Saturday, March 24, 2012

Retaliation?

On March 25, 1776, Connecticut Governor Jonathan Trumbull wrote wrote to Congressmen John Adams and George Wythe, "Burning and destroying our Towns...and cruel treatment of the persons so unhappy as to fall into their hands, are injuries of the first magnitude." Trumbull wrote, "The prisoners in our custody meet generous entertainment. Is it not time the law of retalliation should take place?" Robert Joseph Taylor, ed., Papers of John Adams: Vol. 4: February-August 1776 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1979), 64.

Threats of retaliation figured in the unwritten laws of war in the late-1700s. Months later, Trumbull would get more accounts of cruel treatment and lethal neglect of American prisoners in British custody. Americans agonized over the option of retaliation. For the destruction of towns, please consult entries on Norfolk, Virginia and Falmouth, Massachusetts (currently Portland, Maine).
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