George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Major General William Phillips, 30 September 1779

To Major General William Phillips

Hd Qurs West-point 30th Septr 1779


I was honoured with your letter of the 21st yesterday. I am sorry that the business to which it principally relates is likely to be retarded by some obstacles that have been unnecessarily thrown in the way.1 Mr Skinner Depy Comy of Prisoners—who is charged with this letter will inform you what these are. There is nothing I more sincerely desire than to see them removed, and every other impediment to an easy and regular exchange of prisoners—But this cannot be the case, until the relief of captivity becomes on both sides the primary and prevailing motive of all transactions in this line.2 I have the honor to be Sir Your most Obedient and very humble servant


Df, in Alexander Hamilton’s writing, DLC:GW; copies, P.R.O.: C.O. 5/99, 182, and 397; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

1The “obstacles” were probably the difficult ongoing negotiations between the British and American commissaries of prisoners to establish a system of prisoner exchange; for GW’s comments on the negotiations, see GW to John Beatty, 23 September.

2Phillips acknowledged receipt of this letter on 6 Oct. and replied at length on 26 October. With regard to the Convention Army prisoners, Phillips proposed they exchange only the officers. He also proposed holding a private conference on the issue of exchanging the Convention Army troops (DLC:GW).

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