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Letter from General Washington to the New-York Convention



Head Quarters, New York, August 12, 1776.

GENTLEMEN: As the time is certainly near at hand, and may be hourly expected, which is to decide the fate of this city and the issue of this campaign, I thought it highly improper that persons of suspected character should remain in places where their opportunities of doing mischief were much greater than in the enemy' s camp. I therefore have caused a number of them to be apprehended, and removed to some distance, there to remain until this crisis is passed. Having formerly mentioned this subject to your honourable body, I would not again trouble them in a business which former connexions, obligations, and interests, must make very unpleasant, and which, I apprehend, must have been in danger of failing in the execution, unless done with all possible secrecy and despatch. I postponed this most disagreeable duty till the last moment; but the claims of the Army upon me, and an application from a number of well-affected inhabitants concurring with my own opinion, obliged me to enter upon it while time and circumstances would admit. I have ordered a very strict attention to be paid to the necessities of the gentlemen apprehended, and to their comfortable accommodations in every respect, both here and at the places of their destination. I have also written to the Committee of Queen' s County, that this step is not to be construed as making their property liable to any injury or appropriation, unless they should receive directions from your honourable body, to whom I have referred them on this subject; being resolved in all cases, where the most absolute necessity does not require it, to confine myself wholly to that line which shall exclude every idea of interfering with the authority of the State. Some of these gentlemen have expressed doubts and raised difficulties, from engagements they lie under to your honourable body, or to some Committees. They do not appear to me to deserve much attention, as they cannot, with any propriety, be charged with a breach of any parole under their present circumstances; but I beg leave to submit to your consideration the propriety of removing the pretence.

I am, gentlemen, with great respect and regard, your most obedient, humble servant,

To the Hon˙ the Convention of the State of New York.