George Washington Papers

To George Washington from John Ely, 25 December 1789

From John Ely

SayBrook 25th Decembr 1789

Permitt me Mr President to wish You & your Lady the Compliments of the Season.

And also be Pleased to Permitt me to Inclose you a Coppy of a Letter I wrote you in 1780 and also one to the President of Congress of a Similar Nature, Together with a Petition to Congress,1 Those Letters Anticipated Events which have since Taken Place, as will appear by my Petition to Congress—I take this Method to Prevent Trouble to the President as I cannot Expect him to Pay Attention to Matters of an Individual Subject, when Great National Matters Calls for his Attention; Yet should I be so Fortunate as to Attract a Moments Reflection on my Conduct & Sufferings while in Captivity it might give a Favorable turn to an Unfortunate man, my Petition was Prefered to the Old Congress about 4 Years Past on which a Committe was appointed, which Committe who consisted of Doctr Johnson Mr King & Mr Henry made a Favourable Report. Leaveing a Blank for the Sum Found Due in which Situation, it now Lies, I Intend to wait on Congress in February Next for a Desition—I Flatter my self if aught in my Carrector Deserves your Notice and that of Congress I shall have Justice Done me. Permitt Further to add that as it is the Opinion of the Mercantile & Tradeing Part of this State that you will Ultimately Think Propper to Establish a Navil Office at the Port of SayBrook; should that be the Case and I so Fortunate as to have the appointment I should Esteem my self Happy and should keep a good Lookout2—I am with Every Sentiment of Respect to the President—his most Obedt and Very Hume Servt

John Ely

ALS, DNA:PCC, item 78.

John Ely of Connecticut served as a captain with the 6th Connecticut Regiment from May to December 1775 and as colonel of a Connecticut militia regiment in 1777. He was taken prisoner on Long Island in December 1777 and not exchanged until December 1780.

1Ely’s letter to GW may be one of 26 Oct. 1780, complaining of the personal misfortunes resulting from his captivity (DLC:GW). The copy of the petition to the Confederation Congress enclosed in Ely’s 1789 letter is undated and deals with his extended captivity and its economic consequences to him (DNA:PCC, item 78).

2On 9 Jan. 1790 GW wrote Ely that “Upon considering the state in which your application to Congress rested at the conclusion of the former Government, and your intention of renewing it under the present; it occurs to me that it would not be proper for me to express any opinion on the merits of your individual case. In general I may say, without impropriety, that I am not ignorant of your service in your Country’s cause; and that it is always my wish that justice should take place” (NCoxHi). On 24 Feb. 1790 Ely’s petition, “praying to be compensated for losses or injuries sustained, or for services rendered during the late war,” was submitted to the House of Representatives and referred to the secretary of war. Knox reported on 8 Mar., and on 10 Mar. the House ordered a bill to be brought in. The bill was rejected on 5 April, but a second bill “to allow compensation to John Ely, for his attendance as a physician and surgeon on the prisoners of the United States” passed (DHFC description begins Linda Grant De Pauw et al., eds. Documentary History of the First Federal Congress of the United States of America, March 4, 1789-March 3, 1791. 20 vols. to date. Baltimore, 1972—. description ends , 3:305, 306, 319, 325, 356, 374, 392, 394). The matter was not, however, finally settled until 1833 when Congress passed “An Act for the relief of the heirs of Colonel John Ely, deceased,” compensating Ely’s estate to the amount of $60 per month for his services, travel, and expenses from 9 Dec. 1777 to 25 Dec. 1780 (6 Stat. description begins Richard Peters, ed. The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America, from the Organization of the Government in 1789, to March 3, 1845 . . .. 8 vols. Boston, 1845-67. description ends 543 [2 Mar. 1833]).

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