George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Henry Laurens, 23 December 1777

From Henry Laurens

York [Pa.] 23d Decemr 1777


I had the honour of writing to your Excellency the 20th by Messenger Macklosky Since which I have not received any of your Excellency’s favours nor any Commands from Congress to be transmitted to you.

General Conway is so polite as to afford me an opportunity of conveying a Packet to your Excellency which I received last Evening from Majr General Gates—at the Same time I send the correspondence alluded to in my last between Brigadier Parsons & General Tryon.1 I believe I was premature in giving this Gentleman the title of Sir William—& I also add Copy of a Letter from the Brigadier to a Member of Congress which shews that he had retorted the injuries he complained of by an Act which he would not have the Enemy believe he meditated2—If your Excellency shall not have seen other Copies these will give some information. for the first Instance, a British Crew of a Vessel bound from Granada to New York with 70 Puncheons of Rum & Six Hogsheads Sugar for the use of the Enemy’s Troops, some time last Month dispossessed the Master of Command & carried the Vessel into Charles Town so. Carolina—where, according to a Resolve of Congress the Value of Vessel & Cargo were adjudged prize to the Captors—this Resolve was founded on the practice of the British Court for encouraging infidelity & treachery among our Seamen3—I hope all their infamous examples & I have no doubt this particular one will be retaliated an hundred fold. I remain with very great regard & Esteem—&ca.

LB, DNA:PCC, item 13.

1The packet included Horatio Gates’s letter to GW of 8 December. For the correspondence between Brig. Gen. Samuel Holden Parsons and former North Carolina governor William Tryon, see Laurens to GW, 20 Dec., and note 4.

2Parsons’s letter has not been identified. Laurens informed Parsons in a letter of 23 Dec. that his “proceeding to retort the injuries received from the Enemy, by the destruction of Mr. Delancey’s House within five Miles of the City of New York although not recognized in Congress, affords as far as I can learn, general Satisfaction” (Smith, Letters of Delegates description begins Paul H. Smith et al., eds. Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774–1789. 26 vols. Washington, D.C., 1976–2000. description ends , 8:463–64).

3The 2 Dec. issue of the Charleston Gazette of the State of South-Carolina includes the following account of the capture of the vessel: “The sloop Betsey, of Antigua, John Weatherdon late master, from Grenada, intended for New-York, having on board upwards of 70 hogsheads of rum, some sugar, and fruit, arrived in safe port last Saturday [29 Nov.], the mate and crew, who were all Americans, having thought [proper] to alter her destination, to regain their liberty, which they never had an opportunity of doing while they were prisoners at Grenada, where not the least support was ever allowed them, nor were they suffered to depart from thence, unless to navigate the vessels of their enemies. The crew consisted of 4 men and 2 boys, mostly of Newberry port: Having no other prospect of getting back to their country, and dreading to be confined to perish in a noisome prison-ship, if they should reach New-York, they preferred, on the 16th ult. to confine the captain to his cabin, and take possession of the vessel, even while in company and under convoy of two armed brigs from Grenada, also bound for New-York, and happily succeeded in their attempt” (Naval Documents description begins William Bell Clark et al., eds. Naval Documents of the American Revolution. 11 vols. to date. Washington, D.C., 1964–. description ends , 10:655). The relevant resolution, passed by Congress on 14 Oct. 1777, reads: “That any vessel or cargo, the property of any British subject, not an inhabitant of Bermuda or any of the Bahama islands, brought into any of the ports or harbours of any of these United States by the master or mariners, shall be adjudged lawful prize, and divided among the captors in the same proportion as if taken by any continental vessel of war” (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 , 9:802).

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