Philadelphia: June 28, 1782.
2 pp. plus integral address leaf. Folio. Releasing Loyalists at the End of the Revolution. Old folds, very minor foxing and toning, very good. In a blue half morocco and cloth clamshell case, spine gilt. Some separation between leaves. Item #248642
Letter written by Secretary of War General Benjamin Lincoln to New Jersey Governor William Livingston regarding the release of prisoners of war into New York state.
Benjamin Lincoln served as a major general in the Continental Army, noted for being the commanding officer at the surrender of Charleston (May 1780) and for accepting Lord Cornwallis's sword at the time of his surrender at Yorktown. He subsequently served as Secretary of War and Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor. In this letter he writes to Governor Livingston informing him that many prisoners of war (likely Loyalists) in New York have expressed a wish to return to their employment, and he has been petitioned for their release.
"Dear Sir, Mr. Stewart informs me that there are a number of inhabitants of your state now in gaol as prisoners of war who went from you some time since and joined the enemy. As many of them are good forge men and colliers & wish to return to their former employment, he has requested that I would permit it. I do not think myself authorised to turn such men into your state without your permission. Should you think proper to have them liberated, a line from you to the commissary of prisoners at Lancaster expressing your wish will be sufficient for I will direct him to relegate all such of your inhabitants as you shall name." Given Livingston's strong anti-Loyalist sentiments, it may be doubtful that he had the men released, no matter what their occupation and abilities.
A reluctant politician, William Livingston nevertheless rose to prominence in colonial New York and New Jersey, in part due to his wealth and family connections. He was the first governor of the state of New Jersey, holding that office from 1776 until his death in 1790. Livingston was extremely popular with his constituents, and was fiercely anti-Loyalist. During this time, Livingston was constantly on the move to avoid assassination, bringing him into close contact with his constituents. This sensitized him to their needs in a way few others in his station would know, additionally fuelling his desire for reforms, including the abolition of slavery.
A nice letter from the Secretary of War regarding POWs in the American Revolution.
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