Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS. - The Writings of George Washington, vol. IV (1776)
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TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS. - George Washington, The Writings of George Washington, vol. IV (1776) 
The Writings of George Washington, collected and edited by Worthington Chauncey Ford (New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1889). Vol. IV (1776).
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TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Head Quarters, Heights of Haerlem,
I was last night honored with your favor of the 2d with sundry Resolutions of Congress. The officers that concurred in the Acquittal of Ensign Macumber shall be called upon, to assign their reasons for their first judgment which shall be sent as soon as they are collected.
In respect to the exchange of prisoners, I fear it will be a work of great difficulty, owing to their dispersed and scattered situation throughout the States. In order to effect it, I have written to the eastern governments to have them collected, and to transmit me an account of their number, distinguishing the names and ranks of the field and commissioned officers, and the corps they belong to. I have also written to Governor Livingston of the Jerseys upon the subject, and must take the liberty of requesting Congress to give directions, that a similar return may be made of those in Pennsylvania and Maryland, and for their being brought to Brunswick, that they may be ready to be exchanged for an equal number of those of the same rank. I observe, by the resolve of the 26th ultimo, that the exchange is particularly directed to be made of the officers and soldiers taken on Long Island. But should not that follow the exchange of those officers and men, who have lately returned from Quebec, whose imprisonment has been much longer, whose service has not been less severe, and who, in many instances, conducted with great intrepidity? I have had many applications since their arrival, by which they claim a kind of preference as far as their number and the circumstances of their rank will allow, and which I thought it my duty to mention, that I may obtain some direction upon the subject.1
You will observe by a paragraph of a letter received yesterday from General Howe, a copy of which you have at length, that the non-performance of the agreement between Captain Forster and General Arnold, by which the latter stipulated for the return of an equal number of officers and prisoners in our hands for those delivered to him, is considered in an unfavorable light and entirely imputed to me, as having the chief command of the armies of the States, and a controlling power over General Arnold.1 The pointed manner in which General Howe is pleased to express himself could not personally affect me, supposing there had been no good grounds for the treaty not being ratified, having been nothing more than an instrument of conveying to him the resolutions formed upon the subject; yet, as there were but too just reasons, his censure could have no weight, was it not directed against me. However, I would beg leave to observe, that, from the letters from the hostages; from what has been reported by others respecting Captain Forster’s having used his endeavors to restrain the savages from exercising their wonted barbarities, though in some instances they did; his purchasing some of the prisoners for a considerable premium; but, above all, from the delicate nature of such treaties, and because the non-observance of them must damp the spirits of the officers who make them, and add affliction to the misfortunes of those, whom necessity and the nature of the case force into captivity to give them a sanction by a long and irksome confinement,—for these reasons and many more that will readily occur, that I could wish Congress to reconsider the matter, and to carry it into execution. I am sensible the wrong was originally in their employing savages, and that whatever cruelties were committed by them should be esteemed their own acts; yet, perhaps, in point of policy, it may not be improper to overlook these infractions on their part, and to pursue that mode, which will be the most likely to render the hardships incident to war most tolerable, and the greatest benefits to the State. I have ventured to say thus much upon the subject from a regard to the service, and because such gentlemen of the army as I have heard mention it seem to wish the treaty had been ratified rather than disallowed.1
Enclosed is a List of Vacancies in the Third Regiment of Virginia Troops, in part occasioned by the death of Major Leitch, who died of his wounds on Tuesday morning and of the Gentlemen who stand next in Regimental order and who are recommended to succeed to ’em;—you will observe that Captn. John Fitzgerald is said to be appointed to the duty of Major; this I have done in Orders, being the eldest Captain in the Regiment, and I believe an officer of unexceptionable merit and as it was highly necessary at this time to have the Corps as well and fully officered as possible; There, is also a vacancy in the 12th Continental Battallion by the promotion of Lieut. Clark to a majority in the Flying Camp, to which Colo. Hand has recommended William Patten, to succeed as you will perceive by his Letter enclosed.
