George Washington Papers

From George Washington to the Magistrates and Selectmen of Norwalk, Connecticut, 15 October 1778

To the Magistrates and Selectmen of Norwalk, Connecticut

[Fredericksburg] 15 Otbr 1778


I this morning received your application,1 and I can assure that I am sorry any individual of the army should have violated the rights of a citizen, or that an officer should insult the authority of the State in an instance where it seems to have been particularly concerned—But that this matter may be brought to a legal issue, I inclose you a letter to General Scott who commands near Bedford, directing him to deliver over to any civil officer the soldier which you had in arrest2—I have also ordered Captn Stoddard to this place that his conduct may be inquired into. you will send the evidence against him here. I am &c.

G. W.

Df, in James McHenry’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

1The Norwalk magistrates and selectmen had written GW on 13 Oct.: “We beg leave to inform your Excellency that last Week two Light Horsemen Vizt Gershom Dorman & David Hamilton of Capt. stoddards Company of Colonel Sheldons Regiment came into this Town and threatn’d to take from an Inhabitant without any Authority his Substance to break open his House and Barn and take from him what they pleased and to take him by force and Carry him to the Army burn his Dwelling House and take away the Life of Some of his Family One of whom Viz. Gershom Dorman was taken by a Constable of his Town properly Authorized by a Warrant from the Civil Authority But before he Could be brought to a Tryal tho’ after he had been brought before a Justice of the peace came Capt. Stoddard with a Number of the Light Horsemen Armed and with their Swords drawn & by force and Violence Rescu’d the Prisoner from the Constable putting the points of their Swords to the Breast of the Justice and officer and swearing they would run them or any other through that should dare to Oppose them, then laying Violent Hands on the Complainant and his son they drove them about two Miles before them after an Ignominious manner.

“Your Excellency is sensible that soldiers too Often injure and Abuse the Inhabitants especially when distant from their Pri[n]cipal Officers who have Authority to restrain them in which Case the peace and security of the Inhabitants must depend on the Support of good Laws made for the protection of the Subjects But Should soldiers trample on the Laws of the state instead of defending them and rescue Criminals with Impunity from Legal process the Inhabitants will consider themselves as in a defenceless State we dont entertain the most distant thought that Your Excellency will Contenance Such Enormitys, Your known Equity Justice and Support of Authority in such states as You have resided in leave no Room for Such a Surmise—We are Ready and Willing to Give all the Support and Assistance in our power to the Army when properly apply’d to and it is with Reluctance we add any thing to that load of Cares attending your high station but as the peace and Harmony of the Country and Army must depend on suppressing injurys and Violence on either side—We are perswaded this will Apologize with Your Excellency for this freedom In this Confidence We Request that the Delinquent may be Remanded Back to the Officer from whom he was Rescu<ed> and Doubt not Your Excellency will order the Capt. to make Such Reparations as Justice Requires.”

The document was signed by justices of the peace Thaddeus Betts, Clap Raymond, and Samuel Cook Silliman, and selectmen Nathaniel Benedict, David Comstock, Daniel Betts, Jr., Nehemiah Benedict, and Jesse Raymond (DS, DLC:GW). Thaddeus Betts represented Norwalk in the Connecticut general assembly in 1776. Daniel Betts, Jr., served in that capacity in 1777, and Samuel Cook Silliman did so in 1777 and 1778.

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