Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO JAMES TILGHMAN. - The Writings of George Washington, vol. XI (1785-1790)
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TO JAMES TILGHMAN. - George Washington, The Writings of George Washington, vol. XI (1785-1790) 
The Writings of George Washington, collected and edited by Worthington Chauncey Ford (New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1890). Vol. XI (1785-1790).
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TO JAMES TILGHMAN.
Mount Vernon, 5 June, 1786.
I have just had the honor to receive your favor of the 26th ulto.—
Of all the numerous acquaintances of your lately deceased son,1 & amidst all the sorrowings that are mingled on that melancholy occasion, I may venture to assert (that excepting those of his nearest relatives) none could have felt his death with more regret than I did, because, no one entertained a higher opinion of his worth, or had imbibed sentiments of greater friendship for him than I had done. That you, Sir, should have felt the keenest anguish for this loss, I can readily conceive,—the ties of the parental affection united with those of friendship could not fail to have produced this effect. It is however a dispensation, the wisdom of which is inscrutable, and amidst all your grief, there is this consolation to be drawn;—that while living, no man could be more esteemed, and since dead, none more lamented than Colo. Tilghman.
As his correspondence with the comtee. of New York is not connected with any transactions of mine, so, consequently, it is not necessary that the Papers to which you allude should compose part of my public documents; but if they stand single, as they exhibit a trait of his public character, and like all the rest of his transactions will, I am persuaded, do honor to his understanding and probity, it may be desirable in this point of view, to keep them alive by mixing them with mine; which, undoubtedly, will claim the attention of the Historian;—who, if I mistake not, will, upon an inspection of them, discover the illiberal ground on which the charge mentioned in the extract of the letter you did me the honor to inclose me is founded.—That a calumny of this kind had been reported, I knew;—I had laid my acct. for the calumnies of annonymous scribblers; but I never before had conceived that such an one as is related, could have originated with, or have met the countenance of Capt. Asgill; whose situation often filled me with the keenest anguish.
I felt for him on many accts.; and not the least, when, viewing him as a man of honor & sentiment, how unfortunate it was for him that a wretch who possessed neither should be the means of causing in him a single pang or a disagreeable sensation. My favorable opinion of him, however is forfeited, if being acquainted with these reports, he did not immediately contradict them.—That I could not have given countenance to the insults which he says were offered to his person, especially the grovelling one of erecting a Gibbet before his prison window, will I expect, readily be believed, when I explicitly declare that I never heard of a single attempt to offer an insult, and that I had every reason to be convinced, that, he was treated by the officers around him, with all the tenderness and every civility in their power.—I would fain ask Captn. Asgill how he could reconcile such belief (if his mind had been seriously impressed with it) to the continual indulgencies and procrastinations he had experienced? He will not I presume deny that, he was admitted to his parole within ten or twelve miles of the British lines:—if not to a formal parole, to a confidence yet more unlimited—by being permitted, for the benefit of his health and recreation of his mind, to ride, not merely about the cantonment, but into the surrounding country for many miles with his friend and companion Maj. Gordon, constantly attending him. Would not these indulgencies have pointed a military character to the portrait from whence they flowed? Did he conceive that discipline was so lax in the American army as that any officer in it would have granted these liberties to a Person confined by the express order of the Commander in Chief, unless authorized to do so by the same authority? and to ascribe them to the interference of Count de Rochambeau, is as void of foundation as his other conjectures; for I do not recollect that a sentence ever passed between that General and me, directly, or indirectly, on the subject. I was not without suspicions after the final liberation and return of Capt. Asgill to New York that his mind had been improperly impressed or that he was defective in politeness. The treatment he had met with, in my conception, merited an acknowledgment—None, however was offered, and I never sought for the cause.
This concise acct. of the treatment of Capt. Asgill is given from a hasty recollection of the circumstances.—If I had had time, and it was essential, by unpacking my papers and recurring to authentic files, I might have been more pointed and full. It is in my power at any time to convince the unbiased mind that my conduct through the whole of the transaction was neither influenced by passion, guided by inhumanity or under the control of any interference whatsoever. I essayed everything to save the innocent and bring the guilty to punishment, with what success the impartial world must and hereafter certainly will decide.
With very great esteem, &c.1
[1 ]Tench Tilghman died, 18 April, 1786.
[1 ]Col. Humphreys published in the Columbian Magazine for January, 1787, many of the papers relating to the Asgill affair.