Alexander Hamilton Papers

Declaration on Prisoners, [4 June 1778]

Declaration on Prisoners1

[Valley Forge, June 4, 1778]

In the Name of His Excellency General Washington and by virtue of His authority to me, I declare, that on his being properly notified of time and place, he will appoint a person then and there to receive all Prisoners of War, in possession of the enemy, at present in the city of Philadelphia, and that He will return as speedily as possible an equal number of prisoners of war, in lieu of them, now in the power of the United States, of similar rank quality and description to those who shall be delivered as above-mentioned, at such post of the British army as shall be most convenient and conducive to dispatch. Those American Prisoners, who, on account of wounds and sickness cannot be included in the general delivery, when the hospitals or places in which they are lodged shall be no longer in possession of the enemy, being left under the protection of a flag, shall be received by us and exchanged in like manner, with the prisoners aforesaid. Any hospital stores or utensils, that may be necessarily left with them shall be paid for, at such reasonable rates, as shall be mutually agreed on, by persons appointed for the purpose, or returned in kind. The Prisoners comprehended in this declaration, now in Philadelphia by Mr Loring’s2 report, amount to about 120 Commissioned officers and 670 Non Comd. Officers and privates; about 80 of whom are sick and in hospital. These Prisoners, when delivered, shall be considered as under parole and incapable of military service ’till regularly exchanged.

I do further declare, on the part of His Excellency General Washington that he will at such convenient time and place, as shall be agreed on between General Sir Henry Clinton and himself, appoint and impower proper persons to meet others duly authorised by Sir Henry Clinton to discuss and settle the difference, so long subsisting, with respect to the proportion to be accounted for, of those prisoners who were sent out by General Sir William Howe, in the Winter of 76, on just and reasonable terms.

Alex Hamilton3

ADS, The Andrew deCoppet Collection, Princeton University Library; ADfS, George Washington Papers, Library of Congress.

1On May 23, 1778, Washington wrote to Elias Boudinot, American commissary of prisoners, the following: “By a resolve of Congress of the 21st., in consequence of a late proposal from General Howe, a general exchange of prisoners is to be carried into execution; This renders your immediate presence at Camp necessary, which I therefore request” (George Washington Papers, Library of Congress). Since Washington did not receive an answer from Boudinot and since Sir Henry Clinton, who had replaced William Howe, showed signs of evacuating Philadelphia, Washington again wrote to Boudinot on June 2, 1778, urging him to hasten “here with all possible dispatch” (George Washington Papers, Library of Congress). On June 4, 1778, Joshua Loring, British commissary of prisoners, arrived at Headquarters. Washington directed H to negotiate with Loring in Boudinot’s absence (see George Washington to H, June 4, 1778)

The document printed here was probably presented to Loring at this time.

2Joshua Loring, British commissary of prisoners of war.

3The following postscript, which is in writing of H and is crossed out, appears at the end of this document:

“The substance of the resolve of Congress is, That as Sir Wm. Howe has it in his power to exchange the officers under the convention, they cannot consent to an equivalent of privates for Officers.

“That a General exchange shall take place of all officers and soldiers in the actual possession of the respective parties, and of such other officers & soldiers as in the opinion of General Washington are fit subjects of exchange. AH.”

The congressional resolve referred to was dated May 21, 1778.

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