George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Thomas Jefferson, 2 October 1779

From Thomas Jefferson

Williamsburg [Va.] Oct. 2. 1779.


Just as the letter accompanying this1 was going off Colo. Mathews arrived on parole from New York by the way of head quarters bringing your Excellencys letter on [t]his subject with that of the British Commissary of prisoners.2 The subject is of great importance & I must therefore reserve myself to answer after further consideration. Were I to speak from present impressions I should say it was happy for Governor Hamilton that a final determination of his fate was formed before this new information.3 As the enemy have released Capt. Willing from his irons the Executive of this State will be ind⟨uced⟩ perhaps not to alter their former opinion.4 But it is impossible they can be serious in attempting to bully us in this manner. We have too many of their subjects in our power & too much iron to cloathe them with & I will add too much resolution to avail ourselves of both to fear their pretended retaliation however I will do myself the honour of forwarding to your Excellency the ultimate result of council on this subject.5

In consequence of the information in the letter from the British commissary of prisoners that no officers of the Virginia line should be exchanged till Governor Hamiltons affair should be settled we have stopped our flag which was just hoisting anchor with a load of privates for N. York. I must therefore ask the favor of your Excellency to forward the enclosed by flag when an opportunity offers as I suppose Genl Phillips will be in N. York before it reaches you.6 I have the honour to be Sir With the greatest esteem your most obdt & most hbl. servt

Th: Jefferson

LS (retained copy), DLC: Jefferson Papers. GW replied to this letter on 23 Nov. (DLC:GW).

2See GW to Jefferson, 13 September. Jefferson is referring to the close confinement of Henry Hamilton, former lieutenant governor of Detroit. For GW’s advice to the Virginia council on Hamilton’s treatment, see GW to Jefferson, 6–10 August.

3For the Virginia executive council’s decision to release Hamilton on a conditional parole, see Jefferson to GW, 1 October. For the British view of his treatment, see Frederick Haldimand to GW, 29 August.

4For the capture and confinement of Capt. James Willing, see Lewis J. Costigin to GW, 19 Dec. 1778, and n.1 to that document.

6This enclosure has not been identified, but Jefferson probably is referring to his letter and enclosures to British major general William Phillips, to which he refers in his letter to GW of 1 October. GW had authorized Phillips’s parole, but Congress recently had barred his entry into New York (see Samuel Huntington to GW, 28 Sept., and n.3 to that document).

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