Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS. - The Writings of George Washington, vol. VI (1777-1778)
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TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS. - George Washington, The Writings of George Washington, vol. VI (1777-1778) 
The Writings of George Washington, collected and edited by Worthington Chauncey Ford (New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1890). Vol. VI (1777-1778).
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TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Valley Forge, 12 March, 1778.
On Sunday night I had the honor to receive your favors of the 1st and 5th instant with their inclosures. I am happy to find, that my past conduct respecting citizens, in the correspondence between General Howe and myself, is approved by Congress. They may rest assured, that their rights are strongly impressed on my mind; and that, in all my transactions, every support in my power shall be given them. I know their importance; and, in my expected negotiations with General Howe, if possible, I will exempt citizens from captivity. However, I cannot hope to effect it, as I cannot demand it as a matter of right; since Congress themselves, in their original resolve directing a proposition to be made for the exchange of prisoners, mentioned that of citizens, which implied a right of capturing them.
They may also be assured, that General Lee will not be forgotten. He has all along been a principal object in dispute; and, so far from doing any thing injurious to him, his right to be exchanged, and releasement, are intended to be placed upon the most explicit, unambiguous footing. Indeed, from the spirit of General Howe’s letters collectively taken, since his agreement to enlarge the officers on parole in the first instance, and his extension of it in the last to an exchange, (though they are not free from ambiguities,) it may be inferred, that, on sending in Lieutenant-Colonel Campbell and the Hessian field-officers captured at Trenton, an exchange of officers will immediately commence. It seems to be a point with him, that it shall begin with them, as they have been longest in captivity. I have taken the liberty to enclose to you copies of three letters, which have just passed between General Howe and myself, more particularly concerning General Lee, in which I have pushed matters respecting him as far as I thought it prudent at this time. Every precaution will certainly be used to prevent the enemy gaining any advantage in the exchange of prisoners.1
With great deference I would take the liberty to observe, that Congress seem to have carried the preamble of their resolve of the 26th ultimo, prohibiting the enlisting &c of prisoners and deserters, too far; and, through accident, to have recited a fact, that has never happened (at least to my knowledge), and which is injurious to us, namely, that prisoners had been enlisted by us. If any have, it is what I never knew. However, be this as it may, if the resolution has not been published, I could wish the preamble to be altered, and to recite, “that experience, &c. in deserters” only. The resolution itself may stand as it does, comprehending a prohibition against the enlistment of both.
My reason for troubling Congress upon this occasion is, we have always complained against General Howe, and still do, for obliging or permitting the prisoners in his hands to enlist, as an unwarrantable procedure, and wholly repugnant to the spirit at least of the cartel. This preamble seems to admit the practice on our part, which would certainly justify it in him, and is such evidence as must silence us in future (should it stand), and afford him an opportunity for recrimination, though, as I have suggested, I believe no prisoners have ever been enlisted by us; I am sure none have through compulsion.1
I have the pleasure to transmit you an extract of a letter from Captn. Barry, which will inform you of his successes. The two ships he burnt, after stripping them, and he was obliged, it seems, two days after the capture, to ground and abandon the Schooner after a long and severe engagement with some of the Enemy’s Frigates & smaller armed Vessels.—It is said he saved her guns & most of her tackle.
I also take the liberty to lay before Congress copies of letters from Messrs Champion, Wadsworth & Reed. From the uniformity of sentiment held forth by these Gentlemen, it is much to be feared, the measures lately adopted by the Commissioners at New Haven for regulating the prices of provision will have a disagreeable effect upon our supplies of meat.—How far it may be practicable to suspend their operation for a time, I cannot determine—but if it can be done, it appears we should experience many advantages from it.—It is a matter of great importance, and as such is submitted to Congress for their consideration. If any thing can be done to procure supplies of provisions, particularly of the salt kind, I should suppose I am persuaded it will not be omitted. I have the honor &c.
[1 ]“Mr. Boudinot, who has lately returned to camp from New York, informs me, that notwithstanding Major-General Prescott has been several weeks in the city, in pursuance of our agreement for the liberation of officers on parole, General Lee is not permitted to come out; and that orders had been received from you to send him round to Philadelphia by water, that you might take his parole in person. There can be no reason to prevent his parole being taken where he is; and I must consider his being required to expose himself to the inconveniences of a sea-voyage at this season as altogether unnecessary. I had a right to expect, that he would have been released as soon as General Prescott went in; and must request, you will accordingly give immediate orders for it. If you will be pleased to transmit your directions through me for that purpose, I will carefully forward them. This would obviate the uncertainty and possible delay of a conveyance by water.”—Washington to Sir William Howe, 9 March, 1778. “I wish, Sir, I was not obliged to say there are some ambiguities still characterizing the measures taken concerning General Lee, which justify alarming surmises, notwithstanding all that has passed to the contrary. I have now been as explicit as you can desire on the subject of Col. Campbell and the Hessian gentlemen, and I hope to find you as explicit on the subject of General Lee; by giving directions without farther delay to liberate him in place of General Prescott. General Lee’s request mentioned by you, to be permitted to come by land to Philadelphia, can be no objection to this requisition; it was founded upon your order to send him round by water to that place; and, conceiving it would be insisted on that he should pass to Philadelphia, he preferred the mode of going by land as the least inconvenient alternative. But the measure appears to me wholly improper, and a departure from our late stipulation, calculated to impose unnecessary hardships on that unfortunate gentleman, and to produce needless procrastination, at least, in allowing him the common benefit of a general agreement.”—Washington to Sir William Howe, 12 March, 1778.
[1 ]The preamble and resolve had probably been published before the above letter was received by Congress, since they both now stand in the Journals as they were originally passed. “Whereas experience has proved, that no confidence can be placed in prisoners of war or deserters from the enemy, who enlist into the Continental army, but many losses and great mischiefs have frequently happened by them; therefore, Resolved, that no prisoners of war or deserters from the enemy be enlisted, drafted, or returned, to serve in the Continental army.”—February 26th.