George Washington Papers

To George Washington from John Jay, 20 July 1779

From John Jay

Philadelphia 20th July 1779


I have been honored with your Excellency’s Favors of the 30th Ulto by Coll Morgan,1 and of the 13th & 16th Inst: with the several papers to which they refer.

General Waynes Coup de main occasions as much Joy, as the barbarous conflagrations of the Enemy excite Indignation—The former I hope will lead to further successes, the latter to retaliation and Resentments favorable to our Independence.2

A Supply of money for the Use of the Army has been ordered.3

Herewith enclosed is a copy of a Letter from Doctor Morgan, & of three other Papers which accompanied it, Congress, by their Act of Yesterday refer them to Your Excellency.4 I have the Honor to be With the greatest Respect and Esteem Your Excellency’s Most Obedient Servant

John Jay Presidt

LS, DLC:GW; LB, DNA:PCC, item 14.

1Col. Daniel Morgan delivered the letter of 30 June from GW to Jay, which commented on Morgan’s intention to resign from the army.

2Jay is referring to the capture of Stony Point, N.Y., by Brig. Gen. Anthony Wayne’s light infantry on the night of 15–16 July, and the British raids on Connecticut in early July (see GW to Wayne, 1 July, n.2, and to Jonathan Trumbull, Sr., 7 July, source note).

3Jay apparently is referring to a congressional resolution passed on 17 July that made available “one million of dollars … for the use of the main army” (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 14:847).

4See 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 14:854. The principal enclosure was a copy of John Morgan’s letter to Jay written at Philadelphia on 19 July. Additional enclosures were a copy of a letter from Benjamin Rush to Morgan dated 17 July (numbered “1” in DNA:PCC, item 63); a copy of John Hinman’s (Hinan’s) affidavit dated 2 July at Philadelphia (numbered “2” in DNA:PCC, item 63); and copies of a communication from James Fallon to Jacob Ehrenzeller dated 7 June at Philadelphia, and Ehrenzeller’s statement dated 19 June at Philadelphia (numbered 3 and 4 in DLC:GW).

Morgan’s letter to Jay reads: “In obedience to the Invitations and commands of Congress, I stepped forth, on the principles of Love to my Country and the public good, and charged Doct. Willm Shippen Junr in the service of the United States, with Malpractice & Misconduct in Office, and pledged myself to appear in support of the charges, when called upon, before the proper Court having jurisdiction in the premises. I expected that on such declarations Dr Shippen would have been immediately brought to a trial. More than a month however is since elapsed, and the movements of the Enemy have made it impracticable for the General to appoint an early Court Martial for that purpose. How long the State of affairs may occasion his trial to be postponed is not known. Perhaps it may be during the whole of the ensuing Campaigns; I therefore esteem it my duty to represent to Congress that those charges which I mean to bring against Doct. Shippen (part of which are contained in the enclosed papers Marked No. 1. and no. 2.) appear to be of such a nature that for the Honour of Congress and the service of these States, the putting under an arrest and immediate suspension of Dr Shippen from Office is absolutely necessary, being a practice grounded upon the usages of War, in all Old established governments, and in our own Army, that when a person of whatever rank is charged with crimes of office, and a Court martial is called for, he is forthwith put under an arrest, and suspended from all further command and authority, till he has undergone his Trial & is acquitted. The propriety of the measure is founded in the clearest reason & nature of things. Can it be supposed just or rational that an Officer accused of breach of trust, shall still be continued in the exercise of that trust, as tho’ he were innocent? Is the military commander, who stands charged with treachery or cowardice, entrusted with the continuance of his command, whilst he lays under those imputations? Is he who is accused of embezzling public Stores allowed the further disposal of them, till he has vindicated his conduct fully?

“Some of the witnesses I mean to call for, to prove my charges against Dr Shippen have been and still are subject to his authority and others may be influenced by him to enter into unwarrantable combinations to support his Interest against that of the United States, on the supposition of their own being concerned in so doing. Is it consistent with reason or justice, then, to permit him to continue in the exercise of that authority over them? Has he it not in his power to dismiss any of his officers from the service at pleasure, or to lay imaginary crimes to their charge, and take off their evidence, or to order them to distant places out of the way of appearing against him, or to put some biass on their hopes & fears so as to withdraw or to deter such as may be of less firm & resolute minds from appearing against him at his trial, who, if he was immediately suspended, would not hesitate to furnish further evidence of what they know against him than they will chuse to do, whilst he appears in the plenitude of power, & in the disposals of the public treasures, and may in the further exercise of that power and expenditure of those Treasures, order persons and circumstances in his favour, in a way that may conceal his guilt or impede the course of Justice. That this is not a groundless suggestion I have sufficient proof in an attempt lately made by doct. James Fallon, one of the Surgeons in the Genl Hospital, to have me treated as a person of suspected character and who endeavoured to prevail with one of his Mates to give Evidence against me, in order to have me sent away, & thereby to put it out of my power to prosecute doct. Shippen but which proceedings were quash’d and Unanimously dismissed by the Com[itt]ee of this City as groundless and malicious. This Surgeon urged the Mate to wait on Doctr Shippen, whom he said he would thereby much oblige, and who, in return, had it in his power greatly to serve him, of which transaction I have the documents in my possession, and for particulars refer you to the inclosed papers marked No. 3 & No. 4.

