George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Richard Peters, 18 October 1780

War Office Octr 18th 1780


When Capt. Joel was committed to our Charge we thought it proper to examine him & among a Variety of Matter of an unimportant Nature he informed us of there being a Major General in the Sevice of America who was in British Pay. As we conceived this to be a Tale calculated to magnify his Importance or to extract Money from the public we contented ourselves with mentioning the Circumstance to several Members of Congress who did not think it worth regarding as it was not to be supposed that did such a Thing exist it could have come to the Knowledge of a Person so insignificant as Capt. Joel. When General Arnold’s Treason was developed it was supposed that Capt. Joel would give himself Credit for having given the necessary Hints previous to the actual Discovery. But on being interrogated after Arnold’s Villainy appeared he said it was another Major General & on our further & pressing Enquiry he gave up the Name of the General who he said was Major General Howe & alleged that he heard his Name mentioned as a Friend to the British Cause at Col. Fanning’s Table. He farther informed that [          ] a Commissary or Forage Master suffered himself frequently to be taken Prisoner by the British & acted as an Emissary under their Directions & that he had mentioned the Matter so far as related to himself to Genll Howe—Whatever may be thought of the Weight of the Information we concieve it our Duty to write to your Excellency on the Subject that being possessed of the whole Affair you may take such Measures as you shall deem proper. We have endeavored to get the Information in Writing from Capt. Joel but have not been able to obtain it. Mr Joel’s Character has not appeared in a favourable Point of View in the Instances falling under our Notice—He appears to be of quick Parts, daring, unprincipled & so intemperately loquacious that he talks in all Companies about his Affairs & particularly mentions the Information he has given the Board concealing however the Name of the General. We shall be happy to hear speedily from your Excellency on the Subject that if it is deemed necessary Mr Joel may be farther examined or secured as an Evidence in the Matter which will be kept secret so far as depends upon us until you are pleased to order otherwise. We have the Honour to be with the highest Respect & Esteem your very obed. Servants

Richard Peters

By order in Behalf of the Board

P.S. Since writing the above Mr Joel has been farther interrogated by a Member of the Board & he says that he heard Col. Fanning tell W. Smith Esq. in New York that he (Col. Fanning) had sent out an American Commissary who suffered himself to be captivated frequently by the British with a Letter to Major Genl Howe & that he (Col. F.) had no Doubt of his complying with the Terms of it as more splendid Advantages were offered him than any he could obtain in the American Service Mr Joel farther said that he communicated this Conversation to Genl Howe who informed Thos Smith (Bror of W. Smith) then present thereof. Upon being pressed to give his Information in Writing he at first evaded and finally refused it as he said he would not become an Accuser; but promised to leave it sealed up for the Board when he went to Sea which he expected would be in a short time.

DLC: Papers of George Washington.

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