George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Benedict Arnold, 1 October 1780

New York Octr 1st 1780


The Polite attention shown by Your Excellency and the Gentlemen of Your Fmaily to Mrs Arnold when in distress, demand my grateful acknowlidgement and thanks which I beg leave to present.

From Your Excellencys Letter to Sr Henry Clinton, I find a Board of General Officers have given it as their Opinion that Major André comes under the description of a Spy: my good Opinion of the Candor, and Justice of those Gentlemen leads me to believe that If they had been more fully acquainted with every Circumstance respecting Major André, that they would by no means have considered Him in the light of a Spy, or even of a Prisoner: In Justice to him I think it my Duty to declare that He came from on board the Vulture at my Particular request, by a Flag sent on purpose for him, by Joshua Smith Esqre who had permission to go to Dobbs’s Ferry to Carry Letters and for other purposes not mentioned and to return. This was Done as a blind to the Spy Boats: Mr Smith at the Same time had my possitive directions to go on board the Vulture, and bring on Shore, Colonel Robinson or Mr John Anderson, which was the Name I had requested Major André to Assume: At the Same time I desired Mr Smith to Inform him, That He should have my Protection, and a safe Passport to return in the same Boat as soon as our business was compleated; as several accidents intervened to prevent his being sent on Board, I gave him my Passport to return by land, Major André came onto Shore in his Uniform (without Disguise) which with much Reluctance at my particular and pressing Instance He Exchanged for another Coat, I furnished Him with a Horse and Saddle and pointed out the Route by which He was to return, And as Commanding Officer in the Department I had an undoubted right to transact all these Matters, which If wrong Major André ought by no means to suffer for them.

But if after this Just and Candid Representation of Major André’s Case The Board of General Officers Adheres to their former Opinion, I shall suppose it Dictated by Passion and Resentment, and If that Gentleman should Suffer the Severity of their Sentence I shall think myself bound by every tie of Duty and honor to retaliate on such unhappy Persons of Your Army as may fall within my power, that the Respect due to Flags and to the Law of Nations may be better understood and Observed.

I have further to observe that Forty of the Principle Inhabitants of South Carolina have Justly forfeited their Lives which have hitherto been Spared by the Clemency of His Excellency Sir Henry Clinton, who Cannot in Justice extend his Mercy to them any longer, if Major André Suffers, which in all probibility, will open a Scene of blood at which Humanity will Revolt.

Suffer me to Intreat Your Excellency For Your Own and the honor of Humanity, and the Love You have of Justice, that You suffer not an Unjust Sentence to touch the Life of Major André.

But If this warning should be disreguarded and He should suffer, I call Heaven and Earth to Witness that Your Excellency will be Justly answerable for the torrent of blood that may be spilt in Consequence. I have the honor to be with due Respect Your Excellencys most Obedient and Very Humble Servt

B. Arnold

DLC: Papers of George Washington.

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