George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Abraham Skinner, 24 July 1780

Head Qrs July 24: 1780


I have received Your Letter of the 22d Instant enclosing a Copy of One from Mr Loring the British Commissary of Prisoners of the 19th. I find by his Letter that the Enemy intend now or at least wish to effect it, if they can, to connect the exchange of Our Officers and privates, prisoners at NewYork & Long Island, and to make the release of the former depend on that of the latter. This is evidently the Object at which they now aim. It is inadmissible—and what I will not accede to. Exchanges from the first that took place between us to the present time, have been conducted on a very different principle, and it was never attempted in any case to combine the release of Officers and Men together, except in the instance of the Convention Troops; and the propositions contained in Mr Loring’s Letter of the 21st of June whatever communications he may have thought it proper to give since are separate and distinct with respect to the business, and do not in the most distant manner hint at any relation between them. You are therefore to govern yourself entirely by his proposition of the 21st of June and by my Letter of the 12th Instant, with respect to the Officers.

As to the privates—prisoners in NewYork, about whose exchange the Enemy appear solicitous at present—It might be remarked that humanity required it much more strongly—when it was proposed & urged on our part on the 3d of February—and that they thought proper then to decline it & not to give any answer upon the subject till the 6th of May. But waiving all consideration of the motives which induced them then to decline, what they now would accede to—You may ascertain with Mr Loring and obtain Lists from him, of such as are really prisoners whom we shall deem as such & fit subjects of exchange. This will be a good and necessary preliminary step, & such as will facilitate their release.

In consequence of directions I have just received for the purpose You will propose to Mr Loring to exchange any Brigadier Gen. belonging to them in our hands, for Brigadier Genl du Portail, who was taken at Charles Town, and if the proposition is agreed to, You will take immediate measures for releasing the Officer given on our part—and will obtain an Order, for the liberation of Genl Portail & for his safe conduct to Philadelphia, or some part of Jersey, if Sir Henry Clinton will indulge him with a passage by Water, or if not till he arrives at such place in North Carolina, as he may mention.

As Genl Burgoyne is not with the Convention Troops—and the Enemy have no Officer of ours of his rank to exchange for him; and as they have several of our Colonels prisoners to them, who can never be exchanged on the principle of equal rank; I wish You to propose for the mutual relief of the parties, his exchange for our Colonels as far as it may extend, according to the tariff or grades which were discussed & thought reasonable by our respective Commissioners when at Amboy last. beginning first with the Officers of this rank prisoners in this quarter, reserving one to be exchanged for Colonel Cockler and extending it to the relief of those in the Continental line, prisoners at the Southward, as far as it will reach according to the seniority of their capture & where this is equal the dates of Commission must govern.

There were Two Officers of the name of Robinson, Sons of Colo. Robinson, taken at Stony point—You will permit them to got to NewYork on parole, & remain—till called for or exchanged. I am Sir &c.

G. Washington

DLC: Papers of George Washington.

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