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George Washington, George Washington: A Collection [1988]

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George Washington, George Washington: A Collection, compiled and edited by W.B. Allen (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1988).

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About this Title:

George Washington speaks for himself on behalf of liberty and the emerging American republic. Drawing extensively on his correspondence, this volume includes all of his presidential addresses, various public proclamations, his last will and testament, and the most comprehensive recompilation of the “discarded first inaugural” ever printed.

Copyright information:

The copyright to this edition, in both print and electronic forms, is held by Liberty Fund, Inc.

Fair use statement:

This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.

Table of Contents:

Edition: current; Page: [i]
George Washington
Edition: current; Page: [ii] Edition: current; Page: [iii] Edition: current; Page: [iv] Edition: current; Page: [v]
George Washington
W. B. Allen
Liberty Fund
Edition: current; Page: [vi]

This book is published by Liberty Fund, Inc., a foundation established to encourage study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.

The cuneiform inscription that serves as the design motif for our endpapers is the earliest-known written appearance of the word “freedom” (amagi), or “liberty.” It is taken from a clay document written about 2300 B. C. in the Sumerian city-state of Lagash.

Editorial additions © 1988 by William B. Allen.

All rights reserved. All inquiries should be addressed to

Liberty Fund, Inc., 8335 Allison Pointe Trail, Suite 300

Indianapolis, Indiana 46250-1684

This book was manufactured in the United States of America.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Washington, George, 1732-1799.

George Washington: a collection.

Based almost entirely on materials reproduced from: The writings of George Washington from the original manuscript sources, 1745-1799 / John C. Fitzpatrick, editor. Bibliography: p. Includes index.

1. United States—History—Revolution, 1775-1783.

2. United States—Politics and government—1783-1809.

3. Washington, George, 1732-1799—Correspondence.

I. Allen, W. B. (William Barclay), 1944- .

II. Fitzpatrick, John Clement, 1876-1940. Writings of George Washington from the original manuscript sources,

1745-1799. III. Title.

E312.72 1988  973.3  87-3338

ISBN 0-86597-059-9  ISBN 0-86597-060-2 (soft)

95 94 93 92 91 C 6 5 4 3 2

99 98 97 96 95 P 7 6 5 4 3

Edition: current; Page: [vii]


  • Prologue 2
    • The Rules of Bravery and Liberty 1756–1775 15

    •  6 TO GEORGE MASON, APRIL 5, 1769 23
    •  7 TO THOMAS JOHNSON, JULY 20, 1770 26
    •  8 TO GEORGE WILLIAM FAIRFAX, JUNE 10, 1774 29
    •  9 TO BRYAN FAIRFAX, JULY 4, 1774 33
    • 10 TO BRYAN FAIRFAX, JULY 20, 1774 35
    • 11 TO BRYAN FAIRFAX, AUGUST 24, 1774 38
    • 12 TO THE PRESIDENT OF THE SECOND CONTINENTAL CONGRESS, JUNE 16, 1775 40Edition: current; Page: [viii]
    • 13 TO MRS. MARTHA WASHINGTON, JUNE 18, 1775 40
    • 14 GENERAL ORDERS, JULY 4, 1775 42
    • 17 TO THE INHABITANTS OF CANADA (undated) 46
    • Tyranny: The Scourge of Liberty 1775–1777 49

    • 18 TO JOSEPH REED, DECEMBER 15, 1775 53
    • 19 GENERAL ORDERS, JANUARY 1, 1776  55
    • 20 TO JOSEPH REED, JANUARY 14, 1776  57
    • 22 TO JOSEPH REED, FEBRUARY 10, 1776  65
    • 24 GENERAL ORDERS, JULY 2, 1776  70
    • 25 GENERAL ORDERS, JULY 9, 1776  72
    • 28 TO LUND WASHINGTON, SEPTEMBER 30, 1776 82
    • 29 PROCLAMATION, JANUARY 25, 1777  84
    • 31 TO PRESIDENT JAMES WARREN, MAY 23, 1777  86
    • The Passions of Men and the Principles of Action 1778–1780 91

    • 33 GENERAL ORDERS, MARCH 1, 1778  95
    • 34 TO JOHN BANISTER, APRIL 21, 1778  98
    • 36 TO COMTE D’ESTAING, SEPTEMBER 11, 1778 106
    • 37 TO GOUVERNEUR MORRIS, OCTOBER 4, 1778 111Edition: current; Page: [ix]
    • 38 TO HENRY LAURENS, NOVEMBER 14, 1778 113
    • 39 TO BENJAMIN HARRISON, DECEMBER 18, 1778 116
    • 41 TO THOMAS NELSON, MARCH 15, 1779 123
    • 42 TO GEORGE MASON, MARCH 27, 1779 124
    • 43 TO JAMES WARREN, MARCH 31, 1779 126
    • 44 TO GOUVERNEUR MORRIS, MAY 8, 1779 129
    • 45 SPEECH TO THE DELAWARE CHIEFS, MAY 12, 1779 131
    • 46 CIRCULAR TO THE STATES, MAY 22, 1779 133
    • 47 TO JOHN JAY, SEPTEMBER 7, 1779 135
    • 49 TO EDMUND PENDLETON, NOVEMBER 1, 1779 142
    • 50 TO JOSEPH JONES, MAY 14, 1780 144
    • 51 TO PRESIDENT JOSEPH REED, MAY 28, 1780 146
    • 52 TO PRESIDENT JOSEPH REED, JULY 4, 1780 150
    • 53 TO JOSEPH JONES, AUGUST 13, 1780 152
    • 54 CIRCULAR TO THE STATES, AUGUST 27, 1780 154
    • 56 CIRCULAR TO THE STATES, OCTOBER 18, 1780 164
    • Trials and Triumph 1780–1781 171

    • 57 TO GEORGE MASON, OCTOBER 22, 1780 175
    • 58 TO WILLIAM FITZHUGH, OCTOBER 22, 1780 176
    • 59 TO JAMES DUANE, DECEMBER 26, 1780 177
    • 62 GENERAL ORDERS, JANUARY 30, 1781 186
    • 63 TO JOHN SULLIVAN, FEBRUARY 4, 1781 188
    • 64 TO JOHN PARKE CUSTIS, FEBRUARY 28, 1781 190
    • 65 TO LUND WASHINGTON, APRIL 30, 1781 192
    • 67 GENERAL ORDERS, OCTOBER 20, 1781 195
  • Edition: current; Page: [x]
    • Washington’s Knowledge of Himself and His Army 1782–1783 199

    • 68 TO COLONEL LEWIS NICOLA, MAY 22, 1782 203
    • 69 TO THE SECRETARY AT WAR, OCTOBER 2, 1782 204
    • 70 TO JOSEPH JONES, DECEMBER 14, 1782 206
    • 72 GENERAL ORDERS, FEBRUARY 15, 1783 209
    • 74 TO ALEXANDER HAMILTON, MARCH 4, 1783 211
    • 76 TO JOSEPH JONES, MARCH 12, 1783 215
    • Washington’s Knowledge of His Countrymen 1783 225

    •  79 TO JOSEPH JONES, MARCH 18, 1783 227
    •  81 TO ALEXANDER HAMILTON, MARCH 31, 1783 229
    •  82 TO THEODORICK BLAND, APRIL 4, 1783 231
    •  83 TO MARQUIS DE LAFAYETTE, APRIL 5, 1783 233
    •  84 GENERAL ORDERS, APRIL 18, 1783 236
    •  86 CIRCULAR TO THE STATES, JUNE 14, 1783 239
    • The General Resigns 1783 251

    •  88 TO REVEREND WILLIAM GORDON, JULY 8, 1783 257
    •  89 TO JAMES DUANE, SEPTEMBER 7, 1783 260
    • The Citizen Stirs 1784–1786 275

    •  94 TO JONATHAN TRUMBULL, JR., JANUARY 5, 1784 277
    •  97 TO DR. JAMES CRAIK, MARCH 25, 1784 282
    •  98 TO THOMAS JEFFERSON, MARCH 29, 1784 283
    •  99 TO JAMES MADISON, JUNE 12, 1784 286
    • 101 TO THOMAS JOHNSON, OCTOBER 15, 1784 294
    • 102 TO BENJAMIN HARRISON, JANUARY 22, 1785 295
    • 104 TO WILLIAM GRAYSON, JUNE 22, 1785 300
    • 105 TO DAVID HUMPHREYS, JULY 25, 1785 301
    • 106 TO MARQUIS DE LAFAYETTE, JULY 25, 1785 304
    • 107 TO EDMUND RANDOLPH, JULY 30, 1785 308
    • 108 TO JAMES McHENRY, AUGUST 22, 1785 309
    • 109 TO GEORGE MASON, OCTOBER 3, 1785 311
    • 110 TO JAMES WARREN, OCTOBER 7, 1785 312
    • 111 TO JAMES MADISON, NOVEMBER 30, 1785 314
    • 112 TO HENRY LEE, APRIL 5, 1786 316
    • 113 TO ROBERT MORRIS, APRIL 12, 1786 318
    • 114 TO MARQUIS DE LAFAYETTE, MAY 10, 1786 319
    • 116 TO MARQUIS DE LAFAYETTE, AUGUST 15, 1786 324
    • Making a Constitution 1786–1788 329

    • 117 TO JOHN JAY, AUGUST 15, 1786 333
    • 119 TO HENRY LEE, OCTOBER 31, 1786 337Edition: current; Page: [xii]
    • 120 TO JAMES MADISON, NOVEMBER 5, 1786 339
    • 121 TO BUSHROD WASHINGTON, NOVEMBER 15, 1786 341
    • 122 TO JAMES MADISON, NOVEMBER 18, 1786 343
    • 123 TO JAMES MADISON, DECEMBER 16, 1786 344
    • 125 TO HENRY KNOX, DECEMBER 26, 1786 348
    • 126 TO DAVID HUMPHREYS, DECEMBER 26, 1786 350
    • 127 TO HENRY KNOX, FEBRUARY 3, 1787 354
    • 128 TO HENRY KNOX, MARCH 8, 1787 356
    • 131 TO JAMES MADISON, MARCH 31, 1787 360
    • 132 TO HENRY KNOX, APRIL 2, 1787 363
    • 134 TO ALEXANDER HAMILTON, JULY 10, 1787 369
    • 135 TO PATRICK HENRY, SEPTEMBER 24, 1787 370
    • 136 TO ALEXANDER HAMILTON, NOVEMBER 10, 1787 370
    • 137 TO BUSHROD WASHINGTON, NOVEMBER 10, 1787 371
    • 138 TO DAVID STUART, NOVEMBER 30, 1787 374
    • 139 TO JAMES MADISON, DECEMBER 7, 1787 376
    • 141 TO JAMES MADISON, JANUARY 10, 1788 379
    • 142 TO JAMES MADISON, FEBRUARY 5, 1788 380
    • 144 TO JAMES MADISON, MARCH 2, 1788 385
    • 145 TO JOHN ARMSTRONG, APRIL 25, 1788 386
    • 146 TO MARQUIS DE LAFAYETTE, APRIL 28, 1788 389
    • 147 TO MARQUIS DE CHASTELLUX, APRIL 25 [– MAY 1], 1788 393
    • 149 TO MARQUIS DE LAFAYETTE, MAY 28, 1788 396
    • 150 TO HENRY KNOX, JUNE 17, 1788 398
    • 151 TO MARQUIS DE LAFAYETTE, JUNE 19, 1788 400
    • 152 TO BENJAMIN LINCOLN, JUNE 29, 1788 403
  • Edition: current; Page: [xiii]
    • The Drama of Founding 1788–1789 405

    • 154 TO JONATHAN TRUMBULL, JULY 20, 1788 411
    • 155 TO NOAH WEBSTER, ESQ., JULY 31, 1788 413
    • 156 TO BENJAMIN LINCOLN, AUGUST 28, 1788 415
    • 157 TO ALEXANDER HAMILTON, AUGUST 28, 1788 416
    • 158 TO THOMAS JEFFERSON, AUGUST 31, 1788 418
    • 159 TO ALEXANDER HAMILTON, OCTOBER 3, 1788 421
    • 160 TO BENJAMIN LINCOLN, OCTOBER 26, 1788 423
    • 161 TO MARQUIS DE LAFAYETTE, JANUARY 29, 1789 427
    • 162 TO BENJAMIN LINCOLN, JANUARY 31, 1789 429
    • 163 TO FRANCIS HOPKINSON, FEBRUARY 5, 1789 430
    • 165 TO JAMES MADISON, MARCH 30, 1789 434
    • Presidential Addresses 1789–1796 439

    • 168 THE FIRST INAUGURAL SPEECH, APRIL 30, 1789 460
    • 169 FIRST ANNUAL MESSAGE, JANUARY 8, 1790 467
    • 171 THIRD ANNUAL MESSAGE, OCTOBER 25, 1791 474
    • 174 FIFTH ANNUAL MESSAGE, DECEMBER 3, 1793 486
    • 175 SIXTH ANNUAL MESSAGE, NOVEMBER 19, 1794 492
    • 178 FAREWELL ADDRESS, SEPTEMBER 19, 1796 512
  • Edition: current; Page: [xiv]
    • Washington the President 1789–1791 529

    • 179 TO JAMES MADISON, MAY 5, 1789 531
    • 186 TO DAVID STUART, MARCH 28, 1790 539
    • 187 TO DAVID STUART, JUNE 15, 1790 541
    • 189 TO THE ROMAN CATHOLICS, MARCH 1790 546
    • 193 TO MARQUIS DE LAFAYETTE, JULY 28, 1791 553
    • 194 TO GOUVERNEUR MORRIS, JULY 28, 1791 555
    • 195 TO ARTHUR YOUNG, DECEMBER 5, 1791 558
    • Trials of Division 1792–1796 563

    • 196 TO JAMES MADISON, MAY 20, 1792 567
    • 197 TO MARQUIS DE LAFAYETTE, JUNE 10, 1792 570
    • 199 TO THE SECRETARY OF STATE, AUGUST 23, 1792 576
    • 201 TO THE ATTORNEY GENERAL, AUGUST 26, 1792 581
    • 202 PROCLAMATION, SEPTEMBER 15, 1792 583
    • 203 TO THE SECRETARY OF STATE, OCTOBER 18, 1792 584Edition: current; Page: [xv]
    • 204 PROCLAMATION, DECEMBER 12, 1792 585
    • 206 TO GOVERNOR HENRY LEE, JULY 21, 1793 586
    • 207 PROCLAMATION, MARCH 24, 1794 588
    • 208 PROCLAMATION, AUGUST 7, 1794 589
    • 209 TO GOVERNOR HENRY LEE, AUGUST 26, 1794 593
    • 210 TO BURGESS BALL, SEPTEMBER 25, 1794 596
    • 211 PROCLAMATION, SEPTEMBER 25, 1794 598
    • 212 TO THE SECRETARY OF STATE, OCTOBER 16, 1794 600
    • 213 TO JOHN JAY, NOVEMBER 1794 602
    • 215 TO THOMAS JEFFERSON, MARCH 15, 1795 607
    • 216 TO ALEXANDER HAMILTON, JULY 3, 1795 609
    • 217 TO ALEXANDER HAMILTON, JULY 29, 1795 611
    • 218 TO ALEXANDER HAMILTON, OCTOBER 29, 1795 613
    • 219 TO GOUVERNEUR MORRIS, DECEMBER 22, 1795 617
    • A Work Completed 1796–1799 627

    • 221 TO ALEXANDER HAMILTON, MAY 8, 1796 629
    • 222 TO THE EMPEROR OF GERMANY, MAY 15, 1796 632
    • 223 TO ALEXANDER HAMILTON, MAY 15, 1796 633
    • 224 TO THOMAS PINCKNEY, MAY 22, 1796 636
    • 225 TO ALEXANDER HAMILTON, JUNE 26, 1796 637
    • 226 TO THOMAS JEFFERSON, JULY 6, 1796 640
    • 227 TO ALEXANDER HAMILTON, AUGUST 25, 1796 643
    • 228 TALK TO THE CHEROKEE NATION, AUGUST 29, 1796 645
    • 231 TO JONATHAN TRUMBULL, MARCH 3, 1797 654
    • 232 TO MARQUIS DE LAFAYETTE, DECEMBER 25, 1798 655
    • 233 TO PATRICK HENRY, JANUARY 15, 1799 660Edition: current; Page: [xvi]
    • Epilogue 664
    • 235 LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT, JULY 9, 1799 667
Edition: current; Page: [xvii]


  • GEORGE WASHINGTON by David d’Angers(?) Frontispiece

    Courtesy of The Henry E. Huntington Library and Art Gallery, San Marino, Calif.


    Engraving by J. Rogers, from a painting by M. A. Wageman

    Benson J. Lossing, Life of Washington (Virtue and Co., 1860), Vol. I, p. 585 *


    Engraving by J. Rogers, from a painting by M. A. Wageman

    Lossing, Vol. III, p. 87


    Engraving by J. M. Griffin

    Washington Irving, The Life of George Washington (G. P. Putnam & Sons, 1889), Vol. III, p. 282 *


    Collections of the Maryland Historical Society

  • WASHINGTON, bust by Houdon 199

    Courtesy of the Mt. Vernon Ladies’ Association

  • PATRIAE PATER by Rembrandt Peale 225

    Architect of the Capitol,

    Courtesy of United States Capitol Collection, Washington, D.C.


    Engraving by J. Rogers, from a painting by Chapin

    Lossing, Vol. III, p. 35

  • WASHINGTON by R. E. Pine 275

    Courtesy of Independence National Historical Park Collection

    Edition: current; Page: [xviii]

    Engraving by J. Rogers, from a painting by M. A. Wageman

    Lossing, Vol. III, p. 62

  • WASHINGTON BEFORE PRINCETON by Charles Willson Peale 405

    Courtesy of the Mt. Vernon Ladies’ Association

  • THE INAUGURATION OF WASHINGTON on the balcony of the old City Hall, New York 439

    Engraving by G. R. Hall, from a painting by Darley

    Irving, Vol. IV, p. 392

  • WASHINGTON, daguerreotype of the statue by Houdon in the Capitol, Richmond, Virginia 529

    Engraving by George Parker

    Irving, Vol. III, p. 40

  • PRESIDENT WASHINGTON by John Trumbull 563

    Copyright Yale University Art Gallery


    Courtesy of Pierpont Morgan Library, New York, N.Y.

Edition: current; Page: [xix]


THIS WORK could not have been compiled as it has, and certainly not so well, without the able direction of Liberty Fund, Inc. Nor can I submit it to the world without acknowledging my debt to them.

Mr. Eldon Alexander, who is writing a thesis on Washington’s political ideas, assisted me throughout the process of collecting, reviewing, and compiling information for this work. I am grateful for his meticulous care.

The Earhart Foundation supported my labors by affording me release-time from teaching to carry out the work. Thanks to them, the time it took to complete the project was considerably less than it might have been.

Mrs. Nathaniel Stein deserves special recognition for generously sharing with me the work of the late Dr. Stein on Washington’s “discarded inaugural” and for providing information which enabled me to close the loop in tracing the derivation and circulation of those fragments in the past thirty to forty years.

Dr. W. W. Abbot and his able assistant, Dorothy Twohig, of the University of Virginia’s Washington Papers Project at the Alderman Library shared generously their files and graciously received us at their facility.

The Huntington Library and Art Gallery in San Marino, California, and its reference staff were especially helpful in facilitating our research. And many other collections and repositories Edition: current; Page: [xx] responded generously to our requests for information and materials. Those whose contributions deserve special note are:

  • Duke University Library
  • Lilly Library, Indiana University
  • Marblehead Historical Society, Marblehead, Massachusetts
  • Stanford University Library, Manuscript Division
  • Winthrop College Archives, Dacus Library, Rock Hill, South Carolina.

