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sistent with his present situation,) which his rank, fortune, and connections, together with his unfortunate state demand.


I feel myself exceedingly distressed on this occasion; but my resolutions having been taken on the most mature deliberation, supported by the approbation of Congress, and grounded on the general concurrence of all the principal officers of the army, who were particularly consulted, they cannot be receded from.

Justice to the army and the public, my own honor, and, I think I may venture to say, UNIVERSAL BENEVOLENCE, require them to be carried into full execution. It rests, therefore, with the British Commander-inchief, to prevent this unhappy measure from taking effect.


The letter of Asgill, and the situation of his father, which I am made acquainted with by the British prints, work too powerfully upon my humanity, not to wish that Congress would chalk a line for me to walk oy, in this business.

It affords me singular pleasure, to have it in my power to transmit to you* the inclosed copy of an Act * Captain Asgill.

of Congress, of the 7th instant, by which you are released from the disagreeable circumstances in which you have so long been.† Supposing, that you would wish to go into New York as soon as possible, I also inclose a passport for that purpose.

I cannot take leave of you, sir, without assuring you, that, in whatever light my agency in this ‘unpleasant affair may be viewed, I was never influenced, through the whole of it, by sanguinary motives, but by what I conceived to be a sense of duty, which loudly called upon me to take measures, however disagreeable, to prevent a repetition of those enormities which have been the subject of discussion. And that this important end is likely to be answered, without the effusion of the blood of an innocent person, is not a greater relief to you, than to me.



As you were pleased to leave it to my discretion, to punish or pardon the criminals, I have resolved on

*November, 1782.

+ Captain Lippincot, charged with the murder of Captain Huddy, was, by a wicked connivance, acquitted by a British court-martial. But such representations were made, and such satisfactory assurances were given, to Congress, that it was deemed proper to release Captain Asgill.

Governor Dinwiddie.

the latter, since I find example of so little weight, and since those poor unhappy criminals have undergone no small pain of body and mind, in a dark prison, closely ironed.



The scheme which you

propose, as a precedent to encourage the emancipation of the black people in this country, from the state of bondage in which they are held, is a striking evidence of the benevolence of your heart.

I shall be happy to join you, in so laudable a work,



There is not a man living, who wishes more sincerely than I do, to see a plan adopted, for the abolition of it. But there is only one proper and effectual mode by which it can be accomplished, and that is, by legislative authority.

This, as far as my suffrage will go, shall never be wanting. But when slaves, who are happy and contented with their present masters, are tampered with and seduced to leave them; when masters are taken unawares by these practices; when a conduct of this kind begets discontent on one side, and resentment on the

* Lafayette.

other; and when it happens to fall on a man whose purse will not measure with that of the Society, and he loses his property for want of means to defend it; it is oppression in such a case, and not humanity in any, because it introduces more evils than it can cure.




Your purchase of an estate in the colony of Cayenne, with a view of emancipating the slaves on it, is a generous and noble proof of your humanity.

Would to God, a like spirit might diffuse itself generally, into the minds of the people of this country. But I despair of seeing it.

Some petitions were presented to the Assembly, at its last session, for the abolition of slavery, but they could scarcely obtain a reading.

To set the slaves afloat, at once, would, I believe, be productive of much inconvenience and mischief; but, by degrees, it certainly might, and assuredly ought to be effected; and that, too, by legislative authority.

* Lafayette.


I never mean, unless some particular circumstances should compel me to it, to possess another slave by purchase, it being among my first wishes, to see some plan adopted, by which Slavery, in this country, may be abolished by law.



I have no scruple in disclosing to you that my motives to these sales are to reduce my income, be it more or less, to specialities,-that the remainder of my days may thereby be more tranquil, and free from care; and that I may be enabled, knowing what my dependence is, to do as much good as my resources will admit. Although, in the estimation of the world, I possess a good and clear estate, yet so unproductive is it, that I am oftentimes ashamed to refuse aid which I cannot afford, unless I sell part of it to answer this purpose.

Besides these, I have another motive, which makes me earnestly wish for these things. It is, indeed, more powerful than all the rest; namely, to liberate a certain species of property, which I possess very reluctantly to my own feelings, but which imperious neces

* Tobias Lear, his private secretary, then in England, May 6th, 1794, making arrangements to sell some of Washington's landed estate.

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