George Washington Papers

To George Washington from William Burnet, 29 June 1776

From William Burnet

[Newark, N.J., 29 June 1776]

May it please your Excellency

The Congress have sent Mr Franklin our late Governor to New-England under the Care of the Morris Town light Horse1—They passd through here Yesterday or rather lodged here the Night before last on their Way from Morris Town to Dobbs’s Ferry—I thought it a little extraordinary at the time that they should take this Rout when I supposed Morris Town was as near Dobb’s as Newark2—There were some other Circumstances at that time that looked suspicious—One of his Servants passed through here early in the Morning of the Day that his Master came here at Night & spoke with some Gentlemen in this Town As soon as he arrived here one of Mr Kemp the Attorney General’s Clerks3 came passing into the House where they put up And in the Morning the Servant that Mr Franklin had with him (Tho’ I desired the Capt. of the Guard not to allow the Servant liberty to speak to any one privately or to have Opportunity to receive or deliver any Letters) was as I am informed an Hour at old Mr Ogden’s & beleive can proceed after the Master with the Guard had passed on & then followed after & overtook them, at or before they reached Hackinsack—When they got to Hackinsack they concluded to wait till a Messenger could go to our Convention at Burlington & return with an Answer whether Mr Franklin might have Liberty to sign a Parole—I must refer your Excellen⟨cy⟩ to the Bearer Mr Treat for further Particulars & would only just inform your Excellency that I have detained the Express untill the return of Mr Treat for your Orders & have sent by him a Letter Mr Franklin sent to his Lady4—Youl please to excuse Blots & every Inaccuracy occasioned by Hurry—I am with much Esteem your Excellency’s most obedt humble Sert

Wm Burnet

P.S. I make no Doubt your Excellency has recd my Answer with regard to the Affair of the Riffle Guard.5

ALS, DLC:GW. Although this letter has no dateline, it is docketed in Robert Hanson Harrison’s writing: “From Dr Burnet June 29th Ansd 30. 1776.” See GW to Burnet, 30 June.

1On 16 June the New Jersey provincial congress declared Gov. William Franklin an enemy to American liberties, and two days later, after learning that Franklin refused to sign a parole guaranteeing his future good behavior, the provincial congress ordered his arrest and asked the Continental Congress to remove him to another colony (New Jersey provincial congress journal, 14–18 June, in Force, American Archives description begins Peter Force, ed. American Archives. 9 vols. Washington, D.C., 1837–53. description ends , 4th ser., 6:1620–24). The Continental Congress complied by resolving on 24 June that “William Franklin be sent under guard to Governor Trumbull, who is desired to take his parole; and, if Mr. Franklin refuses to give his parole, that Governor Trumbull be desired to treat him agreeable to the resolutions of Congress respecting prisoners” (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 , 5:473). The provincial congress read that resolution on 25 June and directed its president, Samuel Tucker, to have it put into effect (New Jersey provincial congress journal, 25 June, in Force, American Archives description begins Peter Force, ed. American Archives. 9 vols. Washington, D.C., 1837–53. description ends , 4th ser., 6:1629).

2Dobbs Ferry, N.Y., about twenty miles north of New York City, was an important crossing place on the Hudson.

3John Tabor Kempe (1735–1795) served as attorney general for the royal government of New York from 1759 to 1783, when he moved to England.

4William Franklin’s letter to his wife, Elizabeth Downs Franklin (d. 1777), has not been identified, but GW paraphrases part of it in his reply to Burnet of 30 June.

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