I also owe thanks to Harvey Mudd College and to my colleagues, without whose general support I could not have carried out this work.

Claremont, California

William B. Allen is Professor of Government at Harvey Mudd College, Claremont, California

Edition: current; Page: [xxi]

Editor’s Note

THE MATERIALS reproduced here derive almost entirely from John C. Fitzpatrick, The Writings of George Washington. Where feasible, his versions have been checked against the manuscripts. Some other materials derive directly from manuscripts or other published sources.

With the exception of Chapter Eleven, where the major addresses of Washington’s presidency are brought together, the materials here are presented in a straightforwardly chronological order. Critical apparatus has been held to an absolute minimum in this collection. This work is designed to be a tool of general information rather than a tool of critical study. While this work has been thoroughly checked to conform to the most recent critical judgments, readers seeking a tool of critical analysis should consult the multivolume Papers of George Washington in progress under the editorship of W. W. Abbot at the University of Virginia Press.

The reader will note bracketed words and phrases in the text. Except in the discarded inaugural, these are Fitzpatrick’s, used to indicate that portions of the text have been crossed out, mutilated, or left out inadvertently by Washington or an aide to whom he dictated his words. Brackets sometimes enclose words that Fitzpatrick provides to fill the gap, sometimes enclose variant wordings, and sometimes indicate that the handwriting has suddenly shifted to that of another person. In the discarded inaugural, brackets have been inserted by the present editor to indicate similar textual conditions.

Modernization of spelling and grammar were applied inconsistently in Fitzpatrick. However, because it remains the Edition: current; Page: [xxii] most complete collection of Washington’s writings published to date, we have adhered to Fitzpatrick. Changes have been introduced only in those very few cases where it is conceived that meaning would otherwise be lost. Of course, materials reprinted from other sources have not been forced to conform to the Fitzpatrick standard.


This “best” representation of Washington remains clouded in mystery as to its provenance. Said to be the work of David d’Angers, it has also been termed a fake by some scholars. The difficulty is that this particular work, which is in marble, was uncovered earlier in this century as the “lost” David gift to the United States that, reportedly, had burned in a fire at the Library of Congress in 1851. When it surfaced, it was purchased by Henry Huntington and now forms part of the collection at The Huntington Library in San Marino, California. Because of the controversy surrounding it, it had never been publicly exhibited prior to September 1985, when it was resurrected from storage as a consequence of our researches.

Apart from the technical difficulties touching the improbability of so fine a representation in marble having survived a fire without noticeable damage, the major obstacle to considering this the work of David is the possibility that the David statue was in bronze. Indeed, a committee of French artists and statesmen in 1904 replaced the “lost” statute with a bronze copy, which now rests in the rotunda of the Capitol. Further, records of the Library of Congress contemporaneous with the fire either refer to the original as bronze or make no mention of it at all. Nor are there any other extant records uncovered to this date which make any reference to the statue. The bronze copy of 1904 was fashioned from a cast model reportedly located at David d’Angers’ studio in France.

The story of the marble bust (as well as the story of the original gift), therefore, remains inconclusive. One may nevertheless attest to the extraordinarily high merit of the bronze bust attributed to David and to the virtually pinpoint precision with which its dimensions and attitudes are reproduced in the marble version now in California.

Edition: current; Page: [xxiii]


The following is a list of sources for all materials that do not derive from the Fitzpatrick edition.

Letter number 4, to Robert Hunter Morris, is from the Stanford University Library and contains minor revisions by the editor.

Letter number 86, Washington’s “Circular Letter,” is edited from two versions: Fitzpatrick’s and the South Carolina copy (thirteen manuscripts were produced—one for each state), to which I referred courtesy of the Winthrop College Archives, Dacus Library, Rock Hill, South Carolina.

Letter number 117, to John Jay, and letter number 132, to Henry Knox, are both in the collection of the University of Virginia Washington Papers Project, Alderman Library. Letter number 133, the summary Washington made of letters from Jay, Knox, and Madison, is reprinted from North American Review LVII, October 1827.

Letter number 155 is taken from Noah Webster, A Collection of Papers on Political . . . Subjects, 1843.

For letter number 167, the fragments of the discarded inaugural address, a full explanation of the sources of the fragments appears immediately after the reconstructed text. With the exception of the discarded first inaugural address and the “Farewell Address,” all the material in Chapter Eleven appears as it did in the first compilation of American State Papers, as ordered by Congress. This editor’s decision to follow those texts reflects Washington’s own decision in general not to allow the publication of his official papers prior to a specific order for that purpose being given by Congress.

Letter number 188, to the Hebrew congregation, and letter number 189, to the Roman Catholics, are derived from manuscripts MH;ns70584 and 81529, respectively, from the Washington Papers Project.

Letter number 190, to the Hebrew congregation in Newport, and letter number 191, to the Hebrew congregation in Savannah, are as printed in Publications of the American Jewish Historical Society (3), 1895.

Edition: current; Page: [xxiv]


  • 1732

    February 22 (Old Style, February 11) Birth of George Washington

  • 1752

    November 6 G. W. becomes a major in Virginia Militia

  • 1753

    October 31 G. W. undertakes mission for Governor Dinwiddie to warn French off British territory

  • 1754

    March 20 G. W., now Lt. Colonel, assumes command of expedition to Fort Duquesne

    May 28 Death of Jumonville at hands of G.W.’s expeditionary force; international incident

    July 4 Surrender of Fort Necessity to French

    November 1 G.W. protests subordination to British regulars of lower rank; resigns commission

  • 1755

    May 10 G.W. appointed Aide-de-Camp to General Braddock, Commander-in-Chief of British forces in America

    July 9 Braddock’s army routed, with loss of the Commander; G.W. displays notable bravery

    Edition: current; Page: [xxv]

    August 14 G.W. appointed Colonel and Commander of Virginia forces

  • 1758

    July 24 G.W. elected to Virginia House of Burgesses for Frederick County

    November 23 Fort Duquesne abandoned by French; G.W. resigns commission

  • 1759

    January 6 G.W. marries Martha Dandridge Custis

  • 1761

    May 18 G.W. re-elected to House of Burgesses

  • 1765

    May 30 Patrick Henry delivers speech against the Stamp Act

    July 16 G. W. elected Burgess for Fairfax County

  • 1769

    May 18 G. W. carries articles of association drawn up with G. Mason—a non-importation agreement

  • 1770

    October 5 G. W. begins exploration of Ohio Territory

  • 1774

    May 24 Virginia resolves against Boston Port Act; Assembly continues meeting after being dissolved by Governor

    August 1 G. W. elected to attend First Continental Congress by Virginia Convention

    September 5 First Continental Congress, Philadelphia

  • 1775

    March 25 G. W. elected to Second Continental Congress

    Edition: current; Page: [xxvi]

    May 10 Second Continental Congress, Philadelphia; G. W. attends in military dress

    June 15 G. W. appointed Commander-in-Chief of continental forces

    July 3 G. W. takes command, at Cambridge, Mass., of 16,000 armed men

  • 1776

    March 17 British evacuate Boston

    July 4 Declaration of Independence

    August 27 Battle of Long Island; Americans retreat, ultimately across Delaware River

    December 25-26 G. W. recrosses Delaware, surprises British Hessians, takes 1,000 prisoners

  • 1777

    January 3 Battle of Trenton; British defeated

    September 11 Americans defeated at Brandywine Creek

    October 4 Americans defeated at Germantown

    October 17 Surrender of Burgoyne at Saratoga

    November 14 Articles of Confederation sent to states

  • 1778

    June 18 British evacuate Philadelphia

    June 28 Battle of Monmouth; British defeated

  • 1779

    August 19 British driven from New Jersey

    October 19 Battle for Savannah; Count Pulaski slain

  • 1780

    May 25 Mutiny at Morristown following winter of supply shortages and no pay for troops

  • 1781

    March 1 Articles of Confederation ratified

    Edition: current; Page: [xxvii]

    September 8 Battle of Eutaw Springs; British retreat to Charleston

    October 19 Battle of Yorktown; Cornwallis surrenders with 7,000 men

  • 1783

    March 15 Newburgh Address

    May 19 G. W. announces peace agreement, still pending ratification, to army

    June 8 “Circular Address to the Governors of the Thirteen States”

    September 3 Peace Treaty signed in Paris; the report reaches America in late October

    November 2 G. W. bids farewell to the army

    December 4 G. W. bids farewell to his officers

    December 23 G. W. resigns as Commander-in-Chief before Congress at Annapolis

  • 1785

    March 28 Mount Vernon Conference on navigation of Potomac and Chesapeake

  • 1786

    September 14 Annapolis Convention; call for Constitutional Convention

    October 16 G. W. appointed to Virginia delegation to Constitutional Convention

  • 1787

    January-February Shays’ Rebellion in Massachusetts

    February 21 Confederation Congress approves call for Convention

    May 25 Constitutional Convention opens with quorum of seven states represented; G. W. unanimously elected Convention President

  • 1788

    June 21 New Hampshire becomes ninth state to ratify Constitution, making it effective

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  • 1789

    January 7 Presidential electors appointed

    February 4 G. W. unanimously chosen President

    April 30 G. W. inaugurated as first President

  • 1791

    December 15 Bill of Rights ratified

  • 1792

    December 5 G. W. re-elected to presidency

  • 1793

    March 4 Second Inaugural

  • 1794

    November 19 G. W. declares suppression of Whiskey Rebellion

  • 1795

    August 14 G. W. signs Jay Treaty

  • 1796

    September 19 G. W. publishes his “Farewell Address” in the American Daily Advertiser

  • 1797

    March 4 G. W. retires

  • 1799

    December 14 G. W. dies at Mount Vernon

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George Washington A COLLECTION

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During the final years of the war for American independence, no one was trusted more profoundly than George Washington. In its conduct of the war, the Continental Congress seemed little more than a government in name only, and so it was that Washington proved “in the absence of any real government,” as Woodrow Wilson phrased it, “almost the only prop of authority and law.”

This was never more poignantly evident than in the scene at Fraunces Tavern in New York City on December 4, 1783, when Washington ended his military career in a farewell meeting with his officers. After a moment of being at a loss for words, Washington raised his glass and said, “With a heart full of love and gratitude, I now take my leave of you.” Washington extended his hand to shake the hands of his officers filing past. Henry Knox stood nearest, and when the moment came to shake and pass, Washington impulsively embraced and kissed his faithful general. There, in silence, he embraced each of his officers as they filed by, and then they parted.

This dramatic signature to seven years of hard travail testifies how far Washington had conquered the hearts of his countrymen, more decisively than he had conquered the armies of the enemy. The odyssey, the development of thoughts and principles, that brought Washington to this moment had begun at least thirty years earlier; and this development would not end for nearly twenty years more. The story, told in his own words, comprises nearly fifty volumes of correspondence, memoranda, and diaries. We offer here a glimpse culled from these immense resources.

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How the nine-year-old whose tentative enthusiasm speaks loudly in the letter to “Dickey Lee” or the adolescent who submitted to the lengthy process of copying out and amending one hundred ten “rules of civility and decent behavior” turned into an intrepid, self-possessed, and comprehending marshall, we shall never know. The little we do know confirms Washington’s birth on February 22, 1732, third son to Augustine Washington, and first to his mother Mary. Washington was only eleven years old when his father died of pneumonia. Those eleven years his family had lived first at Bridges Creek, then at Hunting Creek, and finally near Fredricksburg, all in Virginia. It was at Hunting Creek, rechristened Mount Vernon, that Washington lived from three to seven years of age.

Under the impress of the opinion that background and environment form men, commentators have exceeded themselves in trying to turn the sparse details of Washington’s boyhood and the manifest poverty of his education into a set of formative influences. The strongest influence, however, seems to have been his identification with Mount Vernon. In the long career that followed, Washington always centered his labors on the expectation of returning to Mount Vernon—that is, once he had inherited the estate from his beloved brother, Lawrence. Throughout his life Mount Vernon served as a compass point.

Many have attempted to tell the story, but we lack all essential evidence to judge how far and how fast the habits of youth became the traits that were destined to blossom in Washington’s adulthood. We judge it better, therefore, that Washington himself tell the story. Accordingly, the two juvenile writings here offer a glimpse of the boy that was and the man that was to be.

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George Washington
Washington, George
Richard Henry Lee
Lee, Richard Henry


Dear Dickey:

I thank you very much for the pretty picture book you gave me. Sam asked me to show him the pictures and I showed him all the pictures in it; and I read to him how the lame elephant took care of the master’s little son. I can read three or four pages sometimes without missing a word. Ma says I may go to see you and stay all day with you next week if it be not rainy. She says I may ride my pony Hero if Uncle Sam will go with me and lead Hero. I have a little piece of poetry about the picture book you gave me, but I mustn’t tell you who wrote the poetry.

G. W.’s compliments to R.H.L.,

And likes his book full well,

Henceforth will count him his friend,

And hopes many happy days he may spend.

Your good friend
George Washington
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Prologue The Rules of Civility fpage="" lpage=""


1 Every action done in company ought to be with some sign of respect to those that are present.

2 When in company, put not your hands to any part of the body not usually discovered.

3 Show nothing to your friend that may affright him.

4 In the presence of others, sing not to yourself with a humming voice, or drum with your fingers or feet.

5 If you cough, sneeze, sigh, or yawn, do it not loud but privately, and speak not in your yawning, but put your handkerchief or hand before your face and turn aside.

6 Sleep not when others speak; sit not when others stand; speak not when you should hold your peace; walk not on when others stop.

7 Put not off your clothes in the presence of others, nor go out your chamber half dressed.

8 At play and at fire, it’s good manners to give place to the last comer, and affect not to speak louder than ordinary.

9 Spit not into the fire, nor stoop low before it; neither put your hands into the flames to warm them, nor set your feet upon the fire, especially if there be meat before it.

10 When you sit down, keep your feet firm and even; without putting one on the other or crossing them.

11 Shift not yourself in the sight of others, nor gnaw your nails.

12 Shake not the head, feet, or legs; roll not the eyes; lift not one eyebrow higher than the other, wry not the mouth, and bedew no man’s face with your spittle by [approaching too near] him [when] you speak.

13 Kill no vermin, or fleas, lice, ticks, etc. in the sight of others; if you see any filth or thick spittle put your foot dexterously upon it; if it be upon the clothes of your companions, put it off privately, and if it be upon your own clothes, return thanks to him who puts it off.

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14 Turn not your back to others, especially in speaking; jog not the table or desk on which another reads or writes; lean not upon anyone.

15 Keep your nails clean and short, also your hands and teeth clean, yet without showing any great concern for them.

16 Do not puff up the cheeks, loll not out the tongue with the hands, or beard, thrust out the lips, or bite them, or keep the lips too open or too close.

17 Be no flatterer, neither play with any that delight not to be played withal.

18 Read no letter, books, or papers in company, but when there is a necessity for the doing of it, you must ask leave; come not near the books or writings of another so as to read them unless desired, or give your opinion of them unasked; also look not nigh when another is writing a letter.

19 Let your countenance be pleasant but in serious matters somewhat grave.

20 The gestures of the body must be suited to the discourse you are upon.

21 Reproach none for the infirmities of nature, nor delight to put them that have in mind of thereof.

22 Show not yourself glad at the misfortune of another though he were your enemy.

23 When you see a crime punished, you may be inwardly pleased; but [ ] show pity to the suffering offender.

24 [damaged manuscript]

25 Superfluous compliments and all affectation of ceremonies are to be avoided, yet where due they are not to be neglected.

26 In putting off your hat to persons of distinction, as noblemen, justices, churchmen, etc., make a reverence, bowing more or less according to the custom of the better bred, and quality of the persons; among your equals expect not always that they should begin with you first; but to pull off the hat when there is no need is affectation, in the manner of saluting and resaluting in word keep to the most usual custom.

27 ‘Tis ill manners to bed one more eminent than yourself be covered, as well as not to do it to whom it is due. Likewise he that makes too much haste to put on his hat does not well, yet he ought to put it on at the first, or at most the second time of being asked; now what is herein spoken, of qualification in Edition: current; Page: [8] behavior or saluting, ought also to be observed in taking of place and sitting down for ceremonies without bounds are troublesome.

28 If any one come to speak to you while you are [are] sitting, stand up, though he be your inferior, and when you present seats, let it be to everyone according to his degree.

29 When you meet with one of greater quality than yourself, stop, and retire, especially if it be at a door or any straight place, to give way for him to pass.

30 In walking the highest place in most countries seems to be on the right hand; therefore place yourself on the left of him whom you desire to honor: but if three walk together the middle place is the most honorable; the wall is usually given to the most worthy if two walk together.

31 If anyone far surpasses others, either in age, estate, or merits [and] would give place to a meaner than himself, the same ought not to accept it, s[ave he offer] it above once or twice.

32 To one that is your equal, or not much inferior, you are to give the chief place in your lodging, and he to whom it is offered ought at the first to refuse it, but at the second to accept though not without acknowledging his own unworthiness.

33 They that are in dignity or in office have in all places precedency, but whilst they are young, they ought to respect those that are their equals in birth or other qualities, though they have no public charge.

34 It is good manners to prefer them to whom we speak before ourselves, especially if they be above us, with whom in no sort we ought to begin.

35 Let your discourse with men of business be short and comprehensive.

36 Artificers and persons of low degree ought not to use many ceremonies to lords or others of high degree, but respect and highly honor them, and those of high degree ought to treat them with affability and courtesy, without arrogance.

37 In speaking to men of quality do not lean nor look them full in the face, nor approach too near them at left. Keep a full pace from them.

38 In visiting the sick, do not presently play the physician if you be not knowing therein.

39 In writing or speaking, give to every person his due title according to his degree and the custom of the place.

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40 Strive not with your superior in argument, but always submit your judgment to others with modesty.

41 Undertake not to teach your equal in the art himself professes; it [ ] of arrogance.

42 [damaged manuscript]; and same with a clown and a prince.

43 Do not express joy before one sick in pain, for that contrary passion will aggravate his misery.

44 When a man does all he can, though it succeed not well, blame not him that did it.

45 Being to advise or reprehend any one, consider whether it ought to be in public or in private, and presently or at some other time; in what terms to do it; and in reproving show no signs of cholor but do it with all sweetness and mildness.

46 Take all admonitions thankfully in what time or place soever given, but afterwards not being culpable take a time and place convenient to let him [him] know it that gave them.

47 Mock not nor jest at any thing of importance. Break no jests that are sharp, biting; and if you deliver any thing witty and pleasant, abstain from laughing thereat yourself.

48 Wherein [wherein] you reprove another be unblameable yourself; for example is more prevalent than precepts.

49 Use no reproachful language against any one; neither curse nor revile.

50 Be not hasty to believe flying reports to the disparagement of any.

51 Wear not your clothes foul, or ripped, or dusty, but see they be brushed once every day at least and take heed that you approach not to any uncleanness.

52 In your apparel be modest and endeavor to accommodate nature, rather than to procure admiration; keep to the fashion of your equals, such as are civil and orderly with respect to time and places.

53 Run not in the streets, neither go too slowly, nor with mouth open; go not shaking of arms, nor upon the toes, nor in a dancing [damaged manuscript].

54 Play not the peacock, looking every where about you, to see if you be Edition: current; Page: [10] well decked, if your shoes fit well, if your stockings sit neatly and clothes handsomely.

