Philadelphia 20th March 1782
I do myself the honor of inclosing Extracts of two Letters—One from Mr Jay—the other from Docr Franklin. I am with gret respect Yr Excellys Mo. Obt Servt
DNA: Item 152, Letters from George Washington, PCC—Papers of the Continental Congress.
St Ildefonso Octr 3d 1781
Extract of a letter from Mr Jay
"I am indebted largely to Mr Harrison for money advancd to distressed Seamen—he ought to be paid, and it is So far from being in my power to do it, that I have been reduc’d to the mortifying necessity of desiring him for the present to hold his hand—A great many of this valuable class of people are Confind in English Goals without other means of obtaining their enlargement than by entering into the Enemy’s Service—they complain bitterly at their being neglected by their Country, and I really think not without reason. Retaliation ought to be practised and, if we have not a sufficient number of marine officers & seamen in our power to make the objects of it, why wou’d it be improper to substitute Landsmen?"
Passy Novr 5th 1781
Extract from Doctr Franklins Letter
I have receivd the late Presidents letter respecting the release and exchange of Mr Lawrens—Having no direct communication with the British Ministers, and Mr Burke appearing by a letter to me warmly interested in favor of his friend Genl Burgoyne to prevent his being recalld, I have requested and impowerd him to negotiate that Exchange, and I soon expect his answer.
The late practice of sending to England prisoners taken in America, has greatly augmented the number of those unfortunate men, and proportionably increased the expense of returning them—The Subscriptions in England for that purpose have ceas’d—the allowance I have made them of 6 pence each per week during the Summer, tho small amounts to a considerable Sum; and during the winter I shall be obligd to double if not treble it. The Admiralty there will not accept any English in exchange but such As have been taken by Americans, and absolutely refuse to allow any of the paroles given to our privateers by English prisoners dischargd at sea, except in one instance, that of 53 Men taken in the Snake Sloop by the Pilgrim and Rambler, which was a case attended, as they say, with some particular Circumstances—I know not what the Circumstances were, but shall be glad to see the 53 of our people whom they promise to send one by the first cartel: I have above 500 other paroles solemnly given in writing by which the Englishmen promisd either to send of our people in Exchange, or to surrender themselves in France; not one of which has been regarded, so little faith and honors, remain in that corrupted nation. Our privateers when in the European Seas, will rarely bring in their prisoners, when they can get rid of them at Sea—Some of our poor brave Countrymen have been in that cruel captivity now near four years. I hope—Congress will take this matter into immediate consideration, and find some means for their deliverance, and to prevent the sending more from America. By my last accounts the number now in the several prisons amounts to upwards of 800. I request also some direction from Congress (having never receivd any) respecting the allowance to be made to them while they remain there—They complain that the food given them is insufficient. Their petitions to the English Government to have an equall allowance, with the French & Spanish prisoners has been rejected, which makes the small pecuniary assistance I can Send them more necessary. If a certain number of English prisoners could be set apart in America, treated exactly in the same manner, and their Exchange refusd ’till it should be agreed to set these at liberty in Europe, one might hope to obtain to succeed in procuring the discharge of our people—Those who escape and pass thro’ France to get home put one also to a very great expense for their land journies, which wou’d be prevented if they could be exchangd, as they wou’d be landed here in the ports.