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Browsing: Adams Family Correspondence, Volume 2


This foot note contained in document ADMS-04-02-02-0170
1. On 16 Jan. Congress had appointed a committee of seven members, Samuel Chase chairman, “to enquire into the conduct of the British and Hessian generals and officers towards the officers, soldiers and mariners in the service of the United States, and any other persons, inhabitants of these States, in their possession, as prisoners of war, or otherwise, and also into the conduct of the said generals and officers, and the troops under their command, towards the subjects of these States and their property, more especially of the States of New York and New Jersey” ( JCC , 7:42–43). The committee acted energetically in collecting evidence and began its report, which was read in Congress on 18 April, as follows:
“That, in every place where the enemy has been, there are heavy complaints of oppression, injury, and insult, suffered by the inhabitants. . . . The committee found these complaints so greatly diversified, that, as it was impossible to enumerate them, so it appeared exceedingly difficult to give a distinct and comprehensive view of them, or such an account, as would not, if published, appear extremely defective, when read by the unhappy sufferers, or the country in general.
“In order, however, in some degree, to answer the design of their appointment, they determined to divide the object of their enquiry into four parts: First, The wanton and oppressive devastation of the country, and destruction of property: Second, the inhuman treatment of those who were so unhappy as to become prisoners: Third, The savage butchery of many who had submitted or were incapable of resistance: Fourth, The lust and brutality of the soldiers in abusing of women.
“They will, therefore, now briefly state, what they found to be the truth upon each of these heads separately, and subjoin to the whole, affidavits and other evidence to support their assertions” (same, p. 276–277).
Congress immediately accepted the report and ordered it published, “with the affidavits.” The Pennsylvania Evening Post of 24 April devoted its entire front page to the report and continued the supporting affidavits in its issues of 26 and 29 April and 3 May. JA probably sent AA a copy of the issue of 26 April with the present letter, and a copy of that of 3 May with his letter of 4 May, below. On the following 19 July Congress ordered the committee to publish the report and affidavits as a pamphlet, “and that 4,000 copies in English, and 2,000 in German, be struck off and distributed through the several States” (same, 8:565). It is very doubtful if this was done since no copy of a pamphlet printing has been found.