Thursday, February 7, 2013

February 8: Tenderness to Patients or Prisoners

   On February 13, 1775 issue, The New-York Gazette; and the Weekly Mercury, published in New York City by Hugh Gaine, carried the following item with a dateline of Philadelphia, February 8, 1775.

   On Thursday night last [that is, February 2] arrived here the sloop Polly, Capt. Davidson, from Jamaica, but last from the Havanna, where he was obliged to put in by sickness: he conceives himself in gratitude bound to inform the public, that during three weeks illness in that port, he was treated in the most humane, friendly, and polite manner; that the attention of the physicians, as well as the neatness and accommodation of his apartments, was every way equal to what he could expect in an English hospital….

   The report further indicated that the Spanish Governor of Cuba and the “principle Gentlemen” of Havana showed Davidson “every mark of tenderness and respect.”  T
he Governor and Captain General of the Island of Cuba was Don Felipe de Fondesviela y Ondeano, Marquis de la Torre (1725-1784), who served in that post from November 18, 1771 to June 12, 1777. Davidson considered himself chiefly indebted, after God, to their humanity and tenderness for the restoration of his health.”
   In the eighteenth century, acknowledging kind treatment was a polite obligation.  Spain and Britain were at peace in 1775 when Davidson visited the Spanish colony of Cuba.  The two nations had been in conflict as recently as the Seven Years War (1756-1763), which Spain entered officially in 1762 by declaring war on Britain.  Davidson was acknowledging kind treatment by people of a nation recently at war with his own.  Acknowledging kindness from a foe, or former foe, was also a mark of magnanimity.
   In 1779, American prisoners returning from Newfoundland gave public acknowledgement of humane treatment by the British Governor of Canada, Admiral Richard Edwards.  
Knowing that prisoners in other locales often faced harsh treatment, the prisoners returning from Newfoundland “sincerely wish, that whenever their countrymen may have occasion to censure British cruelty, they may consider that admiral Edwards ought always to be excepted.”
Also in 1779, a Boston editorial acknowledged news that a committee in London was gathering donations for Americans detained in England: “While Britain as a nation, has carried on the war in America with the greatest inhumanity, it ought to be acknowledged that many individuals have exhibited a compassion and liberality to our countrymen that does honour to human nature.”  For details, visit the post, Britain as a Nation.
Tenderness, a synonym for gentleness, was often used in the eighteenth century in connection with caring for the sick and for prisoners.  For instance, on January 1, 1776, George Washington instructed the Continental Agent for captured enemy vessels at Cape Ann, Massachusetts, “All prisoners of whatever rank, or denomination, to be treated with utmost humanity and tenderness.” 
   On December 10, 1775, Washington’s secretary Stephen Moylan wrote to the agent at Beverly, Mass., “You will…, sir, treat the prisoners with all possible tenderness.” A news report about the Battle of Great Bridge (December 9, 1775) boasted, “A correspondent, on whose information we may depend, informs us, that our soldiers shewed the greatest humanity and tenderness to the wounded prisoners the late engagement at the Great Bridge.”  A 1775 report of a prisoner exchange at Cambridge, Mass. between the Americans and British boasted of the “Tenderness” Americans showed to prisoners. 

     In his January 1, 1777 orders condemning rape and robbery committed by British forces, George Washington admonished American soldiers, “contending for liberty,” to show “humanity and tenderness” to women and children.  Please visit the post “A Lover of Humanity.”   
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