George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Volckert Pieterse Douw, 29 July 1779

To Volckert Pieterse Douw

Head Quarters West Point July 29th 1779


I last night received the favour of your letter of the 27th on the subject of the restoration of the Onondaga prisoners.1

It appears to me that the propriety of giving up these prisoners without an equivalent will in a great measure depend on the proportion of the Onondaga nation now on friendly terms with us. If the body of the nation is with the Oneidas,2 and they are admitted into our protection, which is already done substantially, it will3 be proper enough to grant them a favour of this kind as a mark of our generosity and friendship; but if the body of the nation is still inimical to us it would in my opinion be an indulgence which the remainder have no right to expect—and the relief of our friends in captivity by exchange may have a superior claim to our attention—These are my ideas of the matter; but if the Commissioners who are better judges of the dispositions of the Indians, from motives of policy and a desire of conciliation and to oblige the Oneidas should think it best to deliver up the prisoners, it will be intirely agreeable to me—I therefore leave the matter wholly to their determination.4 I have the honor to be Sir Yr Most Obedt humble servant


Df, in Alexander Hamilton’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

1Douw’s letter to GW of 27 July has not been found. GW is referring to the Onondaga Indians captured during Col. Goose Van Schaick’s expedition against Onondaga, N.Y., in April (see Philip Schuyler to GW, 27 April, and n.1 to that document, and GW to Schuyler, 10 May [first letter]).

2At this place on the draft manuscript, Hamilton wrote and then struck out: “the implied though not formal peace made with them.”

3At this place on the draft manuscript, Hamilton initially wrote “may.” He then struck out that word and wrote “will” above the line.

4A party of Oneida Indians had arrived in Albany, N.Y., in May seeking the release of the Onondaga prisoners (see Schuyler to GW, 12 May). For the escape of seven Onondaga prisoners, which altered GW’s view, see his letter to Douw, 27 Sept. (DLC:GW).

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