George Washington Papers

To George Washington from William Livingston, 11 April 1778

From William Livingston

Princeton [N.J.] 11 April 1778

Dear Sir

In Answer to your Excellency’s favour of the 9th1 with which I am just now honoured; if Moss should be convicted, I will, on account of his having been employed by the military, interpose my offices to procure his pardon, but I am greatly mistaken indeed if he is not one of the most consummate Villains that ever was born, & this moment employed as a Spy for the Enemy—I suspect him particularly to be engaged to watch my Motions, & doubt not he would be the first man to assassinate me, if he had an opportunity.2 Marselis I believe is honest,3 & has the same opinion of Moss—I heartily wish he was no farther trusted by our Army except by way of Stratagem; & with a view to obtain full proof of his treachery. His Sister has traded with the Enemy without any view to the Service, but meerly for her private advantage, & spread such a flame of Jealousy among the people as must render this Government contemptible in their Eyes unless she is prosecuted with some degree of Vigour; & she is committed for an offence that admits of no bail4—I am with great Esteem your Excellencys most humble Servt

Wil: Livingston


1This letter has not been found.

2Livingston may have been referring to Joseph Morse, Jr. In a letter to Livingston of 13 Nov. 1777 from Elizabeth, N.J., Abraham Clark had named Morse as one of “a Number of Persons about this Town of doubtful Character” who had been “employed to gain intelligence from the Enemy” and “have papers from Genl Washington . . . under Colour of which they carry on a very Lucrative trade” smuggling goods to Staten Island (MHi: Livingston Papers). On 20 Nov. 1777 the New Jersey council of safety ordered the arrest of the four men named by Clark (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 , 164), and on 20 Jan. 1778 GW, at the prompting of Col. Elias Dayton, wrote Livingston to intercede on behalf of the other three men. Meanwhile, on 10 Jan. 1778 the council again listed Morse among persons to “be brought before the Board” to answer the charge of “aiding & assisting in attempting to carry to carry beef to the Enemy on Staten Island” (ibid., 186). A warrant was issued on 14 Jan., and on 19 Jan. Morse “was brought before the Board, & it appearing that he had been into the Enemies lines & returned into this State, without the permission by law required—Agreed that he be committed for trial to Morristown Gaol.” On 28 Jan., however, he was discharged from jail after giving bond for appearance at the next Essex County Court of Oyer and Terminer (ibid., 189, 192, 202). The resolution of his case has not been determined.

3“Marselis” is probably the man “Morseiles” whom Livingston introduced to GW in a letter of 9 Jan. 1778.

4On 14Jan. the New Jersey council of safety resolved “That Esther Marsh be committed to the Gaol in this place for High Treason”; she was presumably the woman who appears as “Esther Morse” on the 10 Jan. list of those to be brought before the council for aiding the enemy (ibid., 186, 189). An Esther Morse married John Marsh in 1756 at Elizabeth. The resolution of her case has not been determined.

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