Sunday, April 15, 2012

April 17, 1783

On April 17, 1783, Elias Boudinot wrote to Lewis Pintard, "I sent you by an Express our Proclamation for the Cessation of Hostilities, which is proclaimed in Form this Day."  Elected to Congress in 1781, Boudinot was elected by his Congressional colleagues to the largely ceremonial office of President of Congress.  Boudinot explained to Pintard, "Altho' Peace is really taken Place yet it cannot be proclaimed till we receive the definitive Treaty, which we expect every Day."

Boudinot served as commissary general of prisoners from May 1777 into July 1778.  Boudinot's duties included assigning accommodation for enemy prisoners and supplying American prisoners in British custody.  Pintard served as Boudinot's agent in British-occupied New York City.

Both descendants of French Huguenots, Boudinot and Pintard were also brothers-in-law.  Pintard married Susannah Sotckton and Boudinot married Hannah Stockton.  Richard Stockton, a Signer of the Declaration of Independence, was a brother of both Susannah and Hannah.

Capture by Tories in late-1776, Richard Stockton spent about six weeks in the Provost Jail in British-occupied New York City.  Released by the middle of January 1777, Stockton apparently gave his parole to remain aloof of the conflict until notified of his official exchange.  Historian Edwin G. Burrows doubts the suspicions that Stockton recanted his support of Independence to obtain release.  If, as rumored, Stockton recanted his revolutionary commitment the British and Tory press never celebrated such a notable defection.

If Stockton made any concession, Burrows blames either coercion by Tory militiamen or harsh treatment in the custody of Provost Marshal William Cunningham.  Either possibility, Burrows writes, explains why British General Sir William Howe never claimed any such trophy defection.  Howe could hardly brag of a "rebel" defection obtained by "physical or psychological abuse, particularly at the hands of paramilitary thugs...."  Burrows adds, "Nor would Stockton have been the first American to be crippled in body and spirit by a stay in the Provost--'that engine for breaking hearts,' in Alexander Graydon's apt phrase."  Stockton died in 1781.

Edwin G. Burrows, Forgotten Patriots: The Untold Story of American Prisoners During the Revolutionary War (New York: Basic Books, 2008), pages 84-85, 113-116 (quotes on page 116).  For Boudinot's Huguenot heritage, consult George Adams Boyd, Elias Boudinot: Patriot and Statesman, 1740-1821 (New York: Greenwood Press, 1969 [1952]), page 3, as well as Burrows, Forgotten Patriots, page 85.

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