George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Mary Pemberton, 31 March 1778

From Mary Pemberton

Philad. the 31st of the 3d month 1778

Esteemed Friend

The Pressing necessity of an Application to thee when Perhaps thy other Engagements of Importance may by it be Interrupted, I hope will Plead my excuse, It is in behalf of my self, and the rest of the Suffering and Afflicted Parents, Wives and near Connections of our beloved Husbands now in Banishment at Winchester,1 what adds to our Distress in this sorrowfull Circumstance is the Acct we have lately received of the removal of one of them by Death, and that divers of them are much Indisposed,2 and as we find they are in want of necessarys Proper for Sick People we desire the Favour of General Washington to grant a Protection for One or Mor Waggons, and for the Persons we may Employ to go with them In order That they may be accommodated with what is suitable,3 for which we shall be much Obliged to him. sign’d in behalf of the whole by

Mary Pemberton

ALS (facsimile), PHi: Pemberton Papers; ADfS, PHi: Pemberton Papers. Mary Pemberton (c.1704–1778), daughter of Nathan Stanbury and widow of the Quaker merchant, judge, and mayor Richard Hill (1673–1729) and preacher Robert Jordan (d. 1742), had married Israel Pemberton, Jr. (1715–1779), a wealthy Quaker merchant, in 1747.

1On 28 Aug. 1777 Congress, taking note that it was “certain and notorious” that “the society of people commonly called Quakers” were “with much rancour and bitterness, disaffected to the American cause” and that it would “be their inclination, to communicate intelligence to the enemy, and, in various other ways, to injure the councils and arms of America,” had “earnestly recommended” to the Pennsylvania supreme executive council that they “apprehend and secure the persons” of a number of leading Quakers, including Israel Pemberton, Jr. (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 , 8:694). The council responded by ordering arrests on 31 Aug., and when the prisoners were unwilling to give oaths of allegiance, the council, with the approval of Congress, sent them to Virginia in September 1777 (ibid., 707–8, 718–19, 722–23; Pa. Col. Records description begins Colonial Records of Pennsylvania. 16 vols. Harrisburg, 1840–53. description ends , 11:283–84, 286–90, 293–96). At this time the prisoners remained in Virginia, but Congress had resolved on 16 Mar. “That the Board of War be directed to deliver over to the order of the president and council of Pensylvania, the prisoners sent from that State to Virginia” (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 , 10:260). Finally, on 8 April the Pennsylvania council voted to send the prisoners to Shippensburg, Pa., and set them at liberty (Pa. Col. Records description begins Colonial Records of Pennsylvania. 16 vols. Harrisburg, 1840–53. description ends , 11:459–61). On 27 April they appeared before the council at Lancaster and were given passes to Pottsgrove, where they were to be discharged (ibid., 472–73). On 29 April, GW’s aide Tench Tilghman gave at least four of the men a pass to Philadelphia, where the former prisoners arrived on 30 April (Pa. Mag. description begins Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography. 138 vols. to date. 1877—. description ends , 39 [1915], 221; Samuel Pleasants to Timothy Matlack, 18 May, Pa. Archives description begins Samuel Hazard et al., eds. Pennsylvania Archives. 9 ser., 138 vols. Philadelphia and Harrisburg, 1852–1949. description ends , 6:524; and Baurmeister, Revolution in America description begins Carl Leopold Baurmeister. Revolution in America: Confidential Letters and Journals, 1776–1784, of Adjutant General Major Baurmeister of the Hessian Forces. Translated and annotated by Bernhard A. Uhlendorf. New Brunswick, N.J., 1957. description ends , 167).

2Thomas Gilpin (1728–1778), a Philadelphia merchant, Delaware farmer, and member of the American Philosophical Society, died at Winchester, Va., on 2 Mar., and by 20 Mar. reports of his death had reached Philadelphia. Elizabeth Drinker noted reports of illness among other prisoners in diary entries of 24 and 27 Mar. (Crane, Elizabeth Drinker Diary description begins Elaine Forman Crane et al., eds. The Diary of Elizabeth Drinker. 3 vols. Boston, 1991. description ends , 1:291–92).

3GW replied to Pemberton on 5 April: “It would give me pleasure to oblige you, by granting the passport you desire; but as those for whose benefit it is intended are prisoners of the state, I do not think myself at liberty to do it. I shall however transmit your letter to Governor Wharton and interest myself for the success of its contents. I have no doubt an application of such a nature will meet with his most chearful concurrence” (Df, DLC:GW; see also GW to Thomas Wharton, Jr., 5 April).

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