May 31 1780
Proclamation for pardoning Deserters from the
Massachusetts Bay Line.
Whereas the Honourable the Council & House of Representatives of the State of Massachusetts Bay, by an Act passed on the 5th day of this Month, entitled "An Act to prevent and punish desertion, and for apprehending & securing Deserters from the Continental Army," have suggested among other things, that it appeared many Deserters from the Battalions belonging to the State, sensible of their folly and wickedness in violating their Oaths—and in dishonourably abandoning the cause of their Country, would gladly be restored to the favour of their fellow Citizens, by a speedy return to their several Companies & Regiments in the Continental Army, were it not for the apprehension of an ignominious punishment; And Whereas the said Honourable Council and House of Representatives have been pleased to recommend it to the Commander in Chief of the said Army, to proclaim a pardon to all Deserters described in the said Act, who being on Land should return to their several Companies & Regiments within Three Months after the publication of the said Act, and if at Sea, within one Month after they returned in to Port; In Order therefore to remove on the one hand every apprehension and fear of punishment from the minds of those who have repented of their base and wicked conduct and wish to return, and on the other, to prevent all appearance of excuse on the part of those who shall reject the indulgence herein set forth—I hereby make it known to all Soldiers of the descriptions contained in the said Act, who have deserted from the Battalions or Companies of the said State, serving in the Continental Army, or who were intended as Recruits or Levies inlisted or detached from the Militia for the same and deserted before or after they joined the Army, that a free and full pardon is proclaimed and Granted to them, on condition that they join their respective Regiments and Companies, or where they had not been incorporated, surrender themselves to any Officer of their State, present with the Army, within the times and on the terms particularly limited & specified in and by the said recited Act.
And being anxious to save wherever it is possible—I further admonish & warn All Deserters in the said State, belonging to any Regiment– Corps or Company whatsoever in the Army, to avail themselves of the Mercy & offer of Pardon held forth by this Proclamation—and if they do not that they reject it at the peril & hazard of their lives.
Given at Head Qrs in Morristown this 31st day of May Anno Dom. 1780.
By His Excellency’s Command ________
DLC: Papers of George Washington.