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Letter from Henry E. Stanhope to the President of Congress



[Read June 11, 1776. Referred to the Committee on Prisoners.]

Northampton Jail, May 11, 1776.

SIR: I am very sorry my situation is such as to oblige me to apply to you as a prisoner. I can remember a time when I could have esteemed you a friend and acquaintance; you no doubt will recollect it, in 1769, when I frequently had the pleasure of paying my respects to you in Boston; however, not to trespass too much on your time, I must beg to inform you that the purport of this letter is to seek a redress of grievances from you and the gentlemen of Congress, (though you in particular,) from whose kind desire of having lenity shown prisoners I have every reason to expect it.

My parole to Governour Cooke, of Rhode-Island, in whose Government I was taken, restricted me to the township of Northampton, without any clause whatever as to the time of my going out or coming in. My situation seemed by no means agreeable to the inhabitants, who, as I am induced to suppose, though have no positive proof, encouraged our common sailors to attack us; by which means I nearly lost my life, having been assaulted three times by people whom I had never before seen; and upon application to Major Hawley for redress by civil law, was informed that we were not entitled to the benefit of it, as prisoners. However, some time after the Committee published an advertisement, signifying, to the best of my understanding, that we had been fighting among each other, (making no distinction between officers and privates;) whereas you will observe it was an attack upon us, and, I wish I need not (as before) add, was encouraged; for who can suppose that men whom I had never before seen or heard of, should attack me, merely for the sake of beating me. But these are points which cannot be better determined than by a man of Mr˙ Hancock' s understanding and abilities; and for the future the aggressor should be punished. Likewise, if we insulted anybody in town, let them bring their evidence; they should have ample satisfaction. After this, the Committee resolved that we should be at our apartments by nine o' clock. This was never made known to me. Being at the house of one of the Committee some minutes after that time, to visit some of my fellow-sufferers, he brought a stick with him, and threatened, if I did not instantly depart, he would kick me out, which he put in execution; upon which the Committee made another resolve, confining us to our apartments at sundown, and one of their body said he hoped somebody


would not attend to it, as then the whole would be put in jail. These were encroachments, which, from the tenor of my parole, I by no means thought myself obliged to comply with; and well knowing if I refused I should be committed a close prisoner to jail, and fearing lest somebody should neglect to comply with this last resolve, and to avoid the miserable abode of felons, I absconded, and, unfortunately for me, was retaken, and committed close prisoner to jail, without even the liberty of a yard to walk in — an instance of cruelty never before practised to any officers, prisoners of war, in any civilized nation, much less to the only son of the heir to one of the first earldoms in the British realm; add to this my cloak and utensils, which are seized from me.

It rests, then, with you, sir, to release me from my place of confinement; and as I have a very near relation and many friends in Hartford, I beg you will please to direct that town for my confinement. And should you be pleased to put me on the parole that the prisoners there are, I shall most strictly comply, and shall be happy in acknowledging my sincerest thanks for my enlargement to Mr˙ Hancock, and the honourable members of the Continental Congress.

In hopes of obtaining your consent to my request, I have the honour to subscribe myself your most obedient, humble servant,


To the Honourable John Hancock, Esq.

It would not be doing justice to General Washington, were I to omit mentioning his friendship to me, instanced in part of two letters I received from his Excellency,
which indicate to me the Committee' s encroachment on us.



* A copy of which I should have enclosed but cannot procure it.