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TO WARNER LEWIS. - George Washington, The Writings of George Washington, vol. I (1748-1757) 
The Writings of George Washington, collected and edited by Worthington Chauncey Ford (New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1889-1893). Vol. I (1748-1757).
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TO WARNER LEWIS.
Mount Vernon, 14 August, 1755.
After returning you my most sincere and grateful thanks, for your kind condolence on my late indisposition, and for the generous (and give me leave farther to say) partial opinion, you have entertained of my military abilities, I must express my concern for not having it in my power to meet you, and other friends, who have signified their desire of seeing me in Williamsburg.1
Your letter only came to hand at nine last night, and you inform me, that the Assembly will break up the latter end of the week, which allows a time too short in which to perform a journey of a hundred and sixty miles, especially by a person in my weak and feeble condition; for, altho I am happily recovered from the disorder, which brought me to so low an ebb, by a sickness of nearly five weeks’ continuance, yet my strength is not returned to me. Had I got timely notice, I would have attempted the ride, by slow and easy journeys, if it had been only for the satisfaction of seeing my friends, who, I flatter myself, from what you say, are kind enough to sympathize in my good and evil fortunes.
The chief reason (next to indisposition), that prevented me from coming down to this Assembly, was a determination not to offer my services; and that determination proceeded from the following reasons. First, a belief that I could not get a command upon such terms as I should incline to accept; for I must confess to you, that I never will quit my family, injure my fortune, and, (above all,) impair my health to run the risk of such changes and vicissitudes, as I have met with, but shall expect, if I am employed again, to have something certain. Again, was I to accept the command, I should insist upon some things, which ignorance and inexperience made me overlook before, particularly that of having the officers appointed, in some measure, with my advice and with my concurrence, for I must add I think a commanding officer, not having this liberty, appears to me to be a strange thing, when it is considered how much the conduct and bravery of an officer influence the men, how much a commanding officer is answerable for the behaviour of the inferior officers, and how much his good or ill success, in time of action, depends upon the conduct of each particular one, especially too, in this kind of fighting, where, being dispersed, each and every of them at that time has a greater liberty to misbehave, than if he were regularly and compactly drawn up under the eyes of his superior officer.
On the other hand, how little credit is given to a commander, who, after a defeat, in relating the cause of it, justly lays the blame on some individual, whose cowardly behaviour betrayed the whole to ruin! How little does the world consider the circumstances, and how apt are mankind to level their vindictive censures against the unfortunate chief, who perhaps merited least of the blame!
Does it not appear, then, that the appointing of officers is a thing of the utmost consequence; a thing that requires the greatest circumspection? Ought it to be left to blind chance, or, what is still worse, to partiality? Should it not be left to a man whose life, (and what is still dearer, whose honor,) depends upon their good behaviour?
There are necessary officers yet wanting, for whom no provision has been made. A small military chest is so absolutely necessary, that it is impossible to do without, nor can any man conduct an affair of this kind, who has it not.
These things I should expect, if the appointment fell upon me.
But, besides all these, I had other reasons, which withheld me from offering my services. I believe our circumstances are brought to that unhappy dilemma, that no man can gain any honor by conducting our forces at this time, but will rather lose in his reputation if he attempts it. For I am confident, the progress of military movements must be slow, for want of conveniences to transport our provisions, ammunition, and stores, over the mountain; occasioned, in a great measure, by the late ill treatment of the wagoners and horse-drivers, who have received little compensation for their labor, and nothing for their lost horses and wagons; which will be an infallible cause of preventing all from assisting that are not compelled. So that I am fully sensible, whoever undertakes this command will meet with such insurmountable obstacles, that he will soon be viewed in the light of an idle, indolent body, have his conduct criticised, and meet perhaps with opprobrious abuse, when it may be as much out of his power to avoid delays, as it would be to command the raging seas in a storm.
Viewing these things in the light I do has no small influence upon me, as I am very apprehensive I should lose, what at present constitutes the chief part of my happiness, i. e., the esteem and notice which the country has been pleased to honor me with.
It is possible you may infer from what I have said, that my intentions are to decline, at all events; but my meaning is not so, I am determined not to offer; because to solicit the command, and, at the same time, to make my proposals, would be a little incongruous, and carry with it the face of self-sufficiency. But if the command should be offered, the case is then altered, as I should be at liberty to make such objections, as reason and my small experience had pointed out.1 I hope you will make my compliments to all enquiring friends.
I am, dear Warner, your most affectionate friend, and obedient servant.
[1 ]Mr. Ludwell, another of his friends in the Assembly, had written to him on the 8th of August.—“I most heartily congratulate you on your safe return from so many dangers and fatigues, and by this time I hope you are well enough recovered to give us the pleasure of seeing you here, which all your friends are extremely desirous of. The House has voted twelve hundred men, but it is very probable they will determine at least for four thousand. In conversation with the Governor I said, if this should be done I supposed his Honor would give the command of them to Colonel Washington, for I thought he deserved every thing his country could do for him. The Governor made reply much in your favor, though I understand there is another warm solicitation for it. If we could be so happy as to have you here at this time, and it were known that you are willing to take such a command, I believe it would greatly promote the success of our endeavours with the Assembly.”
[1 ]While Colonel Washington was writing this letter, he had already been appointed to the command. The Assembly voted forty thousand pounds for the public service, and the Governor and Council immediately resolved to increase the Virginia regiment to sixteen companies. In the same act, the Assembly also granted to George Washington the sum of three hundred pounds, to the captains seventy-five pounds each, to the lieutenants and surgeon thirty pounds, and to every soldier five pounds, as “a reward and compensation for their gallant behaviour and losses,” at the battle of the Monongahela. Washington’s grant was for his losses sustained.