55 Eat not in the streets, nor in your house, out of season.

56 Associate yourself with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation; for ‘tis better to be alone than in bad company.

57 In walking up and down in a house, only with one in company if he be greater than yourself, at the first give him the right hand and stop not till he does and be not the first that turns, and when you do turn let it be with your face towards him; if he be a man of great quality walk not with him cheek by jowl but somewhat behind him but yet in such a manner that he may easily speak to you.

58 Let your conversation be without malice or envy, for ‘tis a sign of a tractable and commendable nature, and in all causes of passion permit reason to govern.

59 Never express anything unbecoming, nor act against the rules before your inferiors.

60 Be not immodest in urging your friends to discover a secret.

61 Utter not base and frivolous things among grave and learned men, nor very difficult questions or subjects among the ignorant, or things hard to be believed; stuff not your discourse with sentences among your betters nor equals.

62 Speak not of doleful things in a time of mirth or at the table; speak not of melancholy things or death and wounds, and if others mention them, change if you can the discourse; tell not your dreams, but to your intimate friend.

63 A man ought not to value himself of his achievements or rare qualities [damaged manuscript] virtue or kindred.

64 Break not a jest where none take pleasure in mirth; laugh not alone, nor at all without occasion; deride no man’s misfortune though there seem to be some cause.

65 Speak not injurious words neither in jest nor earnest; scoff at none although they give occasion.

66 Be not froward but friendly and courteous, the first to salute, hear, and answer; and be not pensive when it’s a time to converse.

67 Detract not from others, neither be excessive in commanding.

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68 Go not thither, where you know not whether you shall be welcome or not; give not advice [without] being asked, and when desired do it briefly.

69 If two contend together take not the part of either unconstrained, and be not obstinate in your own opinion; in things indifferent be of the major side.

70 Reprehend not the imperfections of others, for that belongs to parents, masters, and superiors.

71 Gaze not on the marks or blemishes of others and ask not how they came. What you may speak in secret to your friend, deliver not before others.

72 Speak not in an unknown tongue in company but in your own language and that as those of quality do and not as the vulgar; sublime matters treat seriously.

73 Think before you speak; pronounce not imperfectly, nor bring out your words too hastily, but orderly and distinctly.

74 When another speaks, be attentive yourself; and disturb not the audience. If any hesitate in his words, help him not nor prompt him without desired; interrupt him not, nor answer him till his speech has ended.

75 In the midst of discourse [damaged manuscript] but if you perceive any stop because of [damaged manuscript]; to proceed: If a person of quality comes in while you’re conversing, it’s handsome to repeat what was said before.

76 While you are talking, point not with your finger at him of whom you discourse, nor approach too near him to whom you talk especially to his face.

77 Treat with men at fit times about business and whisper not in the company of others.

78 Make no comparisons and if any of the company be commended for any brave act of virtue, commend not another for the same.

79 Be not apt to relate news if you know not the truth thereof. In discoursing of things you have heard, name not your author always; a secret discover not.

80 Be not tedious in discourse or in reading unless you find the company pleased therewith.

81 Be not curious to know the affairs of others, neither approach those that speak in private.

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82 Undertake not what you cannot perform but be careful to keep your promise.

83 When you deliver a matter do it without passion and with discretion, however mean the person be you do it to.

84 When your superiors talk to anybody hear not neither speak nor laugh.

85 In company of those of higher quality than yourself, speak not ‘til you are asked a question, then stand upright, put off your hat and answer in few words.

86 In disputes, be not so desirous to overcome as not to give liberty to each one to deliver his opinion and submit to the judgment of the major part, specially if they are judges of the dispute.

87 [damaged manuscript] as becomes a man grave, settled, and attentive [damaged manuscript] [pre]dict not at every turn what others say.

88 Be not diverse in discourse; make not many digressions; nor repeat often the same manner of discourse.

89 Speak not evil of the absent, for it is unjust.

90 Being set at meat scratch not, neither spit, cough, or blow your nose except there’s a necessity for it.

91 Make no show of taking great delight in your victuals; feed not with greediness; eat your bread with a knife; lean not on the table; neither find fault with what you eat.

92 Take no salt or cut bread with your knife greasy.

93 Entertaining anyone at table it is decent to present him with meat; undertake not to help others undesired by the master.

94 If you soak bread in the sauce, let it be no more than what you put in your mouth at a time and blow not your broth at table; let it stay till cools of itself.

95 Put not your meat to your mouth with your knife in your hand; neither spit forth the stones of any fruit pie upon a dish nor cast anything under the table.

96 It’s unbecoming to heap much to one’s meat; keep your fingers clean; when foul wipe them on a corner of your table napkin.

97 Put not another bite into your mouth till the former be swallowed; let not your morsels be too big.

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98 Drink not nor talk with your mouth full; neither gaze about you while you are a drinking.

99 Drink not too leisurely nor yet too hastily. Before and after drinking wipe your lips; breathe not then or ever with too great a noise, for it is an evil.

100 Cleanse not your teeth with the table cloth napkin, fork, or knife; but if others do it, let it be done without a peep to them.

101 Rinse not your mouth in the presence of others.

102 It is out of use to call upon the company often to eat; nor need you drink to others every time you drink.

103 In company of your betters be not [damaged manuscript] than they are; lay not your arm but [damaged manuscript].

104 It belongs to the chiefest in company to unfold his napkin and fall to meat first; but he ought then to begin in time and to dispatch with dexterity that the slowest may have time allowed him.

105 Be not angry at table whatever happens and if you have reason to be so, show it not but on a cheerful countenance especially if there be strangers, for good humor makes one dish of meat and whey.

106 Set not yourself at the upper of the table but if it be your due, or that the master of the house will have it so, contend not, lest you should trouble the company.

107 If others talk at table be attentive but talk not with meat in your mouth.

108 When you speak of God or his Attributes, let it be seriously; reverence, honor and obey your natural parents although they be poor.

109 Let your recreations be manful not sinful.

110 Labor to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire called conscience.

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1756–1775 The Rules of Bravery and Liberty fpage="15" lpage="48"

The Rules of Bravery and Liberty


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WHEN Washington accepted the command of the Virginia militia, which was enlisted in the service of King George to prosecute the war against the French forces in 1756, the twenty-four-year-old commander could conceive no further ambition than “by rules of unerring bravery” to merit the favor of his sovereign. He seemed singularly self-possessed. Perhaps for this reason, biographers and historians have sometimes described Washington as “a born aristocrat”; at any rate, Washington believed in an adherence to eighteenth-century principles of enlightened behavior. He dedicated himself to putting a noble and virtuous code of conduct into practice in his own life. Some historians see his truly classical behavior as the real source of his greatness.

Washington’s characteristic attitude, punctilious in matters of just respect, colored his early career in a manner which cannot be more Edition: current; Page: [17] than dimly evoked in this summary presentation of those years which culminated in his being named Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army in 1775. That attitude made a large contribution to his developing political ideas. In light of the growing revolution of the colonies, these may seem a beginning; but in fact they reflect a richer course of development.

Washington was an indefatigable letter-writer and diarist, and thus one finds the principal facts about Washington’s contribution to the founding of the United States related in his own words. We find here the idea of an American union, which motivated Washington throughout the thirty years (1769–1799) of active citizenship during which he guided his country. And from the first moment of the Revolution, Washington shows a thoughtful appreciation of liberty and its political significance.

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George Washington
Washington, George
August 1756


You see, gentlemen soldiers, that it hath pleased our most gracious sovereign to declare war in form against the French King, and (for divers good causes, but more particularly for their ambitious usurpations and encroachments on his American dominions) to pronounce all the said French King’s subjects and vassals to be enemies to his crown and dignity; and hath willed and required all his subjects and people, and in a more especial manner commanded his captain-general of his forces, his governors, and all other his commanders and officers, to do and execute all acts of hostility in the prosecution of, this just and honorable war. And though our utmost endeavors can contribute but little to the advancement of his Majesty’s honor and the interest of his governments, yet let us show our willing obedience to the best of kings, and, by a strict attachment to his royal commands, demonstrate the love and loyalty we bear to his sacred person;Loyalty to the King let us, by rules of unerring bravery, strive to merit his royal favor, and a better establishment as reward for our services.

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George Washington
Washington, George
April 9, 1756
Robert Hunter Morris
Morris, Robert Hunter


Dear Sir:

French and Indian WarI had scarce reached Williamsburg, before an express was after me with news of the French and Indians advancing within our settlements, and doing incredible mischief to the inhabitants, which obliged me to postpone my business there, and hurry to their assistance with all expedition.* When I came to this place I found everything in deep confusion; and the poor distressed inhabitants under a general consternation. I therefore collected such forces as I could immediately raise, and sent them in such parties, and to such places as was judged most likely to meet with the enemy, one of which, under the command of Mr. Paris, luckily fell in with a small body of them as they were surrounding a small fort on the No. River of Cacapehon; whom they engaged, and after half an hour’s close firing put to flight with the loss of their commander Monsieur Donville (killed) and three or four more mortally wounded. The accident that has determined the fate of Monsieur, has, I believe, dispersed his party. For I don’t hear of any mischief done in this colony since, though we are not without numbers who are making hourly discoveries.

I have sent you a copy of the Instructions that were found about this officer; that you may see how bold and enterprising the enemy have grown; how unconfined are the ambitious designs of the French; and how much it will be in their power Edition: current; Page: [21] (if the colonies continue in their fatal lethargy) to give a final stab to liberty and property.

Union of the colonies in times of dangerNothing I more sincerely wish than a union of the colonies in this time of eminent danger; and that you may find your assembly in a temper of mind to act consistently with their preservation. What Maryland has, or will do I know not, but this I am certain of, that Virginia will do every thing that can be expected to promote the public good.

I went to Williamsburg fully resolved to resign my commission, but was dissuaded from it, at least for a time. If the hurry of business in which I know your honor is generally engaged will admit of an opportunity to murder a little time in writing to me, I should receive the favor as a mark of that esteem which I could wish to merit, by showing at all times when its in my power, how much I am . . .

Dear Sir
Your honor’s most Obedient
and most Humble Servant
G. Washington

PS: A letter this instant arriving from Williamsburg informs that our Assembly have voted 20,000£ more and that their forces shall be increased to 2,000 men, a laudable example this, and I hope not a singular one.

The enclosed to Col. Gage I beg the favor of you to forward.

George Washington
Washington, George
September 20, 1765
Mount Vernon
Francis Dandridge
Dandridge, Francis



If you will permit me after six years silence, the time I have been married to your Niece, to pay my respects to you in this Epistolary way I shall think myself happy in beginning a corrispondance which cannot but be attended with pleasure on my side.

I shoud hardly have taken the liberty Sir, of Introducing Edition: current; Page: [22] myself to your acquaintance in this manner, and at this time, least you shoud think my motives for doing of it arose from sordid views had not a Letter which I receivd sometime this summer from Robt. Cary & Co. given me Reasons to believe that such an advance on my side woud not be altogether disagreeable on yours. Before this I rather apprehended that some disgust at the News of your Nieces Marriage with me, and why I coud not tell, might have been the cause of your silence upon that event, and discontinuing a corrispondance which before then you had kept up with her; but if I could only flatter myself, that you woud in any wise be entertaind with the few occurances that it might be in my power to relate from hence I shoud endeavour to attone for my past remisness, in this respect, by future punctuality.

At present few things are under notice of my observation that can afford you any amusement in the recital.Stamp Act The Stamp Act Imposed on the Colonies by the Parliament of Great Britain engrosses the conversation of the Speculative part of the Colonists, who look upon this unconstitutional method of Taxation as a direful attack upon their Liberties, and loudly exclaim against the Violation; what may be the result of this and some other (I think I may add) ill judgd Measures, I will not undertake to determine; but this I may venture to affirm, that the advantage accrueing to the Mother Country will fall greatly short of the expectations of the Ministry; for certain it is, our whole Substance does already in a manner flow to Great Britain and that whatsoever contributes to lessen our Importation’s must be hurtful to their Manufacturers. And the Eyes of our People, already beginning to open, will perceive, that many Luxuries which we lavish our substance to Great Britain for, can well be dispensd with whilst the necessaries of Life are (mostly) to be had within ourselves. This consequently will introduce frugality,Frugality and be a necessary stimulation to Industry. If Great Britain therefore Loads her Manufactures with heavy Taxes, will it not facilitate these Measures? they will not compel us I think to give our Money for their exports, whether we will or no, and certain I am none of their Traders will part from them without a valuable consideration. Where then is the Utility of these Restrictions?

As to the Stamp Act, taken in a single view, one, and the first bad consequences attending it I take to be this. Our Courts of Judicature must inevitably be shut up; for it is impossible (or Edition: current; Page: [23] next of kin to it) under our present Circumstances that the Act of Parliam’t can be complyd with were we ever so willing to enforce the execution; for not to say, which alone woud be sufficient, that we have not Money to pay the Stamps, there are many other Cogent Reasons to prevent it; and if a stop be put to our judicial proceedings I fancy the Merchants of G.British merchants Britain trading to the Colonies will not be among the last to wish for a Repeal of it.

I live upon Potomack River in Fairfax County, about ten Miles below Alexandria and many Miles distant from any of my Wifes Relations; who all reside upon York River, and who we seldom see more than once a year, not always that. My wife who is very well and Master and Miss Custis (Children of her former Marriage) all join in making a tender of their Duty and best respects to yourself and the Aunt. My Compliments to your Lady I beg may also be made acceptable and that you will do me the justice to believe that I am, etc.

George Washington
Washington, George
April 5, 1769
Mount Vernon
George Mason
Mason, George


Dear Sir:

Herewith you will receive a letter and Sundry papers which were forwarded to me a day or two ago by Doctor Ross of Bladensburg. I transmit them with the greater pleasure, as my own desire of knowing your sentiments upon a matter of this importance exactly coincides with the Doctors inclinations.

Maintaining libertyAt a time when our lordly Masters in Great Britain will be satisfied with nothing less than the deprication of American freedom, it seems highly necessary that some thing shou’d be done to avert the stroke and maintain the liberty which we have derived from our Ancestors; but the manner of doing it to answer the purpose effectually is the point in question.

That no man shou’d scruple, or hesitate a moment to use arms in defence of so valuable a blessing, on which all the good and evil of life depends; is clearly my opinion; yet Arms I wou’d beg leave to add, should be the last resource; the denier resort. Addresses to the Throne, and remonstrances to parliament, we have already, it is said, proved the inefficacy of; how Edition: current; Page: [24] far then their attention to our rights and priviledges is to be awakened or alarmed by starving their Trade and manufactures,Starving British trade remains to be tryed.

The northern Colonies, it appears, are endeavouring to adopt this scheme. In my opinion it is a good one, and must be attended with salutary effects, provided it can be carried pretty generally into execution; but how far it is practicable to do so, I will not take upon me to determine. That there will be difficulties attending the execution of it every where, from clashing interests, and selfish designing men (ever attentive to their own gain, and watchful of every turn that can assist their lucrative views, in preference to any other consideration) cannot be denied; but in the Tobacco Colonies where the Trade is so diffused, and in a manner wholly conducted by Factors for their principals at home, these difficulties are certainly enhanced, but I think not insurmountably increased, if the Gentlemen in their several Counties wou’d be at some pains to explain matters to the people, and stimulate them to a cordial agreement to purchase none but certain innumerated Articles out of any of the Stores after such a period, not import nor purchase any themselves. This, if it did not effectually withdraw the Factors from their Importations, wou’d at least make them extremely cautious in doing it, as the prohibited Goods could be vended to none but the non-associator, or those who wou’d pay no regard to their association; both of whom ought to be stigmatized, and made the objects of publick reproach.

The more I consider a Scheme of this sort, the more ardently I wish success to it, because I think there are private, as well as public advantages to result from it; the former certain, however precarious the other may prove; for in respect to the latter I have always thought that by virtue of the same power (for here alone the authority derives) which assume’s the right of Taxation, they may attempt at least to restrain our manufactories; especially those of a public nature; the same equity and justice prevailing in the one case as the other, it being no greater hardship to forbid my manufacturing, than it is to order me to buy Goods of them loaded with Duties, for the express purpose of raising a revenue. But as a measure of this sort will be an additional exertion of arbitrary power, we cannot be worsted I think in putting it to the Test. On the other hand, that the Colonies are considerably indebted to Great Britain, is a truth universally acknowledged. That many families Edition: current; Page: [25] are reduced, almost, if not quite, to penury and want, from the low ebb of their fortunes, and Estates daily selling for the discharge of Debts, the public papers furnish but too many melancholy proofs of. And that a scheme of this sort will contribute more effectually than any other I can devise to immerge the Country from the distress it at present labours under, I do most firmly believe, if it can be generally adopted. And I can see but one set of people (the Merchants excepted) who will not, or ought not, to wish well to the Scheme; and that is those who live genteely and hospitably, on clear Estates. Such as these were they, not to consider the valuable object in view, and the good of others, might think it hard to be curtail’d in their living and enjoyments; for as to the penurious Man, he saves his money, and he saves his credit, having the best plea for doing that, which before perhaps he had the most violent struggles to refrain from doing. The extravagant and expensive man has the same good plea to retrench his Expences. He is thereby furnished with a pretext to live within bounds, and embraces it, prudence dictated œconomy to him before, but his resolution was too weak to put in practice; for how can I, says he, who have lived in such and such a manner change my method? I am ashamed to do it; and besides such an alteration in the system of my living, will create suspicions of a decay in my fortune, and such a thought the World must not harbour; I will e’en continue my course: till at last the course discontinues the Estate, a sale of it being the consequence of his perseverance in error. This I am satisfied is the way that many who have set out in the wrong tract, have reasoned, till ruin stares them in the face. And in respect to the poor and needy man, he is only left in the same situation he was found; better I might say, because as he judges from comparison his condition is amended in proportion as it approaches nearer to those above him.

Upon the whole therefore, I think the Scheme a good one, and that it ought to be tryed here, with such alterations as the exigency of our circumstances render absolutely necessary; but how, and in what manner to begin the work, is a matter worthy of consideration, and whether it can be attempted with propriety, or efficacy (further than a communication of sentiments to one another) before May, when the Court and Assembly will meet together in Williamsburg, and a uniform plan can be concerted, and sent into the different counties to Edition: current; Page: [26] operate at the same time, and in the same manner every where, is a thing I am somewhat in doubt upon, and shou’d be glad to know your opinion of. I am Dr. Sir, etc.

George Washington
Washington, George
July 20, 1770
Thomas Johnson
Johnson, Thomas



I was honoured with your favour of the 18th. of June about the last of that Month and read it with all the attention I was capable of but having been closely engaged with my Hay and Wheat Harvests from that time till now I have not been able to enquire into the Sentiments of any of the Gentlemen of this side in respect to the Scheme of opening the Inland Navigation of Potomack by private Subscription;Inland navigation of Potomac in the manner you have proposed, and therefore, any opinion which I may now offer on this head will be considered I hope as the result of my own private thinking, not of the Publick.

That no person more intimately concern’d in this Event wishes to see an undertaking of the sort go forward with more facility and ardour than I do, I can truely assure you; and will at all times, give any assistance in my power to promote the design; but I leave you to judge from the Tryal, which before this you undoubtedly have made; how few there are (not immediately benefited by it) that will contribute any thing worth while to the Work; and how many small sums are requisite to raise a large one.

