George Washington Papers
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To George Washington from Major General William Heath, 30 October 1778

From Major General William Heath

Head Quarters Boston 30th Octr 1778

Dear General

At the pressing request of Brigadier General Hamilton, I have given permission to Captain Masters of the 24th Regiment, British, attended by Captain Bliss to proceed to your Excellency to receive your further orders, with respect to a packet with which he is intrusted, addressed to General Sir Henry Clinton.

As Major General Phillips intends writing to your Excellency, prehaps respecting his particular situation, which Letter I shall not have an oppertunity of seeing,1 I would beg leave just to observe, that after my restricting him, on the 18th of June to the Limits of his House, Yards & Gardens, in consequence of a Letter wrote by him on the 17th consequent on the unfortunate death of Lieutenant Brown, which restrictions were approved by the Honorable Congress, the whole of which has been notorious to your Excellency.2 I requested of the Hon[orabl]e President of Congress his opinion how long it was expected that I should continue these restrictions;3 in a Letter which I had the honor to receive from him of the 13th of Sept. he expresses himself as follows

“I apprehend Congress conclude that you will

continue in force your Order respecting Major

General Phillips until he shall have made such

concessions as shall be satisfactory to your own

honor as Commanding officer of a Department in

the service of the United States.”4

Instead of receiving any concessions from Major General Phillips respecting his first Conduct in the case of Lieut. Brown, I have since received several Letters containing such expressions, as I have thought it impossible with propriety and consistant with the honor & dignity of my Country, to transact public business with him, and accordingly, on the fifth of October I issued an order of which the inclosed is copy, putting in effect, what, from personal regard I omitted when I first restricted him to his Quarters on the 18th of June.5

Capt. Masters being in hast prevents my sending Copies of some of Genl Phillips’s Letters, which I will forward by the next oppertunity; they may prehaps arrive before your Excellency writes Genl Phillips an answer; of their propriety or impropriety, and also of my conduct thereon your Excellency’s wisdom will determine.6

I am this moment honored with the receipt of yours of the 25th and one for His Excellency Count d’Estaing.7 I have the honor to be with the greatest respect, Your Excellency’s Most Obedt Servt

W. Heath

p.s. Capt. Bliss who accompanies Capt. Masters wishes to be informed whether he is exchanged or not.

LS, DLC:GW; ADfS, MHi: Heath Papers. GW replied to this letter on 6 Nov. (MHi: Heath Papers).

2For accounts of the killing of Lt. Richard Brown of the Convention Army by an American sentinel at Cambridge on 17 June 1778, Phillips’s letter to Heath of that date, and Heath’s letter to Phillips of 18 June 1778, see Heath to GW, 22 June 1778, and notes 1 and 2 to that document. For Congress’s resolution of 7 July 1778 approving Heath’s restriction of Phillips, see 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 , 11:672.

3See Heath to Henry Laurens, 30 Aug. 1778, in MHi: Heath Papers.

4For the full text of Henry Laurens’s letter to Heath of 13 Sept., see Smith, Letters of Delegates description begins Paul H. Smith et al., eds. Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774–1789. 26 vols. Washington, D.C., 1976–2000. description ends , 10:632.

5The enclosed copy of Heath’s order of 5 Oct. reads: “Whereas on the 18 day of June last M. Genl Phillips, Senior officer of the Troops of the Convention of Saratoga then in the State of Massachusetts bay, in consequence of a Letter wrote by him, on the 17th of the same month, couch’d in terms indecent & dishonorable, and highly insulting to the honor & dignity of the free, Independent & sovereign States of America, was restricted to the limits of his House, Yards and Gardens, & the next officer of those Troops notified of such his confinement. Personal regard to Major General Phillips, prevented at that time a refusal to transact public business with him. But his conduct in some instances Since that time & in particular in a Letter of the first instant in which he has treated the Major General in language the most indecent & insolent, renders it impossible with propriety longer to transact public business with him.

“The Major General does therefore, consider & declare Major General Phillips under close confinement & suspended from transacting Public business with him. All applications therefore from the Brittish officers of the Convention to the Major General, are to be handed up thro’ Brigadier General Hamilton and those from the foreign Troops thro’ Major General Riedesel. All orders from the Major General to the Troops of the Convention will be communicated in the same manner.

“The Major General on this occasion assures the officers of the convention, that as he ever has, So he will continue to pay the utmost attention to them, endeavoring to treat them with Politeness civility & generosity and in every circumstance compatible with his duty to the honor & safety of his Country, take pleasure in gratifying their requests. At the Same time he never will allow his Country or himself to be insulted by any who are placed under his direction.

“Commanding officers of Guards, Quarter Masters & commissaries, are not to receive or regard any application but such as come to them in manner as before directed” (DLC:GW).

6GW replied to both this letter and Phillips’s letter to him of 29 Oct. on 6 Nov. (see GW to Heath, that date, MHi: Heath Papers, and GW to Phillips, that date, DLC:GW). Heath enclosed copies of several of Phillips’s recent letters to him in his letter to GW of 31 Oct., to which GW replied on 12 Nov. (DLC:GW).

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