George Washington Papers

To George Washington from William Livingston, 14 April 1777

From William Livingston

Borden Town [N.J.] 14 April 1777


Collo. Duyckinck has preferred a Petition to the Governor & Council of Safety of this State for a hearing being under terrible apprehensions of the approaching warm Season of the year in the place of his Confinement1—As the Judicature he has addressed, is competent to release him from confinemt or order his Imprisonment in this State, for an Offence against the municipal Laws, it is on the one hand a pity he should complain for want of Redress; & on the other improper to discharge him as he may have been so guilty, as to render himself properly a Prisoner of War, & to be dealt with by the military; I beg the Favour of your Excellency to furnish me with the Charges upon which he was ordered to Philadelphia, that we may either take cognizance of his Case, or convince him of the fruitlesness of his farther Importunity. I am with great Respect your most humble & most obdt Servt

Wil: Livingston


1John Duyckinck, a colonel in the Middlesex County, N.J., militia who had taken the oath of allegiance to the king when the British invaded New Jersey in late 1776 and who had returned to the American camp a short time later, was confined in the Philadelphia jail in February 1777 on GW’s orders because of apprehensions that he might be acting as a British spy (see GW to Benjamin Lincoln, John Sullivan, and Philemon Dickinson, 22 Feb. 1777, and GW to Livingston, 16 April 1777). In early March Duyckinck petitioned Governor Livingston and the New Jersey privy council for a hearing so that he might be either charged formally with a specific crime or released from confinement. The privy council was not empowered by the state constitution to release prisoners from confinement, and the matter was not referred to the magistrates, who had that power, because the council was ignorant of the charge against Duyckinck (see Livingston to Horatio Gates, 9 Mar. 1777, Prince, Livingston Papers description begins Carl E. Prince et al., eds. The Papers of William Livingston. 5 vols. Trenton and New Brunswick, N.J., 1979–88. description ends , 1:270–71). The New Jersey council of safety, which was created on 15 Mar. 1777, was given constitutional power to release prisoners, however, and on 14 April Livingston laid Duyckinck’s petition before the council of safety, which directed him to write GW about the matter “as the Board are given to understand, That the said Petitioner was apprehended by order of Genl Washington, or some of the General Officers in the Continental Army; and are at a loss to determine, until some Charge be exhibited, whether the Offence be cognizable before this Board” (N.J. Council of Safety Minutes description begins Minutes of the Council of Safety of the State of New Jersey. Jersey City, 1872. description ends , 22).

Index Entries