George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Thomas Langley Collyer, 27 May 1781

Fishkill Provo. May 27th 1781


Having Informashion that I am under Sentens of Death. I was Born and Broght up In old England and what I am porsest of Come from ther. I Leved My Natife Countery to Carey on the woolen Maneyfactery and Have Doun a Grit Deal of Et and to Gret satesfacton In pertickler In Colling [skarlet] and If my Condock Have forfet My Life I Bege et at youer hand to save et for part of the Evidancs a Gainst Me Is fales. I Hope that uer Excelence will Tacke et In to Consedrashion I have a wife and Tow Children and Might In [persee] of Time Be a Great Benefit to the Countery for Manafactery if My Life Is Spard. I Hope for youer Excelencs Grase from youer Hombel Pertishanr

Thos Langly Collyer

DLC: Papers of George Washington.


Fish Kill May 28th 1781


Thomas Langly Collier is represented to Me as having attempted a treasonable Correspondence with the Enemy on Long Island by a Letter intercepted in its passage thither on the Sound—There is little Reason to doubt that the aforesaid Letter was of a treasonable Nature; tho I have neither seen it or a Copy of it. I am informed that at the Time of writing and intercepting the said Letter Collier had, as well as for some Years before, his fixed Residence at Fairfield in the State of Connecticut and that he is not charged with having gone over to the Enemy or come from them in the Character of a Spy. That he has been apprehended tried and convicted on the aforesaid Letter, by a Court martial of which Major General Parsons was president & is now under Sentence of death & in Irons in the provost at Fishkill And my opinion is asked on the following Question vizt.

Whether as Collier’s Case is above Stated, he was legally amenable to and triable by a Court martial?

Answer—It is my Opinion that any person taken in disguise or secretly lurking about an Encampent Cantonment Garrison or other military post occultly attempting to make discoveries, or to practise withe the Troops for the Benefit of the Enemy is by the Practise of Nations & the Law martial triable by a Court martial as a Spy. But I am also of opinion that an Inhabitant & Subject who from the place of his fixed abode, & where the Law of the Land will reach him maintains or attempts to maintain a treasonable Correspondence with the Enemy, is amenable for the Crime only before a Court of Law in the State where the Crime was committed and not before a Court martial; unless there should be a particular legal provision for the purpose by a Law of the State.

Jno. Morin Scott

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