Upon your Plan of raising money, it appears to me that there will be found but two kinds of People who will subscribe much towards it. Those who are actuated by motives of Publick spirit; and those again, who from their proximity to the Navigation will reap the salutary effects of it clearing the River. The number of the latter, you must be a competent judge of; those of the former, is more difficult to ascertain; for w’ch reason I own to you, that I am not without my doubts of your Schemes falling through, however sanguine your first hopes may be from the rapidity of Subscribers; for it is to be supposed, that your Subscription Papers (will probably) be opend among those whose Interests must naturally Incline them to Edition: current; Page: [27] wish well to the undertaking and consequently will aid it; but when you come to shift the Scene a little and apply to those who are unconnected with the River and the advantages of its Navigation how slowly will you advance?

This Sir, is my Sentiment, generally, upon your Plan of obtaining Subscriptions for extending the Navigation of Potomack; whereas I conceive, that if the Subscribers were vested by the two Legislatures with a kind of property in the Navigation, under certain restrictions and limitations, and to be reimbursd their first advances with a high Interest thereon by a certain easy Tolls on all Craft proportionate to their respective Burthen’s, in the manner that I am told works of this sort are effected in the Inland parts of England or, upon the Plan of Turnpike Roads; you woud add thereby a third set of Men to the two I have mentioned and gain considerable strength by it: I mean the monied Gentry; who tempted by lucrative views woud advance largely on Acct. of the high Interest. This I am Inclind to think is the only method by which this desirable work will ever be accomplished in the manner it ought to be; for as to its becoming an object of Publick Expence I never expect to see it. Our Interests (in Virginia at least) are too much divided. Our Views too confind, if our Finances were better, to suffer that, which appears to rebound to the advantage of a part of the Community only, to become a Tax upon the whole, tho’ in the Instance before Us there is the strongest speculative Proof in the World of the immense advantages which Virginia and Maryland might derive (and at a very small comparitive Expence) by making Potomack the Channel of Commerce between Great Britain and that immense Territory Tract of Country which is unfolding to our view the advantages of which are too great, and too obvious I shoud think to become the Subject of serious debate but which thro ill tim’d Parsimony and supineness may be wrested from us and conducted thro other Channels such as the Susquehanna (which I have seen recommended by some writers) the Lakes &ca.; how difficult it will be to divert it afterwards, time only can show. Thus far Sir I have taken the liberty of communicating my Sentiments on the different modes of establishing a fund but if from the efforts you have already made on the North side of Potomack it shoud be found that my fears are rather imaginary than real (as I heartily wish they may prove), I have no doubts but the same spirit may be stird up on the Edition: current; Page: [28] South side if Gentlemen of Influence in the Counties of Hampshire, Frederick, Loudoun and Fairfax will heartily engage in it and receive occasional Sums receivd from those who may wish to see a work of this sort undertaken, altho they expect no benefit to themselves from it.

As to the manner in which you propose to execute the Work, in order to avoid the Inconvenience which you seem to apprehend from Locks I prefess myself to be a very incompetent judge of it. It is a general receivd opinion I know, that by reducing one Fall you too frequently create many; but how far this Inconvenience is to be avoided by the method you speak of, those who have examind the Rifts, the depth of Water above, &ca. must be infinitely the best qualified to determine. But I am inclind to think that, if you were to exhibit your Scheme to the Publick upon a more extensive Plan than the one now Printed, it woud meet with a more general approbation; for so long as it is considered as a partial Scheme so long will it be partially attended to, whereas, if it was recommended to Publick Notice upon a more enlargd Plan, and as a means of becoming the Channel of conveyance of the extensive and valuable Trade of a rising Empire, and the operations to begin at the lower landings (above the Great Falls) and to extend upwards as high as Fort Cumberland; or as far as the expenditure of the money woud carry them; from whence the Portage to the Waters of Ohio must commence; I think many woud be invited to contribute their mite, that otherwise will not. It may be said the expence of doing this will be considerably augmented; I readily grant it, but believe that the Subscribers will increase in proportion; at any rate I think that there will be at least an equal Sum raised by this means that the end of your plan will be as effectually answered by it.

Your obliging offer in respect to Miss Custis we chearfully embrace, and Mrs. Washington woud think herself much favourd in receiving those Semples and direction’s for the use of them, which your Brother Adminsters for Fitts. Miss Custis’s Complaint has been of two years standing, and rather Increases than abates. Mr. Boucher will do us the favour of forwarding the Medicine so soon as you can procure and commit them to his charge which it is hopd will be as soon as possible.

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George Washington
Washington, George
June 10, 1774
George William Fairfax
Fairfax, George William


Dear Sir:

In my way to this place I met with your Letter of the 10th. of Jany. at Dumfries. In consequence of which I immediately wrote to Mr. Willis (having an opportunity so to do) desiring him to go to Belvoir, and after examining and considering every thing maturely, to give me his opinion of the Rent which ought to be set upon your Interest there (collectively or seperately) that I might, by knowing the opinion of others, be enabled, as I intended to advertise the Renting of it as soon as I came to this place, to give answers to any application’s which should be made; what follows is his answer as I wrote both to Berkeley and Belvr. as he was expected at the latter place.

See his Letter from the Beginning.

Whether Mr. Willis is under, or over the Notch, time only can determine. I wish he may not have exceeded it, although I apprehend you will be disappointed at his estimate for you will please to consider, that, there are very few People who are of ability to pay a Rent equivalent to the Interest of the Money which such buildings may have cost, who are not either already provided with a Seat, or would choose to buy one, in order to Improove it; chance indeed, may throw a Person peculiarly circumstanc’d in the way, by which means a good Rent may be had, but this is to be viewed in the light of a lucky hit not as a matter of expectation; for the generalty of Renters would [ ] House than if the Land was totally divested of It; and as to your Fishery at the Racoon Branch, I think you will be disappointed there likewise as there is no Landing on this side the River that Rents for more than one half of what you expect for that, and that on the other side opposite to you (equally good they say) to be had at £15 Maryld. Curry. however Sir every notice that can, shall be given of their disposal and nothing in my power, wanting to put them of to the best advantage in the manner desir’d. I have already advertizd the Publick of this matter, also of the Sale of your Furniture, as you may see by the Inclosd Gazette, which I send, as it contains some acct. of our American transactions respecting the oppressive and arbitrary Act of Parliament for stopping up the Edition: current; Page: [30] Port and commerce of Boston; The Advertisements are in Mr. Rinds Gazette also; and the one relative to Renting shall be put into the Papers of Maryland and Pensylvania whilst the other is already printed in hand Bills, and shall be distributed in the several Counties and Parts round about us, that notice thereof may be as general as possible; the other parts of your Letter relative to the removal of your Negro’s stock &ca. shall be complied with and you may rely upon it that your Intention of not returning to Virginia shall never transpire from me though give me leave to add by way of caution to you that a belief of this sort generally prevails and hath done so for sometime whether from Peoples conjectures, or anything you may have dropt I know not. I have never heard the most distant Insinuation of Lord Dunmore’s wanting Belvoir nor am I inclined to think he does as he talks much of a Place he has purchased near the Warm Springs. In Short I do not know of any Person at present that is Inclind that way. I shall look for your Bonds when I return, and do with them as directed. Your Book of Accts. I found in your Escruitore, and never heard of a Balances drawn or Settlement thereof made by Messrs. Adam & Campbell but will now endeavour to do this myself.

[Inclosd you have a Copy of the Acct. I settled before I left home with Mr. Craven Peyton; as also of my Acct. with you in which you will perceive a charge for your Pew in the New Church at Pohick which is now conveyed to you by the Vestry and upon Record. The Balce. of this Acct. to with £  is now Exchangd for Bills and remit viz]

Dissolution of the Virginia House of BurgessesOur Assembly met at this place the 4th. Ulto. according to Proragation, and was dissolved the 26th. for entering into a resolve of which the Inclosd is a Copy, and which the Govr. thought reflected too much upon his Majesty, and the British Parliament to pass over unnoticed;* was as sudden as unexpected for there were other resolves of a much more spirited nature ready to be offerd to the House wch. would have been unanimously adopted respecting the Boston Edition: current; Page: [31] Port Bill as it is calld but were withheld till the Important business of the Country could be gone through. As the case stands the assembly sat In 22 day’s for nothing, not a Bill being [ ] from the rising of the Court to the day of the Dissolution and came either to advise, or [ ] the Measure. The day after this Event the Members convend themselves at the Raleigh Tavern and enterd into the Inclosd Association which being followed two days after by an Express from Boston accompanied by the Sentiments of some Meetings in our Sister Colonies to the Northwd. the proceedings mentiond in the Inclos’d Papers were had thereupon and a general meeting requested of all the late Representatives in this City on the first of August when it is hopd, and expected that some vigorous [and effectual] measures will be effectually adopted to obtain that justice which is denied to our Petitions and Remonstrances [and Prayers]; in short the Ministry may rely on it that Americans will never be tax’d without their own consent,Cause of Boston that the cause of Boston, the despotick Measures in respect to it I mean, now is and ever will be considered as the cause of America (not that we approve their conduct in destroyg. the Tea) and that we shall not suffer ourselves to be sacrificed by piece meals though god only knows what is to become of us, threat’ned as we are with so many hoverg. evils as hang over us at present; having a cruel and blood thirsty Enemy upon our Backs, the Indians, between whom and our Frontier Inhabitants many Skirmishes have happnd, and with whom a general War is inevitable whilst those from whom we have a right to seek protection are endeavouring by every piece of Art and despotism to fix the Shackles of Slavery upon us. This Disolution which it is said and believd, will not be followed by an Election till Instructions are receivd from the Ministry has left us without the means of Defence except under the old Militia Invasion Laws which are by no means adequate to the exigency’s of the Country, for from the best accts. we have been able to get, there is a confederacy of the Western,Indian confederacy and Southern Indian’s formd against us and our Settlements over the Alligany Mountains indeed in Hampshire, Augusta &ca. are in the utmost Consternation and distress; in short since the first Settlemt. of this Colony the Minds of People in it never were more disturbd, or our Situation so critical as at present; arising as I have said before from an Invasion of our Rights and Priviledges by the Mother Country; and our lives and properties Edition: current; Page: [32] by the Savages whilst Cruel Frost succeeded by as cruel a drought contributed not a little to our unhappy Situation, tho it is now thought the Injury done to wheat by the frost is not so great as was at first apprehended; the present opinion being that take the Country through half crops will be made; to these may be added and a matter of no small moment they are that a total stop is now put to our Courts of Justice (for want of a Fee Bill, which expird the 12th. of April last) and the want of Circulating Cash amongst Us;Circulating cash for shameful it is that the meeting of Merchants which ought to have been at this place the 25th. of April, never happend till Eight about 10 [days] ago, and I believe will break up in a manner very dissatisfactory to every one if not injurious to their Characters.

I have lately been applied to by Mr. Robt. Rutherford to join (as your Attorney) in the Conveyance of the Bloomery Tract and Works; but as I never had any particular Instructions from you on this head, and know nothing of the Situation and Circumstances of the matter I have told them that I must receive directions from you on the Subject before I do anything in it and I desired him therefore to relate the case as it stands which is Inclos’d in his own Words. He is urgent to have this business executed and seems to signify that you cannot expect any part of the money till you have jond in the Conveyance. June 15th. My Patience is entirely exhausted in waiting till the business as they call it is done, or in other words till the exchange is fix’d. I have therefore left your Money with Colo. Fieldg. Lewis to dispose of for a Bill of £200 Sterg. which I suppose will be near the amt. of the Currt. Money in my hands as there are Advertisements, hand Bills, Bonds &ca. to pay for preparatory to the Sale of your Furniture and am now hurrying home, in order, if we have any wheat to Harvest that I may be present at it.

Mrs. Fairfax’s Friends in this place and at Hampton are all well (I suppose she has long ago heard of the death of her Brothers Second Son) my best wishes attend her and you and I am, etc.

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George Washington
Washington, George
July 4, 1774
Mount Vernon
Bryan Fairfax
Fairfax, Bryan


Dear Sir:

John has just delivered to me your favor of yesterday, which I shall be obliged to answer in a more concise manner, than I could wish, as I am very much engaged in raising one of the additions to my house, which I think (perhaps it is fancy) goes on better whilst I am present, than in my absence from the workmen.

I own to you, Sir, I wished much to hear of your making an open declaration of taking a poll for this county, upon Colonel West’s publicly declining last Sunday*; and I should have written to you on the subject, but for information then received from several gentlemen in the churchyard, of your having refused to do so, for the reasons assigned in your letter; upon which,Need of men of abilities as I think the country never stood more in need of men of abilities and liberal sentiments than now, I entreated several gentlemen at our church yesterday to press Colonel Mason to take a poll, as I really think Major Broadwater, though a good man, might do as well in the discharge of his domestic concerns, as in the capacity of a legislator. And therefore I again express my wish, that either you or Colonel Mason would offer. I can be of little assistance to either, because I early laid it down as a maxim not to propose myself, and solicit for a second.

Taxation of ParliamentAs to your political sentiments, I would heartily join you in them, so far as relates to a humble and dutiful petition to the throne, provided there was the most distant hope of success. Edition: current; Page: [34] But have we not tried this already? Have we not addressed the Lords, and remonstrated to the Commons? And to what end? Did they deign to look at our petitions? Does it not appear, as clear as the sun in its meridian brightness, that there is a regular, systematic plan formed to fix the right and practice of taxation upon us? Does not the uniform conduct of Parliament for some years past confirm this? Do not all the debates, especially those just brought to us, in the House of Commons on the side of government, expressly declare that America must be taxed in aid of the British funds, and that she has no longer resources within herself? Is there any thing to be expected from petitioning after this? Is not the attack upon the liberty and property of the people of Boston, before restitution of the loss to the India Company was demanded, a plain and self-evident proof of what they are aiming at? Do not the subsequent bills (now I dare say acts), for depriving the Massachusetts Bay of its charter, and for transporting offenders into other colonies or to Great Britain for trial, where it is impossible from the nature of the thing that justice can be obtained, convince us that the administration is determined to stick at nothing to carry its point? Ought we not, then, to put our virtue and fortitude to the severest test?

With you I think it a folly to attempt more than we can execute, as that will not only bring disgrace upon us, but weaken our cause; yet I think we may do more than is generally believed, in respect to the non-importation scheme. As to the withholding of our remittances, that is another point, in which I own I have my doubts on several accounts, but principally on that of justice; for I think, whilst we are accusing others of injustice, we should be just ourselves; and how this can be, whilst we owe a considerable debt,Debts owed Great Britain and refuse payment of it to Great Britian, is to me inconceivable. Nothing but the last extremity, I think, can justify it. Whether this is now come, is the question.

I began with telling you, that I was to write a short letter. My paper informs me I have done otherwise. I shall hope to see you to-morrow, at the meeting of the county in Alexandria, when these points are to be considered. I am, dear Sir, your most obedient and humble servant.

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George Washington
Washington, George
July 20, 1774
Mount Vernon
Bryan Fairfax
Fairfax, Bryan


Dear Sir:

Your letter of the 17th was not presented to me till after the resolutions, (which were adjudged advisable for this county to come to), had been revised, altered, and corrected in the committee; nor till we had gone into a general meeting in the court-house, and my attention necessarily called every moment to the business that was before it. I did, however, upon receipt of it, (in that hurry and bustle,) hastily run it over, and handed it round to the gentlemen on the bench of which there were many; but, as no person present seemed in the least disposed to adopt your sentiments, as there appeared a perfect satisfaction and acquiescence in the measures proposed (except from a Mr. Williamson, who was for adopting your advice literally, without obtaining a second voice on his side), and as the gentlemen, to whom the letter was shown, advised me not to have it read, as it was not like to make a convert, and repugnant, (some of them thought,) to the very principle we were contending for, I forbore to offer it otherwise than in the manner above mentioned; which I shall be sorry for, if it gives you any dissatisfaction in not having your sentiments read to the county at large, instead of communicating them to the first people in it, by offering them the letter in the manner I did.

That I differ very widely from you, in respect to the mode of obtaining a repeal of the acts so much and so justly complained of, I shall not hesitate to acknowledge; and that this difference in opinion may probably proceed fromComments on intolerable acts the different constructions we put upon the conduct and intention of the ministry may also be true; but, as I see nothing, on the one hand, to induce a belief that the Parliament would embrace a favorable opportunity of repealing acts, which they go on with great rapidity to pass, and in order to enforce their tyrannical system; and, on the other, I observe, or think I observe, that government is pursuing a regular plan at the expense of law and justice to overthrow our constitutional rights and liberties, how can I expect any redress from a measure, which has been ineffectually tried already? For, Sir, what is it we are contending against? Is it against paying the duty of three pence per Edition: current; Page: [36] pound on tea because burthensome? No, it is the right only, we have all along disputed, and to this end we have already petitioned his Majesty in as humble and dutiful manner as subjects could do. Nay, more, we applied to the House of Lords and House of Commons in their different legislative capacities, setting forth, that, as Englishmen, we could not be deprived of this essential and valuable part of a constitution. If, then, as the fact really is, it is against the right of taxation that we now do, and, (as I before said,) all along have contended, why should they suppose an exertion of this power would be less obnoxious now than formerly? And what reasons have we to believe, that they would make a second attempt, while the same sentiments filled the breast of every American, if they did not intend to enforce it if possible?

The conduct of the Boston people could not justify the rigor of their measures, unless there had been a requisition of payment and refusal of it; nor did that measure require an act to deprive the government of Massachusetts Bay of their charter, or to exempt offenders from trial in the place where offences were committed, as there was not, nor could not be, a single instance produced to manifest the necessity of it. Are not all these things self evident proofs of a fixed and uniform plan to tax us? If we want further proofs, do not all the debates in the House of Commons serve to confirm this?General Gage And has not General Gage’s conduct since his arrival, (in stopping the address of his Council, and publishing a proclamation more becoming a Turkish bashaw, than an English governor, declaring it treason to associate in any manner by which the commerce of Great Britain is to be affected,) exhibited an unexampled testimony of the most despotic system of tyranny, that ever was practised in a free government? In short, what further proofs are wanted to satisfy one of the designs of the ministry, than their own acts, which are uniform and plainly tending to the same point, nay, if I mistake not, avowedly to fix the right of taxation? What hope then from petitioning, when they tell us, that now or never is the time to fix the matter? Shall we, after this, whine and cry for relief, when we have already tried it in vain? Or shall we supinely sit and see one province after another fall a prey to despotism? If I was in any doubt, as to the right which the Parliament of Great Britian had to tax us without our consent,Parliamentary taxation I should most heartily coincide with you in opinion, that to petition, and petition only, is the proper Edition: current; Page: [37] method to apply for relief; because we should then be asking a favor, and not claiming a right, which, by the law of nature and our constitution, we are, in my opinion, indubitably entitled to. I should even think it criminal to go further than this, under such an idea; but none such I have. I think the Parliament of Great Britain hath no more right to put their hands into my pocket, without my consent, than I have to put my hands into yours for money; and this being already urged to them in a firm, but decent manner, by all the colonies, what reason is there to expect any thing from their justice?

Petition to the KingAs to the resolution for addressing the throne, I own to you, Sir, I think the whole might as well have been expunged. I expect nothing from the measure, nor should my voice have accompanied it, if the non-importation scheme was intended to be retarded by it; or I am convinced, as much as I am of my existence, that there is no relief but in their distress; and I think, at least I hope, that there is public virtue enough left among us to deny ourselves every thing but the bare necessaries of life to accomplish this end. This we have a right to do, and no power upon earth can compel us to do otherwise, till they have first reduced us to the most abject state of slavery that ever was designed for mankind. The stopping our exports would, no doubt, be a shorter cut than the other to effect this purpose; but if we owe money to Great Britain, nothing but the last necessity can justify the non-payment of it; and, therefore, I have great doubts upon this head, and wish to see the other method first tried, which is legal and will facilitate these payments.

