Skip to main content
Go to accessibility notice

    Description

    A British Officer Writes to George Washington. Four pages, 10.5" x 15", Cambridge, December 8, 1778. This is a copy of a letter written to George Washington, proposing a secret plan to meet and negotiate a prisoner exchange. It is likely in the hand of British Commander-in-Chief Sir Henry Clinton's aide, William Collier. The letter has been tipped onto a 10.5" x 15" presentation sheet. It reads in full: "The unsuccessful attempts which have been made to ratify the Treaty of Convention of Saratoga and the Asperity which seems to have crept into the Correspondence between Sir Henry Clinton and the American Congress leaves it to be conjectured that the humane purpose of a General Cartel of Exchange of Prisoners of War and Troops of the Convention will not have force so soon as good men like yourself could wish. - You may naturally suppose, Sir, that I have been and am greatly interested in the fate of the Troops with whom I have served, and in the vanity of my ideas upon the subject of Exchanges I have been led to imagine that the interposition of intermediate Persons might operate in favor of a Cartel and I have been of opinion that my Rank and Situation gives me opportunity of offering my Interpretation in Favour of the Troops of Convention and for their being acceded. Major General Gates having made the Treaty of Convention seemed to me to be a person proper to apply to on this subject. I conveyed to him my sentiments upon the matter, but not having any authority for writing or acting publicly upon the occasion, I could only make a Private Opinion of my own, if possible, that some negotiation might be opened from which all Parties might be benefited, and the Prisoners of War on both sides, as well as the Troops of Convention, might be exchanged and Ransomed. Major General Gates was willing to report to you and the American Congress whatever I pleased to proposeupon this subject, this I have not ventured to allow through fear of having my letters made public or published, but I am still of the opinion that by my having a conversation with you, Sir, if you will permit it, or with an officer you should appoint for the purpose, a plan might be formed for the mutual advantage of the British and American Armies, and it might be done so that neither you, Sir, or the American Congress on the one part, or Sir Henry Clinton on the other, need be committed in any manner on the subject unless upon a General approbation so far as it might be necessary to ratify such propositions as might be made by myself and the Officers with whom I should confer-. I leave this, Sir, to your consideration, and if you will permit me I shall with great satisfaction pay a Visit at your Head Quarters in my way to Virginia, and I dare say it will give you equal pleasure with myself to be of use in the human purposes I have in view, and it would afford me particular satisfaction to be able to transact such an affair with a Gentleman who, altho' the misfortunes of the times has made an enemy to Great Britain, calls upon my Respect for his private virtue. I should feel myself much obliged to you for an answer whether I may pass your Great Quarters - I set out next Thursday by the Route of Hartford and Fishkill." This letter is also noted at the bottom left as being addressed to "His Excellency General Washington". At the Saratoga Convention, General Gates had agreed that the surrendered troops might return to Britain on the condition that they stay there, not to return. George Washington believed that not only would this enable them to replace other troops who could be sent across the ocean, but that once Burgoyne's troops were put on a transport, they would sail straight for New York. "Do they not declare," Washington asked, "that no faith is to be held with rebels?" The document is in very fine condition, with two minor fold splits that have been expertly repaired, usual folds, and some slight wrinkling from storage.

    Shipping, Taxes, Terms and Bidding
    Calculate Standard Domestic Shipping

    Sales Tax information  |  Terms and Conditions

    Bidding Guidelines and Bid Increments

    Glossary of Terms

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    October, 2006
    12th-13th Thursday-Friday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 4
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 363

    Buyer's Premium per Lot:
    19.5% of the successful bid (minimum $9) per lot.

    Sold for: Sign-in or Join (free & quick)

    Heritage membership

    Join Now - It's Free

    VIEW BENEFITS
    1. Past Auction Values (prices, photos, full descriptions, etc.)
    2. Bid online
    3. Free Collector newsletter
    4. Want List with instant e-mail notifications
    5. Reduced auction commissions when you resell your
      winnings 
    Consign now
    • Cash Advances
    • More Bidders
    • Trusted Experts
    • Over 200,000 Satisfied Consignors Since 1976
    Consign to the 2018 June 20 Cartography Signature Auction .

    Learn about consigning with us

    Heritage has gone above and beyond my expectations in handling all of my transactions in a thoroughly professional manner. I would not hesitate to recommend them to anyone worldwide for the exemplary auction and valuation services they provide.
    Richard H.,
    Corsicana, TX
    View More Testimonials

    HA.com receives more traffic than any other auction house website. (Source: Similarweb.com)

    Video tutorial

    Getting the most out of search

    Recent auctions

    2018 April 18 Historical Manuscripts Grand Format Auction - Dallas
    2018 April 18 Historical Manuscripts Grand Format Auction - Dallas
    REALIZED SO FAR $1,010,924