George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Thomas Jefferson, 1 October 1779

From Thomas Jefferson

Williamsburg [Va.] Oct. 1. 1779

Sir,

On receipt of your letter of August 6th during my absence the Council had the irons taken off the prisoners of war. When your advice was asked we meant it should decide with us: and upon my return to Williamsburg the matter was taken up and the enclosed advice given.1 A parole was formed of which the enclosed is a copy and tendered to the prisoners.2 They objected to that part of it which restrained them from saying any thing to the prejudice of the United States and insisted on freedom of speech. They were in consequence remanded to their confinement in the jail which must be considered as a voluntary one until they can determine with themselves to be inoffensive in word as well as deed. A flag sails hence tomorrow to New York to negociate the exchange of some prisoners. By her I have written to Genl Phillips on this subject & enclosed to him copies of the within; intending it as an answer to a letter I received from him on the subject of Governor Hamilton.3 I have the honour to be Sir your most obdt & most hbl. servt

Th: Jefferson

LS (retained copy), DLC: Jefferson Papers. GW replied to this letter on 23 Nov. (DLC:GW).

1This enclosure has not been identified. The retained copy of the statement of the Virginia council, dated 29 Sept. “In Council,” declared that although the “personal cruelties” and the “general conduct of the Enemy” had “constrained” them to impose the prisoners’ confinement, they recognized that such “unmanly cruelties” would not decide the war and hoped the British recognized the same. The council therefore advised the parole of Henry Hamilton and three other officers and officials, all captured at Vincennes, in the Illinois Country (now Indiana), “in the usual manner” (DLC: Jefferson Papers; see also Jefferson Papers, description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 40 vols. to date. Princeton, N.J., 1950–. description ends 3:94–95).

2The copy of the parole sent to GW has not been identified. The retained, undated copy of the parole required the parolee to swear that “I will not say or do any thing directly or indirectly to the prejudice of the United States of America or any of them.” It also forbade them to hold any “conference” with another prisoner, send or receive any letters or messages, and “communicate any intelligence” to any person except as approved by the governor or his authorized representative (DLC: Jefferson Papers; see also Jefferson Papers, description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 40 vols. to date. Princeton, N.J., 1950–. description ends 3:95–96).

3For Jefferson’s further comments on this affair, see his letter to GW of 2 Oct., which Jefferson sent with this letter; see also Jefferson to GW, 8 October.

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