George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Major General William Phillips, 28 August 1780

To Major General William Phillips

Head Qrs [Bergen County] August 28th 1780


I have received the honor of Your Letter of the 23d Instant, and have duly observed it’s Contents.

I have no power to grant the permission You request in favor of the Convention Officers on parole in New York, either as it respects them under your more general description—or the Four Gentlemen, in whose behalf You more particularly interest Yourself. The permission can only be granted by Congress. At the same time it is entirely in the power of Sir Henry Clinton to place the Whole or Any part of these Officers and I should hope he would do it in a situation to make the visit they wish, by finally exchanging them for an equal number of their rank, which I shall most readily consent to, whenever he is disposed to the measure, and against which it seems to me there can be no greater Objection than to his agreeing to their going to Europe on parole. In either case the separation from their Men would be equal, which has been generally considered as a principal obstacle.1

As to what You observe with respect to the Officers having a claim to the indulgence requested—I can only say that however desirous the Gentlemen may be of it I might be disposed to grant it if I had authority, they can not ask it as a matter of right—in consequence of any thing transacted at Amboy between the Commissioners,2 or from the applications on which they were permitted to go into New York. In the first case there was nothing definitive done respecting the point—and in the second, the Officers will remember that their applications in most instances—and the permissions in All were meant to extend [to] New York & no farther—and I am certain that the Gentlemen will govern themselves accordingly, however incautious or negligent the persons may have been who took written engagements from them, in not specifying the restriction; and also that You would not countenance in the most distant degree, a different conduct.3 I have the honor to be With respect sir Yr Most Obedt sert


Df, in Robert Hanson Harrison’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

GW’s secretary Robert Hanson Harrison struck out a different start to this letter on the verso of the draft: “I have received the honor of Your Letter of the 23d Instant and have duly observed it’s contents.

“It is not in my power to grant the indulgence You request in behalf of the Officers who are the Objects for the Officers of Convention who.”

1Efforts to exchange Convention Army prisoners failed until GW agreed to consider privates as well as officers (see Samuel Huntington to GW, 9 Aug., n.1; Abraham Skinner to GW, 24 Sept.; and GW to Henry Clinton, 7 Oct., found at GW to Skinner, same date, n.1; see also GW to the Board of War, 25 June, and Phillips to GW, 23 Aug.).

2For these negotiations, see Commissioners for the Exchange of Prisoners to GW, 26 March (both letters [letter 1; letter 2]).

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