George Washington Papers

To George Washington from General Henry Clinton, 29 November 1780

From General Henry Clinton

New York Novr 29th 1780.


In answer to your Letter of the 20th Inst., informing me that you are authorised to propose a meeting of Commissioners for the purpose of effecting an exchange of all Continental prisoners of War now in my possession, and of the Hostages given in Canada, as well as of all Officers on parole, and Officers Violators of parole, and Militia actually taken in Arms and remaining prisoners of War, for an equal Number of the Convention Troops and others, prisoners in your hands, rank for rank, and where similar ranks will not apply to pursue the Exchange on the footing of Composition &c., I am to acquaint You that I have not the least objection to this proposition, and shall therefore appoint Commissioners on my part to meet such as you may name for the purposes aforesaid;1 And I shall give to the Gentlemen I propose to send on this business full powers to treat of all Matters respecting it, not only as it relates to the proposed Exchanges, but upon the subject of an adjustment of the Accompts of the Troops of Convention; You are sensible, Sir, that going into this matter will naturally draw along with it an adjustment, also, of all Accompts between the British and American Armies from the Commencement of prisoners being made on both Sides to the present period, comprehending all the different parts where American prisoners of War have been Stationed, as, in Canada, Nova Scotia, and so on to the more Southern Provinces, and as this must take up a considerable time in adjusting, I would propose in the first instance to extend the Exchange now going on, as settled by the Commissaries Loring & Skinner, to the American Officers Prisoners of War remaining on Long Island, against a Division of the Troops of Convention.2

Major General Phillips will explain this more fully to Messrs Irvine, Mathews & Ely, who will have my permission to go out of New York upon a limited parole. The Meeting of the Commissioners as proposed will Operate, you must be sensible, to a more extensive exchange of the Charles Town prisoners of War.

You will receive herewith a passport for the Sloop Carolina packet to proceed to Charles Town, with provisions and Cloathing for the American prisoners at that place, and for the safe return of that Vessel to the port of Philadelphia, agreable to the request contained in Your Letter of the 16th Instant; I cannot, however, consent to the desire of Mrs Mathews and Miss Camber.3

I am to remind You, Sir, of a request, made in my Letter of the 4th Instant, for a passport for a Flag of Truce Vessel to carry Cloathing and other necessaries for the Troops of Convention in Virginia; not having as yet received an Answer thereto.4

I deferred taking notice of Your Letter respecting the exchange of Lieut. Morris for John Burke Esqr. of Antigua, until I had an opportunity of seeing Captain Robinson; I am now to acquaint You that I have no objection to that exchange taking place.5 I am, Sir, Your humble Servant.

H. Clinton

LS, DLC:GW; Df, P.R.O.: 30/55, Carleton Papers; copy (extract), enclosed with GW to Samuel Huntington, 8 Dec., DNA:PCC, item 152; copy (extract), DNA:PCC, item 169; copy (extract), P.R.O.: C.O. 5/101; copy (extract), P.R.O.: C.O. 5/183. The docket of the draft reads: “sent by Genl Irvine Mathews & Ely—2d Decemr.” All extracts contain the first two paragraphs of Clinton’s letter. GW replied to Clinton on 9 December.

3An extension of this sentence is struck out on Clinton’s draft: “these Ladies must therefore defer, for the present, their visit to Charlestown” (see GW to Clinton, 16 Nov.; see also George Walton to GW, 11 Nov., and notes 6 and 7).

5GW proposed the exchange of Lt. Thomas Morris for John Burke when he wrote Clinton on 17 Sept. (see GW to the Georgia Delegates in Congress, 15 Sept., and n.2 to that document).

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