George Washington Papers

To George Washington from William Phillips, 23 September 1780

Elizabeth Town 23d September 1780


His Excellency General Sir Henry Clinton expected I should have met a person from Your Excellency at this place to have conversed upon various subjects relating to a General Exchange as, also, upon the appointment of Commissarys to reside with the respective Armies, but, no such person from you, Sir having arrived at Elizabeth Town, I have only to enclose to Your Excellency the rough draft of Sir Henry Clinton’s proposals upon this matter for your perusal, should it meet your concurrence I doubt not but on your signifying so to Sir Henry Clinton, the two persons may enter upon their respective Offices.

I most sincerely lament, that Major General Lincoln gave himself and me the trouble of a meeting at Elizabeth town, that Gentleman being so entirely unprepared to enter in any the least degree upon the business for which it was supposed we were to meet. I came fully instructed from Sir Henry Clinton to settle the plan of an Exchange of the Troops of Convention against the American Troops taken at Charles Town and the manner with which the Troops on both sides were to have met for that desireable purpose, Major General Lincoln did not on the contrary, from any thing I could perceive, come to this place Authorized either by Your Excellency or the American Congress to enter at all upon the business. I shall decline giving any opinion upon this fruitless meeting, but must be allowed to acknowledge my extreme surprize that it should be conceived by any person necessary for General Lincoln and myself to confer upon the matter of his partial and personal exchange which depended so entirely and absolutely upon Sir Henry Clinton and Your Excellency and might have been settled by the receipt and return of a letter on either side. I have the honor to be Sir, with the highest respect Your Excellency’s Most Obedient and most humble Servant

W. Phillips.

DLC: Papers of George Washington.



23 September 1780

That the Commander in Chief each by his own Authority, and under his own immediate Direction, do appoint, for the Benefit of Prisoners, a Commissary of Prisoners. The British Commissary to reside at Lancaster in Pennsylvania, or at Fredericktown in Maryland, or in such other Parts as may be most contiguous to where the greatest Number of Privates Prisoners of War may be confined. The American Commissary at New York. For the Conduct and Good Behaviour of these Commissaries, they The Commanders in Chief shall be respectively answerable.

Such Commissaries on all Occasions are to consider themselves as under Parole, neither to send verbal or written Intelligence to their own Party, or divulge any thing that may be prejudicial to the Party with whom they reside, nor receive or forward any Letters but such as have been inspected by the Officers appointed for that Purpose, and under no Pretence whatever to interfere with public Affairs or Politicks, but entirely govern their Conduct in Office agreeable to the [   ] following Regulations.

These are General Clinton’s proposals

1st The respective Commissaries are to be permitted to visit the Prisoners confined where they reside, at least once a Week, in the presence of an Officer appointed for the purpose, in order to collect Returns, see that they are regularly supplied with the Provisions to which they are entitled, to hear their Complaints if any, and in general examine into the State of their Health, Accommodation, or Wants; all which they may report to the Commander in Chief in whose Lines they are, and also to their own Commander in Chief, if they deem it essential. They are to be permitted in like manner and for the same Purposes to visit such other Prisoners as may be confined at more remote Posts (if judged necessary by the Commissary) under the same Restrictions, once a Month, with Permission from the Military Commanding Officer at the Place where the Commissary resides.

2nd The Commissaries are to be allowed to receive and distribute among the Prisoners, such Provision, Clothing, and Necessaries, as also such Comforts for the Sick as may be transmitted for their use from time to time; they shall, also, be at liberty in Addition to purchase these Articles from the adverse Party and to negotiate Bills of Exchange for the purpose of paying for such Purchases, the Board of the Officers and for their own Expences, and in these Cases and for these Purposes the British Commissary to have liberty to go to Philadelphia from time to time as (the) Exigencies may require.

3rd Each Commissary to be allowed to live in a House by himself with his Family & Domesticks, without being subject to be billeted upon, or liable to perform any Military or public Duties, and exempt from all publick Dues and Taxations be protected and secured in their Persons and Effects, and treated with suitable Respect while they continue in Office.

4th Neither of the Commissaries to be allowed to pass to the Army to which he belongs without previously informing the Commander in Chief within whose Lines he is, of the Intention of his Journey and obtaining Permission for that purpose, and such Commissary being allowed to pass is to consider himself under Parole not to divulge or do any thing prejudicial to the Party with whom he resides.

5th In case of Misbehaviour, or a Charge of Misbehaviour, in either Commissary, and on a complaint thereof and request to the Commander in Chief under whom he acts, he shall be recalled, and another appointed.

6th If a Commissary should resign or be recalled, he is to be permitted to return with his Family & Effects under the Sanction of a Flag.

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