I cannot conclude without expressing some concern, that I should differ so widely in sentiment from you, in a matter of such great moment and general import; and should much distrust my own judgment upon the occasion, if my nature did not recoil at the thought of submitting to measures, which I think subversive of every thing that I ought to hold dear and valuable, and did I not find, at the same time, that the voice of mankind is with me.

I must apologize for sending you so rough a sketch of my thoughts upon your letter. When I looked back, and saw the length of my own, I could not, as I am also a good deal hurried at this time, bear the thoughts of making off a fair copy. I am, &c.

Edition: current; Page: [38]
George Washington
Washington, George
August 24, 1774
Mount Vernon
Bryan Fairfax
Fairfax, Bryan


Dear Sir:

Your letter of the 5th instant came to this place, forwarded by Mr. Ramsay, a few days after my return from Williamsburg, and I delayed acknowledging it sooner, in the hopes that I should find time, before I began my other journey to Philadelphia, to answer it fully, if not satisfactorily; but, as much of my time has been engrossed since I came home by company, by your brother’s sale and the business consequent thereupon, in writing letters to England, and now in attending to my own domestic affairs previous to my departure as above, I find it impossible to bestow so much time and attention to the subject matter of your letter as I could wish to do, and therefore, must rely upon your good nature and candor in excuse for not attempting it. In truth, persuaded as I am, that you have read all the political pieces, which compose a large share of the Gazette at this time, I should think it, but for your request, a piece of inexcusable arrogance in me, to make the least essay towards a change in your political opinions; for I am sure I have no new lights to throw upon the subject, or any other arguments to offer in support of my own doctrine, than what you have seen; and could only in general add, that an innate spirit of freedom first told me, that the measures, which administration hath for some time been, and now are most violently pursuing, are repugnant to every principle of natural justice;Principles of natural justice whilst much abler heads than my own hath fully convinced me, that it is not only repugnant to natural right, but subversive of the laws and constitution of Great Britain itself, in the establishment of which some of the best blood in the kingdom hath been spilt. Satisfied, then, that the acts of a British Parliament are no longer governed by the principles of justice, that it is trampling upon the valuable rights of Americans, confirmed to them by charter and the constitution they themselves boast of, and convinced beyond the smallest doubt, that these measures are the result of deliberation, and attempted to be carried into execution by the hand of power, is it a time to trifle, or risk our cause upon petitions, which with difficulty obtain access, and afterwards are thrown by with the utmost contempt? Or Edition: current; Page: [39] should we, because heretofore unsuspicious of design, and then unwilling to enter into disputes with the mother country, go on to bear more, and forbear to enumerate our just causes of complaint? For my own part, I shall not undertake to say where the line between Great Britain and the colonies should be drawn;The line between Great Britain and the colonies but I am clearly of opinion, that one ought to be drawn, and our rights clearly ascertained. I could wish, I own, that the dispute had been left to posterity to determine, but the crisis is arrived when we must assert our rights, or submit to every imposition, that can be heaped upon us, till custom and use shall make us as tame and abject slaves, as the blacks we rule over with such arbitrary sway.

I intended to have wrote no more than an apology for not writing; but I find I am insensibly running into a length I did not expect, and therefore shall conclude with remarking, that, if you disavow the right of Parliament to tax us, (unrepresented as we are,) we only differ in respect to the mode of opposition, and this difference principally arises from your belief, that they—the Parliament, I mean—want a decent opportunity to repeal the acts; whilst I am as fully convinced, as I am of my own existence, that there has been a regular, systematic plan formed to enforce them, and that nothing but unanimity in the colonies (a stroke they did not expect) and firmness, can prevent it. It seems from the best advices from Boston, that General Gage is exceedingly disconcerted at the quiet and steady conduct of the people of the Massachusetts Bay, and at the measures pursuing by the other governments; as I dare say he expected to have forced those oppressed people into compliance, or irritated them to acts of violence before this, for a more colorable pretense of ruling that and the other colonies with a high hand. But I am done.

I shall set off on Wednesday next for Philadelphia, whither, if you have any commands, I shall be glad to oblige you in them; being, dear Sir, with real regard, &c.

PS: Pray what do you think of the Canada Bill?

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George Washington
Washington, George
June 16, 1775


Mr. President:

Appointment to command of the armyTho’ I am truly sensible of the high Honour done me in this Appointment, yet I feel great distress from a consciousness that my abilities and Military experience may not be equal to the extensive and important Trust: However, as the congress desires I will enter upon the momentous duty, and exert every power I Possess In their Service for the Support of the glorious Cause: I beg they will accept my most cordial thanks for this distinguished testimony of their Approbation.

But lest some unlucky event should happen unfavourable to my reputation, I beg it may be remembered by every Gentn. in the room, that I this day declare with the utmost sincerity, I do not think my self equal to the Command I am honoured with.

As to pay, Sir, I beg leave to Assure the Congress that as no pecuniary consideration could have tempted me to have accepted this Arduous employment [at the expence of my domestt. ease and happiness] I do not wish to make any proffit from it: I will keep an exact Account of my expences; those I doubt not they will discharge and that is all I desire.

George Washington
Washington, George
June 18, 1775
Mrs. Martha Washington
Washington, Mrs. Martha


My Dearest:

I am now set down to write to you on a subject, which fills me with inexpressible concern, and this concern is greatly aggravated and increased, when I reflect upon the uneasiness I know it will give you. It has been determined in Congress, that the whole army raised for the defence of the American cause shall be put under my care, and that it is necessary for me to proceed immediately to Boston to take upon me the command of it.

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You may believe me, my dear Patsy, when I assure you, in the most solemn manner that, so far from seeking this appointment, I have used every endeavor in my power to avoid it, not only from my unwillingness to part with you and the family, but from a consciousness of its being a trust too great for my capacity, and that I should enjoy more real happiness in one month with you at home, than I have the most distant prospect of finding abroad, if my stay were to be seven times seven years.Observations on his destiny But as it has been a kind of destiny, that has thrown me upon this service, I shall hope that my undertaking it is designed to answer some good purpose. You might, and I suppose did perceive, from the tenor of my letters, that I was apprehensive I could not avoid this appointment, as I did not pretend to intimate when I should return. That was the case. It was utterly out of my power to refuse this appointment, without exposing my character to such censures, as would have reflected dishonor upon myself, and given pain to my friends. This, I am sure, could not, and ought not, to be pleasing to you, and must have lessened me considerably in my own esteem. I shall rely, therefore, confidently on that Providence, which has heretofore preserved and been bountiful to me, not doubting but that I shall return safe to you in the fall. I shall feel no pain from the toil or the danger of the campaign; my unhappiness will flow from the uneasiness I know you will feel from being left alone. I therefore beg, that you will summon your whole fortitude, and pass your time as agreeably as possible. Nothing will give me so much sincere satisfaction as to hear this, and to hear it from your own pen. My earnest and ardent desire is, that you would pursue any plan that is most likely to produce content, and a tolerable degree of tranquillity; as it must add greatly to my uneasy feelings to hear, that you are dissatisfied or complaining at what I really could not avoid.

As life is always uncertain, and common prudence dictates to every man the necessity of settling his temporal concerns, while it is in his power, and while the mind is calm and undisturbed, I have, since I came to this place (for I had not time to do it before I left home) got Colonel Pendleton to draft a will for me, by the directions I gave him, which will I now enclose. The provision made for you in case of my death will, I hope, be agreeable.

I shall add nothing more, as I have several letters to write, Edition: current; Page: [42] but to desire that you will remember me to your friends, and to assure you that I am, with the most unfeigned regard, my dear Patsy, your affectionate, &c.

George Washington
Washington, George
July 4, 1775


Parole Abington. Countersign Bedford.

Exact returns to be made by the proper Officers of all the Provisions Ordnance, Ordnance Stores, Powder, Lead working Tools of all kinds, Tents, Camp Kettles, and all other Stores under their respective care, belonging to the Armies at Roxbury and Cambridge. The commanding Officer of each Regiment to make a return of the number of blankets wanted to compleat every Man with one at least.

The Hon: Artemus Ward, Charles Lee, Philip Schuyler, and Israel Putnam Esquires are appointed Major Generals of the American Army, and due obedience is to be paid them as such. The Continental Congress not having compleated the appointments of the other officers in said army nor had sufficient time to prepare and forward their Commissions; any officer is to continue to do duty in the Rank and Station he at present holds, untill further orders.

Thomas Mifflin Esqr: is appointed by the General one of his Aid-de-Camps. Joseph Reed Esqr. is in like manner appointed Secretary to the General, and they are in future to be consider’d and regarded as such.

The Continental Congress having now taken all the Troops of the several Colonies, which have been raised, or which may be hereafter raised for the support and defense of the Liberties of America; into their Pay and Service. They are now the Troops of the United Provinces of North America; and it is hoped that all Distinctions of Colonies will be laid aside; so that one and the same Spirit may animate the whole, and the only Contest be, who shall render, on this great and trying occasion, the most essential service to the Great and common cause in which we are all engaged.

It is required and expected that exact discipline be observed, Edition: current; Page: [43] and due Subordination prevail thro’ the whole Army, as a Failure in these most essential points must necessarily produce extreme Hazard, Disorder and Confusion; and end in shameful disappointment and disgrace.

The General most earnestly requires, and expects, a due observance of those articles of war, established for the Government of the army, which forbid profane cursing, swearing and drunkeness; And in like manner requires and expects, of all Officers, and Soldiers, not engaged on actual duty, a punctual attendance on divine Service, to implore the blessings of heaven upon the means used for our safety and defence.

All Officers are required and expected to pay diligent Attention to keep their Men neat and clean; to visit them often at their quarters, and inculcate upon them the necessity of cleanliness, as essential to their health and service. They are particularly to see, that they have Straw to lay on, if to be had, and to make it known if they are destitute of this article. They are also to take care that Necessarys be provided in the Camps and frequently filled up to prevent their being offensive and unhealthy. Proper Notice will be taken of such Officers and Men, as distinguish themselves by their attention to these necessary duties.

The commanding Officer of each Regiment is to take particular care that not more than two Men of a Company be absent on furlough at the same time, unless in very extraordinary cases.

Col. Gardner is to be buried tomorrow at 3 O’Clock, p.m. with the military Honors due to so brave and gallant an Officer, who fought, bled and died in the Cause of his country and mankind. His own Regiment, except the company at Malden, to attend on this mournful occasion. The places of those Companies in the Lines on Prospect Hill, to be supplied by Col. Glovers regiment till the funeral is over.

No Person is to be allowed to go to Fresh-water pond a fishing or on any other occasion as there may be danger of introducing the small pox into the army.

It is strictly required and commanded that there be no firing of Cannon or small Arms from any of the Lines, or elsewhere, except in case of necessary, immediate defence, or special order given for that purpose.

All Prisoners taken, Deserters coming in, Persons coming Edition: current; Page: [44] out of Boston, who can give any Intelligence; any Captures of any kind from the Enemy, are to be immediately reported and brought up to Head Quarters in Cambridge.

Capt. Griffin is appointed Aide-de-Camp to General Lee and to be regarded as such.

The Guard for the security of the Stores at Watertown, is to be increased to thirty men immediately.

A Serjeant and six men to be set as a Guard to the Hospital, and are to apply to Doctor Rand.

Complaint having been made against John White Quarter Master of Col. Nixon’s Regmt. for misdemeanors in drawing out Provisions for more Men than the Regiment consisted of; a Court Martial consisting of one Captain and four Subalterns is ordered to be held on said White, who are to enquire, determine and report.

George Washington
Washington, George
August 11, 1775
Thomas Gage
Gage, Thomas



Treatment of prisonersI understand that the Officers engaged in the Cause of Liberty and their Country, who by the Fortune of War have fallen into your Hands, have been thrown, indiscriminately, into a common Gaol appropriated for Felons; That no Consideration has been had for those of the most respectable Rank, when languishing with Wounds, and Sickness; that some have been even amputated, in this unworthy Situation.

Let your Opinion, Sir, of the Principle which Actuates them, be what it may, they suppose they act from the noblest of all Principles, a Love of Freedom, and their Country: But political Opinions I conceive are foreign to this Point; the Obligations arising from the Rights of Humanity, and Claims of Rank are universally binding, and extensive (except in case of Retaliation): These I should have hoped, would have dictated a more tender Treatment of those Individuals, whom Chance or War had put in your Power. Nor can I forbear suggesting its fatal Tendency, to widen that unhappy Breach, which you, Edition: current; Page: [45] and those Ministers under whom you act, have repeatedly declared you wish’d to see forever closed.

My Duty now makes it necessary to apprize you, that for the future I shall regulate my Conduct towards those Gentlemen, who are or may be in our Possession, exactly by the Rule you shall observe towards those of ours, now in your Custody.

If Severity and Hardship mark the Line of your Conduct (painful as it may be to me) your Prisoners will feel its Effects: But if Kindness and Humanity are shewn to ours, I shall with Pleasure consider those in our Hands, only as unfortunate, and they shall receive from me that Treatment, to which the unfortunate are ever intitled.

I beg to be favoured with an Answer, as soon as possible, and am Sir, etc.

George Washington
Washington, George
September 6, 1775



In the great Conflict, which agitates this Continent, I cannot doubt but the Assertors of Freedom and the Rights of the Constitution, are possessed of your most favorable Regards and Wishes for Success. As Descendents of Freemen and Heirs with us of the same Glorious Inheritance, we flatter ourselves that tho’ divided by our Situation, we are firmly united in Sentiment; the Cause of Virture and Liberty is Confined to no Continent or Climate, it comprehends within its capacious Limits, the Wise and good, however dispersed and seperated in Space or distance. You need not be informed, that Violence and Rapacity of a tyrannick Ministry, have forced the Citizens of America, your Brother Colonists, into Arms; We equally detest and lament the Prevalence of those Councils, which have led to the Effusion of so much human Blood and left us no Alternative but a Civil War or a base Submission. The wise disposer of all Events has hitherto smiled upon our virtuous Efforts: Those Mercenary Troops, a few of whom lately boasted of Subjugating this vast Continent, have been check’d in their earliest Ravages and are now actually encircled in a Edition: current; Page: [46] small Space; their Arms disgraced, and Suffering all the Calamities of a Siege. The Virtue, Spirit, and Union of the Provinces leave them nothing to fear, but the Want of Amunition, The applications of our Enemies to foreign States and their Vigilance upon our Coasts, are the only Efforts they have made against us with Success. Under those Circumstances, and with these Sentiments we have turned our Eyes to you Gentlemen for Relief, We are informed there is a very large Magazine in your Island under a very feeble Guard; We would not wish to involve you in an Opposition, in which from your Situation, we should be unable to support you: We knew not therefore to what extent to sollicit your Assistance in availing ourselves of this Supply; but if your Favor and Friendship to North America and its Liberties have not been misrepresented, I persuade myself you may, consistent with your own Safety, promote and further this Scheme, so as to give it the fairest prospect of Success. Be assured, that in this Case, the whole Power and Execution of my Influence will be made with the Honble. Continental Congress, that your Island may not only be Supplied with Provisions, but experience every other Mark of Affection and Friendship, which the grateful Citizens of a free Country can bestow on its Brethren and Benefactors. I am &c.

George Washington
Washington, George


Friends and Brethren:

The unnatural Contest between the English Colonies, and Great Britian has now risen to such a height, that Arms alone must decide it.

The Colonies, confiding in the Justice of their Cause and the purity of their intentions, have reluctantly appealed to that Being, in whose hands are all Human Events: He has hitherto smiled upon their virtuous Efforts: The Hand of Tyranny has been arrested in its Ravages, and the British Arms, which have shone with so much Splendor in every part of the Globe, are now tarnished with disgrace and disappointment. Generals of approved experience, who boasted of subduing this great Continent, find themselves circumscribed within the limits of a Edition: current; Page: [47] single City and its Suburbs, suffering all the shame and distress of a Siege. While the Freeborn Sons of America, animated by the genuine principles of Liberty and Love of their Country, with increasing Union, Firmness and discipline, repel every attack and despise every Danger.

British view of CanadaAbove all we rejoice that our Enemies have been deceived with Regard to you: They have persuaded themselves, they have even dared to say, that the Canadians were not capable of distinguishing between the Blessings of Liberty and the Wretchedness of Slavery; that gratifying the Vanity of a little Circle of Nobility would blind the Eyes of the people of Canada. By such Artifices they hoped to bend you to their Views; but they have been deceived: Instead of finding in you that poverty of Soul, and baseness of Spirit, they see with a Chagrin equal to our Joy, that you are enlightened, generous, and Virtuous; that you will not renounce your own Rights, or serve as Instruments to deprive your Fellow subjects of theirs. Come then, my Brethern, Unite with us in an indissoluble Union. Let us run together to the same Goal. We have taken up Arms in Defence of our Liberty, our Property; our Wives and our Children: We are determined to preserve them or die. We look forward with pleasure to that day not far remote (we hope) when the Inhabitants of America shall have one Sentiment and the full Enjoyment of the blessings of a Free Government.

American invasion of CanadaIncited by these Motives and encouraged by the advice of many Friends of Liberty among you, the Great American Congress have sent an Army into your Province, under the command of General Schuyler; not to plunder but to protect you; to animate and bring forth into Action those sentiments of Freedom you have declared, and which the Tools of dispositism would extinguish through the whole Creation. To co-operate with this design and to frustrate those cruel and perfidious Schemes, which would deluge our Frontier with the Blood of Women and Children, I have detached Colonel Arnold into your Country, with a part of the Army under my Command. I have enjoined upon him, and I am certain that he will consider himself, and act as in the Country of his Patrons and best Friends. Necessaries and Accommodations of every kind which you may furnish, he will thankfully receive, and render the full Value. I invite you therefore as Friends and Brethren, to provide him with such supplies as your Country affords; Edition: current; Page: [48] and I pledge myself not only for your safety and security, but for ample Compensation. Let no Man desert his habitation. Let no Man flee as before an Enemy.

The cause of America and of liberty is the cause of every virtuous American Citizen Whatever may be his Religion or his descent, the United Colonies know no distinction, but such as Slavery, Corruption and Arbitrary Domination may create. Come then ye generous Citizens, range yourselves under the Standard of general Liberty, against which all the force and Artifice of Tyranny will never be able to prevail. I am, etc.

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1775–1777 Tyranny: The Scourge of Liberty fpage="49" lpage="90"

Tyranny: The Scourge of Liberty


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GEORGE WASHINGTON assumed his command in the immediate aftermath of the Battle of Bunker’s Hill. The first task to confront him, therefore, was to dislodge the British forces from Boston. That event set in motion a train of events which would find the main army with Washington running from battle to battle. However, the sequence of battles is only the silver frame in which is portrayed the ups and downs of efforts to recruit effective forces, to ready raw troops to confront the soldiers and mercenaries of the most powerful nation on earth, and to produce coherent political and military policies from the disarray incident to a political vacuum.

The inspiration for so much effort was liberty—or more precisely, the determination to resist a “most tyrannical and cruel system for the destruction of our rights and liberties.” But it took every bit of Washington’s shrewdness to keep the resistance alive. Accordingly, this chapter shows the great breadth of the efforts required of Washington. To fix the context of these efforts firmly in mind one might read it with a regard for the sequence of battles of at least the main army during roughly the same period, remembering too that this was the season in which the Declaration of Independence was proclaimed to the world.

