George Washington Papers

To George Washington from William Livingston, 10 May 1779

From William Livingston

Trenton [N.J.] 10 May 1779

Dear Sir

In answer to your Excellency’s Favour of yesterdays date, I have to observe that our Law respecting the offence proved in the affidavits which it inclosed, is so (ridiculously I would say, were it not an Act of Legislation) inadequate to the Crime, that it is only a fine of £10, which will render it well worth while for the British to employ a thousand Agents for the purpose, and to pay the penalty whenever they are detected.1 But I am in hopes that they may be punished under some of the clauses of what we call our Treason Act;2 & that ⟨th⟩ey may not escape for want of Law, as far as it can by any reasonable construction be extended against them, I shall transmit the affidavits to our Attorney General, directing him to give proper instructions to some Magistrate of Middlesex to receive the offenders from your officers, & to dispose of them according to Law3—I have the honour to be with great respect Dr Sir your Excellency’s most humble Ser.

Wil: Livingston

ALS, DLC:GW; ADf, in private hands.

1See “An Act to prevent Desertion from the Army of the United States of America, and for other purposes therein mentioned,” which the New Jersey general assembly had passed on 26 Feb. 1777 (N.J. Acts, 1776, 15–16).

2See “An Act to punish Traitors and disaffected Persons,” which the New Jersey general assembly had passed on 4 Oct. 1776 (N.J. Acts, 1776, 4–6).

3For the outcome, see GW to Livingston, 9 May, n.1.

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