Front Page Titles (by Subject) SUBSTANCE OF THE CONFERENCE BETWEEN GEN. WASHINGTON AND SIR GUY CARLETON, AT AN INTERVIEW AT ORANGETOWN, 6TH MAY, 1783. - The Writings of George Washington, vol. X (1782-1785)
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SUBSTANCE OF THE CONFERENCE BETWEEN GEN. WASHINGTON AND SIR GUY CARLETON, AT AN INTERVIEW AT ORANGETOWN, 6TH MAY, 1783. - George Washington, The Writings of George Washington, vol. X (1782-1785) 
The Writings of George Washington, collected and edited by Worthington Chauncey Ford (New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1890). Vol. X (1782-1785).
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SUBSTANCE OF THE CONFERENCE BETWEEN GEN. WASHINGTON AND SIR GUY CARLETON, AT AN INTERVIEW AT ORANGETOWN, 6TH MAY, 1783.
I have to acknowledge the honor of your favors of the 14th & 24th of October and 4th of Decr.;—to thank you for the warm and affectionate expression of them;—and to congratulate you and Madame La Fayette on the birth of a daughter. Virginia, I am persuaded, will be pleased with the compliment of the name; and I pray as a member of it she may live to be a blessing to her Parents.
General Washington opened the Conference by observing that he heretofore had transmitted to Sir Guy Carleton the resolutions of Congress of the 15th ulto, that he conceived a personal Conference would be the most speedy & satisfactory mode of discussing and settling the Business; and that therefore he had requested the Interview—That the resolutions of Congress related to three distinct matters, namely, the setting at Liberty the prisoners, the receiving possession of the posts occupied by the British Troops, and the obtaing. the Delivery of all Negroes & other property of the Inhabitants of these States in the possession of the Forces or subjects of, or adherents to his Britannic Majesty.—That with respect to the Liberation of the prisoners, he had, as far as the Business rested with him, put it in Train, by meetg. & conferring with the Secretary at War, & concertg. with him the proper measures for collecting the prisoners & forwarding them to N. York, and that it was to be optional with Sir Guy, whether the prisoners should march by land, or whether he would send Transports to convey them by Water—and that the Secty. at War was to communicate with Sir Guy Carleton on the subject & obtain his Determination.
It would seem that, none of my Letters (except one by Colonel Gimat) had reached you when you last wrote. I do not know how to account for this. My last letter to you went by the Chevr. Chastellux, which could not have arrived; the others were committed to the care either of ye Chevr. de la Luzerne, or our Secretary of Foreign Affairs at Philadelphia, to be forwarded by such conveyances as might offer.
With respect to the other two Matters which were the Objects of the Resolutions, General Washington requested the Sentiments of General Carleton.
I am fully persuaded, my dear Marquis, of your zeal in the American Cause. I am sure you adopted the plan you are now in the execution of as the most likely, tho’ a little circuitous, to serve it—and I shall express to Congress, who I know have an exalted opinion of your zeal, abilities, and faithful Services, my entire approbation of your conduct, and the purity of the motives which gave rise to it. Your pursuit after honor and glory will be accompanied by my warmest wishes, and you have my sincerest congratulations in your promotion, and command in the French Army.
Sir Guy then observed that his Expectations of a peace had been such that he had anticipated the Event by very early commencing his preparations to withdraw the British Troops from this Country—and that every preparation which his situation & circumstances would permit was still continued—That an additional Number of Transports, and which were expected, were necessary to remove the Troops & Stores—and as it was impossible to ascertain the Time when the Transports would arrive, their passages depending on the casualties of the Seas, he was therefore unable to fix a determinate period within which the British forces would be withdrawn from the City of New York—But that it was his desire to exceed even our own Wishes in this Respect, & That he was using every means in his power to effect with all possible despatch an Evacuation of that & every other post within the United States, occupied by the British Troops, under his Direction—That he considered as included in the preparations for the final Departure of the B. Troops, the previously sending away those persons, who supposed that, from the part they had taken in the present War, it would be most eligible for them to leave the Country—and that upwards of 6,000 persons of this Character had embarked & sailed—and that in this Embarkation a Number of Negroes were comprised—General Washington therefore expressed his Surprize, that after what appeared to him an express Stipulation to the contrary in the Treaty, Negroes the property of the Inhabitants of these States should be sent off.
