George Washington Papers

To George Washington from John Jay, 15 June 1779

From John Jay

Philadelphia 15th June 1779


The Petition of Lieutenant Smith, herewith enclosed, contains a State of his case—Congress have referred it to your Excellency.1

No Express from South Carolina has as yet arrived.2 I have the honor to be With the greatest Respect And Esteem Your Excellency’s Most Obedt Servant

John Jay Presidt

LS, DLC:GW; LB, DNA:PCC, item 14.

1The enclosure was a petition from Lt. James Smith to “His Excellency the President, and the Members of the Honoroable Congress,” written at Philadelphia on 12 June: “The Humble Petition of James Smith Lieut. in Coll Thomas Procter’s Regiment of Artillery and now a Prisoner on Parole in this City. Sheweth, That your Petitioner in March 1778 obtain’d a Furlough to go to New Jersy to furnish himself with some Necessaries of which he was in absolute Need.

“That on the 15th of the Same Month he was Surprized and taken by Seven Jersey Refugees, who appear’d in the Character of Jersey Militia, brought Prisoner to Philadelphia, where he was Close confined for fourteen Weeks, which so much Impair’d his health, that he was admitted his Liberty in the City on Parole, where he continued untill a day or two before the Evacuation of the City by the Enemy, when with other prisoners he was taken to Long Island.

“That in Some time after he obtain’d on Parole, Liberty to come to Philadelphia: and that Since; one of the Principals of the Said Refugees has been taken, condemn’d, and Executed in Gloucester County; on acct of which your Pet[itione]r has been Repeatedly threatned with Retalliation by the Enemy when in their Power.

“That he is given to understand by the Commissary General of Prisoners, he must Soon return to his Captivity, which Induces him to lay the State of his Case before your August Body, and humbly to Request you may be pleas’d to take the same into Consideration, adopt Such Measures, or Instruct your Pet[itione]r what Steps to take, Consistent with his honour and Safety, as to your Wisdom and Goodness shall Seem Expedient” (DLC:GW; see also Israel Shreve to GW, 18 May 1778, and n.4 to that document). Congress referred Smith’s petition to GW on 14 June (JCC, description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends 14:726). For GW’s decision not to intervene in Smith’s case, see the postscript of his letter to Jay of 23 June. For parole complications at this time, see GW to John Beatty, 25 June and 12 July; GW to a Board of General Officers, 25 June; and a Board of General Officers to GW, 28 June.

2Jay was hoping to confirm reports of an American success in South Carolina, which ultimately proved erroneous (see Jay to GW, 4 and 7 June, and GW to James Clinton, 13 June; see also GW to John Augustine Washington, 20 June, and n.7 to that document).

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