Siege of Boston. After the Battle of Bunker’s Hill, Washington positioned his troops so as to surround Boston. Colonel Henry Knox brought more than fifty pieces of artillery from Fort George in late Edition: current; Page: [51] February 1776. American and British troops exchanged fire for four days. Afterwards, two American redoubts crowned Dorchester Heights, a position that could control Boston and its harbor filled with British ships. The British sought to dislodge the Americans from the Heights, but their boats were dispersed by a storm. General Howe evacuated Boston on March 17, and Washington entered on the 20th. The British fleet then headed for New York.

Battle of Long Island. General Howe aimed to launch 20,000 troops against the 9,000 Americans at Brooklyn Heights and secure a land footing for operations against the city of New York. The British made their first landing on August 22, 1776, and by the 26th were ready to engage the American troops. On the 27th Howe attacked and took Brooklyn Heights. Washington retreated; his strategy was to postpone all issues which had a determining character and were beyond his army’s mastery, thus wearing out the offensive by avoiding its strokes and gaining the advantage of turning upon a worn-out or over-confident and off-guard British army.

Battle of Trenton. Of the three bodies of American troops that attempted to cross the Delaware River on the night of December 25, 1776, only those commanded by Washington succeeded. The Hessians, bivouacked under Colonel Rahl in Trenton, New Jersey, were completely surprised at daybreak and forced to surrender after a brief engagement.

Battle of Princeton. On January 1, 1777, Washington received word that Lord Cornwallis was en route from Brunswick to attack him at Edition: current; Page: [52] Trenton. Washington conceived of a plan of retreat that would allow him to attack Cornwallis’s communications. Creating the deception of maintaining an encamped army, Washington moved his troops around Cornwallis and toward Brunswick. As the American troops were passing Princeton, General Hugh Mercer encountered some British patrols. Their skirmishes were decided by Washington himself, after Mercer had been mortally wounded. Then Washington’s army moved on to Morristown, where they erected log huts and established winter quarters.

Battle of Brandywine. General Howe withdrew his fleet from the Delaware in August 1777. On the 22nd, Washington received word that Howe had anchored in the Chesapeake Bay. Washington promptly marched to Philadelphia. By September 7, the entire army had advanced to Newport, Pennsylvania, and on the same day Howe placed his vanguard eight miles from the Americans. With light skirmishes occurring daily, the armies finally joined battle at Brandywine on September 11. The 11,000 Americans suffered 780 casualties, while the 18,000 British took 600 casualties.

Battle of Germantown. Howe chose Germantown, six miles from Philadelphia, for his headquarters. Washington’s army was near Pennebecker’s Mill, about twenty miles away. Washington designed a surprise attack upon Howe, October 4, 1777. The advance was prompt, and the surprise promised success, but a dense fog arose and so confused the operations that the armies were forced to retire, Howe to Philadelphia and Washington to Valley Forge.

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George Washington
Washington, George
December 15, 1775
Joseph Reed
Reed, Joseph


Dear Sir:

Boston rumorsSince my last, I have had the pleasure of receiving your favours of the 28th ultimo, and the 2d instant. I must again express my gratitude for the attention shown Mrs. Washington at Philadelphia. It cannot but be pleasing, although it did, in some measure, impede the progress of her journey on the road. I am much obliged to you for the hints contained in both of the above letters, respecting the jealousies which you say are gone abroad. I have studiously avoided in all letters intended for the public eye, I mean for that of the Congress, every expression that could give pain or uneasiness; and I shall observe the same rule with respect to private letters, further than appears absolutely necessary for the elucidation of facts. I cannot charge myself with incivility, or, what in my opinion is tantamount, ceremonious civility, to the gentlemen of this colony; but if such my conduct appears, I will endeavor at a reformation, as I can assure you, my dear Reed, that I wish to walk in such a line as will give most general satisfaction. You know, that it was my wish at first to invite a certain number of gentlemen of this colony every day to dinner, but unintentionally I believe by anybody, we somehow or other missed of it. If this has given rise to the jealousy, I can only say that I am sorry for it; at the same time I add, that it was rather owing to inattention, or, more properly, too much attention to other matters, which caused me to neglect it. The extracts of letters from this Edition: current; Page: [54] camp, which so frequently appear in the Pennsylvania papers, are not only written without my knowledge, but without my approbation, as I have always thought they must have a disagreeable tendency; but there is no restraining men’s tongues, or pens, when charged with a little vanity, as in the accounts given of, or rather by, the riflemen.

With respect to what you have said of yourself, and your situation, to what I have before said on this subject I can only add, that whilst you leave the door open to my expectation of your return, I shall not think of supplying your place. If ultimately you resolve against coming, I should be glad to know it, as soon as you have determined upon it. The Congress have resolved well in respect to the pay of and advance to the men; but if they cannot get the money-signers to despatch their business, it is of very little avail; for we have not at this time money enough in camp to answer the commissary’sArmy pay and quartermaster’s accounts, much less to pay and advance to the troops. Strange conduct this!

The accounts which you have given of the sentiments of the people respecting my conduct, is extremely flattering. Pray God, I may continue to deserve them, in the perplexed and intricate situation I stand in.Enlistments Our enlistment goes on slow. By the returns last Monday, only five thousand nine hundred and seventeen men are engaged for the ensuing campaign; and yet we are told, that we shall get the number wanted, as they are only playing off to see what advantages are to be made, and whether a bounty cannot be extorted either from the public at large, or individuals, in case of a draft. Time only can discover this. I doubt the measure exceedingly. The fortunate capture of the store-ship has supplied us with flints, and many other articles we stood in need of; but we still have our wants. We are securing our approach to Letchmore’s Point, unable upon any principle whatever to account for their silence, unless it be to lull us into a fatal security to favour some attempt they may have in view about the time of the great change they expect will take place the last of this month. If this be the drift, they deceive themselves, for, if possible, it has increased my vigilance, and induced me to fortify all the avenues to our camps, to guard against any approaches upon the ice.

If the Virginians are wise, that arch-traitor to the rights of humanity, Lord Dunmore, should be instantly crushed, if it takes the force of the whole colony to do it; otherwise, like a Edition: current; Page: [55] snow ball, in rolling, his army will get size, some through fear some through promises, and some from inclination, joining his standard. But that which renders the measure indispensably necessary is the negroes. For if he gets formidable, numbers will be tempted to join, who will be afraid to do it without. I am exceeding happy to find that that villain Connolly is seized; I hope if there is any thing to convict him, that he will meet with the punishment due to his demerit and treachery.

We impatiently wait for accounts from Arnold. Would to God we may hear he is in Quebec, and that all Canada is in our possession. My best respects to Mrs. Reed. I am, &c.

PS: The smallpox is in every part of Boston. The soldiers there who have never had it, are, we are told, under innoculation, and considered as a security against any attempt of ours. A third shipload of people is come out to Point Shirley. If we escape the smallpox in this camp, and the country around about, it will be miraculous. Every precaution that can be is taken, to guard against this evil, both by the General Court and myself.

George Washington
Washington, George
January 1, 1776


Parole The Congress. Countersign America.

This day giving commencement to the new army, which, in every point of View is entirely Continental, The General flatters himself, that a laudable Spirit of emulation, will now take place, and pervade the whole of it; without such a Spirit, few Officers have ever arrived to any degree of Reputation, nor did any Army ever become formidable: His Excellency hopes that the Importance of the great Cause we are engaged in, will be deeply impressed upon every Man’s mind, and wishes it to be considered, that an Army without Order, Regularity and Discipline, is no better than a Commission’d Mob; Let us therefore, when every thing dear and valuable to Freemen is at stake; when our unnatural Parent is threat’ning of us with destruction from every quarter, endeavour by all the Skill and Discipline in our power,Discipline in the continental army to acquire that knowledge, and conduct, which is necessary in War—Our Men are brave and Edition: current; Page: [56] good; Men who with pleasure it is observed, are addicted to fewer Vices than are commonly found in Armies; but it is Subordination and Discipline (the Life and Soul of an Army) which next under providence, is to make us formidable to our enemies, honorable in ourselves, and respected in the world; and herein is to be shewn the Goodness of the Officer.

In vain is it for a General to issue Orders, if Orders are not attended to, equally vain is it for a few Officers to exert themselves, if the same Spirit does not animate the whole; it is therefore expected, (it is not insisted upon) that each Brigadier, will be attentive to the discipline of his Brigade, to the exercise of, and the Conduct observed in it, calling the Colonels, and Field Officers of every Regiment, to severe Account for Neglect, or Disobedience of orders—The same attention is to be paid by the Field Officers to the respective Companies of their Regiments—by the Captains to their Subalterns, and so on: And that the plea of Ignorance, which is no excuse for the Neglect of Orders (but rather an Aggravation) may not be offer’d, It is order’d, and directed, that not only every regiment, but every Company, do keep an Orderly-book, to which frequent recourse is to be had, it being expected that all standing orders be rigidly obeyed, until alter’d or countermanded—It is also expected, that all Orders which are necessary to be communicated to the Men, be regularly read, and carefully explained to them.—As it is the first wish of the General to have the business of the Army conducted without punishment, to accomplish which, he assures every Officer, and Soldier, that as far as it is in his power, he will reward such as particularly distinguish themselves; at the same time, he declares that he will punish every kind of neglect, or misbehaviour, in an exemplary manner.

As the great Variety of occurrences, and the multiplicity of business, in which the General is necessarily engaged, may withdraw his attention from many objects and things which might be improved to Advantage; He takes this Opportunity of declaring, that he will thank any Officer, of whatsoever Rank, for any useful hints, or profitable Informations, but to avoid trivial matters; as his time is very much engrossed, he requires that it may be introduced through the channel of a General Officer, who is to weigh the importance before he communicates it.

All standing Orders heretofore issued for the Government Edition: current; Page: [57] of the late Army, of which every Regiment has, or ought to have Copies; are to be strictly complied with, until changed, or countermanded.

Every Regiment now upon the new establishment, is to give in signed by the Colonel, or commanding Officer, an exact List of the Commissioned Officers, in order that they may receive Commissions— particular Care to be taken that no person is included as an Officer, but such as have been appointed by proper authority; any Attempt of that kind in the New Army, will bring severe punishment upon the author. The General will, upon any Vacancies that may happen, receive recommendations, and give them proper Consideration, but the Congress alone are competent to the appointment.

An exact Return of the strength of each Regiment, is to be given in, as soon as possible, distinguishing the Number of Militia, and such of the old Regiments, as have joined for a Month only, from the established men of the Regiment.

This being the day of the Commencement of the New-establishment, The General pardons all the Offences of the old, and commands all Prisoners (except Prisoners of war) to be immediately released.

George Washington
Washington, George
January 14, 1776
Joseph Reed
Reed, Joseph


Dear Sir:

The bearer presents an opportunity to me of acknowledging the receipt of your favor of the 30th ultimo, (which never came to my hands till last night,) and, if I have not done it before, of your other of the 23rd preceding.

The hints you have communicated from time to time not only deserve, but do most sincerely and cordially meet with my thanks. You cannot render a more acceptable service, nor in my estimation give a more convincing proof of your friendship, than by a free, open, and undisguised account of every matter relative to myself or conduct.On conduct I can bear to hear of imputed or real errors. The man, who wishes to stand well in the opinion of others, must do this; because he is thereby enabled to correct his faults, or remove prejudices which are Edition: current; Page: [58] imbibed against him. For this reason, I shall thank you for giving me the opinions of the world, upon such points as you know me to be interested in; for, as I have but one capital object in view, I could wish to make my conduct coincide with the wishes of mankind, as far as I can consistently; I mean, without departing from that great line of duty, which, though hid under a cloud for some time, from a peculiarity of circumstances, may nevertheless bear a scrutiny. My constant attention to the great and perplexing objects, which continually rise to my view, absorbs all lesser considerations, and indeed scarcely allows me time to reflect, that there is such a body in existence as the General Court of this colony, but when I am reminded of it by a committee; nor can I, upon recollection, discover in what instances (I wish they would be more explicit) I have been inattentive to, or slighted them. They could not, surely, conceive that there was a propriety in unbosoming the secrets of an army to them; that it was necessary to ask their opinion of throwing up an intrenchment, forming a battalion, &c., &c. It must, therefore, be what I before hinted to you; and how to remedy it I hardly know, as I am acquainted with few of the members, never go out of my own lines, or see any of them in them.

I am exceeding sorry to hear, that your little fleet has been shut in by the frost. I hope it has sailed ere this, and given you some proof of the utility of it, and enabled the Congress to bestow a little more attention to the affairs of this army, which suffers exceedingly by their overmuch business, or too little attention to it. We are now without any money in our treasury, powder in our magazines, arms in our stores. We are without a brigadier (the want of which has been twenty times urged), engineers, expresses (though a committee has been appointed these two months to establish them), and by and by, when we shall be called upon to take the field, shall not have a tent to lie in. Apropos, what is doing with mine?

These are evils, but small in comparison of those, which disturb my present repose.Enlistments at a stand Our enlistments are at a stand; the fears I ever entertained are realized; that is, the discontented officers (for I do not know how else to account for it) have thrown such difficulties or stumbling-blocks in the way of recruiting, that I no longer entertain a hope of completing the army by voluntary enlistments, and I see no move or likelihood of one, to do it by other means. In the last two weeks we Edition: current; Page: [59] have enlisted but about one thousand men; whereas I was confidently led to believe, by all the officers I conversed with, that we should by this time have had the regiments nearly completed. Our total number upon paper amounts to about ten thousand five hundred; but as a large portion of these are returned not joined, I never expect to receive them, as an ineffectual order has once issued to call them in. Another is now gone forth peremptorily requiring all officers under pain of being cashiered, and recruits as being treated as deserters, to join their respective regiments by the 1st day of next month, that I may know my real strength; but if my fears are not imaginary, I shall have a dreadful account of the advanced month’s pay. In consequence of the assurances given, and my expectation of having at least men enough enlisted to defend our lines, to which may be added my unwillingness of burthening the cause with unnecessary expense, no relief of militia has been ordered in, to supply the places of those, who are released from their engagements tomorrow, and on whom, though many have promised to continue out the month, there is no security for their stay.

Problems with armamentsThus am I situated with respect to men. With regard to arms I am yet worse off. Before the dissolution of the old army, I issued an order directing three judicious men of each brigade to attend, review, and appraise the good arms of every regiment; and finding a very great unwillingness in the men to part with their arms, at the same time not having it in my power to pay them for the months of November and December, I threatened severely, that every soldier, who carried away his firelock without leave, should never receive pay for those months; yet so many have been carried off, partly by stealth, but chiefly as condemned, that we have not at this time one hundred guns in the stores, of all that have been taken in the prize-ship and from the soldiery, notwithstanding our regiments are not half completed. At the same time I am told, and believe it, that to restrain the enlistment to men with arms, you will get but few of the former, and still fewer of the latter, which would be good for any thing.

How to get furnished I know not. I have applied to this and the neighbouring colonies, but with what success time only can tell. The reflection on my situation, and that of this army, produces many an uneasy hour when all around me are wrapped in sleep. Few people know the predicament we are Edition: current; Page: [60] in, on a thousand accounts; fewer still will believe, if any disaster happens to these lines, from what cause it flows. I have often thought how much happier I should have been, if, instead of accepting of a command under such circumstances, I had taken my musket on my shoulder and entered the ranks, or, if I could have justified the measure to posterity and my own conscience, had retired to the back country, and lived in a wigwam. If I shall be able to rise superior to these and many other difficulties, which might be enumerated, I shall most religiously believe, that the finger of Providence is in it, to blind the eyes of our enemies; for surely if we get well through this month, it must be for want of their knowing the disadvantages we labour under.

Situation around BostonCould I have foreseen the difficulties, which have come upon us; could I have known, that such a backwardness would have been discovered in the old soldiers to the service, all the generals upon earth should not have convinced me of the propriety of delaying an attack upon Boston till this time. When it can now be attempted, I will not undertake to say; but this much I will answer for, that no opportunity can present itself earlier than my wishes. But as this letter discloses some interesting truths, I shall be somewhat uneasy until I hear it gets to your hands, although the conveyance is thought safe.

We made a successful attempt a few nights ago upon the houses near Bunker’s Hill. A party under Major Knowlton crossed upon the mill-dam, the night being dark, and set fire to and burnt down eight out of fourteen which were standing, and which we found they were daily pulling down for fuel. Five soldiers, and the wife of one of them, inhabiting one of the houses, were brought off prisoners; another soldier was killed; none of ours hurt.

Securing New York CityHaving undoubted information of the embarkation of troops, somewhere from three to five hundred, at Boston, and being convinced they are designed either for New York Government, (from whence we have some very disagreeable accounts of the conduct of the Tories) or Virginia, I despatched General Lee a few days ago, in order to secure the city of New York from falling into their hands, as the consequences of such a blow might prove fatal to our interests. He is also to inquire a little into the conduct of the Long-Islanders, and such others as have, by their conduct and declarations, proved themselves Edition: current; Page: [61] inimical to the common cause. To effect these purposes, he is to raise volunteers in Connecticut, and call upon the troops of New Jersey, if not contrary to any order of Congress.

News from EnglandBy a ship just arrived at Portsmouth, New Hampshire, we have London prints to the 2d of November, containing the addresses of Parliament, which contain little more than a repetition of the speech, with assurances of standing by his Majesty with lives and fortunes. The captains (for there were three or four of them passengers) say, that we have nothing to expect but the most vigorous exertions of administration, who have a dead majority upon all questions, although the Duke of Grafton and General Conway have joined the minority, as also the Bishop of Peterborough. These captains affirm confidently, that the five regiments from Ireland cannot any of them have arrived at Halifax, inasmuch as that by a violent storm on the 19th of October, the transports were forced, in a very distressful condition, into Milford Haven (Wales) and were not in a condition to put to sea when they left London, and the weather has been such since, as to prevent heavy loaded ships from making a passage by this time. One or two transports, they add, were thought to be lost; but these arrived some considerable time ago at Boston, with three companies of the 17th regiment.

Mr. Sayre has been committed to the Tower, upon the information of a certain Lieutenant or Adjutant Richardson (formerly of your city) for treasonable practices; an intention of seizing his Majesty, and possessing himself of the Tower, it is said in the crisis, but he is admitted to bail himself in five hundred pounds, and two sureties in two hundred and fifty pounds each.

What are the conjectures of the wise ones with you, of the French armament in the West Indies? But previous to this, is there any certainty of such an armament? The captains, who are sensible men, heard nothing of this when they left England; nor does there appear any apprehensions on this score in any of the measures or speeches of administration. I should think the Congress will not, ought not, to adjourn at this important crisis.

But it is highly necessary, when I am at the end of a second sheet of paper, that I should adjourn my account of matters to Edition: current; Page: [62] another letter. I shall, therefore, in Mrs. Washington’s name, thank you for your good wishes towards her, and with her compliments, added to mine, to Mrs. Reed, conclude, dear Sir, your sincere and affectionate servant.

George Washington
Washington, George
February 9, 1776



The purport of this Letter, will be directed to a single object; through you I mean to lay it before Congress, and at the same time that I beg their serious attention to the subject, to ask pardon for intruding an opinion, not only unasked, but in some measure repugnant to their Resolves.

The disadvantages attending the limited, Inlistment of Troops, is too apparent to those who are eye witnesses of them, to render any animadversions necessary; but to Gentlemen at a Distance, whose attention is engross’d by a thousand important objects, the case may be otherwise.

