George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General William Phillips, 23 September 1780

From Major General William Phillips

Elizabeth Town [N.J.] 23d September 1780


His Excellency General Sir Henry Clinton expected I should have met a person from Your Excellency at this place to have conversed upon various subjects relating to a General Exchange as, also, upon the appointment of Commissarys to reside with the respective Armies, but, no such person from you, Sir having arrived at Elizabeth Town,1 I have only to enclose to Your Excellency the rough draft of Sir Henry Clinton’s proposals upon this matter for your perusal, should it meet your concurrence I doubt not but on your signifying so to Sir Henry Clinton, the two persons may enter upon their respective Offices.2

I most sincerely lament, that Major General Lincoln gave himself and me the trouble of a meeting at Elizabeth town, that Gentleman being so entirely unprepared to enter in any the least degree upon the business for which it was supposed we were to meet. I came fully instructed from Sir Henry Clinton to settle the plan of an Exchange of the Troops of Convention against the American Troops taken at Charles Town3 and the manner with which the Troops on both sides were to have met for that desireable purpose, Major General Lincoln did not on the contrary, from any thing I could perceive, come to this place Authorized either by Your Excellency or the American Congress to enter at all upon the business. I shall decline giving any opinion upon this fruitless meeting, but must be allowed to acknowledge my extreme surprize that it should be conceived by any person necessary for General Lincoln and myself to confer upon the matter of his partial and personal exchange which depended so entirely and absolutely upon Sir Henry Clinton and Your Excellency and might have been settled by the receipt and return of a letter on either side.4 I have the honor to be Sir, with the highest respect Your Excellency’s Most Obedient and Most humble Servant.

W. Phillips

LS, DLC:GW; copy, P.R.O.: 30/11/91, Cornwallis Papers; copy, P.R.O.: C.O. 5/183.

1See Henry Clinton to GW, 19 Sept., and n.2 to that document.

2Phillips enclosed an undated document titled “Proposal” that would make the commanders in chief of each army responsible for commissaries to provide for the needs of prisoners. The British commissary would reside “at Lancaster in Pennsylvania, or at Fredericktown in Maryland, or in such other Parts as may be most contiguous to where the greatest Number of Privates Prisoners of War may be confined” and the “American Commissary at New York.” The proposal also presented regulations to guide activities (DLC:GW; see also GW’s second letter to Samuel Huntington, 15 Oct., n.1, and GW to Clinton, 22 Oct.).

3For the British capture of Charleston, see Duportail to GW, 17 May, n.1.

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