George Washington Papers

To George Washington from George Clinton, February 1779

From George Clinton

[February 1779]


The Bearer Dr. Anthony, a Refugee from L. Island, and, I have Reason to believe, well attached to the American Cause, waits upon your Excellency in Consequence of an Order from the maritime Court of Connecticut refering to your Excellency a Controversy between Dr. Anthony & Capt. Scudder, Commander of a small Privateer, relative to a seizure made on L Island by Capt. Scudder, of a Quantity of Dry Goods the Property of Dr. Anthony. Capt. Scudder had a Commission under this State to cruize on the waters of the Sound and neither his Commission nor Instructions impowered him to carry on any Enterprize on Land & he was particularly cautioned not to plunder & distress the Inhabitants of L. Island.

[G. C.]

Hastings and Holden, Clinton Papers description begins Hugh Hastings and J. A. Holden, eds. Public Papers of George Clinton, First Governor of New York, 1777–1795, 1801–1804. 10 vols. 1899–1914. Reprint. New York, 1973. description ends , 4:582–83.

Benjamin Anthony apparently was a surgeon engaged in naval service. William Smith Scudder had received a privateer’s commission from the state of New York on 30 Oct. 1778 to command the armed vessel Ranger. The following December, when Scudder captured Anthony’s goods from a whale boat on Long Island Sound, Lt. Col. Ebenezer Gray impounded them on the grounds that Scudder had violated military orders against plundering. Maj. Gen. Israel Putnam upheld Gray’s action and sought GW’s order for final disposition of the disputed goods. Wishing to avoid entanglement in an awkward legal matter, GW refused to intervene (see Putnam to GW, 23 Dec. 1778, and n.1, 24 Jan. 1779, and n.10, and 2 March 1779, and n.1; and GW to Putnam, 18 Jan., n.1, 10 Feb., and 9 and 21 March). After a Connecticut admiralty court subsequently awarded the goods to Scudder, Brig. Gen. Samuel Holden Parsons in May 1779 appealed to Congress for further review, which proved inconclusive. A decision to overturn the Connecticut admiralty court ruling finally was made by a Continental court of appeals on 13 Dec. 1780 (see John Jay to Parsons, 24 June 1779, in Smith, Letters of Delegates description begins Paul H. Smith et al., eds. Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774–1789. 26 vols. Washington, D.C., 1976–2000. description ends , 13:106; and Parsons to GW, 11 Nov. 1779, DLC:GW). The state of New York recalled Scudder’s privateer commission on 29 June 1781 for allowing his crew to plunder on Long Island.

Index Entries