That this cause precipitated the fate of the brave and much to be lamented Genl. Montgomery,General Montgomery’s defeat and brought on the defeat which followed thereupon, I have not the most distant doubt of, for had he not been apprehensive of the Troops leaving him at so important a crisis, but continued the Blockade of Quebec, a capitulation, from the best account I have been able to collect, must inevitably have followed, and, that we were not obliged at one time to dispute these Lines under disadvantageous Circumstances (proceeding from the same cause, to wit, The Troops disbanding of themselves, before the Militia could be got in) is to me a matter of wonder and astonishment; and proves, that General Howe was either unacquainted with our Situation, or restrained by his Instructions from putting any thing to a hazard ’till his reinforcements should arrive.

The Instance of General Montgomery I mention it because it is a striking one; for a number of others might be adduced; proves, that instead of having Men to take advantage of Circumstances, you are in manner compell’d, Right or Wrong, to make Circumstances, yield to a Secondary consideration. Since the first of December I have been devising every means in my Edition: current; Page: [63] power to secure these Incampments, and though I am sensible that we never have, since that Period, been able to act upon the Offensive, and at times not in a condition to defend, yet the cost of marching home one set of Men; bringing in another, the havock and waste occasioned by the first; the repairs necessary for the Second, with a thousand incidental charges and Inconveniencies which have arisen, and which it is scarce possible either to recollect or describe, amounts to near as much as the keeping up a respectable body of Troops the whole time, ready for any emergency, would have done. To this may be added that you never can have a well Disciplined Army.

Training recruitsTo bring Men well acquainted with the Duties of a Soldier, requires time; to bring them under proper discipline and Subordination, not only requires time, but is a Work of great difficulty; and in this Army, where there is so little distinction between the Officers and Soldiers, requires an uncommon degree of attention. To expect then the same Service from Raw, and undisciplined Recruits as from Veteran Soldiers, is to expect what never did, and perhaps never will happen. Men who are familiarized to danger, meet it without shrinking, whereas those who have never seen Service often apprehend danger where no danger is. Three things prompt Men to a regular discharge of their Duty in time of Action: natural bravery, hope of reward, and fear of punishment. The two first are common to the untutor’d, and the Disciplin’d Soldiers; but the latter, most obviously distinguishes the one from the other. A Coward, when taught to believe, that if he breaks his Ranks, and abandons his Colours, will be punished with Death by his own party, will take his chance against the Enemy; but the Man who thinks little of the one, and is fearful of the other, Acts from present feelings regardless of consequences.

Problems with the armyAgain, Men of a days standing will not look forward, and from experience we find, that as the time approaches for their discharge they grow careless of their Arms, Ammunition, Camp utensils &ca. nay even Prthe Barracks themselves have felt uncommon marks of Wanton depredation, and lays us under fresh trouble, and additional expence, in providing for every fresh sett; when we find it next to impossible to procure such Articles, as are absolutely necessary in the first Instance. To this may be added the Seasoning which new Recruits must have to a Camp, and the loss, consequent therefrom. But this Edition: current; Page: [64] is not all, Men engaged for a short, limited time only, have the Officers too much in their power; for to obtain a degree of popularity, in order to induce a second Inlistment, a kind of familiarity takes place which brings on a relaxation of Discipline, unlicensed furloughs, and other Indulgences, incompatable with order and good Government, by which means, the latter part of the time for which the Soldier was engaged, is spent in undoing what you were aiming to inculcate in the first.

To go into an enumeration of all the Evils we have experienced in this late great change of the Army, and the expence incidental to it, to say nothing of the hazard we have run, and must run, between the discharging of one Army and Inlistment of another (unless an Inormous expence of Militia is incurred) would greatly exceed the bounds of a Letter; what I have already taken the liberty of saying, will serve to convey a general Idea of the matter, and, therefore I shall with all due deference, take the freedom to give it as my opinion, that if the Congress have any reason to believe, that there will be occasion for Troops another year, and consequently of another inlistment, they would save money, and have infinitely better Troops if they were, even at the bounty of twenty, thirty or more Dollars to engage the Men already Inlisted (’till January next) and such others as may be wanted to compleat to the Establishment, for and during the War. I will not undertake to say that the Men may be had upon these terms, but I am satisfied that it will never do to let the matter alone as it was last year, till the time of service was near expiring. The hazard is too great in the first place. In the next the trouble and perplexity of disbanding one Army and raising another at the same Instant, and in such a critical situation as the last was, is scarcely in the power of Words to describe, and such as no man, who has experienced it once, will ever undergo again.

If Congress should differ from me in Sentiment upon this point, I have only to beg that they will do me the justice to believe, that I have nothing more in view than what to me appears necessary to advance the public weal, although in the first Instance it will be attended with a capital expence; and, that I have the Honor to be etc.

Edition: current; Page: [65]
George Washington
Washington, George
February 10, 1776
Joseph Reed
Reed, Joseph


Dear Sir:

Your obliging favors of the 28th ult. and Ist inst. are now before me, and claim my particular thanks for the polite attention you pay to my wishes in an early and regular communication of what is passing in your quarter.

If my dear sir, you conceive, that I took any thing wrong or amiss, that was conveyed in any of your former letters, you are really mistaken. I only meant to convince you, that nothing would give more real satisfaction, than to know the sentiments, which are entertained of me by the public,Public reputation whether they be favorable or otherwise; and I urged as a reason, that the man, who wished to steer clear of shelves and rocks, must know where they lay I know—but to declare it, unless to a friend, may be an argument of vanity—the integrity of my own heart. I know the unhappy predicament I stand in; I know that much is expected of me; I know, that without men, without arms, without ammunition, without any thing fit for the accommodation of a soldier, little is to be done; and, which is mortifying, I know, that I cannot stand justified to the world without exposing my own weakness, and injuring the cause, by declaring my wants, which I am determined not to do, further than unavoidable necessity brings every man acquainted with them.

If, under these disadvantages, I am able to keep above water, (as it were) in the esteem of mankind, I shall feel myself happy; but if, from the unknown peculiarity of my circumstances, I suffer in the opinion of the world, I shall not think you take the freedom of a friend, if you conceal the reflections that may be cast upon my conduct. My own situation feels so irksome to me at times, that, if I did not consult the public good, more than my own tranquillity, I should long ere this have put every thing to the cast of a Dye. So far from my having an army of twenty thousand men well armed &c., I have been here with less than one half of it, including sick, furloughed, and on command, and those neither armed nor clothed, as they should be. In short, my situation has been such, that I have been obliged to use art to conceal it from my Edition: current; Page: [66] own officers. The Congress, as you observe, expect, I believe, that I should do more than others—for whilst they compel me to enlist men without a bounty, they give 40 dollars to others, which will, I expect, put a stand to our enlistments; for notwithstanding all the publick virtue which is ascrib’d to these people, there is no nation under the sun, (that I ever came across) pay greater adoration to money than they do—I am pleas’d to find that your Battalions are cloathed and look well, and that they are filing off for Canada. I wish I could say that the troops here had altered much in Dress or appearance. Our regiments are little more than half compleat, and recruiting nearly at a stand—In all my letters I fail not the mention of Tents, and now perceive that notice is taken of yr. application. I have been convinced, by General Howe’s conduct,General Howe that he has either been very ignorant of our situation (which I do not believe) or that he has received positive orders (which, I think, is natural to conclude) not to put anything to the hazard till his reinforcements arrive; otherwise there has been a time since the first of December, that we must have fought like men to have maintained these Lines, so great in their extent.

The party to Bunker’s Hill had some good and some bad men engaged in it. One or two courts have been held on the conduct of part of it. To be plain, these people—among friends—are not to be depended upon if exposed; and any man will fight well if he thinks himself in no danger. I do not apply this to these people only. I suppose it to be the case with all raw and undisciplined troops. You may rely upon it, that transports left Boston six weeks ago with troops; where they are gone, unless driven to the West Indies, I know not. You may also rely upon General Clinton’s sailing from Boston about three weeks ago, with about four or five hundred men; his destination I am also a stranger to. I am sorry to hear of the failures you speak of from France. But why will not Congress forward part of the powder made in your province?Independence is necessary They seem to look upon this as the season for action, but will not furnish the means. But I will not blame them. I dare say the demands upon them are greater than they can supply. The cause must be starved till our resources are greater, or more certain within ourselves.

With respect to myself, I have never entertained an idea of an accommodation, since I heard of the measures, which were adopted in consequence of the Bunker’s Hill fight. The king’s Edition: current; Page: [67] speech has confirmed the sentiments I entertained upon the news of that affair; and if every man was of my mind, the ministers of Great Britain should know, in a few words, upon what issue the cause should be put. I would not be deceived by artful declarations, nor specious pretences; nor would I be amused by unmeaning propositions; but in open, undisguised, and manly terms proclaim our wrongs, and our resolution to be redressed. I would tell them, that we had borne much, that we had long and ardently sought for reconciliation upon honorable terms, that it had been denied us, that all our attempts after peace had proved abortive, and had been grossly misrepresented, that we had done every thing which could be expected from the best of subjects, that the spirit of freedom beat too high in us to submit to slavery, and that, if nothing else could satisfy a tyrant and his diabolical ministry, we are determined to shake off all connexions with a state so unjust and unnatural. This I would tell them, not under covert, but in words as clear as the sun in its meridian brightness.

I observe what you say, in respect to the ardor of the chimney-corner heroes. I am glad their zeal is in some measure abated, because if circumstances will not permit us to make an attempt upon B[oston],Assault on Boston considered or if it should be made and fail, we shall not appear altogether so culpable. I entertain the same opinion of the attempt now, which I have ever done. I believe an assault would be attended with considerable loss, and I believe it would succeed, if the men should behave well. As to an attack upon B[unker’s] Hill, (unless it could be carried by surprise,) the loss, I conceive, would be greater in proportion than at Boston; and, if a defeat should follow, it would be discouraging to the men, but highly animating if crowned with success. Great good, or great evil, would consequently result from it. It is quite a different thing to what you left, being by odds the strongest fortress they possess, both in rear and front.

Treatment of captured shipsThe Congress have ordered all captures to be tried in the courts of admiralty of the different governments to which they are sent, and some irreconcilable difference arising between the resolves of Congress, and the law of this colony, respecting the proceedings, or something or another which always happens to procrastinate business here, has put a total stop to the trials, to the no small injury of the public, as well as the great grievance of individuals. Whenever a condemnation shall take place, I shall not be unmindful of your advice respecting the Edition: current; Page: [68] hulls, &c. Would to heaven the plan you speak of for obtaining arms may succeed. The acquisition would be great, and give fresh life and vigor to our measures, as would the arrival you speak of; our expectations are kept alive, and if we can keep ourselves so, and spirits up another summer, I have no fears of wanting the needful after that. As the number of our Inlisted men were too small to undertake any offensive operation, if the circumstances of weather, &c, should favor, I ordered in (by application to this Govt., Connecticut and New Hampshire) as many regiments of militia as would enable us to attempt something in some manner or other. They were to have been here by the first of the month, but only a few straggling companies are yet come in. The Bay towards Roxbury has been froze up once or twice pretty hard, and yesterday single persons might have crossed, I believe, from Letchmore’s Point, by picking their way; a thaw, I fear, is again approaching.

We have had the most laborious piece of work at Lechmore’s Point, on account of the frost, that ever you saw. We hope to get it finished on Sunday. It is within as commanding a distance of Boston as Dorchester Hill, though of a different part. Our vessels now and then pick up a prize or two. Our Commodore (Manly) was very near being catched about eight days ago but happily escaped with vessel and crew after running ashore, scuttling, and defending her.

I recollect nothing else worth giving you the trouble of, unless you can be amused by reading a letter and poem addressed to me by Mrs. or Miss Phillis Wheatley. In searching over a parcel of papers the other day, in order to destroy such as were useless, I brought it to light again. At first, with a view of doing justice to her great poetical genius, I had a great mind to publish the poem; but not knowing whether it might not be considered rather as a mark of my own vanity, than as a compliment to her, I laid it aside, till I came across it again in the manner just mentioned. I congratulate you upon your election, although I consider it as the coup de grace to my expectation of ever seeing you resident in this camp again. I have only to regret the want of you, if that should be the case; and I shall do it the more feelingly, as I have experienced the good effects of your aid. I am, with Mrs. Washington’s compliments to Mrs. Reed, and my best respects, added, dear Sir, your most obedient and affectionate servant.

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George Washington
Washington, George
May 31, 1776
John Augustine Washington
Washington, John Augustine


Dear Brother:

Since my arrival at this place, where I came at the request of Congress, to settle some matters relative to the ensuing Campaign I have received your Letter of the 18th. from Williamsburg, and think I stand indebted to you for another, which came to hand some time ago, in New York.

Virginia’s vote for independenceI am very glad to find that the Virginia Convention have passed so noble a vote, and with so much unanimity, things have come to that pass now, as to convince us, that we have nothing more to expect from the justice of G. Britain; also, that she is capable of the most delusive Arts, for I am satisfied that no Commissioners ever were design’d,Hessians except Hessians and other Foreigners; and that the Idea was only to deceive, and throw us off our guard; the first it has too effectually accomplished, as many Members of Congress, in short, the representation of whole Provences, are still feeding themselves upon the dainty food of reconciliation; and tho’ they will not allow that the expectation of it has any influence upon their judgments (with respect to their preparations for defence) it is but too obvious that it has an operation upon every part of their conduct and is a clog to their proceedings, it is not in the nature of things to be otherwise, for no Man, that entertains a hope of seeing this dispute speedily, and equitably adjusted by Commissioners, will go to the same expence and run the same hazards to prepare for the worst event as he who believes that he must conquer, or submit to unconditional terms, and its concomitants, such as Confiscation, hanging, &c., &c.

To form a new Government,Forming a new government requires infinite care, and unbounded attention; for if the foundation is badly laid the superstructure must be bad, too much time therefore, cannot be bestowed in weighing and digesting matters well. We have, no doubt, some good parts in our present constitution; many bad ones we know we have, wherefore no time can be misspent that is employed in seperating the Wheat from the Tares. My fear is, that you will all get tired and homesick, the consequence of which will be, that you will patch up some kind of Edition: current; Page: [70] Constitution as defective as the present; this should be avoided, every Man should consider, that he is lending his aid to frame a Constitution which is to render Million’s happy, or Miserable, and that a matter of such moment cannot be the Work of a day.

I am in hopes to hear some good Accts from No. Carolina. If Clinton has only part of his force there, and not strongly Intrenched, I should think Genl. Lee will be able to give a very good acct. of those at Cape Fare. Surely Administration must intend more than 5000 Men for the Southern district, otherwise they must have a very contemptable opinion of those Colonies, or have great expectation of assistance from the Indians, Slaves, and Tories. We expect a very bloody Summer of it at New York and Canada, as it is there I expect the grand efforts of the Enemy will be aim’d; and I am sorry to say that we are not, either in Men, or Arms, prepared for it; however, it is to be hoped, that if our cause is just, as I do most religiously believe it to be, the same Providence which has in many Instances appear’d for us, will still go on to afford its aid.

Your Convention is acting very wisely in removing the disaffected, Stock, &ca., from the Counties of Princess Anne and Norfolk; and are much to be commended for their attention to the Manufacture of Salt, Salt Petre, Powder &ca. No time, nor expense should be spared to accomplish these things.

Mrs. Washington is now under Innoculation in this City; and will, I expect, have the Small pox favourably, this is the 13th day, and she has very few Pustules; she would have wrote to my Sister but thought it prudent not to do so, notwithstanding there could be but little danger in conveying the Infection in this manner. She joins me in love to you, her, and all the little ones. I am, with every Sentiment of regard, etc.

George Washington
Washington, George
July 2, 1776
New York


Parole Armstrong. Countersign Lee.

Genl. Mifflin is to repair to the post near Kingsbridge and use his utmost endeavours to forward the works there—General Scott in the mean time to perform the duty required of Edition: current; Page: [71] General Mifflin in the orders of the 29th of June.

No Sentries are to stop or molest the Country people coming to Market or going from it but to be very vigilant in preventing Soldiers leaving the army.

Col Cortland of the New-Jersey Brigade is to send over five-hundred of the Militia under his command to reinforce General Greene’s Brigade; these troops are to be distinguished from the old Militia in future by being called New-Levies—The Quarter Master General to furnish them with Tents: The detachment from General Spencers Brigade to return when these get over. The Militia not under the immediate Command of General Heard are to be under that of Genl. Mercer until the arrival of their own General Officer.

The time is now near at hand which must probably determine, whether Americans are to be, Freemen, or Slaves; whether they are to have any property they can call their own; whether their Houses, and Farms, are to be pillaged and destroyed, and they consigned to a State of Wretchedness from which no human efforts will probably deliver them. The fate of unborn Millions will now depend, under God, on the Courage and Conduct of this army—Our cruel and unrelenting Enemy leaves us no choice but a brave resistance, or the most abject submission; this is all we can expect—We have therefore to resolve to conquer or die:Exhortations on honor, bravery, and liberty Our own Country’s Honor, all call upon us for a vigorous and manly exertion, and if we now shamefully fail, we shall become infamous to the whole world. Let us therefore rely upon the goodness of the Cause, and the aid of the supreme Being, in whose hands Victory is, to animate and encourage us to great and noble Actions—The Eyes of all our Countrymen are now upon us, and we shall have their blessings, and praises, if happily we are the instruments of saving them from the Tyranny meditated against them. Let us therefore animate and encourage each other, and shew the whole world, that a Freeman contending for Liberty on his own ground is superior to any slavish mercenary on earth.

The General recommends to the officers great coolness in time of action, and to the soldiers a strict attention and obedience with a becoming firmness and spirit.

Any officer, or soldier, or any particular Corps, distinguishing themselves by any acts of bravery, and courage, will assuredly meet with notice and rewards; and on the other hand, those who behave ill, will as certainly be exposed and punished—The Edition: current; Page: [72] General being resolved, as well for the Honor and Safety of the Country, as Army, to shew no favour to such as refuse, or neglect their duty at so important a crisis.

The General expressly orders that no officer, or soldier, on any pretence whatever, without leave in writing, from the commanding officer of the regiment, do leave the parade, so as to be out of drum-call, in case of an alarm, which may be hourly expected—The Regiments are immediately to be under Arms on their respective parades, and should any be absent they will be severely punished—The whole Army to be at their Alarm posts completely equipped tomorrow, a little before day.

Ensign Charles Miller, Capt Wrisst’s Company, and Colonel Wyllys’s Regiment, charged with “absenting himself from his Guard” tried by a General Court Martial and acquitted—The General approves the sentence, and orders him to be dismissed from his arrest.

As there is a probability of Rain, the General strongly recommends to the officers, to pay particular attention, to their Men’s arms and ammunition, that neither may be damaged—

Lieut. Col Clark who was ordered to sit on General Court Martial in the orders of yesterday being absent on command, Lieut. Col Tyler is to sit in Court.


’Tis the General’s desire that the men lay upon their Arms in their tents and quarters, ready to turn out at a moments warning, as their is the greatest likelihood of it.

George Washington
Washington, George
July 9, 1776
New York


Parole Manchester. Countersign Norfolk.

John Evans of Capt. Ledyards Company Col McDougall’s Regiment—Hopkins Rice of Capt. Pierce’s Company Col Ritzema’s Regiment having been tried by a General Court Martial whereof Col. Read was President and found guilty of “Desertion,” Edition: current; Page: [73] were sentenced to receive each Thirty-nine Lashes. The General approves the Sentences and orders them to be executed at the usual time and place.

Passes to go from the City are hereafter to be granted by John Berrien, Henry Wilmot and John Ray Junr. a Committee of the City appointed for that purpose—Officers of the Guards at the Ferries and Wharves, to be careful in making this regulation known to the Sentries, who are to see that the passes are signed by one of the above persons, and to be careful no Soldier goes over the Ferry without a pass from a General officer.