As it is your wish, I have given Colo. Gouvion my consent to meet you at the rendezvous appointed him. He sets out with all the alacrity of a friend to attend it. You must receive him as a precious loan, because I esteem and value him and because it is to you only I would part with him. I should be happy, if I could speak decidedly upon any plan of operation on the American theatre in which the Naval and Land forces of His Most Christian Majesty could be combined. But such is the State of our finances, such the backwardness of the States to Establish funds, and such the distress of the Army for want of them, that I dare give no pointed assurances of effectual co-operation lest I should, unintentionally, be guilty of deception—especially as my estimates and sentiments respecting the ensuing Campaign, are now pending before Congress for decision.
To which Sir Guy Carleton replied, that he wished to be considered as giving no construction of the Treaty—That by Property in the Treaty might only be intended Property at the Time, the Negroes were sent off—That there was a difference in the Mode of Expression in the Treaty; Archives, Papers, &c., &c., were to be restored—Negroes & other property were only not to be destroyed or carried away. But he principally insisted that he conceived it could not have been the Intention of the B. Government by the Treaty of Peace, to reduce themselves to the necessity of violating their faith to the Negroes who came into the British Lines under the proclamation of his Predecessors in Command—That he forebore to express his sentiments on the propriety of those proclamations, but that delivering up the Negroes to their former Masters would be delivering them up some possibly to Execution, and others to severe punishments, which in his Opinion would be a dishonorable violation of the public Faith, pledged to the Negroes in the proclamations—That if the sending off the Negroes should hereafter be declared an Infraction of the Treaty, Compensation must be made by the Crown of G. Britain to the Owners—that he had taken measures to provide for this, by directing a Register to be kept of all the Negroes who were sent off, specifying the Name, Age & Occupation of the person, and the Name, & Place of Residence of his former Master. Genl. Washington again observed that he conceived this Conduct on the part of Genl. Carleton, a Departure from both the Letter and the Spirit of the Articles of Peace;—and particularly mentioned a difficulty that would arise in compensating the proprietors of Negroes, admitting this infraction of the Treaty can be satisfied by such compensation as Sir Guy had alluded to, as it was impossible to ascertain the Value of the Slaves from any Fact or Circumstance which may appear in the Register,—the Value of a Slave consisting chiefly in his Industry and Sobriety—& Genl. Washington mentioned a further Difficulty which would attend Identifying the Slave, supposing him to have changed his own and to have given in a wrong Name of his Master.—In answer to which Sir Guy Carleton said, that as the Negroe was free & secured against his Master, he could have no inducement to conceal his own true Name or that of his Master—Sir Guy Carleton then observed that by the Treaty he was not held to deliver up any property but was only restricted from carrying it away—and therefore admitting the interpretation of the Treaty as given by Genl. Washington to be just, he was notwithstanding pursuing a Measure which would operate most for the security of the proprietors. For if the Negroes were left to themselves without Care or Controul from him, numbers of them would very probably go off, and not return to the parts of the Country from whence they came, or clandestinely get on Board the Transports in such a manner as would not be in his Power to prevent—in either of which Cases an inevitable Loss would ensue to the proprietors—But as the Business was now conducted they had at least a Chance for Compensation—Sir Guy concluded the Conversation on this subject by saying that he Imagined that the mode of Compensating as well as the Amount and other points with respect to which there was no provision made in the Treaty, must be adjusted by Commissioners to be hereafter appointed by the two Nations—
Last year, while I had the prospect of a vigorous campaign before me (founded on the hope of succors from your Court) I took a comprehensive view of the Enemy’s situation, and our own, arranged the whole under different heads, and digested plans of attack applicable to each. This I have put into the hands of Colo. Gouvion to copy for you; and with the alterations occasioned by the change of circumstances, and such other information as you will receive from this Letter, and from him, will enable you to judge as fully as I can do (in my present state of incertitude) what can be attempted with such a force as you can bring at either of the places mentioned therein.
