George Washington Papers

To George Washington from William Livingston, 18 February 1779

From William Livingston

Morris Town [N.J.] 18 feby 1779

Dear Sir

I take the Liberty to transmit to your Excellency the affidavit of John Britton concerning certain insults on his person & violations of his property by Major Call, & a party of dragoons of Collo. Blands regiment under his command & another of John Dunham proving upon Major Call the like trespasses committed ⟨a⟩gainst him. Another of Elisha Ayres proving the like outrages upon him, by Henry Heath of the Same Regiment, & countenanced by the said Major Call, attended with the aggravating circumstance of Call’s protecting The offender against the process of the civil Magistrate1—Another affidavit of the same Ayres, proving sundry personal abuses upon himself & family, & the destruction of his property by a company of light horse men commanded by Bartholomew Von Herz2—And another afidavit of James Ford proving a robbery committed upon the property of Jonathan Dickerson by James Skinner a Lieut. in the seventh maryland Regimint with a detachment under his command, & also the imprisonment of the said Dickerson by a guard of Skinners for attempting to take him by civil process for the Depredations he had made on Dickersons property, & of Collo. Adams’s declaration that he would protect Skinner against it.3

These Sir are such invasions of the rights of our citizens & such contempts of the civil authority of this State as I am confident will meet with your Excellencys highest disapprobation and as with respect to Some of the offenders the Law has in vain been attempted to be executed, & wantonly resisted, & the others are not easily to be come at by the officers of Justice, I hope that by your Excellency’s interposition, they may be induced to make the parties injured all reasonable satisfaction without farther trouble. Having kept no copies of the affidavits, I shall be glad to have them returned after your Excellency has no further occasion for them4 & am.

P.S. I had forgot to mention the affidavits of Walter Moppot & Jonathan Dickerson, which I also inclose.5

LB, NN: Lyon Letter Book.

Of the seven affidavits that Livingston enclosed with this letter, only Jonathan Dickerson’s affidavit of 31 Dec. 1778 has been identified (see notes 3 and 4).

1Henry Heath of Virginia was a sergeant in the 1st Continental Light Dragoon Regiment.

2Capt. Bartholomew von Heer commanded a mounted provost corps known as the Maréchaussée Light Dragoons or simply the Maréchaussée Corps.

3Although Elisha Ayres’s affidavit has not been identified, Jonathan Dickerson’s complaints against these Maryland officers are detailed in his affidavit of 31 Dec. 1778, which Livingston also enclosed in this letter (see the postscript) and which is in DLC:GW. Dickerson, a carpenter and millwright in Morris County, N.J., says that on 19 Dec. 1778 Lt. James John Skinner, who was acting “as an Assistant Qr Master to a detachment of Troops Commanded by [Lt.] Coll Peter Adams of the Seventh Maryland Regt then on their March from Fish kills to Middle brook,” applied to Dickerson “for Grain for his Horses.” Dickerson “answered he had none to Spare Assureing him [Skinner] that he had parted with all he had for the use of the Army except a Small present Supply for his Family, but he Skinner Said he would See it, and went into the Mill and discovered, and took about three Bushel of Indian corn & about the Same Quantity of Rye & Buckwheat.” Dickerson “Expostulated against his taking the grain urging the Necessity of keeping it for his Familys use & forbid his taking it, & at the same time informed him that it was Contrary to the Laws of this State & that if he was in need of grain for the Army he ought to apply to a Majestrate & proceed according to Law … Skinner Replyed Damn your Laws & justices too.” Dickerson promptly obtained a warrant for Skinner’s arrest from a county magistrate, but when a constable tried to serve it, Skinner prevented him from doing so by “drawing his Sword upon him, and after Some words passed, he Skinner ordered a guard of 8 or ten Men with fixed Bayonets to take” the constable and Dickerson “under Guard, which was done accordingly, where they were detained about two Hours when the Said Skinner & the detachment Marched on.” When Lieutenant Colonel Adams arrived soon afterwards, Dickerson requested him to have Skinner “Delivered up to the Civil authority,” but Adams refused, “adding the he Skinner Should not be taken that day and further Said he [Adams] would Teach the Majestrates better.” For efforts to resolve the dispute, see GW to Livingston, 3 March and 12 April, and Livingston to GW, 12 April (all DLC:GW).

Jonathan Dickerson (1747–1805) became a partner in the Succasunna iron mine in Morris County, N.J., during 1779. In 1783 he was elected to one term as a member of the New Jersey legislature, and in 1790 he received U.S. patent number eleven for an improved waterwheel. His sons Mahlon Dickerson (1770–1853) and Philemon Dickerson (1788–1862) later served as governors of New Jersey and held other prominent political offices.

James John Skinner (1731–1794) had been appointed an ensign in the 1st Maryland Regiment in December 1776 and a second lieutenant in the 7th Maryland Regiment in July 1777. Promoted to first lieutenant in September 1778, Skinner continued serving in the 7th Maryland until January 1781, when he transferred back to the 1st Maryland. He left the army on 1 Jan. 1783.

4GW returned all of the affidavits with his reply to Livingston of 3 March, and Livingston again sent Dickerson’s affidavit to GW with his letter to him of 12 April.

5For Dickerson’s affidavit, see n.3.

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