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To George Washington from Abraham Yates, Jr., 13 August 1776

From Abraham Yates, Jr.

In Convention of the Representatives of the
State of New York at Harlem Augt 13th 1776.

Sir

I am directed by the Convention to return their Thanks to Your Excellency for the Attention You have paid to the removal of suspicious and dangerous Persons from the Environs of the City of New York.1 Deeply sensible with Your Excellency of the Importance and Necessity of this Measure, the Convention had entered into a Resolution for that purpose previous to their Arrival at this Place2 but the difficulty of preparing proper Lists, the danger of giving the Alarm to some by the Apprehension of others and the Dilatoriness of Proceedings inseperable from a large Body, together with the great Urgency of our other public Affairs, delayed the Completion of this Business untill Your Excellency had taken it under Your immediate Cognizance. The delicate State of the present Juncture did in the Opinion of this Convention from the nature of the Case fully vest Your Excellency with all the civil Power necessary for the immediate Safety of the Army under your Command and consequently of the american Cause, and considering the great Divisions which have prevailed among the Inhabitants of the State of New York by sparing this House that disagreable Task You have conferred upon them a considerable Obligation.

The Convention, Sir, are at a Loss to conceive on what foundation those Gentlemen who had given their Paroles to a Committee of this House could assume the Opinion that any Dangers would after their Caption result from it. Since evidently the Parole is by that Step entirely dissolved,3 but as Doubts may remain in their Minds a Resolution is enclosed to Your Excellency which when You shall have made it known to them must certainly obliterate all their Scruples.4

I am directed further to inform Your Excellency that the Intelligence with which You have honored them from the Northern Department fully convinces them of the propriety of preserving as much force as possible in the upper Counties. At the same time we hope that the Assistance given to us by the neighbouring States will be effectuall to Defeat the Designs of our Foes in this Quarter.

General Clinton will give Your Excellency full Information with Respect to the Troops under his Command—seven hundred of which are now at the Post to the Northward of Kings Bridge, and more of them would have been there if the essential service of depriving the Enemy of Water did not demand considerable Detachments along the Banks of Hudsons River.

The Convention are very happy that Your Excellency hath attributed to it’s proper Cause the omission of a Signature to the Letter which we had the Honor of writing to You on the 9th instant.5 The fault lay with the Secretaries who in a great Hurry of Business neglected the presenting of it to the President for which we must pray Your Excellency’s Excuse.

I am further directed to enclose You the Copy of a Letter from General Scott with relation to one of the Prisoners who hath lately been taken by your Order. And the Copy of our Resolution upon that Subject.6 I have the Honor to be with great Respect Your Excellency’s most Obedient & very humble Servant

By Order.

Abm Yates Junr President P.T.

LS, DLC:GW. A draft of this letter was approved by the convention on the morning of this date. The printed version of the draft is nearly identical to the LS in wording (see N.Y. Prov. Congress Journals description begins Journals of the Provincial Congress, Provincial Convention, Committee of Safety, and Council of Safety of the State of New-York, 1775–1776–1777. 2 vols. Albany, 1842. (Microfilm Collection of Early State Records). description ends , 1:570).

Abraham Yates, Jr. (1724–1796), a lawyer and land speculator from Albany, was elected president pro tempore of the convention on 10 Aug. to act in place of Nathaniel Woodhull, who took a leave of absence on that date to serve as brigadier general of the militia forces from Queens and Suffolk counties that had been called out to reinforce the Continental army (ibid., 566). Yates, who represented Albany County in the provincial congresses and conventions from 1774 to 1777, became president of the convention in his own right on 28 Aug. and held that office until 21 Sept. when he went home on leave (ibid., 595, 638, 643). He was a state senator from 1777 to 1790, a Continental loan commissioner from 1777 to 1782, and a member of the Continental Congress from 1787 to 1788.

2The convention, which had met at the courthouse at White Plains until 27 July, reconvened at the church in Harlem on 29 July (N.Y. Prov. Congress Journals description begins Journals of the Provincial Congress, Provincial Convention, Committee of Safety, and Council of Safety of the State of New-York, 1775–1776–1777. 2 vols. Albany, 1842. (Microfilm Collection of Early State Records). description ends , 1:548). For various resolutions regarding the apprehension of disaffected persons, see ibid., 476–78, 504, 512, 518.

3The draft version of this letter reads: “is by that effectually destroyed” (ibid., 570).

4The enclosed resolution of this date declares these paroles to be “totally void as to any obligations thereby laid upon those who have been since the giving of the said Paroles made prisoners” on GW’s orders (DLC:GW; see also N.Y. Prov. Congress Journals description begins Journals of the Provincial Congress, Provincial Convention, Committee of Safety, and Council of Safety of the State of New-York, 1775–1776–1777. 2 vols. Albany, 1842. (Microfilm Collection of Early State Records). description ends , 1:570).

6John Morin Scott’s letter of this date to the president of the convention concerns Willet Taylor of New York City. “He is an infirm man,” Scott writes. “His father in law Mr Bogert [John Bogart] a Staunch whig—No difficulty can arise from the Interposition of the Congress in his Affair—I am sure the General [GW] will not be displeased with it. I am told Mr Taylor is willing to give Assurances on Oath. And very probably his Father in Law will undertake for him. For the Sake of his Family, and particularly his wife who is far gone in her pregnancy, I could wish the Convention of the State of New York would do something in the Case—If he is left to me, I must of Course order him to Connecticut—If the Congress will interfere [in] the Affair I will answer for it to the General.” The convention’s resolution of this date, a copy of which is appended to Scott’s letter, empowers Scott with GW’s permission “to dispose of Willet Taylor Esquire within this State” (DLC:GW; see also N.Y. Prov. Congress Journals description begins Journals of the Provincial Congress, Provincial Convention, Committee of Safety, and Council of Safety of the State of New-York, 1775–1776–1777. 2 vols. Albany, 1842. (Microfilm Collection of Early State Records). description ends , 1:570, and Scott to John McKesson, this date, in Force, American Archives description begins Peter Force, ed. American Archives. 9 vols. Washington, D.C., 1837–53. description ends , 5th ser., 1:953). GW replied to the convention on 14 Aug.: “I have no Objection to your taking Willet Taylor Esqrs. parole or such other Security as you may esteem Sufficient to prevent him from taking an Unfriendly part agt the United States of America” (LB, in Robert Hanson Harrison’s writing, DLC:GW; see also the Varick transcript in DLC:GW).

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