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Letter from General Washington to Lord Howe


Head Quarters, New York, August 17, 1776.

MY LORD: Being authorized by Congress, as their commanders in every department are, to negotiate an exchange of prisoners; and presuming, as well from the nature of your Lordship' s command as the information. General Howe has been pleased to honour me with, that the exchange in the Naval line will be subject to your Lordship' s directions, I beg leave to propose the following mode of exchange for your Lordship' s consideration, viz: "Officers for those of equal rank, and sailors for sailors."

If the above proposal should be agreeable to your Lordship, I am charged in a particular manner to exchange any officer belonging to the British Navy in our hands and of equal rank, for Lieutenant Josiah, who was lately made prisoner in a ship retaken by the Cerberus frigate. The


reason, my Lord, of my being charged to propose the exchange of Lieutenant Josiah in preference to that of any other officer is, that authentick intelligence has been received that, regardless of his rank as an officer, he has not only been subjected to the duties of a common seaman, but has experienced many other marks of indignity. As a different line of conduct, my Lord, has been ever observed towards the officers of your Navy who have fallen into our hands, it becomes not only a matter of right but of duty to mention this to your Lordship, to the end that an inquiry may be made into the case above referred to.

From your Lordship' s character for humanity, I am led to presume the hardships imposed on Lieutenant Josiah are without either your knowledge or concurrence, and therefore most readily hope that upon this representation your Lordship will enjoin all officers under your command to pay such regard to the treatment of those that may fall into their hands as their different ranks and situations require, and such as your Lordship would wish to see continued by us to those who are already in our power, or who may hereafter, by the chance of war, be subjected to it.

I have the honour to be, my Lord, with great respect, your Lordship' s most obedient servant,

To the Right Hon˙ Lord Viscount Howe, Admiral and Commander-in-Chief of the British Navy in America.