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    1778 Secret Revolutionary War Negotiations, Regarding British Prisoners of War. Four pages, 7.5" x 9.25", Cambridge Massachusetts, December 1, 1778. This is an original copy of the correspondence between William Phillips, a Revolutionary War British Major General, and General Horatio Gates. It began their secret negotiations to effect a prisoner exchange after the Battle of Saratoga. It is marked "Copy" in the upper left corner of the first page, and bears the secretarial signature of General Phillips, likely in the hand of William Collier, aide to British Commander-in-Chief Sir Henry Clinton. It reads in part: "From what has passed between Sir Henry Clinton and the American Congress upon the subject of the Troops of Convention [British prisoners captured at Saratoga] having proved so unsuccessful I am naturally and unluckily led to image that Punctillo endeavors at accomplishing a complication of the Treaty of Convention, altho' I very believe both sides are inclined towards it...I am of the opinion that you, Sir, and I may possibly contrive a method for a general exchange of the Troops of Convention - I say you and I, for this plain reason, The Treaty of Convention was made with you, and tho' I did not sign it I remind the ostensible Officer in Command over the Convention of Troops, and this is a reason, also, why I think it more proper to address you on the subject than General Washington or even the American Congress, and it must be considered as a private matter of correspondence between you and me as I have no authority from the King's Commander in Chief for what I write...Should this proposal be pursued...the Troops of Convention will have to march from Virginia to New York or to be allowed to go on Transports...The Ransom money must be paid at a stated time after the Troops are at liberty...I unbosom myself to you...I am aware that the sentiments it contains and proposals made in it may be necessary to become known to General Washington and the American Congress, but...I now write without any previous authority from General Sir Henry Clinton...If this letter proves the fortunate means of a negotiation between us it may be so carried on as not to commit our Superiors until the last instant...and then I apprehend there will be no need of secrecy in the matter where good intentions, good faith, and perfect honour have subsisted." General Gates had originally arranged that the captured troops be returned to Britain, with the promise that they would serve no more in America during the Revolution. Washington, however, objected, arguing that the arrival of these men in Britain would simply free up a like number of troops for service in America. Congress agreed with Washington, and refused to honor Gates' terms, thus unleashing a huge controversy. The letter is in very fine condition; very clean and mounted onto a larger presentation board.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    October, 2006
    12th-13th Thursday-Friday
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