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The Life of Gouverneur Morris

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This system was pursued with vigilance, and some degree of success, till the British fleet arrived at New York, and the tories began to take new courage.  A conspiracy was detected, in which there was reason to believe, that a plot was forming to seize General Washington, and betray him and his army into the hands of the enemy.  This and other symptoms caused a new alarm, and the Provincial Congress resorted to another set of resolutions, and appointed a special committee, of their own numbers, with Gouverneur Morris at its head, to take this matter in charge.  In these resolutions were inserted the names of certain persons, scattered throughout the colony, whom the committee were authorized to arrest and bring before them by a military force.  Such persons as should be found guilty of affording aid or sustenance to the British fleets or armies, of decrying the continental currency, or of abetting any schemes to retard or oppose the measures taken by the colonies in their defence, were to be committed to safe custody.  Under certain conditions, and according to the complexion.  of the offence; and character of the person, they were allowed to go at large on parole, after giving due security for their good conduct.  Suspicious persons, whose influence was considered dangerous over the minds of the people in their neighborhood, were to be removed out of the colony.  The power of military arrests was extended to the committees of towns and smaller districts, but the persons arrested had a right to appeal to the county committees for trial.  A standing force, of one hundred and fifty men, was for some time kept up in Dutchess and Westchester counties, expressly for the purpose of apprehending tories.

The consequence of these regulations was, that the prisons soon became thronged.  As no constitution of government had yet been formed, nor courts of justice established, the prisoners could not be tried by law, and these examinations by committees were only considered temporary, and the penalty rather a provision for security, than a punishment.  Confiscations had not yet begun.  To prevent the mischiefs of


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From The Life of Gouverneur Morris: With Selections from His Correspondence and Miscellaneous Papers; Detailing Events in the American Revolution, The French Revolution, and in the Political History of the United States, by Jared Sparks, Volume 1, Boston: Gray & Bowen, 1832, p 116. Some minor edits may have been made, but an attempt has been made to preserve the original spelling. Although some effort has been made to correct the limitations of OCR technology, if you find an error please report it to jvinci@colonialhall.com.

 
 


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Last modified August 20, 2006