenberg. 3 vols. Philadelphia, 1942–58. description ends , 3:130). Deputy Commissary General Ephraim Blaine wrote Pennsylvania supreme executive council president Thomas Wharton, Jr., from Valley Forge on 12 Feb. that “The badness of the Roads have deprived a single waggon from coming to Camp this several days,” a factor that contributed to the severe shortage of food and other supplies in camp at this time (Pa. Archives description begins Samuel Hazard et al., eds. Pennsylvania Archives. 9 ser., 138 vols. Philadelphia and Harrisburg, 1852–1949. description ends , 1st ser., 6:252). GW was apparently undaunted by the weather and met with the camp committee at Moore Hall anyway; the committee wrote Henry Laurens on 12 Feb. that “In yesterdays Conference with the General he inform’d us, that some Brigades had been four Days without Meat, & that even the common Soldiers had been at his Quarters to make known their Wants” (DNA:PCC, item 33).

2The letter from Howe that GW had laid before the committee was dated 5 February. For the eventual fate of the proposed exchange, see GW to Howe, 10 Feb., n.2.

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