A letter from Daniel Byrnes to George Washington (1793)

The typed copy can be found at the University of Virginia Press: From Daniel Byrnes, 17 January 1793 (virginia.edu) 

Cite as: The Papers of George Washington Digital Edition. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, Rotunda, 2008.

Canonic URL: https://rotunda.upress.virginia.edu/founders/GEWN-05-12-02-0006 [accessed 14 Apr 2023]

Original source: Presidential Series (24 September 1788–3 March 1797), Volume 12 (16 January 1793–31 May 1793)

From Daniel Byrnes

New Winsor (N.Y.)

1 month 17th 1793

Esteemed Friend George Washington

I have Some matters of Concern to me which I wish very Respectfully to Lay before thee for thy Consideration in the year 1777 I was owner of and Lived at them Mills in the State of Dallaware on the Side of white Clay Creek abought two Miles north of Christiana Bridge at the time the English Army Lay betwen my Mills and the head of Elk and the American Army Some of them on the Hill by white Clay Creek Bridge in Sight of my House & Mills and Some of them nearer to Newport.1 thus was I with my Famely Situated betwen the two Contending Armies and on the 7th Day of the week Clement Biddle an officer as I Supose in thy Army Came to my House and informed me that General Woshington had Sent him to let me know that the wheat & Flour in my Mills must be Removed and told me that thou Said the English Army wod be quite likly to Come that way and wod Distroy what I had but that thou wod take it and I Should be paid for it I Did then belive thou intended it as a favour to me as I was not Looked on as an Enemy to my Countery and therefore I Could Do no other thing but Submitt to thy orders accordingly he Sent that Day twenty Wagons and Load them with Wheat and Flour and next Day being first Day of the week came twenty more Wagons and Loaded (while I was at Meeting) with wheat and Flour the also that Day took Eight Large Cheese away which was put in the Mill to be out of the way of the Flies they Laft with Some of my young men Recipts for the Wheat & Flour but not for the Cheese they ware to Come again the Next Day being the Second Day of the week for more wheat & Flour as there was Some Still Lafft but that Day the English Army Crossed white Clay creek 2 or 3 miles above my Mills and thy Army moved away (2) I Saw Clement Biddle that Day on Horse back he told me he wod pay me but the Army was moving and all Seemed in a hurry I Supose he had not time and want away with out paying after that time there was Much Difucalties with the Army I knew not whare to apply for pay and Did not apply any where but Some time after Tobias Rudulph who was my particuler Friend Call’d at my House and finding I was not paid told me if I wod Give him the Recipts he wod Get the Money for me accordingly I gave him the Recipts and he applied Several times but Could not obtain it untill the fore part of the year 1779 and then Owen Biddle who Lives in Philadelphia paid Tobias Rudulph for the 1151 Bushels of wheat at 8/6 pr Bushel Contanental Dollars (3) Some time after that he got the pay in the Like money for the 81 Barrels of Superfine Flour from Some other pay master whose name I Do not Remember at 22/6 pr hundred thus I was paid for 1151 Bushels of wheat which I had purchesed when money was Suposed to be good and had been Considerable time in my Mills for which I Gave 8/3 pr Bushel

1151 Bushels of wheat at 8/3 is 474.15.9

81 Barrels 162.0.0 Superfine Flour at 22/6 pr Cnt 182. 5.0

81 Casks at 2/ the Common price in hard money 8. 2.0

£665. 2.9

the money when paid was at Least 10 for 1 which is in hard money ondly


Ballence £601.12.6

and wheat was then abought £10 pr Bushel

So that the whole money when paid would have purchesed abought 60 or 70 Bushels of wheat besides 8 Cheeses wod have waighed at Least 160 lb. at 6d

4. 0.0 So the Scale wod make the Ballence


which is Less then it aught to be in Justice Intrust on the Ballence from the 7th month 1777 to the 7th month 1792 being 15 years at 6 pr cent is


