George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Joseph Nourse, 20 February 1778

From Joseph Nourse

War Office [York, Pa.] the 20th Febr. 1778.

Sir,

I beg leave to inform your Excellency that in Consequence of the Resolution of Congress giving The Revd Mr Batwell of Yorktown, the alternative of taking the Oath of Allegiance to the state of Pennsilva. or going into the City of Philada in order to embark with his Family for Europe, that agreable to his choice the Board have given him, a Passport for himself, his Wife, two Children, his Wife’s Mother & a maid servant, to the out post of your Excellency’s Army, where they are to stay until further passport shall be obtain’d—This Letter is to give your Excellency the necessary Information, & to request Passports may be granted agreable to the pass signd by order of the Board of War.1 I have the honor to be Your Excellencys most obt & most humble servt

Joseph Nourse

ALS, DLC:GW.

1Daniel Batwell was an Anglican minister, educated at Cambridge University, who arrived in America in 1774 to work for the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel. He received a 200–acre farm near Carlisle from the Pennsylvania government and based his activities in York and Cumberland counties. After the outbreak of the Revolutionary War, Batwell, who was openly critical of the independence movement, was harassed by local Patriots, who disrupted his services and on one occasion lobbed him into a creek (see Pa. Mag. description begins Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography. 138 vols. to date. 1877—. description ends , 63 [1939], 412). Batwell remained defiant, however, and he was arrested in York County on the night of 23–24 Sept. 1777 for “being concerned in a conspiracy to destroy the continental magazines in this State,” which he decried as “an unjust and even improbable Accusation” (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 , 8:759; Pa. Archives description begins Samuel Hazard et al., eds. Pennsylvania Archives. 9 ser., 138 vols. Philadelphia and Harrisburg, 1852–1949. description ends , 2d ser., 3:122). Wracked by what his doctor called “a complication of disorders, particular[ly] an obstinate fever following a Dysentery,” Batwell wrote Henry Laurens from York prison on 1 Oct. 1777, attesting to his ill health and seeking release from his arrest (see ibid., 112–13, 116). Congress responded on the next day by referring his petition to the Pennsylvania supreme executive council and ordering the York jailer to place Batwell in a more comfortable confinement (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 , 8:759–60). Pennsylvania delegates Daniel Roberdeau and William Clingan also visited Batwell, confirmed his poor health, and recommended his case to Pennsylvania supreme executive council president Thomas Wharton, Jr. (Pa. Archives description begins Samuel Hazard et al., eds. Pennsylvania Archives. 9 ser., 138 vols. Philadelphia and Harrisburg, 1852–1949. description ends , 1st ser., 5:770). Apparently not receiving a satisfactory response from the Pennsylvania government, Batwell wrote Congress twice, on 7 Nov. and 26 Dec., seeking permission to go to his farm (ibid., 2d ser., 3:122–23; DNA:PCC, item 42). Congress read Batwell’s latest petition on 27 Dec.; and although a motion allowing him to go to his farm was rejected, Congress resolved that Batwell “should be discharged out of confinement, on his taking an oath of allegience to the State of Pensylvania; or, on his refusal, that he should be allowed to go with his family into the city of Philadelphia” (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 , 9:1056–57). Batwell decided to relocate to Philadelphia and informed Henry Laurens of his decision in a letter of 5 Jan., which Congress read on the same date and referred to the Board of War (DNA:PCC, item 78; 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 , 10:18).

In this letter to GW, Nourse enclosed a pass “To all Continental Officers Civil & Military,” dated 10 Feb. and signed by Horatio Gates: “The Revd Daniel Batwell in persuance of a Resolution of Congress, giving him the alternative of taking the oath of Allegiance to the state of Pennsilvania, or going into Philadelphia, is hereby permitted, agreably to his Choice, to pass into Philadelphia with his Family and such Baggage &c. as may be of absolute use to him and of no Service to the Enemy: He is to call at an out post of the American Army, and from thence to send to Head Quarters, & procure His Excellency General Washington’s Directions as to the manner of his going into Philadilphia he has sign’d a Parole not to give Intellegence to the Enemy or do or say any thing to the prejudice of the Independency of these States during the present war with Great Britain—Mr Battwell’s family consists of Mrs Bethea Batwell his Wife three of his Children George Elizabeth & Anne & Mrs Elizabeth Sherwin, the mother of Mrs Batwell also Elizabeth Hubbard. Servant maid of Mr Batwell’s” (DLC:GW).

Another permit signed by Gates is in DLC:GW: “Adam Simmons[,] George Meal[,] George Birkett Waggoners, of York County on their taking on Oath, that they will not directly or indirectly convey any Intelligence to the Enemy, on their being permitted to transport The Revd Mr D. Battwell & his Family, with his Effects, in their Waggons to the City of Philadelphia They are hereby permitted to pass, and to call at the out post of the American Army, & wait the Orders of his Excellency General Washington, as to the manner of their going in.” See also Daniel Roberdeau to George Bryan, 29 Dec. 1777, Pa. Archives description begins Samuel Hazard et al., eds. Pennsylvania Archives. 9 ser., 138 vols. Philadelphia and Harrisburg, 1852–1949. description ends , 1st ser., 6:144.

After making his way to Philadelphia, Batwell was appointed chaplain to the Loyalist corps of New York Volunteers in October 1778 and later returned to England. His land was sold in September 1783 to satisfy taxes that had been levied on it.

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