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Letter from Nathanael Greene to Thomas Burke
Greene, Nathanael, 1742-1786
May 31, 1782
Volume 16, Pages 330-332

TO EX-GOV. BURKE FROM GEN. N. GREENE.
[From Executive Letter Book.]

Head Quarters near Bacon’s Bridge,
May 31st, 1782.

Dear Sir:

I was duly favored with your private letter of April 12th and your public letter of the same date. As all public business is now

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under the direction of your successor, it is unnecessary to reply to your public letter.

If there was any part of my conduct which left you in doubt with respect to my opinion and wishes, I am sorry I had not been more explicit. I always considered your case a hard one. The only alternative you had was to expose your life or subject yourself to censure. Nor have I a single doubt from what I have since heard and seen that had you continued on the Island but that you would have fallen a sacrifice. But you may remember I told you in my letter that my idea of the sacredness of a parole was such that I would sooner have abided the consequences than have left the Enemy’s lines.

I did not mean to censure you because your situation was truly critical. I only told you what I should have done myself. The measure which I recommended I though best to give satisfaction to all parties. The Enemy was offered a just equivalent and the public satisfied that your conduct was the result of necessity. If the Enemy had refused to listen to your proposition, it would be little less than proof they had some base designs upon your life. My only wish was that you should have waited until the final answer could be had.

In public life to escape censure it is not enough to feel a full approbation of our conduct, but our measures must appear just in the eyes of the public. It was for this cause that I wished you to be circumspect that your Enemies whether private or public might have no just advantage of you. I am sorry if your zeal to serve me or the public has betrayed you into a disagreeable situation. You may be assured I shall always hold myself bound both from duty and principle to treat your character with great delicacy.

If the people intended to treat you with ingratitude, I am sorry for it. Much is due to your zeal and ability, and as far as I am acquainted with the people of your State, they think your captivity a very great misfortune. I beg you will not copy the example of many other great men who have gone before you, refuse your services because the people appear at the time to be insensible of their importance. We all have our dark days. No man has been under greater censure and reproach than myself; but I was always determined to persevere to the end in the persuasion that the public would be just at last.

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What think of you of the new Ministry and change of measures in Great Britain?

General Leslie has offered a cessation of hostilities to which I could not agree without the order of Congress.

I had like to have forgot to inform you that I have made another unsuccessful attempt to get you exchanged by Colonel Pinckney. I offered a handsome equivalent.

I am,
With Esteem and Regard,
Your Most Obedient,
Humble Servant,
N. GREENE.