£1150. 6.6

I cannot be cartain abought the wt of the Flour as I Do not know that it was weighed but 2.00 Nt Used to be abought the wt of Barrels

the above is nearly I belive a true Represantation of the Case in which I have been a very great Sufferer for had the money been paid when the property was taken as it was proposd to be I Could have Replacd the wheat at the price given I am now at a Loss to know how to Get Justice Don me by any other way but applying to thee as thou was the Man that ordered my propperty taken I Supose thy influence with Congress wod Do much in my favour I belive no man Can think it Right that one man Should Suffer So much by the publick the Army had my property to Live upon and I think the States aught in Justice to pay me a Reasonable price for it I have not Run hastily as many others have but have waited with patience untill I Supose the United States are able to Do me Justice without feeling it (4) I am now in an advanced Age not far Short of Seventy my Losses Last war beside the above was So great that I was under a necessaty to Sell them Mills at white Clay Creek and have Sence purchesed Governer Clintons mills by New Winsor (5) which I have put in Good order but I have not money Suficient to Carry them on and if I Could have Justice Don me in this matter I belive it wod Set me above the World once more but Considering my poverty and thy Exalted Station I assure thee it is not pleasent to me to Trouble thee with this affair but beliving thou art a man of Sencable feeling for those that Suffer and that thy influence wod be of Singuler Service to obtain Justice for me and I Desire nothing but Justice and if thou will be So kind as to Do Some thing for me in this affair in the way thou may think best it will be by me GreatfuUy acknowledged and Let me know thy mind by a Line Directed to the Care of Robert Bowne in Newyork (6) as my Son Lives with him it will Soon be Sent to me if thou Should want any farther information Clement Biddle Can give thee Some. in hopes that the above Communication will not be Disagreable to thee I Remain as I have ever been Sence I knew thy Corrector (character) thy Respectfull Friend and well wisher

Daniel Byrnes

ALS, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters.

1 Byrnes’s mills were located near the confluence of White Clay Creek and Red Clay Creek, which join about six miles southwest of Wilmington, Delaware. Christiana Bridge, or Christiana, was a village located approximately four miles from the junction of the Christina River and Red Clay Creek and about eight miles southwest of Wilmington. During its move from New York City to Philadelphia in the summer of 1777, Gen. William Howe’s army, consisting of over 17,000 British and German soldiers, encamped near the head of navigation of Elk River, near present Elkton, Md. (see GW to John Armstrong, Sr., 25 Aug., and note 1, Intelligence Report from David Hopkins, 31 Aug., and note 2, GW to John Hancock, 3 Sept., and note 4, General Orders, 4 Sept., n.2, Tench Tilghman to William Heath, 6–10 Sept. 1777).

2 Howe’s army crossed White Clay Creek on Monday, 8 Sept. 1777 (General Orders, 8 Sept. 1777, source note).

3 Owen Biddle (1737–1799), Clement Biddle’s older brother, was a prominent Philadelphia merchant. Between 1775 and 1777 the elder Biddle served on Pennsylvania’s committee of safety, council of safety, and board of war. In June 1777 Congress appointed him deputy commissary of forage, and from 1779 until 1782 or 1783 he was assistant commissary general of forage at Philadelphia. Tobias Rudulph (Rodulph), a merchant from Head of Elk, Cecil County, Md., supplied provisions to the American forces during the Revolutionary War and served as a justice of the peace from 1787 to 1789, a state tax commissioner in 1790, and an associate justice of Cecil County in 1791.

4 On 14 Mar., Tobias Lear wrote Byrnes: “The President of the United States has received your letter dated the 17th of January . . . requesting that the President will take your case into consideration, and grant you some relief there in. In reply to this letter the President directs me to inform you, that he has no power to take cognisance of affairs of this kind—his duty as Chief Magestrate of the U.S. extending only to the general execution of the laws—and to carrying into effect such things as the laws specially requ[i]re to be done by him. And to add, that the usual & proper mode of application in such cases is by petition to Congress—stating the particulars & aducing proof in support of what is set forth. That Body will then take the matter into consideration and make such decision upon it as in their wisdom may seem meet” (DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters). Byrnes took GW’s advice and petitioned Congress, unsuccessfully, for redress (see Journal of the House, 6:49–50, 7:92, 283, 9:48).

5 New York governor George Clinton sold his farm at New Windsor, N.Y., consisting of 350 acres with grist and saw mills, in 1790, and apparently Byrnes purchased all or part of this farm sometime after the original sale (Spaulding, George Clinton, 230).

6 Robert Bowne (1744–1818), a Quaker merchant residing in New York City, was among the first directors of the Bank of New York.

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