Patriots Or Terrorists?

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shall not be confined in dungeons, prison-ships, nor prisons, nor be put into irons, nor bound, nor otherwise restrained in the use of their limbs; that the officers shall be enlarged on their paroles within convenient districts, & have comfortable quarters, & the common men be disposed in cantonments, open & extensive enough for air & exercise, and lodged in barracks as roomy & good as are provided by the party in whose power they are for their own troops; that the officers shall also be daily furnished by the party in whose power they are, with as many rations; & of the same articles & quality as are allowed by them, either in kind or by commutation, to officers of equal rank in their own army; & all others shall be daily furnished by them with such ration as they allow to a common soldier in their own service.

Even if the conduct of their own countrymen had sometimes fallen well short of acceptable, the three American negotiators understood that the new nation must pledge itself to treat future prisoners of war with the decency and humanity never accorded them by the British—that what set the United States apart from the former mother country and all the other tyrannies to come was only this commitment to basic human rights.

Adapted from Forgotten Patriots: The Untold Story of American Prisoners During the Revolutionary War by Edwin G. Burrows. Published by Basic Books, a member of the Perseus Books Group © 2008. This article appears here by permission of Perseus Books Group.