George Washington Papers

To George Washington from William Livingston, 10 June 1782

Trenton 10 June 1782

Dear Sir

Mr Lot informs me by Letter that he had applied to your Excellency for a pass for himself and his son in Law Collo. Livingston to go into the Enemy’s lines. “That your Excellency wish’d & was willing to grant it had it rested with you, but that he found by your information that it rested with me.” He farther adds that he was informed by your Excellency, “that the mode of applying for such passes is still the same as heretofore, & that altho’ there is a change in place, yet that there is none in power.” To this Collo. Livingston subjoins orally that your Excellency told them “that you had no objection to their going provided that I had none, but that without my consent, you could not grant it.” I conceive that both these Gentlemen must have mistaken your Excellency’s meaning; because I consider myself as having no concern with the Flaggs at Dobbs’s Ferry, nor authorized to give a pass to any person whatever to go into the Enemy’s lines from that post. I am indeed authorized to give permissions to the Citizens of this State to go into those lines, by an Act of our Legislature; but that must be supposed to relate to those who are to go thither immediately from this State (which I am happy to find is now totally inhibited) & not thro’ another in which I have no Jurisdiction. All that, in such case, could be expected from me, would be to recommend the person, agreeably to a certain resolution of Congress as being of a fair political character, leaving the officer entirely at his option respecting his going. But as to recommending them to go into the Enemy’s lines upon private business (unless very peculiarly circumstanced indeed) I should wish to be entirely excused from it, from the many abuses that have been experienced from such passes, & the impossibility of knowing the real truth of such professions.

Dr Cockran will probably have his application to [our] Legislature crown’d with success this day. He has been indefatigable in his solicitations; & I have the greatest reason to think has been kept attending with the utmost reluctance & the most eager desire of returning to Camp. But from the flattering hopes he daily received of the business being near its close, & the opinion of his friends of the necessity of his personal attendance to give it dispatch will the frequent transformations thro’ which the bill for that purpose has passed, so to model it as to procure a majority are the causes to which I am persuaded his absence from camp hitherto is to be ascribed. With the greatest esteem I have the honour to be your Excellency’s most humble & most obedient Servant

Wil: Livingston

DLC: Papers of George Washington.

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