Remarks on the Exchange of Charles, Earl Cornwallis1
[Philadelphia, November 25, 1782]
Col: Hamilton who warmly & cogently espoused the ratification,2 as an additional argument mentioned, that some intimations had been given by Col: Laurens3 of the army with the privity of Genl. Washington, to Cornwallis previous to his capitulation, that he might be exchanged for his father, then in the Tower.
“Notes of Debates in the Continental Congress,” MS, James Madison Papers, Library of Congress.
1. The only record of H’s participation in the debates in the Continental Congress is James Madison’s notes. All of the remarks by H which Madison recorded have been printed in these volumes with the following three exceptions: 1. Brief expressions of agreement with reports or motions; 2. Remarks which taken out of the context of Madison’s record would be meaningless; and 3. Statements which only repeat, without explanation, ideas which were fully expressed in motions or reports which H formally submitted to Congress. Madison’s notes are printed in Gaillard Hunt (ed.), The Writings of James Madison (New York, 1902), I, 250–484, and JCC description begins Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (Washington, 1904–1937). description ends , XXIII, 843–75 and XXV, 845–974.
2. The ratification concerned the proposed release of Charles, Earl Cornwallis, in exchange for the discharge of Henry Laurens, former President of Congress, who had been captured by the British in 1780 while on his way to the Netherlands to negotiate a loan and a treaty of amity and commerce with the Dutch. In April, 1782, Laurens was exchanged for Cornwallis, then on parole in London. Benjamin Franklin assumed the responsibility for setting Cornwallis free until “the pleasure of Congress should be known.” Some members of Congress refused to ratify Franklin’s action, both because of the treatment Laurens had received while imprisoned in the Tower of London, and because of Earl Cornwallis’s “cruel and barbarous” conduct while in America. Congress, on November 25, was debating a motion that the ratification of Cornwallis’s discharge be refused. See debates on November 22 and 25, 1782, “Notes of Debates in the Continental Congress,” MS, James Madison Papers, Library of Congress, and JCC description begins Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (Washington, 1904–1937). description ends , XXIII, 753.
3. John Laurens, son of Henry Laurens, took part in the Battle of Yorktown and, as captain general of prisoners, had held Cornwallis as a prisoner.