George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General Benjamin Lincoln, 15 February 1781

From Major General Benjamin Lincoln

Boston, Feby 15th 1781

My dear General,

I have the pleasure to inform you that Colo. Laurens sailed on the 13th, after waiting several days in Nantasket-Road for a fair wind. On his arrival here he found the Alliance had not completed her crew & that it would be difficult soon to effect it. This induced him to apply to the Navy-Board to obtain from the General Court a power to impress—which not only failed in the House, but so alarmed the sailors that some secreted themselves, and others left the Town; so that although the Assembly ordered the bounty increased out of their own chest, and afterwards gave a permission to inlist out of the State troops, a deficiency still existed, and the ship was detained solely by the want of a crew.

This being represented by Colo. Laurens and the importance of his mission joined by his request that I would aid in completing the crew of the Alliance by suffering the sea-officers to engage such of the recruits of this State as were qualified for the marine service—induced me to permit it—and eight or ten of the recruits and about the same number of Invalids went on board—which I hope will meet with your Excellency’s approbation.1

I have been frequently applied to for warrants for the pay of the Invalids and others—Have I a power to grant such warrants?

The late Lieutenant Colonel Loring has been to Congress, I suppose, to solicit a new hearing. From the papers he shewed me in September last I thought that he had such new & material evidence to offer in his case as gave flattering hopes that he would obtain his wishes and prove himself an honest man. I know his circumstancs to be such as forbid his remaining longer from his family without great injury to himself and them. Give me leave to beg, my dear Sir, if he is to enjoy the benefit of a new hearing that he may as early as possible have that favor.2

There are many deserters strolling through the country, who, I suppose, would return to their duty, if they could hope for a pardon—But past omissions to embrace the mercy so often held out to them has I presume prevented your Excellency from repeating, once more, that which has been attended with so little success.

Though I cannot solicit your Excellency in behalf of these infatuated men, without hurting your feelings, for I am confident your willingness to save has known no other bounds than the utmost limits of mercy to the wicked which could be exercised short of cruelty to the good; Yet I have my wishes that the most virtuous, if virtue can be applied to any of them, might be encouraged to hope for an opportunity of evidencing the sincerity of their repentance by future obedience, and rewarded accordingly.3 I have the honor to be my Dear General with every sentiment of esteem your Excell⟨ency’s⟩ most Obedient & most humble servant

B. Lincoln

LS, DLC:GW; ADf, MHi: Lincoln Papers.

1For Lt. Col. John Laurens’s report on these events, see his letter to GW of 4–7 February.

2For Jotham Loring’s court-martial and dismissal from the army, see General Orders, 12 Aug. 1779.

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