George Washington Papers
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To George Washington from James Lovell, 19 November 1775

From James Lovell

Provost’s Prison Boston
Novr 19th 1775.

May it please your Excellency!

I wish at this Time to waive the Expression of my Veneration of your Character, in a still-lively Hope that Providence will bless me with the Opportunity of attempting it by the united sincere Language of my Eyes & Lips; tho’ even that must prove inadequate.

Personally a Stranger to you, my Sufferings have yet affected your benevolent Mind; and your Exertions in my Favor have made so deep an Impression upon my grateful Heart as will remain till the Period of my latest Breath.

Your Excellency is already informed that the Powers of the military Government established in this Town have been wantonly & cruelly exercised against me, from the 29th of June last. I have, in vain, repeatedly sollicited to be brought to some Kind of Tryal for my pretended Crime. In Answer to a Petition of that Sort presented on the 16th of October, I am directed, by Capt. Balfour, Aid de Camp to Genl Howe, to seek the Release of Colll Skene and his Son, as the sole Means of my own Enlargement.1 This Proposition appears to me extremely disgraceful to the Party from which it comes; and a Complyance with it wou’d be pregnant with dangerous Consequences to my Fellow-citizens: But while my own Spirit prompts me to reject it directly with the keenest Disdain, the Importunity of my distressed Wife2 and the Advice of some whom I esteem have checked me down to a Consent to give your Excellency this Information. I have the fullest Confidence in your Wisdom; and I shall be perfectly resigned to your Determination whatever it may be. I must not, however, omit to say that, should you condescend to stigmatize this Proceeding of my Enemies by Letter, the Correction might work some Change in favor of myself, or, at least, of my Family, which must, I think, perish thro’ Want of Fewel & Provision in the approaching Winter, if it continues to be deprived of my Assistance. I have the Honor to be your Excellency’s devoted Friend & Servt

James Lovell

ALS, DNA:PCC, item 152; copy, DNA:PCC item 169; copy, NjMoHP; copy, DLC:GW, Hancock Papers. GW enclosed the ALS in his letter to Hancock of 18 December. Lovell wrote a letter similar to this one to GW on 6 December.

James Lovell (1737–1814), a teacher in Boston’s South Grammar School and a noted Patriot orator, was arrested and imprisoned by the British after the Battle of Bunker Hill on charges of spying for the rebels. Taken to Halifax by his captors when they evacuated Boston the following March, Lovell remained a prisoner until 7 Oct. 1776 when he was exchanged for Philip Skene. From February 1777 to April 1782 Lovell served in Congress where he became a leading member of the committee for foreign affairs and an outspoken critic of GW.

1Nisbet Balfour (1743–1823), a captain in the 4th Regiment of Foot, was wounded at the Battle of Bunker Hill, and in August 1776 he distinguished himself in the fighting on Long Island. Brevetted a major later in 1776, Balfour became lieutenant colonel of the 23d Regiment in 1778 and subsequently served in the southern campaigns under Cornwallis. Philip Skene (1725–1810), a former officer in the British army who held a grant of 60,000 acres on Lake Champlain, was named lieutenant governor of Ticonderoga and Crown Point in January 1775 while visiting in England. When Skene landed in Philadelphia on 7 June, he was promptly arrested and a few weeks later Congress ordered him to be imprisoned in Connecticut. After his exchange for Lovell in October 1776, Skene served for a short time under Gen. William Howe, and then in 1777 he and his son, Andrew Philip Skene (1753–1826), acted as guides for Gen. John Burgoyne on his march from Canada to Saratoga. Andrew Philip Skene was in 1775 a lieutenant in the 43d Regiment of Foot.

2Mary Middleton Lovell.

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