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Samuel Gale to John McKesson



Fairfield, February 29, 1776.

DEAR SIR: Give me leave to inform you that I am now in close confinement, in the common jail of this town. I am also of opinion (and I have but too much reason to suspect it) that there is a design against my person, formed by some person, or persons, of the County of Cumberland, whose actions you are already acquainted with. True it is, there is a law in this Colony of Connecticut, but in the Comity of Cumberland, you know, there is none. I, therefore, (to clear myself before God,) expect my life and


safety at the hand of those who hold the governing reins of the Province of New York, the Metropolis of which Province I now call my residence.

Thaddeus Burr, Esquire, the Sheriff of this County, informs me that he is acquainted with you. I, therefore, request that you will inform him, by the return of the bearer, what you know of my character, as, also, the character which I bore among mankind before the commencement of these unhappy troubles; and I desire, if my release be not immediately granted, that I may be under the protection of the law till such time arrives.

You well know that my sentiments have been uniform and steady, even if erroneous; and, therefore, I consider myself entitled, at the least, to the privileges and protection which, by the laws of all Christian nations, are granted to prisoners of war — (I call it prisoner of war, not as being an enemy, in heart, to any man breathing, but as being, by birth and education, one of that country between which and this country a war subsists) — and, for that purpose, I conceive myself entitled to an impartial hearing, where prejudice does not prevail; and I hope that is the case in the Congress of which you are a member. Let me request that I may either be allowed the privilege granted by all Christians to a prisoner of war, or, else, the birthright of a British subject, the writ of habeas corpus. If the former, only, be allowed, you may mention what you choose in the parole; but I would choose, by all means, if possible, to be at New York or Philadelphia, where I may finish my intended publication on surveying, which, you well know, is allowed by all parties to be a matter of great actual service to America. I should be glad you would not fail to be immediate in your proceedings herein, and I would look upon it as an additional favour, if you would acquaint Lord Stirling, (with whom I had formerly a small acquaintance,) as, also, Mr˙ Duane, of my present situation.

I remain, with the greatest esteem, (notwithstanding all political sentiments,) dear sir, your most humble servant,

To John McKesson, Esquire, Attorney-at-Law.

P˙ S˙ I have, at New York, the copy of the letter which was sent by the Westminster, or, rather, Cumberland Committee, to Mr˙ Livingston; as, also, a vindication of the conduct of the Sheriff and Posse, by the oaths of, I believe, thirty persons, a great part of whom were on the prejudiced side. These oaths being in favour of the Sheriff and Posse, was the reason, as I have been informed, of their not being sent to your body according to promise.

I would be glad Mrs˙ Gale might not be informed of this letter, lest its contents should occasion her miscarriage.

Mr˙ Sturges, the jailer here, would be glad of half a ream of writing paper. If you are not acquainted with him, I should be glad you would put the expense to my account, and I will repay you next time I see you.

P˙ S˙ extraordinary, March 2d. I have been favoured with what is called a copy of my letter to Colonel Bellows. I aver, from the bottom of my soul, that both the words and the sense are materially altered, and that, consequently, it is not a copy of any letter ever by me written.

The firm belief of there being a design formed against my person occasions me to send a man on purpose with this letter, (by the Sheriff' s permission.) If you are desirous of knowing what the letter actually was, I am of opinion that, by the help of the pretended copy, my memory will enable me to furnish a true copy, which shall be at your service.

Confinement in a common jail, where the cold wind through the bars (for the windows are not glazed) far exceeds the warmth of all the fire that is obtained, leads me to wish that I could be accommodated in a genteeler apartment, till I come to New York. As you and the Sheriff are acquainted, I wish you would pass your word for my stay, and you may rely on the word of an honest and sincere (if an erroneous) man, that I shall not deceive either you or him; nor shall I start one inch from such limits as may be prescribed.