Lebanon April 24th 1782
I have the Honor to inclose your Excellency a Copy of my Letter of this date to the President of Congress, requesting the attention of that honorable Body to the unhappy situation of our Countrymen Prisoners in Great Britain, and proposing an Effort to obtain their Exchange.
That Humanity which has hitherto deterr’d us from retaliating upon our Enemies their own barbarous treatment of Prisoners, and which is the only ground of argument that can be urg’d against my proposal, has already cost us the lives of too many valuable Citizens; that Line of Conduct which sacrifices a Countryman rather than to inflict pain on an Enemy, does not indeed merit the name of humane or generous; the first political as well as moral Duty is self preservation.
I wish your Excellency’s opinion may coincide with mine, and that you may think proper to exert your influence in favor of these deserving, but unfortunate & forgotten men.
There is in the magazines of this State, a considerable Quantity of gunpowder, belonging to the United States, which I fear will suffer damage for want of being mov’d. We have also belonging to this State, twenty five or thirty Tons, which are at your Command, should the exigencies of the service require it. I have the Honor to be with the sincerest sentiments of respect Your Excellencys Most Humble servant
DLC: Papers of George Washington.