The subject of withdrawing the British Troops from the Territories of the United States was again resumed, and Sir Guy Carleton declared his willingness, at a short day to be agreed on between him & Genl. Washington, to evacuate all his Posts in West Chester County, and to issue his Orders that the British Troops should not on any pretence, pass the river, which separates that County from the Island of N. York—but with respect to a relinquishment of any part of Long Island, he was apprehensive it would be attended with Difficulties & Inconveniences—particularly he was fearfull it would tend to favor Desertions from the British Army, and therefore he would give no determinate answer, but he was disposed immediately to abandon Penobscot if General Washington should choose it, tho’ he said that would necessarily retard the Evacuation of N. York, as there were not a competent Number of Transports to convey the Troops & Stores from both places at the same Time.
No requisitions by Congress, have yet been made of the States for men. Whether this proceeds from the present state of the public funds, and little prospect of bettering them, or the hope of Peace; or partly from both, does not lye with me to decide. But so the fact is. So far indeed were they from requiring men to recruit the Battalions of last year, that several of them have been reduced, and the non-commissioned officers and privates incorporated in their respective State lines. This however has no otherwise reduced our efficient force than by the diminution of Commissioned officers; but all Corps, that are not fed with recruits, must dwindle, from the deaths, desertions, and discharges incident to them—the last of which you well know, operates more powerfully in our army than most others. Our present force, tho small in numbers, is excellent in composition, and may be depended upon as far as the first are competent. About June the total of this Army exclusive of Commissioned officers, may be computed at 9,000, and by October it will have deceased near 1,000 men, by the discharge of so many whose term of service will have expired.
The Conference lasted some Hours but as much passed which both Generals expressed their wishes might be considered as desultory Conversation, it is not recapitulated in the above Narative which contains only the substance of the Conference as far as it related to the points intended to be discussed & settled at the Interview.
I am impressed with a belief that no Militia could be drawn out previous to the arrival of a French fleet, and Land force on the Coast. I am not sanguine that many could be had afterwards, but certain it is, there would be great difficulty in subsisting and providing for them, if it should be found necessary to call for their aid. Hence it appears, that little or no dependence is to be placed on any other Troops than the Continentals of this army. These would require very little previous notice for an operation against New York, which is the only Post of importance the enemy have within the United States, and indeed the only one against which they could move for want of transportation, or the means to obtain it.
We having been present at the Conference do certify the above to be true.
Penobscot is a secondary object unassailable but by means of a Naval Superiority, with which the place might soon be carried without the aid of American Troops; to call for which would spread the alarm and waste time for an unnecessary purpose.
Jno. M. Scott.
Jona. Trumbull, Jur.
Motives, my dear Marquis, of friendship and candor have given birth to the freedom of this communication, on my part; good sense and prudence will point it to proper objects, on yours; and on your honor and discretion I can firmly rely. It only remains for me to add, for your farther information, that since May last (when my thoughts on the plan of Campaign for 1782 were digested as they are now sent to you,) Charles Town and Savanna having been evacuated, and Troops (Recruits principally) having arrived from Europe; the Enemies Posts have been strengthened: New York, agreeably to the Estimates of General Greene and Major Burnett which I enclose, by 3,000 men; Hallifax and Canada from European and other accounts by the like number; and Penobscot by 3 or 400 more. These being the only changes which have happened since my statement of the Enemys force in May last, you will be able to bring the whole into one view and determine accordingly. It is reported that a number (some say seven) British Regiments are about to Embark for the West Indies; by other accounts the whole are said to be going thither; but there is not, I believe, any orders for either yet come to hand in this mem.—every thing with them is suspended.