George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Thomas Jefferson, 8 October 1779

From Thomas Jefferson

In Council [Williamsburg, Va.] Oct. 8th 1779.


In mine of the second of the present month written in the instant of Colo. Mathews delivery of your letter1 I informed you what had been done on the subject of Governor Hamilton & his companions previous to that moment. I now enclose you an advice of council in consequence of the letter you were pleased to enclose me from the British commissary of prisoners with one from Lord Rowdon.2 also a copy of my letter to Colo. Mathews enclosing also the papers therein named.3 The advice of Council to allow, the enlargment of the prisoners on their giving a proper parole has not been recalled nor will be I suppose unless something on the part of the enemy should render it necessary. I rather expect however that they will see it their interest to discontinue this kind of conduct. I am afraid I shall hereafter perhaps be obliged to give your Excellency some trouble in aiding me to obtain information of the future usage of our prisoners. I shall give immediate orders for having in readiness every engine which the Enemy have contrived for the destruction of our unhappy citizens captivated by them The presentiment of these operations is shocking beyond expression. I pray heaven to avert them: but nothing in this world will do it but a proper conduct in the Enemy. In every event I shall resign myself to the hard necessity under which I shall act.4 I have the honour to be with great regard and esteem Your Excellency’s most obdt & most hbl. servant

Th: Jefferson

LS (retained copy), DLC: Jefferson Papers.

1Jefferson is referring to GW’s letter to him of 13 September.

2The enclosed copy of the Virginia council’s “advice” has not been identified. The copy retained by the council, dated 8 Oct. “In Council” and signed by Archibald Blair, reads: “The Governor is advised to take proper and effectual measures for knowing from time to time the situation & treatment of our prisoners with the enemy and to extend to theirs with us a like treatment in every circumstance. And also to order to a proper station the prison ship fitted up on recommendation from Congress for the reception & confinement of such prisoners of war as shall be sent to it” (DLC: Jefferson Papers).

3The versions of these enclosures sent to GW have not been identified. For Jefferson’s letter to Col. George Mathews and its enclosures, see Jefferson Papers, description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 40 vols. to date. Princeton, N.J., 1950—. description ends 3:101–3. For Mathews’s purposes in coming to Virginia on parole, see GW to Jefferson, 13 September. Mathews was exchanged in December 1781.

4On 23 Nov., GW responded to Jefferson’s letters of 1, 2, and 8 Oct., noting that the council’s remanding of Hamilton back to confinement on his refusal to sign the parole was “perfectly agreeable to the practice of the Enemy” (DLC:GW; see also GW to Jefferson, 26 Dec., DLC:GW). Hamilton was finally paroled in October 1780 (see Jefferson Papers, description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 40 vols. to date. Princeton, N.J., 1950—. description ends 4:24–25).

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