TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
New York, 22 July, 1776.
Your favors of the 18th & 19th with which you have been pleased to honor me have been duly received with the Several Resolves alluded to.
When the letter and declaration, from Lord Howe to Mr. Franklin and the other late governors, come to be published, I should suppose the warmest advocates for dependence on the British crown must be silent, and be convinced beyond all possibility of doubt, that all that has been said about the Commissioners was illusory, and calculated expressly to deceive and put off their guard, not only the good people of our own country, but those of the English nation, that were averse to the proceedings of the King and ministry. Hence we see the cause why a specification of their powers was not given to the mayor and city of London, on their address requesting it. That would have been dangerous, because it would then [have] been manifest, that the line of conduct they were to pursue would be totally variant from that they had industriously propagated, and amused the public with. The uniting the civil and military offices in the same persons, too, must be conclusive to every thinking one, that there is to be but little negotiation of the civil kind.
I have enclosed, for the satisfaction of Congress, the substance of what passed between myself and Lieutenant-Colonel Patterson, adjutant-general, at an interview had yesterday in consequence of a request from General Howe the day before; to which I beg leave to refer them for particulars.
Colonel Knox of the train having often mentioned to me the necessity of having a much more numerous body of artillerists, than what there now is, in case the present contest should continue longer, and knowing the deficiency in this instance, and their extreme usefulness, I desired him to commit his ideas upon the subject to writing, in order that I might transmit them to Congress for their consideration. Agreeably to my request, he has done it; and the propriety of his plan is now submitted for their decision. It is certain, that we have no more at this time than are sufficient for the several extensive posts we now have, including the drafts which he speaks of, and which, I presume, not only from what he has informed me, but from the nature of the thing, can never be qualified to render the same service, as if they were regularly appointed and formed into a corps for that particular purpose.
I beg leave to remind Congress, that some time ago I laid before them the proposals of some persons here for forming a company of light-horse; and of the President’s answer, a little time after, intimating that the plan seemed to be approved of. As those, who wanted to make up the troop, are frequently pressing me for an answer, I could wish to be favored with the decision of Congress upon the subject.
By a letter from General Schuyler, of the 14th instant, dated at Albany, he informs me, that, the day before, some desperate designs of the Tories in that quarter had been discovered, the particulars of which he could not divulge, being under an oath of secrecy; however, that such measures had been taken, as to promise a prevention of the intended mischief; and that four of the conspirators, among them a ringleader, were apprehended about one o’clock that morning, not far from the town. What the plot was, or who were concerned in it, is a matter I am ignorant of as yet. With my best regards to Congress, I have the honor to be your and their most obedient servant.
P. S. Congress will please to observe what was proposed respecting the exchange of Mr. Lovell, and signify their pleasure in your next. The last week’s return is also Inclosed.
Philadelphia, July 27, 1776.
The following is an exact state of what passed at the interview between his Excellency General Washington and Colonel Patterson, Adjutant General of the army under General Howe, July 20, 1776.
After usual compliments, in which, as well as through the whole conversation, Colonel Patterson addressed General Washington by the title of Excellency, Col. Patterson entered upon the business by saying, that General Howe much regretted the difficulties which had arisen respecting the address of the letters to General Washington; that it was deemed consistent with propriety, and founded upon precedents of the like nature by Ambassadors and Plenipotentiaries where disputes or difficulties of rank had arisen; that General Washington might recollect he had, last summer, addressed a letter to General Howe, To the Hon. William Howe, Esq.; that Lord Howe and General Howe did not mean to derogate from the respective rank of General Washington; that they held his person and character in the highest esteem; that the direction, with the addition of &c, &c. &c. implied everything that ought to follow. He then produced a letter which he did not directly offer to General Washington, but observed that it was the same letter which had been sent, and laid it on the table, with a superscription to George Washington, &c. &c. &c. The General declined the letter, and said, that a letter directed to a person in a public character, should have some description or indication of it, otherwise it would appear a mere private letter; that it was true the &c. &c. &c. implied everything, and they also implied anything; that the letter to General Howe alluded to, was an answer to one received under a like address from him, which the officer on duty having taken, he did not think proper to return, but answered in the same mode of address; that he should absolutely decline any letter directed to him as a private person, when it related to his public station. Colonel Patterson then said, that General Howe would not urge his delicacy further, and repeated his assertions, that no failure of respect was intended. He then said he would endeavor, as well as he could, to recollect General Howe’s sentiments on the letter and resolves of Congress, sent him a few days before, respecting the treatment of our prisoners in Canada. “That the affairs of Canada were in another department, not subject to the control of General Howe, but that he and Lord Howe utterly disapproved of every infringement of the rights of humanity.” Colonel Patterson then took a paper out of his pocket; and, after looking it over, said he had expressed nearly the words. General Washington then said that he had also forwarded a copy of the resolves to General Buigoyne. To which Colonel Patterson replied he did not doubt a proper attention would be paid to them, and that he (General Washington) was sensible that cruelty was not the characteristic of the British nation. Colonel Patterson then proceeded to say he had it in charge to mention the case of General Prescott, who, they were informed was treated with such rigor, that, under his age and infirmities, fatal consequences might be apprehended.
