George Washington Papers

From George Washington to William Duer, 15 March 1779

To William Duer

Head Quarters [Middlebrook] 15th March 1779


The other day, you intimated to me a desire to have an interview with Mr Elliot on Staten Island, with which I expressed my concurrence.1 My mind being at the time engaged on other matters—I did not advert to the resolve of Congress which makes the previous consent of the State necessary2—Having since recollected the restraint, I am under from this circumstance—to prevent delay at the moment you might wish the interview to take place—I think it best to mention it to you—that you may have time to procure a line for the purpose from Governor Clinton. I should be glad it was in my power to save you this trouble, but as I am not at liberty to dispense with the resolve, so you will be sensible that to discriminate might give dissatisfaction—and the precedent would make future applications embarrassing, where there might be good reason to refuse.3 I am with regard Sir Your most obedt serv.

Df, in Alexander Hamilton’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. Tench Tilghman supplied the dateline for the draft manuscript.

1Duer apparently was visiting GW at his Middlebrook headquarters. It is known that Duer wrote a statement addressed “To the Public,” defending himself against charges that he had interfered with Pennsylvania politics, and dated that document from “Camp on Raritan, March 9th” (Smith, Letters of Delegates description begins Paul H. Smith et al., eds. Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774–1789. 26 vols. Washington, D.C., 1976–2000. description ends , 12:167–74).

The person whom Duer sought permission to meet probably was Andrew Elliot, a Loyalist then serving the British as chief of the Superintendent Department in New York City. Duer pursued several personal business interests after he resigned his seat in Congress as a delegate from New York in November 1778.

2GW is referring to Congress’s resolution of 21 Aug. 1778 that reads: “when any persons are desirous of going within the enemy’s lines, they shall apply to the executive powers of the State to which they belong; and if the said executive powers approve the motives and characters of the persons applying, and shall be of opinion, especially at so critical conjuctures as the present, that no danger will ensue by granting such permission, that they recommend them to the officer commanding the troops next to the enemy, who, upon such recommendation, may, at his discretion permit the persons to go in” (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 , 11:825).

3GW’s decision persuaded Duer to revise his plans (see Duer to GW, 16 March).

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