George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Samuel Huntington, 27 January 1781

From Samuel Huntington

Philadelphia January 27. 1781


Your Excellency will receive herewith enclosed, a Petition from George Wright & others, with an Act of Congress of this Day referring the Petition to your Excellency to take such Measures thereon as you may think proper.1

By the enclosed Copy of the 23d Instant you will be informed that Congress approve of the Proposals made by Colonel Armand for equipping his Legion, and have granted him leave to proceed to France for that Purpose—That the remains of his Legion [be stationed]2 for the Purpose of Discipline at such Place as you shall direct. Colonel Armand hath also requested that Lieut. Colonel Ternant may be appointed Lieut. Colonel of his Legion: the Board of War having reported in favour of his request, Congress have thought it expedient to refer the same to your Excellency.3

I have also enclosed for your Information a resolve of the 26th Instant correcting some Anachronisms respecting the Time fixed with regard to the Officers therein mentioned, when their additional Pay shall commence in the new Emissions and for retained rations &c.; fixing the Time to the first of August last conformable to the Pay in the Line of the Army.4 I have the Honor to be with the highest respect your Excellency’s most obedient & most humble Servant

Sam. Huntington President

P.S. I have been Honourd with your favour of the 23d instant.5

LS, DLC:GW; LB, DNA:PCC, item 15. The postscript, which is in Huntington’s writing, appears only on the LS. GW replied to Huntington on 13 Feb. (first letter).

1The enclosed document with the resolutions of Congress of this date is in DLC:GW; see also JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends , 19:92–93.

The petition to Congress, signed by George Wright and seven others and dated at Long Island on 5 Nov. 1780, reads: “We whose names are hereto subscrib’d, Citizens of America, and at this time, prisoners, within the British lines, being compel’d by various distresses, and particularly, by the cruel neglect, we experience in the present Exchange, to cry for releif, request your favourable Attention, to the following circumstances.

“Whatever inactivity our present characters may seem to imply, we can with truth, severally assert, that we have at all times, from the earliest period of the contest, attended with alacrity to the call of our country, on every emergency. Most of us held commissions, but happen’d to be out of Service when taken. The British demand Officers in exchange, not only for those who are in these circumstances, but likewise for those who have formerly been Officers; but who being neither commission’d nor in actual Service when taken, have most assuredly, no claim to Military rank. This demand, the American Commissary General deems unreasonable; a discussion of the disagreement is therefore defer’d till another opportunity, and the unfortunate Subjects of it, are in the Meantime to languish in Captivity.

“We beg leave now to express our Apprehension, that whenever a future exchange may be set on foot, the same impractibility of ascertaining our ranks, will subsist, unless by a previous examination, the difficulty is removed. This, Gentlemen, is what we earnestly request you will find expedient to order.

“Sensible that more important affairs demand your attention, we declind recapitulating minute distresses, and shall only add a few words respecting the injustice, as well as the Impolicy, of our being denied a part of the publick supplies. We entertain a perfect consideration for the Gentlemen of the Army, & are sensible that Virtue, and publick spirit only, are the motives of their conduct: but we trust that we shall do them no injustice, when we say that we conceive the Citizen to be as worthy & as usefull a Character as the Soldier. Why then, we should be utterly neglected, when we have the misfortune to be made prisoners, we cannot conceive, unless the Maxim must be verify’d, ’that a claim to services from others must be Attended with a Capacity to serve them’—This Capacity we have lost by the chance of war which has at the same time enabled our Country to restore & command it.

“To prove the impolicy of this distinction, we need only mention the discouragement it must give the Militia, when they reflect, that if they should happen to be made prisoners, but the day after they are discharged from actual service, they must languish out their term of captivity in unpitied want.

“We now ardently beg that the Grievances we here complain of may be redress’d as speedily as possible” (DLC:GW). For the exchange negotiations that aggrieved the petitioners, see GW to Abraham Skinner, 8 November.

2These words, omitted from the LS, are taken from the letter-book copy.

3The enclosed document with resolutions of Congress of 23 Jan. 1781 reads: “Resolved, That Congress approve of Col. Armand’s proposals as made in his letter of the 19th Inst. to the board of war respecting procuring clothing and equipment of his legion on his own credit. The monies advanced for the purchase of the articles procured to be repaid in four years with interest at five per cent per annum. The articles procured to be plain and useful without unnecessary decoration or expence.

“That Col. Armand have leave to go to France and for this purpose a furlough be granted him for six Months.

“That the Quarter master general be directed to procure a sufficient number of Horses to remount such of the cavalry as are destitute of Horses agreeably to directions to be given by the Commander in chief for the next campaign and that Col. Armand’s legion be furnished with its proportion out of the number so procured by the Quarter master general.

“That the remainder of Col. Armand’s legion now in service be stationed for the purpose of discipline and equipment at such place as the Commander in chief shall think proper.

“That so much of the report as relates to the appointment of lieut. col. Ternant to be lieut. Col. of the legion commanded by Col. Armand be referred to the Commander in Chief” (DLC:GW; see also JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends , 19:76–77; Armand to GW, 11 Jan.; and GW to Armand, 12 Jan.).

4The enclosed document with resolves of 26 Jan. on allowances for officers and on additional pay for aides-de-camp, adjutants, and regimental quartermasters is in DLC:GW; see also General Orders, 10 February.

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