Wednesday, August 21, 2013

August 22: A Return of POWs

   On August 22, 1776, the Massachusetts Council ordered "That the Committee of Correspondence, &c., in the several Towns in this State, do forthwith transmit to the Sheriff of the County whereunto they respectively belong, an accurate list of all Prisoners of War in their respective Towns, expressing their names, and to what Company or Corps they did belong; to the end that the several Sheriffs may be able to make a true return thereof to this Board as soon as may be, and, as the Congress have requested, an immediate Return of all Prisoners of War within this State be made to them."
   In resolutions passed May 21, 1776, the Continental Congress, meeting in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, resolved that captured enemy forces "be treated as prisoners of war, but with humanity...."  In the resolutions, Congress included the request for a return, or count, of POWs in American hands.  The Congress resolved "That a list of the prisoners in each Colony be made out by the Committees of the counties, towns, or districts where they reside, and transmitted to the Assembly, Convention, or Council or Committee of Safety of such Colony, respectively, who shall send a copy thereof to Congress."  Please consult Worthington Chauncey Ford, editor, Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789: Volume 4: January 1-June 4, 1776 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1906), pages 370 and 372.
     Historian T. H. Breen remarked that local and state committees prepared Americans for self-government, introducing thousands of North Americans to the responsibilities of public service.  Breen maintained his argument in a column for The Daily Beast and in the 2010 book American Insurgents, American Patriots: The Revolution of the People.  
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