George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Major General Robert Howe, 12 August 1779

To Major General Robert Howe

Head Qrs west-point 12 Augt 1779.

Dr Sir

Such cases as you have mentioned in your letter of the 11th inst. must frequently occur1—We have however endeavoured, to avoid considering the citizens of the States as proper subjects of either military capture or exchange. The operation of this principle would be wholly in favor of the enemy. However when circumstances make it necessary to enter upon such an exchange, it should be made by the government to which the citizen may belong.2 I am &c.


Df, in James McHenry’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

1This letter has not been found.

2Howe was apparently inquiring about the exchange of civilian prisoners captured in operations near the opposing lines in lower New York. For Howe’s discussions with New York governor George Clinton on the subject of establishing an exchange for civilian prisoners, see 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 5:194–98.

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