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Letter from Guy Carleton, Baron Dorchester to George Washington
Dorchester, Guy Carleton, Baron, 1724-1808
May 12, 1783
Volume 16, Pages 871-873

SIR GUY CARLTON TO GEN. G. WASHINGTON.
[From Executive Letter Book.]

No. 3.


New York, 31st May, 1783.

Sir:

I can have no objection to the giving your Excellency in writing full information of the measures taken for the evacuation of this place, nor should I have had any to the noting of the whole of our conversation & preserving it in minutes. Mistakes or misconstructions might thereby be prevented.

Very soon after the orders for a cessation of hostilities were received here letters were written both to Europe and the West Indies, to require that all the Shipping which could be procured might be sent to assist in the evacuation of this place. About the same time all the prisoners of War in our hands were released.

An embarcation was in much forwardness previous to the Official information of Peace. Soon after I wrote to the Minister for foreign affairs to request that Congress would be pleased to empower any person or persons, on behalf of the United States to be present at

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New York and to assist such persons as should need it & superintend all imbarcations, which the evacuation of this place might require and that they would represent to me every infraction of the Letter or Spirit of the Treaty, that redress might be immediately ordered: In the mean time to prevent abuse or delay and until I could learn the determination of Congress, I requested of Daniel Parker esquire one of the contractors for supplying your army with provisions, and of Major Hopkins, late deputy Commissary of prisoners, that they would undertake the business, with other persons whom I appointed which they did accordingly and executed with much diligence. This fleet sailed about the 27th of April for different parts of Nova Scotia, and including the troops carried about seven thousand persons, with all their effects, also some artillery and public stores; so that your perceive the evacuation began sooner and was in greater forwardness than could have been expected. Your Excellency will also perceive from what I have already said that at present it is impossible to tell when the evacuation of this City can be compleated; in truth I cannot guess the quantity of shipping that will be sent me, nor the number of persons that will be forced to abandon this place. The evacuation of Penobscot will require considerably less tonnage, and I should think may be soon effected: If it is most eligible to you that I should give a preference to this object I shall immediately give orders for its being carried into the most speedy execution.

I enclose the copy of a order which I have given out to prevent the carrying away any negroes or other property of the American inhabitants. I understand from the Gentlemen therein named that they visited the fleet bound to Nova Scotia, and ordered on shore whatever came clearly under the above description; there appeared to be little difference of opinion except in the case of the negroes who had been declared free previous to my arrival. As I had no right to deprive them of that liberty I found them possessed of, an accurate register was taken of every circumstance respecting them, so as to serve as a record of the name of the original proprietor of each negroe, and as a rule to judge of his value; By this open method of conducting the business, I hope to prevent all fraud and whatever might admit of different constructions is left open for future explanation or compensation. Had these negroes been denied permission

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to embark they would in spite of every means to prevent it, have found various methods of quitting this place, so that the former owner would have been no longer able to trace them and of course would have lost in every way all chance of compensation.

This business carried on in this public manner and the orders nominating persons to superintend embarcations, published in the Gazette I had no reason to think either the embarcation or any circumstance attending it could have been matter of surprise to your Excellency on the 6th May. I then however learned with concern that the embarcation which had already taken place, and in which a large number of negroes had been conveyed away, appeared to your Excellency as a measure totally different from the Letter and spirit of the treaty. The negroes in question I have already said, I found free when I arrived at New York, I had therefore no right as I thought, to prevent their going to any part of the World they thought proper.

I must confess that the mere supposition, that the King’s Ministers could deliberately stipulate in a Treaty and engagement to be guilty of a notorious breach of the public faith towards people of any complexion, seems to denote a less friendly disposition than I could wish, and I think less friendly than we might expect; after all I only give my own opinion. Every negroe’s name is registered and the master he formerly belonged to, with such other circumstances as serve to denote his value, that it may be adjusted by compensation if that was really the intention and meaning of the Treaty; restoration where inseparable from a breach of public faith is, as all the World I think must allow, utterly impracticable. I know no better method of preventing abuse, and the carrying away negroes or other American property, than that I proposed to the Minister for foreign affairs in my letter of the 14th of April, the naming Commissioners to assist those appointed by me to inspect all embarcations and I am pleased to find that your Excellency has approved of this method and appointed Egbert Benson, Esquire, Lieut. Col. Smith and Daniel Parker one of the contractors for supplying your army with provisions, Commissioners on your part for this purpose.

I am Sir, &c.,
GUY CARLTON.
His Excellency General Washington.



Additional Notes for Electronic Version: According to the "Writings of George Washington," this letter was dated May 12, 1783.