George Washington Papers

From George Washington to General Frederick Haldimand, 30 August 1780

To General Frederick Haldimand

Head Qurs near Hudson’s River [N.J.]
August the 30th 1780


I think it my duty to inform Your Excellency that it has been represented to me, that several American Officers, who are your prisoners, are suffering a close and rigorous confinement in the Jails of Quebec, without any good reason to warrant such treatment.1 I will not pretend to decide that these facts are authentic, as they have not come to me in such a way as is entirely satisfactory—and as they are opposed to that humanity and liberality of character which I have always supposed Your Excellency to possess. They have however been so represented that I could not but make the communication, as well in justice to You as to the Officers of Colo. Warner’s Regiment, who are mentioned as the parties suffering; and I will not doubt it will have your attention, and that these and all other prisoners, under your direction, will receive a treatment consistent with their rank and the principles of humanity. And as the Officers and Soldiers who are prisoners in your hands, are remote from their friends and the means of support—I would submit it to your Excellency, whether they might not be sent to New York to Sir Henry Clinton with proper Lists, where they will be exchanged in the due order of their capture with respect to the Other prisoners in his possession. I do not perceive that any inconvenience to You can result from the measure or I would not propose it, especially when I add, that if the prisoners are retaken or lost in their passage, they shall be duly accounted for.2 I have the honor to be, with respect Your Excellency’s Most Obedt servant

Go: Washington

LS, in Robert Hanson Harrison’s writing, UkLoBM: Add. MSS 21835; Df, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. A note on the draft indicates that GW acted upon letters from Ethan Allen, 16 Aug., and Col. Seth Warner, 22 August.

GW wrote Allen from Bergen County on this date: “I have been favd with yours of the 16th Inst. I cannot, without deviating from the rule of conduct which I have constantly observed, exchange the Officers of Colo. Warners Regiment at this time, because there are a great number who have been much longer in captivity, and have therefore a just right to a preference: But to endeavour to afford them the best releif that the nature of the case will admit, I have written to Genl Haldiman[d] and proposed to him to send them and the other prisoners of War in his possession to New York, where we can furnish them with supplies of several kinds, which we cannot from the great distance forward to Quebec, and where they will be exchanged in due course. I have also represented to Genl Haldiman[d] what you report of the treatment of our prisoners in Canada, and I hope my remonstrance will have the desired effect, should the cause of complaint be well grounded” (Df, in Tench Tilghman’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW).

GW also wrote Warner on this date: “I have received Your Letter of the 22nd Instant. It is impossible for me to make a final or even a parole exchange of the Officers You mention, because there are Others who have been much longer in captivity, and who, having a superior claim from that circumstance to be first released on one of these modes, would complain & remonstrate against the measure as being injurious to their rights. I have however represented the situation of the Officers and the hardships to which they have been subjected to General Haldimand—and hope that they will be permitted every indulgence and liberty compatible with their situation and rank. And as it will be for the benefit of Our Officers & Soldiers in his hands to be at New York, where they will equally share in every public provision made for Our prisoners will have the same chance of receiving supplies from their Friends—and will be in the way of being released on a final or parole exchange, whenever it comes to be their right, I have requested General Haldimand to send them there. You will forward the Letter addressed to him by a proper flag—till it is met at some of the upper posts.

“From the difficult state of our finances at present and the embarrassments which attend the getting of money for the most pressing occasions—it would be well always to transmit Your Letters and dispatches by post from Albany or some of the private Opportunities that are constantly offering, as it would save the public or Officers You employ to bring them, a considerable expence” (Df, in Robert Hanson Harrison’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW).

1Haldimand probably reciprocated treatment accorded Henry Hamilton, the captured British lieutenant governor of Detroit (see Haldimand to GW, 29 Aug. 1779, and the source note to that document).

2Haldimand did not reply to GW (see GW to William Livingston, 17 Dec. 1782, DLC:GW).

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