I have taken the liberty to transmit a plan for establishing a Corps of Engineers, artificers, &c., sketched out by Col. Putnam, and which is proposed for the consideration of Congress. How far they may incline to adopt it or whether they may chuse to proceed upon such an extensive scale they will be pleased to determine. However I conceive it, a matter well worthy of their consideration, being convinced from exterience and from the reason suggested by Colo. Putnam, who has acted with great diligence and reputation in this business, that some establishment of the sort is highly necessary and will be productive of the most beneficial consequences.—If the proposition is approved by Congress, I am informed by good authority, that there is a Gentleman in Virginia in the Colony service, John Stadler, Esq., a native of Germany, whose abilities in this way are by no means inconsiderable—I am told he was an Engineer in the Army under Genl. Stanwix and is reported to be of skill and ingenuity in the profession.—In this capacity I do not know him myself, but I am intimately acquainted with him in his private character as a man of understanding and of good behaviour. I would submit his merits to the enquiry of Congress, and if he shall answer the report I have had of him, I make no doubt but he will be suitably provided for.
The Convention of this State, have lately seized and had appraised Two new ships valued at 6229£ 2s curry which they have sent down for the purpose of sinking and obstructing the Channel opposite Mount Washington. The price being high and opinions various as to the necessity of the measure, some conceiving the obstruction nearly sufficient already, and others that they would render it secure, I would wish to have the direction of Congress upon the subject by the earliest Opportunity, thinking myself that if the Enemy should attempt to come up that they should be used sooner than to hazard their passing. I must be governed by circumstances, yet hope for their sentiments before any thing is necessary to be done.
Sundry disputes having arisen of late between Officers of different Regiments and of the same Rank respecting the right of succession to such vacancies as happen from death or other causes, some suggesting that it should be in a Colonial line and governed by the priority of their Commissions, others that it should be Regimentally, and there being an Instance now before me between the Officers of the Virginia Regiments, occasioned by the death of Major Leitch, it has become absolutely necessary that Congress should determine the mode by which promotions are to be regulated, whether Colonially & by priority of Commissions, or Regimentally, reserving a right out of the General rule they adopt, to reward for particular merit, or of withholding from office such as may not be worthy to succeed. I have only proposed Two modes for their consideration, being satisfied that promotions thro’ the line as they are called can never take place without producing discord, jealousy, distrust and the most fatal consequences. In some of my Letters upon the subject of promotions and one which I had the Honor of addressing the Board of War on the 30th Ult., I advised that the mode should be rather practised than resolved on, but I am fully convinced now of the necessity there is of settling it in one of the two ways I have taken the liberty to point out and under the restrictions I have mentioned, or the disputes and applications will be endless and attended with great inconvenience. I have &c.
[1 ]It was decided by Congress, that, in the exchange of prisoners, the officers returned from Canada should have the preference to those captured on Long Island and New York Island.
[1 ]“The particular manner in which you rest upon me, by your letter of the 4th instant, a performance of the agreement between General Arnold and Captain Forster, was entirely unexpected, as I enclosed to you some time ago the resolutions of Congress upon the subject, by which you would perceive that they, to whom I am amenable, had taken upon themselves the consideration of the matter.”—Washington to General Howe, 6 October, 1776.
[1 ]General Howe had written:—“With relation to the non-performance of your part of the agreement between Captain Forster and General Arnold, that general being immediately under your command, from your situation made known to me under your own subscription, it rests with you to see it fulfilled, agreeably to the plighted faith of the General, which, no doubt, to save his honor, he has a right to expect, or that you will return the prisoners given up by Captain Forster. Meanwhile I trust, from the declaration in your letter, that you will not allow of any delay in the exchange of the officers and soldiers in your possession belonging to his Majesty’s troops. Brigadier-General Woodhull was yesterday reported to have died of his wounds.”