George Washington Papers

From George Washington to General William Howe, 4 April 1778

To General William Howe

Head Qrs [Valley Forge] 4 April 1778.


I was sorry to learn an objection had been made to the residence of my commissioners at German Town,1 during the continuance of the negociation, as it served to give interruption to a business which we are mutually interested should proceed without more delay, than the nature of it requires. I had no idea but that the Gentlemen on both sides were to remain constantly at German Town till the conclusion of the Treaty. The distance between my lines or any post of sufficient security near them and that place rendered the dayly return of those on my part intirely inexpedient, not only on account of the inconvenience to themselves; but because it must have necessarily retarded, to a very great degree, the progress of the negociation.

It is perfectly agreeable to me to fix upon Some2 place not liable to the exceptions you mention: Newtown3 appears to answer this description as well as any other I now recollect. I have no objection to its being changed4 at any time, if requisite by the concurrence of the Commissioners. It is, of course to be understood, that the place of treaty shall be neutral ’till it is terminated.5 Monday next, at five oClock in the afternoon,6 if you think proper, will be the time of meeting.7

It gives me pleasure, that you have directed General Lee’s releasement on parole, not only for his own sake, but in consideration of its tendency to reconcile differences, and facilitate an object, in which the interests of humanity are so nearly8 concerned, as that which we now have in contemplation. You may rely on it, that Lt Col: Campbell and the Hessian field officers will be sent in9 as speedily as possible.

Lt Col. Meade, one of my aids, with a small escort of horse, will meet General Lee at your Picket10 near Schuylkil Bridge, on sunday morning.11 I am with due respect Sir Yr most Obedt Serv.

P.S. I take the liberty to inclose a letter for General Lee, which I shall esteem it a favor, may be forwarded him.12

Df, in Alexander Hamilton’s writing, DLC:GW; copy, DLC:GW; two copies, P.R.O., 30/55, Carleton Papers; copy (dated 11 April), P.R.O., Colonial Office, Secretary of State’s Correspondence with Commander-in-Chief, North America; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. The text of the copy in DLC:GW, which is in Robert Hanson Harrison’s writing, matches that of Hamilton’s draft as finally revised; there are small differences between Howe’s copies and draft, the two most significant of which are described in notes 3 and 10 below.

2At this place on the draft, Hamilton wrote “any other” but struck out those words and substituted “some.”

3At this place on the draft, Hamilton wrote “and Chester” before striking out those words and writing “Newtown.” The copies that Howe sent to Britain read, “Newtown in Bucks County.”

4On the draft Hamilton first wrote, “I consent that it may be changed,” but he changed the phrasing to the preceding language.

5The preceding sentence was written in the left margin of the manuscript and marked for insertion at this point.

6Hamilton initially wrote “twelve oClock” on the draft, but he replaced those words with the preceding phrase.

7In accordance with this proposal, GW issued a new grant of authority to the commissioners for prisoner exchange, dated 4 April, that was identical to the one issued on 28 Mar. with the exception of the statement of location and time for meeting. That now read, “You are, in virtue of full powers to me delegated, to meet such Commissioners of suitable rank as are or shall be appointed on the part of General Sir William Howe, and who shall come duly authorised to treat on the subject—at Newtown in the County of Bucks on the sixth day of this month and such place afterwards as shall be mutually agreed upon” (DLC:GW).

8On the draft Hamilton had written “intimately” here, but he struck out that word and substituted “nearly.”

9Hamilton originally wrote “liberated” on the draft, but he crossed that word out and substituted “sent in.”

10Howe’s copies read, “advanced picquet.”

11Pvt. Elijah Fisher recorded in his diary for Sunday, 5 April, “Gen. Washington with all his attendence went to the Lines to Meet Gen. Lee and to Accompany him to Head Quarters where they arrived at two of the Clock in the afternoon where they was receved with a kind salute of arms Drums fifes and Band of Musick” (Godfrey, Commander-in-Chief’s Guard description begins Carlos E. Godfrey. The Commander-in-Chief’s Guard: Revolutionary War. Washington, D.C., 1904. description ends , 275).

12The letter to Maj. Gen. Charles Lee has not been identified.

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