George Washington Papers

From George Washington to General William Howe, 30 January 1778

To General William Howe

Head Quarters [Valley Forge] January 30th 1778


I have duly received your Letter of the 19th Ulto.

It is unnecessary to enter minutely into its contents; since the inclosed Resolutions of Congress will shew you, that the matter is now put upon a footing different from that mentioned by Mr Boudinot, which, at the same time you will be pleased to consider as final and decisive, and to regulate your measures accordingly. I shall be glad as soon as possible to be favoured with your determinations in consequence, especially on those parts numbered in the margin of the Resolves; to which I must request a speedy & explicit answer.1

There is one passage of your Letter, which I cannot forbear taking particular notice of. No expressions of personal politeness to me can be acceptable, accompanied by reflections on the Representatives of a free people, under whose authority I have the honor to act. The delicacy I have observed in refraining from every thing offensive in this way, intitled me to expect a similar treatment from you. I have not indulged myself in invective against the present Rulers of Great Britain in the course of our correspondence—nor will I even now avail myself of so fruitful a Theme.

The Quarter Masters permitted to go with the Cloathing appeared to me sufficient for the purpose: For tho the prisoners are in different places, yet they lie chiefly on a direct communication. If upon any future occasion you should conceive a greater number requisite, you will inform me of it previous to their coming, and I shall be ready to comply as far as I think myself justified—Whether your sending out more than One British Quarter Master was an encroachment upon the spirit of the Agreement between us shall not now be a matter of discussion, but can it be said there is any thing in it, that can reconcile the coming out of Captn McCleod.2 I have the honor to be with due respect Sir Yr Most Obedt servt

Go: Washington

Df, in Robert Hanson Harrison’s writing, DLC:GW; copy, enclosed in GW to Henry Laurens, 8 Feb., DNA:PCC, item 152; copy, DNA:PCC, item 169; two copies, P.R.O., 30/55, Carleton Papers; copy (extract), P.R.O.: Colonial Office, Secretary of State’s Correspondence with Commander-in-Chief, North America; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

1In DNA:PCC with the copy of this letter that GW sent to Congress is a printed copy of the congressional resolutions of 19 Dec. 1777 and 21 Jan. 1778 relating to prisoners, which Henry Laurens had sent to GW on 27 Jan. (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 , 9:1036–37, 10:74–81). The “parts numbered in the margin of the Resolves” to which GW refers are the four paragraphs in the resolution of 21 Jan. beginning with “That, in return for the permission hereby given to purchase provisions of the American commissaries, for the use of the enemy’s prisoners, General Washington be directed to demand of General Howe, liberty to purchase cloathing in such places as may be under his power, for the use of the American prisoners,” and ending with “without waiting for any special order from Congress for such purpose,” as well as the resolution “That General Washington be directed to require of General Howe an explanation of those parts of his letter of November, 1777, which imply this distinction, and the line of conduct which he means to observe for the future, with respect to such of the faithful citizens of these states as may be subjected to his power” (see ibid., 81). An asterisk follows the paragraph in the DNA:PCC copy of the resolution of 21 Jan. reading “That the privates in New-York have been crouded all summer in sugar houses, and the officers boarded on Long-Island, except about thirty, who have been confined in the provost-guard and in the most loathsome goals,” and Robert Hanson Harrison wrote at the bottom of the sheet: “Major Williams lately exchanged, mentions particularly the following officers, whose names he recollects, Colo. Ethan Allen—Major [Brinton] pain, Captains [John] Flahavan, [Abraham C.] Vandyck—[Ozias] Bissell—[Nathaniel] Vanzandt—Lieutenant [Abraham] Skinner & [John] Mercer & Doctor Leister.” For the background to this legislation, see William Howe to GW, 19 Jan., and note 1; see also GW to Israel Putnam, 25 Jan., n.2.

2See William Stephens Smith to GW, 25 Jan., n.1. “Captn McCleod,” who according to an American deponent was “said to be of the Enemys American Levies” (see Pa. Archives description begins Samuel Hazard et al., eds. Pennsylvania Archives. 9 ser., 138 vols. Philadelphia and Harrisburg, 1852–1949. description ends , 1st ser., 6:233), may have been Norman McLeod, who served in 1778 as a captain in the Loyalist 2d Battalion of the New Jersey Volunteers.

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