George Washington Papers

To George Washington from John Jay, 26 August 1779

From John Jay

Philadelphia 26th Augt 1779


Herewith enclosed Your Excellency will receive a copy of a Letter from Major General Philips of the 8th Inst., and of other Papers enclosed with it, marked No: 1, 2, 3 & 4, which together with the Letter are referred to Your Excellency that such Order may be taken on the several Matters mentioned in them as You may think proper.1

The sense which Congress entertain of the merit of Major Noirmont De Laneuville has induced them to pass an Act, of which the enclosed is a copy for allowing him the Pay & Subsi[s]tence of a Major while he shall continue a voluntier with the Army.2 I have the honor to be With the greatest Respect & Esteem Your Excellency’s Most Obedient and Humble Servant

John Jay Prest

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

1See 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 14:992–93. The enclosed copy of a letter from Maj. Gen. William Phillips to John Jay, dated 8 Aug. at Charlottesville, Va., reads: “In the begining of the last year 1778 I was permitted to send an Officer from New England to Canada for the purpose of sending the cloathing for the troops of Convention from thence to Boston.

“By this Officer I wrote to the King’s Commander in Chief in Canada requesting of him to send all the American prisoners of War who might be in that province in the british Clothing Vessels to Boston, and that I should negotiate an exchange for an equal number of the troops of the convention—I did this from motives of humanity on one part, and on the other from conceiving that these American prisoners of war being made so by the King’s Northern Army did of right belong, upon a principle of exchange, to the troops of Convention which were a detachment from that army.

“I send you Sir, an extract of the letter I wrote to Sir Guy Carleton on the Occasion. In Consequence of this my request a number of American prisoners of war, Consisting of a Lieut. Colonel, a Captain and others according to the enclosed list, were actually sent from Canada, in the Ships containing the Clothing for the british troops of Convention, to Halifax, and they arrived there in July or August 1778.

“At that time the French Fleet was in Boston harbour, and it was thought necessary to obtain fresh passports for the cloathing Vessels, but the british Commanding Officer at Halifax sent, however, a Cartel Ship to Boston with those American prisoners of War, but having failed to send me a particular Account of it, I have remained ignorant of the transaction untill a very short time since; And the American Commanding Officer at Boston who could not be ignorant from whence these American prisoners of war were sent, never informed me of it.

“I am therefore, Sir, to solicit that this negotiation founded upon humanity & justice may have effect, And that the American Congress, whose strict attention to equity on this occasion I do not in the least doubt, will give orders to Colonel Bland who superintends the troops of Convention in Virginia to permit a number of those troops equal to the inclosed list of American prisoners of war to be exchanged and sent to New York.

“I will, however, take leave to request that Lieutenant Colonel Bellinger and Captain Martin may be exchanged against Major Harnage & Captain Hawker of the 62nd British regiment who are now residing at Cambridge near Boston, having been left sick there upon the march of the troops of the convention from New England to Virginia, and I will hope that the American Congress will be so good to direct that certificates of such exchanges be sent to Boston for these british Officers in order that they may have permission to go to Rhode Island and from thence to New York.

“At any rate, Sir, I will most earnestly intreat of you to obtain permission for these two Officers going upon parole by Rhode Island to New York, and should their exchanges be not effected they will pursue the rout to Virginia in the first flag of truce Vessel which may go to Hampton Road.

“I cannot help conceiving it a little severe to deny these two gentlemen the permission of going round by water to Virginia, which can surely answer no ill purpose to America and will be of essential service to Major Harnage who has a wife and family, in saving him a very considerable expence by a long and tedious Journey by land.

“I will trouble you with the Copy of a letter I have received from that Officer, and I am so perfectly convinced of your good dispositon that I have not a doubt of Major Harnage and Captain Hawker being exchanged, or should that fail, of their being allowed to go to Rhode Island, from thence to New York and so on to Virginia.

“Colonel Harvie is so good to take this letter for me to Philadelphia, & I shall esteem it as a singular favor of you, Sir, if you will have the goodness to answer it so soon as it may be convenient to You” (DLC:GW).

Enclosed and marked “No. 1” was a copy of an undated document signed by William Collier headed, “Report of Lieutenant Collier secretary to Major Genl Phillips in relation to the within mentioned American Prisoners of War,” which reports: “That agreeable to Major Genl Phillip’s request in his letter from Cambridge in April 1778, Sir Guy Carleton, upon his quitting the Province of Canada, had referred the matter proposed in it to the Consideration of Genl Haldiman his successor who, in compliance with Major General Phillip’s wishes, directed these prisoners of War to be put on board of the Clothing ships in order to their being sent to the port of Boston at the time I embarked on board of one of those Ships in August 1778.

“On the Arrival of the Clothing ships at Halifax it was judged expedient by Major Genl Massey to take these prisoners of War from on board the Vessels being moved thereto from a consideration that Major Genl Heath’s passports for these particular Vessels might not extend so far as to prevent a seizure of them by the French fleet, which at that period was in the Port of Boston, but with an Express design of sending them in a flag of truce which at that time was on the point of departure to convey some other American prisoners of War also from that port to Boston” (DLC:GW).

The enclosed copy of an extract of a letter from Phillips to Gen. Guy Carleton, dated April 1778 at Cambridge, Mass., and marked “No. 2,” reads: “As there are many Americans who are prisoners in Canada, I would with great respect propose that they be sent in the Cloathing Ships to the port of Boston where they may be received and an exchange made in Consequence” (DLC:GW).

The third enclosure was a copy of an undated “Return of American prisoners of war released upon parole by General Haldimand,” signed by Collier; the return lists a Lt. Col. Frederick Bellinger, a Capt. John Martin, and fifty-six soldiers and also identifies the men’s places of residence and locations of capture (DLC: GW; misfiled with the 1783 documents).

The enclosed copy of a letter from Maj. Henry Harnage to Phillips, dated 2 June 1779 at Cambridge, Mass., and marked “No. 4,” reads: “Not having received a line of any sort from New York since you left this, we thought it requisite to endeavour by every possible means to join the troops of the Convention at Charlottes ville. Accordingly both Capt. Hawker and myself, after being absolutely refused permission of going to Virginia by Water, have attempted to hire, or purchase Conveyance for ourselves and Baggage, but very sorry am I to say that we have not been able to succeed, although I offered the immense sum of One hundred and fifty guineas.

“We hope, Sir, our characters as Officers are so well known to you as sufficiently to guard us against the Least suspicion of our being wilfully absent from our Corps—Our close attention to our duty for four and twenty Years past will, we flatter ourselves, evince the contrary.

“It is impossible to paint a more disagreeable situation than we are in at present. On Mrs Harnage’s Account I own myself very impatient for relief, which we hope to obtain through your influence” (DLC:GW).

2The enclosed copy of Congress’s resolution, dated 23 Aug. and signed by Charles Thomson, secretary of Congress, reads: “Ordered, That Major Noirmont de Lanueville be allowed the pay & subsistance of a Major while he shall continue a Volunteer with the Army” (DLC:GW; see also 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 14:989).

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