George Washington Papers

From George Washington to William Livingston, 13 February 1781

To William Livingston

Head Quarters New Windsor Feby 13th 1781

Dear Sir

I have received your letters of the 15th of December and 4th of February.1

I have been for some time past expecting the Commissary of Prisoners at Head Quarters; but he only arrived yesterday. I shall speak to him on the subject of your Excellency’s letter, and shall do every thing in my power to have justice done to the state.2 ’Tis no doubt reasonable it should be informed of the steps taken with regard to its prisoners; and I shall endeavour to settle a plan for this purpose.

With respect to the Militia taken in arms they have at all times had the same privileges of exchange with the Continental troops—the invariable rule of which has been priority of capture. This being the case, it is just that all persons taken by the Militia, in arms also, should fall into a common stock to be disposed of by the same rule: For, without this, there would be an evident disadvantage to The Continental troops, as the captures made by them go equally to the relief of the Militia as of themselves, while the captures made by the Militia would be confined to their own exclusive benefit.

With respect to those not taken in arms—mere citizens—on both sides, it is certainly just and agreeable to rule that those belonging to each state should have an absolute preference in the exchange of those captured by that state, to all others. With the greatest respect & esteem I have the honor to be Yr Excellys Most Obed. servt

Go: Washington

I have recd yours of 28th Jany.3

LS, in Alexander Hamilton’s writing, with postscript in Tench Tilghman’s writing, NN: William Livingston Papers; Df, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. The postscript appears only on the LS. GW signed that cover, which is addressed to Livingston at Trenton.

1On 4 Feb., Livingston wrote GW from Trenton: “I have received your Excellency’s favour of the 27th January; and rejoice to hear that the mutiny in the Jersey line is so compleatly suppressed. As lenity is, upon some occasions, truly politic, severity is upon others, absolutely indispensible; and probably from the success of the Pennsylvania mutineers, the fever of revolt would soon have become epidemical, had not the sharpest remedy been applied to check the contagion. I hope however, as well from a regard to Justice, as to prevent all future Insurrections on pretence of being detained in service, beyond the expiration of their Enlistments, that the grounds of all such complaints, if any are still made, may be thoroughly investigated” (ALS, DLC:GW).

3See Livingston to GW, 28 Jan., found at GW to Livingston, 23 Jan., source note.

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