George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Moses Hazen, 29 January 1783

Pompton, 29th January 1783.


The Gentlemen Officers of my Regiment, who had the Honour of presenting a Memorial to your Excellency of the 13th Instant, beg leave now to exhibit sundry Charges against Lieut. Thomas Edwards, Judge-Advocate in the Army of the United States of America, as follows, viz.

1. The Want of Abilities and a regular judicious System in the Office and Duties of a Judge Advocate.

2. The Want of Candour and Impartiallity in conducting Prosecutions as Judge-Advocate in Courts-martial: And

3. A Neglect of Duty in the Office of Judge-Advocate—are the Heads of the Charges which we are ready to support.

To carry those general Heads into specific Charges, we shall confine ourselves to those and to those only which in Justice to our own injured Characters we find our selves compelled to prosecute.

1st The Want of Knowledge in common Law and Equity, the Basis of Military Courts Martial, renders Mr Edwards, as we conceive, inadequate to the important Office of Judge-Advocate in the Army, and therefore unable to conduct Prosecutions in Military Courts in a regular uniform, legal and judicious Manner, to the Prejudice of Decency, good Order, the Honour of the Army, and Interest of these States; which will herein after more fully appear.

2ndly The Want of Abilities in Mr Edwards to fill the Office of Judge-Advocate, and a regular judicious System in him, will also be found in his Conduct on a General Court-Martial held at West-Point in the Month of December 1780, for the Trial of Major James R. Reid, whereof Colonel Graton was President, by erroneously holding out Ideas to the Court and insisting that a Prisoner in his Defence had a Right to say what he pleased, without being responsible to that Court, be it ever so erroneous, false, or impertinent to the Cause, or Prejudicial to Individual Characters—and thereby it is presumed he crowded into that Court a most infamous Libel called Major Reid’s Defence, under the Pretence that if it contained any Thing false or criminal it was at his (Major Reid’s) own Risque, and a proper Subject for a new Trial, but not cognizable by that Court, it being posterior to the Commencement of the Trial, and that Major Reid might afterwards be made liable for any Errors or Crimes committed by him in the Cause of his Defence; on which erroneous, weak, and injudicial Opinion the Court, it is presumed decreed in Substance accordingly; to which we refer; and which is the very Source and Foundation of the Prosecution of Major Reid before a late General Court-Martial whereof Col. Putnam was President.

3rdly The Want of Abilities and a regular judicious System in Mr Edwards in the Office of Judge-Advocate will appear by his suffering Major Reid to hand through him to the said late court erroneous Quotations out of Common Law unfairly Stated in order to suppress the Testimony of Major Reid’s own Public Acts on Record, admitted by all Authors in Civil Law or Equity to be the best possible Testimony in the World; and not ever before rejected in Military Courts Martial—and by suffering the Prisoner Major Reid, uncontradicted positively to assert to the Court, that his late Defence was under the Sanction of the former Court, which Mr Edwards well knew, or ought to have known, to the contrary; for he most strenously urged to the said former Court, whereof Col. Graton was President, the Propriety of illiberal Reflections and Crimination of private Characters in a Prisoner’s Defence, even when foreign to the Charges on which a Prisoner was tried, alledging at the same Time that Major Reid was not accountable for any Thing contained in his said Defence before that Court; but if there were Errors or Crimes in it, it would in that Case be the Subject of another Trial—and on that Ground the said Defence was admitted.

4thly The Want of a regular judicious System in Mr Edwards will more fully appear by his Conduct in the said late Court-Martial whereof Col. Putnam was President, in objecting to or pleading against the Admission of the said Major Reid’s Defence as Testimony in that Court, alledging at the same Time that it was a new Matter for which he had not a Precedent—when he might and ought to have said that it was a Matter left at his own Request and Major Reid’s Consent by the former for the Determination of the latter Court, for which he had a Precedent in Point.

