Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS. - The Writings of George Washington, vol. III (1775-1776)
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TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS. - George Washington, The Writings of George Washington, vol. III (1775-1776) 
The Writings of George Washington, collected and edited by Worthington Chauncey Ford (New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1889). Vol. III (1775-1776).
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TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Cambridge, 8 November, 1775.
The immediate occasion of my giving the Congress the trouble of a letter at this time is to inform them, that, in consequence of their order signified in your letter of the 20th ultimo, I laid myself under a solemn tie of secrecy to Captain Macpherson,1 and proceeded to examine his plan for the destruction of the fleet in the harbor of Boston, with all that care and attention, which the importance of it deserved, and my judgment could lead to. But not being happy enough to coincide in opinion with that gentleman, and finding that his scheme would involve greater expense, than (under my doubts of its success), I thought myself justified in giving into, I prevailed upon him to communicate his plan to three gentlemen of the artillery (in this army), well versed in the knowledge and practice of gunnery. By them he has been convinced, that, inasmuch as he set out upon wrong principles, the scheme would prove abortive. Unwilling, however, to relinquish his favorite project of reducing the naval force of Great Britain, he is very desirous of building a number of row-galleys for this purpose. But as the Congress alone are competent to the adoption of this measure, I have advised him (although he offered to go on with the building of them at his own expense, till the Congress should decide) to repair immediately to Philadelphia with his proposals; where, if they should be agreed to, or vessels of superior force, agreeable to the wishes of most others, should be resolved on, he may set instantly about them, with all the materials upon the spot; here, they are to collect. To him, therefore, I refer for further information on this head.
A vessel said to be from Philadelphia and bound to Boston with 120 pipes of wine (118 of which are secured) stranded at a place called Eastham, in a gale of wind on the 2d inst. Another from Boston to Halifax with dry goods, &c. (amounting per invoice to about 240£ lawful) got disabled in the same gale near Beverly. These cargoes, with the papers, I have ordered to this place, the vessels to be taken care of until further orders. I have also an account of the taking of a wood sloop bound to Boston, and carried into Portsmouth by one of our armed vessels—particulars not yet come to hand, and this instant of two others from Nova Scotia to Boston, with hay, wood, live stock, &c., by another of our armed schooners. These are in Plymouth.
These accidents and captures point out the necessity of establishing proper courts without loss of time for the decision of property, and the legality of seizures. Otherwise I may be involved in inextricable difficulties.1
Our prisoners, by the reduction of Fort Chamblee (on which happy event I most sincerely congratulate the Congress), being considerably augmented, and likely to be increased, I submit it to the wisdom of Congress, whether some convenient inland towns, remote from the post roads, ought not to be assigned them; the manner of their treatment, subsistence, &c., defined; and a commissary or agent appointed, to see that justice is done both to them and the public, proper accounts rendered, &c. Unless a mode of this sort is adopted, I fear there will be sad confusion hereafter, as there are great complaints at present.2
I reckoned without my host, when I informed the Congress in my last, that I should in a day or two be able to acquaint them with the disposition of the soldiery towards a new enlistment. I have been in consultation with the generals of this army ever since Thursday last, endeavoring to establish new corps of officers; but find so many doubts and difficulties to reconcile, I cannot say when they are to end, or what may be the consequences; as there appears to be such an unwillingness in the officers of one government mixing in the same regiment with those of another; and, without it, many must be dismissed, who are willing to serve, notwithstanding we are deficient on the whole. I am to have another meeting to-day upon this business, and shall inform you of the result.
The council of officers are unanimously of opinion, that the command of the artillery should no longer continue in Colonel Gridley1 ; and, knowing of no person better qualified to supply his place, or whose appointment will give more general satisfaction, I have taken the liberty of recommending Henry Knox, Esq., to the consideration of the Congress, thinking it indispensably necessary, at the same time, that this regiment should consist of two lieutenant-colonels, two majors, and twelve companies, agreeable to the plan and estimate handed in;—which, differing from the last establishment, I should be glad to be instructed on.
The Commissary General not being returned, will apologize I hope for my silence, respecting a requisition of the expence of his clerks, &c., which I was to have obtained, together with others, and forward.
I have heard nothing of Colonel Arnold since the 13th ultimo. His letter of, and journal to, that date, will convey all the information I am able to give of him. I think he must be in Quebec. If any mischance had happened to him, he would, as directed, have forwarded an express. No account yet of the armed vessels sent to the St. Lawrence. I think they will meet with the stores inward or outward bound.
Captain Symons, in the Cerberus, lately sent from Boston to Falmouth, has published the enclosed declaration at that place; and, it is suspected, intends to make some kind of a lodgment there. I wrote immediately to a Colonel Phinny (of this army) who went up there upon the last alarm, to spirit up the people and oppose it at all events. Falmouth is about a hundred and thirty miles from this camp.1
I have the honor to be, &c.
P. S. I send a general return of the troops, and manifests of the cargoes and vessels, taken at Plymouth.
[1 ]John McPherson. “He proposes great things; is sanguine, confident, positive, that he can take or burn every man of war in America. It is a secret, he says, but he will communicate it to any one member of Congress, upon condition that it be not divulged during his life at all, nor after his death, but for the service of this country. He says that it is as certain as that he shall die, that he can burn any ship.”—John Adams, Works, ii., 424-428.
[1 ]Journals of Congress, 25 November, 1775.
[2 ]The prisoners were ordered to Reading, Lancaster, and York, in Pennsylvania.
[1 ]Colonel Gridley had been appointed by the Provincial Congress of Massachusetts, April 26th, chief engineer in the army then beginning to be organized, with a salary of one hundred and seventy pounds a year while in service; and after the army should be disbanded, he was to receive annually one hundred and twenty-three pounds for life.—MS. Journal of Prov. Congress. The same provision of a life annuity was extended to the assistant-engineer. On the 20th of September, Colonel Gridley was commissioned to take command of the artillery of the Continental army, but was superseded by Colonel Knox in November. His advanced age was assigned by Congress, as a reason for superseding him. At the battle of Bunker’s Hill he fought with conspicuous bravery in the intrenchments, which he had planned under Prescott, and in which he was wounded. Colonel Gridley was a soldier of long experience, having served in the two last wars, and been present at the taking of Louisburg, and in Wolfe’s battle on the Plains of Abraham.—Swett’s Hist. of Bunker-Hill Battle, pp. 11, 44, 54. Before the Revolution he received half-pay as a British officer. When Colonel Knox was appointed to his place in the artillery, 17 November, Congress voted to indemnify him for any loss of half-pay, which he might sustain in consequence of having been in the service of the United Colonies.
[1 ]The town of Falmouth seemed destined to suffer more than the usual calamities of war, as the victim of resentment, or the object of a bitter enmity. It had been burnt to the ground by the commander of one armed ship, and a fortnight afterwards its ashes were insulted by the following menace of another.