Dormant Commission

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Dormant Commission

DORMANT COMMISSION. One that became effective in a certain contingency. German generals in America were senior to the second-ranking British generals, and one would have become commander in chief had anything incapacitated General Howe or his successor, Clinton, in the spring of 1776. Therefore, Clinton was given a dormant commission as a full general in America to take effect if Howe could no longer command (thus blocking Heister); when Clinton succeeded Howe, Cornwallis was given a dormant commission that would make him senior to Knyphausen if Clinton were incapacitated. When Clinton sent Benedict Arnold to conduct his Virginia raid (December 1780), he secretly furnished Dundas and Simcoe with dormant commissions authorizing one of these trusted British officers to take command "in case of the death or incapacity" of Arnold.

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