5thly The Want of Abilities and a regular judicious System will also appear in Mr Edwards in the Office of Judge-Advocate by his not peremptorily refusing to sit and act as Judge-Advocate on the late Trial of Major Reid by the said Court-Martial whereof Col. Putnam was President; having been repeatedly objected to by a Corps of Officers, and assigning at the same Time their Reason for such Objection, viz.: his being interested in the Event of the Trial—which they were ready to support.

1st The Want of Candour and Impartiality in conducting Prosecutions as Judge Advocate will be found in Mr Edwards, by his declaring to the Court-Martial, on the said late Trial of Major Reid, that the bringing of a Prisoner’s Defence on one Trial as Evidence against him on another was a new Matter for which he had not a Precedent, when the direct contrary will appear to be the Fact, which he must have known, as their was a pointed Precedent established by himself in the former Trial of Major Reid in the Court-Martial whereof Colonel Graton was President; and further, as before observed, the Admission of the said Defence or Libel into the former Court was urged by Mr Edwards on the Grounds of its being at his (Major Reid’s) own Risque for which he was responsible before another Court.

2ndly The want of Candour and Impartiality in Mr Edwards, as Judge-Advocate, will also appear by his suppressing some Common Law Quotations and Reasons under the Sanction of the court, in favour of admitting the said Defence or Libel as Testimony produced by Captains White and Lloyd, Agents for the Corps, amongst which they pointed out a Precedent to confute those erroneous Quotations introduced into Court by Major Reid through Mr Edwards—or by neglecting to communicate the same in open Court—and by misapplying or misconstruing others which Mr Edwards thought proper to read in open Court.

By objecting to the Testimony of Mr Andrew Luckey on the Charge of Fraud, taken in a legal Manner under the Authority of Congress, and by not insisting on Capt. Duncan’s Evidence on a Court of Enquiry on the same Charge being admitted as Evidence, which had been previously allowed by Major Reid, as appeared by a Certificate from under his own Hand—and by suppressing the Testimony of a Number of Witnesses brought to prove a Charge of Fraud, or Misapplication of Money, the avowed Property of the Soldiers of the Regiment—all which will operate more or less to prove and support the first general Head, viz. The Want of Abilities and a regular judicious System in the Office and Duties of a Judge Advocate.

The Neglect of Duty in the Office of Judge-Advocate will, it is presumed, be fully established in Mr Edwards—in supporting the preceding Charges, and in particular by his not insisting to expurge such Parts of Major Reid’s said Defence in the Court-Martial whereof Col. Graton was President as would not tend to justify him under the Charges on which he was tried, or otherwise that he, Major Reid, should be tried for such Parts of the said Defence as were false and criminal, agreeable to a Move then made in Court in Behalf of the Persons aggrieved, and recorded in the Proceedings, to which we refer.

By not laying a clear State of all the aforesaid Facts respecting Major Reid’s said Defence in the said former Court before the latter, whereof Col. Putnam was President, in order the more fully to urge not only the Propriety but the absolute Necessity of admitting the said Defence as Testimony on the late Trial of Major Reid.

By suppressing, with-holding, or neglecting Evidences, which would naturally tend to convict the Prisoner, Major Reid, on his late Trial by a Court-Martial, viz. Major Reid’s Libel called his Defence on his said former Trial—the Testimony of Andrew Luckey—the Testimony of Capt. Duncan, admitted by Major Reid to be produced as Evidence—and a Number of Witnesses to support the Charge of Fraud: The whole of those Charges herein contained have such an immediate Connection the one with the other that the supporting the one will naturally tend to prove the other, and finally to prove that Mr Thomas Edwards, Judge-Advocate to the American Army, has made himself a Party either as Principal or Accessary to the infamous Libel produced by Major Reid called his Defence on a Trial before the said Court-martial, whereof Col. Graton was President; for all which we conceive he is and ought to be responsible. I have the Honour to be, With great Respect, Your Excellency’s most obedient And most devoted humble Servant,

Moses Hazen Brigr Genl

For himself and Twenty four


DLC: Papers of George Washington.

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