Philada Decr 24th 1781
In my Letter to your Excellency yesterday, I mentioned the situation that the naval prisoners were in at New York and also my inability to afford them that relief they Stood in need of; In addition to that Letter, I beg leave to inform your Excellency, That those Prisoners are chiefly the Sailors Captured on Board of Vessels belonging to the different Ports of the United States, employed by the individuals of those States, and not in Continental Service.
That the many partial Exchanges made by the Several States individually, have frequently deranged my Accounts with the Enemy and prevented my Releasing those Men whom a Seniority of Capture entitled to a preference of Exchange, and consequently has obliged many of them to quit the Prison Ship and enter into the British Navy & Army.
That from the 17th Sept. 1780 I have endeavoured to have the whole of the naval prisoners thrown into one Common Stock, and from that I have Released (as far as was in my power) the eldest prisoners in the hands of the Enemy.
That from the neglect of the Officers and others who have frequently Captured Prisoners at sea, landed them at insecure places, and permitted their Escapes, I am indebted to the Enemy 698 Men which I am unable to pay and which will always be the case unless some general and extensive plan is Ordered to be pursued, the whole of the naval Exchanges regulated thro one Office, and Individuals effectually prevented from interfering in the Release of a prisoner belonging to any particular State.
permit me therefore Sir,to suggest to you the aforegoing facts and to beg I may receive such Instructions relative to the receiving Exchange and supporting the naval Prisoners as your Excellency should think sufficient; I am Sir Your Mo. Obt Hble Servt
Com. Genl Prisr
DLC: Papers of George Washington.