“Whether Doct. Fallon entered as a Volunteer into this service, with or without privity of Dr Shippen, I will not take upon me to say, since it is the mutual Interest of both to conceal it. Yet it is not to be supposed that Doct. Fallon would have had the power or inclination, had Dr Shippen been then suspended, to have undertaken so dangerous a service to himself, and risked his own reputation, for the sake of screening or serving Dr Shippen. At any rate Dr Fallon, whose business was to attend the sick at the General hospital, was neglecting the duties of his Station in Intermeddling with my affairs, in which he had the support & Countenance of Doct. Shippen.

“Should it be objected to Dr Shippens being put under an arrest, that the business of the hospital might suffer from his suspension, for want of a head to the department, I beg leave to answer that, from my personal knowledge of same, & approved Character of other Gentlemen upon whom the care of the hospital in his immediate department will naturely devolve, during this Pro tempore transaction they are well qualified to conduct all the business of the department, in the mean while, not only without Injury to the service from want of his assistance, but with real advantage to the Hospitals.

“Submitting the premisses with all becoming deference to the superior wisdom and the Justice of Congress” (DLC:GW).

Rush’s letter to Morgan reads: “You desire to know what Matters I am willing to testify upon Oath respecting Doctr Shippen’s Conduct in the military Hospitals while I served with him. To this request I shall Answer in a few Words that he discovered (1st) a total Ignorance of his Duty as the Director General of the Hospitals. This Ignorance appeared in every part of his Conduct, but more especially in his Manner of laying out the public Money which rendered the Expences of the Department four Times greater than were necessary (2) I shall declare upon Oath that he discovered the greatest Negligence of his Business during the Space of 9 Months I never saw him but twice in any Hospital. All my Letters & Petitions to him for Necessaries for the sick were treated with neglect. Many Hundreds of our brave Country Men died in the Hospitals from this Cause, whose lives might have been saved if they had had the Use of those necessary & comfortable Things which the Congress allowed them (3d) I shall prove upon Oath that Dr Shippen traded largely in Hospital Stores. That he transported large Quantities of Wine, Loaf & brown Sugar in public Waggons through the different Villages of Pennsylvania, and afterwards sold them as private Property. That our Soldiers suffered & died for want of these Stores, at the very time he disposed of them, and that the Continent has been obliged to replace them at an immense Expence. (4) I shall prove upon Oath that he deceived the Congress with false Reports of the Numbers of sick and deaths in the Hospitals, and with false Accounts of the Diseases that prevailed in the Hospitals, and the State of the Hospitals in General.

“I wish you better Success in your Attempts to serve your Country and the Interests of Humanity by bringing Dr Shippen to Justice than I met with, when I impeached him in March 1778 and specified most of the Crimes I have mentioned in this Letter. I have no personal Resentment to gratify against him, and I was satisfyed that my Charges would appear well grounded and that Justice would certainly take place when his Accounts were called for. For I have good reason to think that he cannot produce Vouchers for a Quarter Part of the Money that has passed through his Hands” (DLC:GW).

Hinman’s affidavit reads: “I do hereby certify that during my services of upwards of two Years in the Military Hospitals under the directions of Doctr William Shippen junr a putrid fever prevailed in the bettering house near Philadelphia, at Bethlehem and Dunkers Town, which proved fatal to great numbers; That the said putrid fever was brought on by the want of room and necessaries for the sick. That many Soldiers caught the putrid fever in the Hospitals who came to be cured of other Diseases, That many of the Surgeons and Nurses caught the putrid fever and many of them died with it. That the sufferings of the sick could in no Instance be attributed to the negligence or inattention of the Physicians and surgeons general or of the Senior Surgeons, who were diligent and faithful in doing their duty to them—That during the above space of two years, I never saw the director General but once in the Hospital at Bethlehem and three times in the Hospital at the Bettering House, which last place he visited one of the said three times in order to procure matter to inoculate a private patient” (DLC:GW). Hinman had been a hospital mate.

Fallon’s communication to Ehrenzeller, marked “No. 3,” reads: “You are hereby required to appear before the Committee of Investigation tomorrow morning from the hour of 9 to 12 OClock, then & there to answer such questions as shall be put to you in evidence against certain suspected Characters. … You are at my Requisition to Dr Shippen permitted to tarry in town till the Committee is done with you” (DLC:GW).

Ehrenzeller’s statement, marked “No. 4,” reads: “This is to certify that being lately summoned before a Committee of Investigation in this City of which Dr James Fallon Surgeon in the General Hospital under the direction of Dr William Shippen was Chairman, and being interrogated by him respecting certain Conversation betwixt Doctor Morgan & me, the said Doctor Fallon required me to make oath thereon, but previous to summoning me before the said Com[mit]tee informed me that Doctor Shippen & Doctor Morgan were at Variance, and urged me therefore to wait on Doctor Shippen, and to converse with him about the matter, for that what I might do on this occasion would greatly oblige Doctor Shippen who had it in his power & would do me great service in return, but I refused to go, and the said Doctor Fallon also applied to said Doctor Shippen for permission for me to stay in Town for the purpose of appearing as an Evidence against Doctr Morgan and obtained it” (DLC:GW).

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