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Colonial and State Records of North Carolina
Letter from Nathanael Greene to Alexander Leslie
Greene, Nathanael, 1742-1786
February 01, 1782
Volume 19, Pages 915-916



I have been waiting some time to see whether you meant and intended to justify and support the infraction of the Cartel made by Lt. Col. Balfour in the discrimination among the Prisoners and in the execution of Colo. Haynes. Lt. Colonel Balfour appealed to Lord Cornwallis’s order to justify his conduct. I wrote to his Lordship on the subject but he would give no decision, which was sufficient evidence to me that he disapproved the measure. But before his Lordship’s answer could be obtained he and his Army were made Prisoners. From that time to this the business has been before Congress. Their decision upon the discrimination of Prisoners you have seen. The subject of retaliation is still before them. Persuaded that acts of persecution and cruelty exercised upon Individuals add no dignity to a cause and is no less impolitic than unjust. Convinced also that they never fail to injure the party they are intended to support; I have, both from motives of policy as well as humanity, constantly opposed every measure all in my power which had nothing for its object but revenge and persecution. But notwithstanding I am confident you will derive no advantage to your cause from the exercise of cruelty, yet from a regard to the Individuals who suffer for ours I am bound to resent every violence offered them and to exercise a just retaliation. However, that I might not be thought to have done anything from the impulse of passion, I referred the matter to Congress for their decision.

I cannot think you are under any obligation, either from duty or honor, to support the sanguinary measures of Lt. Col. Balfour. On the contrary I think you are bound to disavow them, especially as they are opposed to the Letter and intention of the Cartel and

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have nothing better for their support than claims without right and reasons without force.

Captain Barry is ordered into confinement until those detained upon the principles of discrimination are enlarged, and if there is not an order for retaliation in the other case I am persuaded it will be from the Authors not being in our power. But as the matter is before Congress my desire to afford relief to the Prisoners on both sides would induce me to pursue the exchange upon the plan of the Cartel until their final decision, if those Prisoners were liberated who have been subjects of discrimination. Balfour’s conduct cannot be justified nor can the attempt produce any advantage to your cause, nor will the matter be given up by us. And you are to remember that whatever disagreeable consequences arise from your giving support to what is unjust will make you answerable for them. And I need not remind you of our having thousands and thousands of your people in our hands.

I have received your Letter concerning Governor Burke, and altho’ I cannot justify the least violation of a parole yet I am not agreed with you in opinion that his apprehensions were chimerical; for Colo. Washington says he would sooner go into a Dungeon than take a parole upon that Island in its present situation. And what serves to confirm me in my opinion that the Danger was far greater than you apprehended, is, some violences lately committed upon your Officers at Waxhaws,—the authors of which can they be discovered will be punished with the utmost severity, and was it not a matter of civil resort, could they be detected should suffer immediate death.

Governor Burke is gone to the State of North Carolina, and before I can write to him fully on the subject I wish to know in what light you consider him, whether a Prisoner of War, or as Major Craig affects to hold him, a State prisoner.

I have the honor to be, &c.,

Additional Notes for Electronic Version: According to "The Papers of Nathanael Greene," this letter was written to Alexander Leslie (Vol. X, page 295).