General Washington replied that General Prescott’s treatment had not fallen under his notice; that all persons under his particular direction, he had treated with kindness, and made their situation as easy and comfortable as possible; that he did not know where General Prescott was, but believed his treatment very different from their information. General Washington then mentioned the case of Colonel Allen, and the officers who had been confined in Boston gaol. As to the first, Colonel Patterson answered that General Howe had no knowledge of it but by information from General Washington, and that the Canada department was not under his direction or control; that as to the other prisoners at Boston, whenever the state of the army at Boston admitted it, they were treated with humanity and even indulgence; that he asserted this upon his honor, and should be happy in an opportunity to prove it.
General Washington then observed, that the conduct of several of the officers would well have warranted a different treatment from what they had received; some having refused to give any parole, and others having broke it when given, by escaping or endeavoring so to do. Colonel Patterson answered, that as to the first, they misunderstood the matter very much, and seemed to have mistook the line of propriety exceedingly; and as to the latter, General Howe utterly disapproved and condemned their conduct.
That if a remonstrance was made, such violations of good faith would be severely punished; but that he hoped General Washington was too just to draw public inferences from the misbehavior of some private individuals; that bad men were to be found in every class and society; that such behavior was considered as a dishonor to the British army. Col. Patterson then proceeded to say, that the goodness and benevolence of the King had induced him to appoint Lord Howe and General Howe his commissioners, to accommodate this unhappy dispute, that they had great powers, and would derive the greatest pleasure from effecting an accommodation; and that he (Colonel Patterson) wished to have this visit considered as making the first advances to this desirable object. General Washington replied, he was not vested with any powers on this subject by those from whom he derived his authority and power. But from what had appeared or transpired on this head, Lord Howe and General Howe were only to grant pardons; that those who had committed no fault wanted no pardon, that we were only defending what we deemed our indisputable right. Colonel Patterson said that would open a very wide field for argument. He then expressed his apprehensions that an adherence to forms was likely to obstruct business of the greatest moment and concern.
He then observed that a proposal had been formerly made of exchanging Governor Skene for Mr. Lovell; that he now had authority to accede to that proposal. General Washington replied, that the proposition had been made by the direction of Congress, and having been then rejected, he could not now renew the business, or give any answer, till he had previously communicated it to them.
Colonel Patterson behaved with the greatest attention and politeness during the whole business, expressed strong acknowledgements that the usual ceremony of blinding his eyes had been dispensed with. At the breaking up of the conference, General Washington strongly invited him to partake of a small collation provided for him, which he politely declined, alledging his late breakfast, and an impatience to return to General Howe, though he had not executed his commission so amply as he wished. Finding he did not propose staying, he was introduced to the general officers, after which he took his leave, and was safely conducted to his own boat, which waited for him about, four miles distant from the city. Made public by order of Congress.
Read July 23d.
“It being represented to the General that many Regiments would at this Season chuse to lessen their Rations of Meat, and supply it with Vegetables, if they could be permitted; His concern for the Health of the troops and desire to gratify them in every reasonable request, induces him to direct, that the Colonels of such Regiments, as choose to adopt this plan, signify it to the Commissary General, and in two days afterwards the Quarter Master of such Regiment, be allowed to draw one quarter part of the usual Rations in Money, to be laid out in Vegetables for his Regiment.”—Orderly Book, 22 July, 1776.