George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Ephraim Brown, 15 May 1779

From Ephraim Brown

Windsor Connecticut May 15th 1779

May it please your Excellency—

Having heard of that clemency which forms so distinguished a part of your excellencys character, I am encouraged to supplicate of your excellency a favor—to me the greatest in the world—the life of my son, Elias Brown, a soldier in your army, where had he fallen in battle in support of your honor & the cause you gloriously patronise, I should not have considered his fate as untimely; but he is condemned to die by the hands of publick justice. In violation of principles early inculcated, but weakned by the influence & habits of evil companions, he was brought, on the 5th of Octr last, in company with John Hurring since hanged & others to consent & be aiding in the plunder of a citizen of these states; for which he justly received sentence of death; and has hitherto avoided the execution of it by making his escape a few hours before the time prefixed therefor. He has since been & remains at labor as a mechanick in the service of the United States, remote from the army & unknown. But the sentence yet stands against him & he is liable at any time to be taken & executed. Wherefore, may it please your Excellency, thro’ me he most humbly & fervently implores your mercy & forgiveness—that your Excellency would be pleased to consider him as a youth—the hope & expectation of virtuous parents who early taught him the fear of God, but which, thro’ the baleful influence of bad company he had lost for a time—that your Excellency would be pleased to consider him now as he humbly hopes the searcher of hearts does, as a sincere penitent—that your Excellency would be graciously pleased to order that the awful sentance against him may be revoked, & he permitted to return again to his duty, & by good service & fidelity make some attonement to an injured publick & have oppertunity to evince those obligations & attachments to his General of which there is no mention in the grave.1 The enclosed letters written just before his expected fate & sent to his father, were to him so effecting & so descriptive of a penitental frame of mind, that he cannot forbear laying them also before your Excellency; & once more to intreat & implore your Excellency that the Life of his son may be spared & a pardon granted him.2 He begs leave to sign himself, with all submission your excellencies most dutiful but fe[r]vent suppliant

Ephraim Brown


1For the trial and sentence of Elias Brown and his co-conspirators, and for Brown’s subsequent escape and later pardon, see General Orders, 23 Oct. 1778, and n.8 to that document. Ephraim Brown (b. 1738) was a farmer from Windsor, Connecticut.

2The enclosed letters to Ephraim Brown have not been identified, but he also enclosed the following petition, dated 15 May and signed by clerks David Rowland and Theodore Hinsdale, and justices Henry Allyn, Roger Newberry, James Hooker, and Oliver Ellsworth of Windsor, Conn.: “The subscribers, neighbours & acquaintance of Ephraim-Brown the signer of the above petition beg leave to certify to his Excellency the General that the sd Brown is reputed an honest good citizen, & from the respect due to him & his family we cannot but ardently wish, if it may consist with the discipline of the Army & good Government, that a pardon might be granted to his son, who was well disposed & of amiable life & conversation before he entered the Army, which was while he was very young & open to the baleful influence of bad company to which they cannot but in a great measure ascribe his corruption of his manners & the commission of the Crime for which he now stands condemned” (DLC:GW).

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