George Washington Papers

To George Washington from William Livingston, 17 April 1778

From William Livingston

Princeton [N.J.] 17 April 1778

Dear Sir

I inclose for your Excellency’s perusal the 475 No. of Townes Evening Post on Account of a publication in it in the Character of a Resolution of Congress of the 20 of february; which I suspect for a forgery.1 If it be it is calculated to do the most intensive Mischief, & Indeed if genuine it will I fear be unhappily attended with fatal Consequences—In the latter case however, we must bear the Tory re-[ ] of it with patience; & their comments upon it good policy will require us to Suffer to die away in Silence—But if be a forgery as from the oppressive Injustice of it, & its being under the Signature of both the President & Secretary (which I do not recollect of any other resolve) I take it to be it ought to be represented as Such as soon as possible—The fact I cannot determine, If your Excellency knows it to be an imposition (which I take it for granted you may depend upon it is if you have had no Intimations of Such an Act from Congress[)], the forgery ought to be exposed & the public disabused as soon as possible. I have the honour to be with the greatest Esteem & affection.

Transcript, MHi: William Livingston Papers. The transcript is signed, “copied from Gov. Livingstons Letter Book this 3d Novr 1829 Stockbridge—Theo Sedgwick Jr.”

1Benjamin Towne (d. 1793) was born in England, where he learned the printer’s trade. After moving to Philadelphia, he served as a journeyman for William Goddard’s Pennsylvania Chronicle, and Universal Advertiser (Philadelphia) before opening his own printing house. Towne published the first issue of the Pennsylvania Evening Post (Philadelphia) on 24 Jan. 1775 and continued publication until 1784. During the war the Evening Post followed the politics of the party occupying Philadelphia, and although Towne was proscribed for treason by the Pennsylvania council on 15 June 1778, he was later discharged (Pa. Archives description begins Samuel Hazard et al., eds. Pennsylvania Archives. 9 ser., 138 vols. Philadelphia and Harrisburg, 1852–1949. description ends , 4th ser., 3:680–88; 6th ser., 13:477). Livingston enclosed the Evening Post of 3 April. The resolutions of 20 Feb., purportedly taken “From a Rebel Paper,” read: “Whereas it is represented to congress by his excellency general Washington, that the mode adopted by many of the united states of inlisting their quota of troops only for six or nine months, occasions a constant change of men; by which means great part of his army constantly consists of undisciplined troops, and of course occasions great fatigue and trouble to his officers in rendering them fit only for any service; and that by the time they come to know the duty of a soldier, their enlistments expire.

“Resolved, That all the troops now composing the armies of these united states, and such other troops as shall hereafter inlist or be drafted to serve in their armies, shall be deemed, and they are hereby declared to be troops of these united states, during the continuance of the war between these united states and Great-Britain, and subject to all the regulations, pains and penalties specified in the articles of war heretofore made and ordained by these united states in congress; notwithstanding any law of these united states to the contrary.

“Resolved, That his excellency gen. Washington, and all and every other officer of these united states, commanding in any garrison or fort, or at any post, or any detachments, be, and they are hereby authorized and required to apprehend and detain in safe custody, all such persons as shall quit the service of these united states, during the continuance of the war between these united states and Great Brittain, under pretence of the time of their inlistment being expired, in order that they may be brought to condign punishment for desertion.”

Appended to the resolutions was the comment, “A correspondent observes that the consistent conduct of the venerable congress is truly admirable; after having broke faith with gen. Burgoyne and his army, they disdain to keep it with their own; and that in the former case it was doing them too much honor, to suppose they were were capable of adhering to any treaty or agreement.”

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