George Washington Papers

To George Washington from William Livingston, 24 June 1782

Trenton 24 June 1782

Dear Sir

I have been honoured with your Excellency’s Letter of the 16th instant apologizing for your opening a Letter to me from Sir Guy Carleton which was put into your hands with other Letters. The like has several times happened to me since the war respecting the letters of other Gentlemen, & I have made the like apology. I only wish that your Excellency had not discovered the mistake till you had perused it to the end, because you would thereby have been convinced that altho’ Sir Guy is to act upon a very different plan from that of his Predecessors, there is in reality no great difference between the Genius of the Knight in, & the Knight out of Command.

Your Excellency’s politeness has conferred on me by your Letter of the 18th instant, greater authority respecting passports than I could wish to have. I was in hopes that as the only place from which Flaggs are now established to pass from us to the Enemy was in the State of New-York, to which the Act of our Legislature authorizing the Executive of this State to grant permissions to our Citizens to pass & return, does not extend, I should have been able to plead my want of authority to grant passports for passing from and coming into another State, convinced as I am that not one in twenty of those who apply for that purpose ought to be indulged in their request. I shall therefore still confine myself to the resolution of Congress of the 21 August 1778, which is barely to recommend as to the Character & motive of the Applicant, leaving the matter after all to the discretion of the officer commanding at the Post to forward them on or not as the situation of affairs & the military operations may, at particular junctures, render such intercourse harmless, or injurious to the public.

It gives me great pain to be obliged to inform your Excellency, that our Legislature, which rose yesterday, has taken no new measure for compleating our quota of Troops in the service of the United States, but have contented themselves with directing the State Regiment on the lines to be ordered to join the Army when necessary, & to continue in that Service till the expiration of the term for which they inlisted in the Service of this State.

The Act passed this sitting, for preventing the trade with the enemy is doubtless more vigorous & efficacious than any of our Laws hitherto enacted to check that destructive commerce; but I am persuaded from the incredible extent of that execrable practice, & the more operative influence of private lucre than public Spirit, that the Magistrates will be incompetent to carry it into execution. I think that associations & Committees for the express purpose of executing the Law on this subject will be much more effectual; & such associations I shall therefore make it my business to propose & encourage.

The inclosed (which I beg the favour of your Excellency to take some opportunity of forward) is in answer to a Letter from General Carleton on the subject of the capture & detention of Hetfield & Badgeley who came in a Flagg, of which I have already done myself the honour to transmit your Excellency a particular account, which I presumed was requested of me with intent to answer the inquiries of the Enemy on that subject; and I cannot but think that they ought, for an explanation of whatever relates to such persons as they claim to be their subjects & who are confined by us, to have recourse to your Excellency, who will naturally if such persons are detained by the civil Law of this State cause an inquiry into the matter by an application to the Executive. This I say I conceive is the channel thro’ which Sir Guy ought to correspond on those Subjects, of which I have taken the Liberty to give him a hint. With the greatest Esteem & respect I have the honour to be Dear Sir your Excellencys most humble & most obedient Servant

Wil: Livingston

DLC: Papers of George Washington.

Index Entries