The North River Guard to be removed to the Market House near the Ferry-Stairs, as soon as it is fitted up.

Appointment of chaplainsThe Hon. Continental Congress having been pleased to allow a Chaplain to each Regiment, with the pay of Thirty-three Dollars and one third pr month—The Colonels or commanding officers of each regiment are directed to procure Chaplains accordingly; persons of good Characters and exemplary lives—To see that all inferior officers and soldiers pay them a suitable respect and attend carefully upon religious exercises. The blessing and protection of Heaven are at all times necessary but especially so in times of public distress and danger—The General hopes and trusts, that every officer and man, will endeavour so to live, and act, as becomes a Christian Soldier defending the dearest Rights and Liberties of his country.

Declaration of IndependenceThe Hon. The Continental Congress, impelled by the dictates of duty, policy and necessity, having been pleased to dissolve the Connection which subsisted between this Country, and Great Britain, and to declare the United Colonies of North America, free and independent States: The several brigades are to be drawn up this evening on their respective Parades, at Six O’Clock, when the declaration of Congress, shewing the grounds and reasons of this measure, is to be read with an audible voice.

The General hopes this important Event will serve as a fresh incentive to every officer, and soldier, to act with Fidelity and Courage, as knowing that now the peace and safety of his Country depends (under God) solely on the success of our arms: And that he is now in the service of a State, possessed of sufficient power to reward his merit, and advance him to the highest Honors of a free Country.

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George Washington
Washington, George
August 8, 1776



I had fully resolved to have paid you a Visit in New Jersey if the movements of the Enemy, and some intelligence indicating an early attack, had not induced me to suspend it.

Allow me therefore, to address you in this Mode, as fellow Citizens and fellow Soldiers engaged in the same Glorious Cause; to represent to you, that the Fate of our Country depends in all human probability, on the Exertion of a few Weeks; That it is of the utmost importance, to keep up a respectable Force for that time, and there can be no doubt that success will Crown our Efforts, if we firmly and resolutely determine, to conquer or to die.

I have placed so much confidence, in the Spirit and Zeal of the Associated Troops of Pennsylvania, that I cannot persuade myself an impatience to return Home, or a less honourable Motive will defeat my well grounded expectation, that they will do their Country essential Service, at this critical time, when the Powers of Despotism are all combined against it, and ready to strike their most decisive Stroke. If I could allow myself to doubt your Spirit and Perseverance, I should represent the ruinous Consequences of your leaving the Service, by setting before you, the discouragement it would give the Army, the confusion and shame of our Friends, and the still more galling triumph of our Enemies. But as I have no such doubts, I shall only thank you for the Spirit and Ardor you have shewn, in so readily marching to meet the Enemy, and am most confident you will crown it by a Glorious Perseverance. The Honor and safety of our bleeding Country, and every other motive that can influence the brave and heroic Patriot, call loudly upon us, to acquit ourselves with Spirit. In short, we must now determine to be enslaved or free. If we make Freedom our choice, we must obtain it, by the Blessing of Heaven on our United and Vigorous Efforts.

I salute you Gentlemen most Affectionately, and beg leave to remind you, that Liberty, Honor, and Safety are all at stake, Edition: current; Page: [75] and I trust Providence will smile upon our Efforts, and establish us once more, the Inhabitants of a free and happy Country. I am, etc.

George Washington
Washington, George
September 24, 1776


Colonel Morris’s, on the Heights of Harlem,


From the hours allotted to Sleep, I will borrow a few Moments to convey my thoughts on sundry important matters to Congress. I shall offer them, with that sincerity which ought to characterize a man of candour; and with the freedom which may be used in giving useful information, without incurring the imputation of presumption.

We are now as it were, upon the eve of another dissolution of our Army; the remembrance of the difficulties which happened upon that occasion last year, the consequences which might have followed the change, if proper advantages had been taken by the Enemy; added to a knowledge of the present temper and Situation of the Troops, reflect but a very gloomy prospect upon the appearance of things now, and satisfie me, beyond the possibility of doubt, that unless some speedy, and effectual measures are adopted by Congress, our cause will be lost.

Pay of soldiersIt is in vain to expect, that any (or more than a trifling) part of this Army will again engage in the Service on the encouragement offered by Congress. When Men find that their Townsmen and Companions are receiving 20, 30, and more Dollars, for a few Months Service, (which is truely the case) it cannot be expected; without using compulsion; and to force them into the Service would answer no valuable purpose. When Men are irritated, and the Passions inflamed, they fly hastely and chearfully to Arms; but after the first emotions are over, to expect, among such People, as compose the bulk of an Army, that they are influenced by any other principles than those of Interest, is to look for what never did, and I fear never will happen; the Congress will deceive themselves therefore if they expect it.

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A Soldier reasoned with upon the goodness of the cause he is engaged in, and the inestimable rights he is contending for, hears you with patience, and acknowledges the truth of your observations, but adds, that it is of no more Importance to him than others. The Officer makes you the same reply, with this further remark,Pay of officers that his pay will not support him, and he cannot ruin himself and Family to serve his Country, when every Member of the community is equally Interested and benefitted by his Labours. The few therefore, who act upon Principles of disinterestedness, are, comparatively speaking, no more than a drop in the Ocean. It becomes evidently clear then, that as this Contest is not likely to be the Work of a day; as the War must be carried on systematically, and to do it, you must have good Officers, there are, in my Judgment, no other possible means to obtain them but by establishing your Army upon a permanent footing; and giving your Officers good pay; this will induce Gentlemen, and Men of Character to engage; and till the bulk of your Officers are composed of such persons as are actuated by Principles of honour, and a spirit of enterprize, you have little to expect from them. They ought to have such allowances as will enable them to live like, and support the Characters of Gentlemen; and not be driven by a scanty pittance to the low, and dirty arts which many of them practice, to filch the Public of more than the difference of pay would amount to upon an ample allowe. Besides, something is due to the Man who puts his life in his hands, hazards his health, and forsakes the Sweets of domestic enjoyments. Why a Captn. in the Continental Service should receive no more than 5/. Curry per day, for performing the same duties that an officer of the same Rank in the British Service receives 10/. Sterlg. for, I never could conceive; especially when the latter is provided with every necessary he requires, upon the best terms, and the former can scarce procure them, at any Rate. There is nothing that gives a Man consequence, and renders him fit for Command, like a support that renders him Independant of every body but the State he Serves.

Bounties in landWith respect to the Men, nothing but a good bounty can obtain them upon a permanent establishment; and for no shorter time than the continuance of the War, ought they to be engaged; as Facts incontestibly prove, that the difficulty, and cost of Inlistments, increase with time. When the Army was first raised at Cambridge, I am persuaded the Men might have Edition: current; Page: [77] been got without a bounty for the War: after this, they began to see that the Contest was not likely to end so speedily as was immagined, and to feel their consequence, by remarking, that to get the Militia In, in the course of last year, many Towns were induced to give them a bounty. Foreseeing the Evils resulting from this, and the destructive consequences which unavoidably would follow short Inlistments, I took the Liberty in a long Letter, written by myself (date not now recollected, as my Letter Book is not here) to recommend the Inlistments for and during the War; assigning such Reasons for it, as experience has since convinced me were well founded. At that time twenty Dollars would, I am persuaded, have engaged the Men for this term. But it will not do to look back, and if the present opportunity is slip’d, I am perswaded that twelve months more will Increase our difficulties fourfold. I shall therefore take the freedom of giving it as my opinion, that a good Bounty be immediately offered, aided by the proffer of at least 100, or 150 Acres of Land and a suit of Cloaths and Blankt, to each non-Comd. Officer and Soldier; as I have good authority for saying, that however high the Men’s pay may appear, it is barely sufficient in the present scarcity and dearness of all kinds of goods, to keep them in Cloaths, much less afford support to their Families. If this encouragement then is given to the Men, and such Pay allowed the Officers as will induce Gentlemen of Character and liberal Sentiments to engage; and proper care and precaution are used in the nomination (having more regard to the Characters of Persons, than the Number of Men they can Inlist) we should in a little time have an Army able to cope with any that can be opposed to it, as there are excellent Materials to form one out of: but while the only merit an Officer possesses is his ability to raise Men; while those Men consider, and treat him as an equal; and (in the Character of an Officer) regard him no more than a broomstick, being mixed together as one common herd; no order, nor no discipline can prevail; nor will the Officer ever meet with that respect which is essentially necessary to due subordination.

The militiaTo place any dependance upon Militia, is, assuredly, resting upon a broken staff. Men just dragged from the tender Scenes of domestick life; unaccustomed to the din of Arms; totally unacquainted with every kind of Military skill, which being followed by a want of confidence in themselves, when opposed Edition: current; Page: [78] to Troops regularly train’d, disciplined, and appointed, superior in knowledge, and superior in Arms, makes them timid, and ready to fly from their own shadows. Besides, the sudden change in their manner of living, (particularly in the lodging) brings on sickness in many; impatience in all, and such an unconquerable desire of returning to their respective homes that it not only produces shameful, and scandalous Desertions among themselves, but infuses the like spirit in others. Again, Men accustomed to unbounded freedom, and no controul, cannot brook the Restraint which is indispensably necessary to the good order and Government of an Army; without which, licentiousness, and every kind of disorder triumphantly reign. To bring Men to a proper degree of Subordination, is not the work of a day, a Month or even a year; and unhappily for us, and the cause we are Engaged in, the little discipline I have been labouring to establish in the Army under my immediate Command, is in a manner done away by having such a mixture of Troops as have been called together within these few Months.

Relaxed, and unfit, as our Rules and Regulations of War are, for the Government of an Army, the Militia (those properly so called, for of these we have two sorts, the Six Months Men and those sent in as a temporary aid) do not think themselves subject to ‘em, and therefore take liberties, which the Soldier is punished for; this creates jealousy; jealousy begets dissatisfaction, and these by degrees ripen into Mutiny; keeping the whole Army in a confused, and disordered State; rendering the time of those who wish to see regularity and good Order prevail more unhappy than Words can describe. Besides this, such repeated changes take place, that all arrangement is set at nought, and the constant fluctuation of things, deranges every plan, as fast as adopted.

These Sir, Congress may be assured, are but a small part of the Inconveniences which might be enumerated and attributed to Militia; but there is one that merits particular attention, and that is the expence. Certain I am, that it would be cheaper to keep 50, or 100,000 Men in constant pay than to depend upon half the number, and supply the other half occasionally by Militia. The time the latter is in pay before and after they are in Camp, assembling and Marching; the waste of Ammunition; the consumption of Stores, which in spite of every Resolution, and requisition of Congress they must be furnished Edition: current; Page: [79] with, or sent home, added to other incidental expences consequent upon their coming, and conduct in Camp, surpasses all Idea, and destroys every kind of regularity and œconomy which you could establish among fixed and Settled Troops; and will, in my opinion prove (if the scheme is adhered to) the Ruin of our Cause.

A standing armyThe Jealousies of a standing Army, and the Evils to be apprehended from one, are remote; and in my judgment, situated and circumstanced as we are, not at all to be dreaded; but the consequence of wanting one, according to my Ideas, formed from the present view of things, is certain, and inevitable Ruin; for if I was called upon to declare upon Oath, whether the Militia have been most serviceable or hurtful upon the whole; I should subscribe to the latter. I do not mean by this however to arraign the Conduct of Congress, in so doing I should equally condemn my own measures, (if I did not my judgment); but experience, which is the best criterion to work by, so fully, clearly, and decisively reprobates the practice of trusting to Militia, that no Man who regards order, regularity, and oeconomy; or who has any regard for his own honour, Character, or peace of Mind, will risk them upon this Issue.

Military surgeonsNo less attention should be paid to the choice of Surgeons than other Officers of the Army; they should undergo a regular examination; and if not appointed by the Director Genl. and Surgeons of the Hospital, they ought to be subordinate to, and governed by his directions; the Regimental Surgeons I am speaking of, many of whom are very great Rascals, countenancing the Men in sham Complaints to exempt them from duty, and often receiving Bribes to Certifie Indispositions, with a view to procure discharges or Furloughs; but independant of these practices, while they are considered as unconnected with the Gen’l. Hospital there will be nothing but continual Complaints of each other: The Director of the Hospital charging them with enormity in their drafts for the Sick; and they him, for denying such things as are necessary. In short, there is a constant bickering among them, which tends greatly to the Injury of the Sick; and will always subsist till the Regimental Surgeons are made to look up to the Director Genl. of the Hospital as a Superior. Whether this is the case in regular Armies, or not, I cannot undertake to say; but certain I am there is a necessity for it in this, or the Sick will suffer; the Regimental Surgeons are aiming, I am persuaded, Edition: current; Page: [80] to break up the Gen’l. Hospital, and have, in numberless Instances, drawn for Medicines, Stores &ca. in the most profuse and extravagant manner, for private purposes.

Military punishmentsAnother matter highly worthy of attention, is, that other Rules and Regulation’s may be adopted for the Government of the Army than those now in existence, otherwise the Army, but for the name, might as well be disbanded. For the most attrocious offences, (one or two Instances only excepted) a Man receives no more than 39 Lashes; and these perhaps (thro’ the collusion of the Officer who is to see it inflicted), are given in such a manner as to become rather a matter of sport than punishment; but when inflicted as they ought, many hardend fellows who have been the Subjects, have declared that for a bottle of Rum they would undergo a Second operation; it is evident therefore that this punishment is inadequate to many Crimes it is assigned to, as a proof of it, thirty and 40 Soldiers will desert at a time; and of late, a practice prevails, (as you will see by my Letter of the 22d) of the most alarming nature; and which will, if it cannot be checked, prove fatal both to the Country and Army; I mean the infamous practice of Plundering, for under the Idea of Tory property, or property which may fall into the hands of the Enemy, no Man is secure in his effects, and scarcely in his Person; for in order to get at them, we have several Instances of People being frightned out of their Houses under pretence of those Houses being ordered to be burnt, and this is done with a view of siezing the Goods; nay, in order that the villany may be more effectually concealed, some Houses have actually been burnt to cover the theft.

I have with some others, used my utmost endeavours to stop this horrid practice, but under the present lust after plunder, and want of Laws to punish Offenders, I might almost as well attempt to remove Mount Atlas. I have ordered instant corporal Punishment upon every Man who passes our Lines, or is seen with Plunder, that the Offenders might be punished for disobedience of Orders; and Inclose you the proceedings of a Court Martial held upon an Officer, who with a Party of Men had robbd a House a little beyond our Lines of a Number of valuable Goods; among which (to shew that nothing escapes) were four large Pier looking Glasses, Women’s Cloaths, and other Articles which one would think, could be of no Earthly Edition: current; Page: [81] use to him. He was met by a Major of Brigade who ordered him to return the Goods, as taken contrary to Gen’l. Orders, which he not only peremptorily refused to do, but drew up his Party and swore he would defend them at the hazard of his Life; on which I ordered him to be arrested, and tryed for Plundering, Disobedience of Orders, and Mutiny; for the Result, I refer to the Proceedings of the Court; whose judgment appeared so exceedingly extraordinary, that I ordered a Reconsideration of the matter, upon which, and with the Assistance of fresh evidence, they made Shift to Cashier him.

I adduce this Instance to give some Idea to Congress of the Currt. Sentiments and general run of the Officers which compose the present Army; and to shew how exceedingly necessary it is to be careful in the choice of the New Sett, even if it should take double the time to compleat the levies. An Army formed of good Officers moves like Clock-work;On good officers but there is no Situation upon Earth, less enviable, nor more distressing, than that Person’s who is at the head of Troops, who are regardless of Order and discipline; and who are unprovided with almost every necessary. In a word the difficulties which have forever surrounded me since I have been in the Service, and kept my Mind constantly upon the stretch; The Wounds which my Feelings as an Officer have received by a thousand things which have happened, contrary to my expectation and Wishes; the effect of my own Conduct, and present appearance of things, so little pleasing to myself, as to render it a matter of no Surprize (to me) if I should stand capitally censured by Congress; added to a consciousness of my inability to govern an Army composed of such discordant parts, and under such a variety of intricate and perplexing circumstances; induces not only a belief, but a thorough conviction in my Mind, that it will be impossible unless there is a thorough change in our Military Systems for me to conduct matters in such a manner, as to give satisfaction to the Publick which is all the recompence I aim at, or ever wished for.

Before I conclude I must apologize for the liberties taken in this Letter and for the blots and scratchings therein, not having time to give it more correctly. With truth I can add, that with every Sentiment of respect and esteem. I am etc.

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George Washington
Washington, George
September 30, 1776
Lund Washington
Washington, Lund


Col. Morris’s, on the Heights of Harlem,

Dear Lund:

Your letter of the 18th, which is the only one received and unanswered, now lies before me. The amazement which you seem to be in at the unaccountable measures which have been adopted by [Congress] would be a good deal increased if I had time to unfold the whole system of their management since this time twelve months. I do not know how to account for the unfortunate steps which have been taken but from that fatal idea of conciliation which prevailed so long—fatal, I call it, because from my soul I wish it may [not] prove so, though my fears lead me to think there is too much danger of it. This time last year I pointed out the evil consequences of short enlistments, the expenses of militia, and the little dependence that was to be placed in them. I assured [Congress] that the longer they delayed raising a standing army,Raising a standing army the more difficult and chargeable would they find it to get one, and that, at the same time that the militia would answer no valuable purpose, the frequent calling them in would be attended with an expense, that they could have no conception of. Whether, as I have said before, the unfortunate hope of reconciliation was the cause, or the fear of a standing army prevailed, I will not undertake to say; but the policy was to engage men for twelve months only. The consequence of which, you have had great bodies of militia in pay that never were in camp; you have had immense quantities of provisions drawn by men that never rendered you one hour’s service (at least usefully), and this in the most profuse and wasteful way. Your stores have been expended, and every kind of military [discipline?] destroyed by them; your numbers fluctuating, uncertain, and forever far short of report—at no one time, I believe, equal to twenty thousand men fit for duty. At present our numbers fit for duty (by this day’s report) amount to 14,759, besides 3,427 on command, and the enemy within stone’s throw of us. It is true a body of militia are again ordered out, but they come without any conveniences and soon return. I discharged a regiment the other Edition: current; Page: [83] day that had in it fourteen rank and file fit for duty only, and several that had less than fifty. In short, such is my situation that if I were to wish the bitterest curse to an enemy on this side of the grave, I should put him in my stead with my feelings; and yet I do not know what plan of conduct to pursue. I see the impossibility of serving with reputation, or doing any essential service to the cause by continuing in command, and yet I am told that if I quit the command inevitable ruin will follow from the distraction that will ensue.Unhappiness with situation. In confidence I tell you that I never was in such an unhappy, divided state since I was born. To lose all comfort and happiness on the one hand, whilst I am fully persuaded that under such a system of management as has been adopted, I cannot have the least chance for reputation, nor those allowances made which the nature of the case requires; and to be told, on the other, that if I leave the service all will be lost, is, at the same time that I am bereft of every peaceful moment, distressing to a degree. But I will be done with the subject, with the precaution to you that it is not a fit one to be publicly known or discussed. If I fall, it may not be amiss that these circumstances be known, and declaration made in credit to the justice of my character. And if the men will stand by me (which by the by I despair of), I am resolved not to be forced from this ground while I have life; and a few days will determine the point, if the enemy should not change their plan of operations; for they certainly will not—I am sure they ought not—to waste the season that is now fast advancing, and must be precious to them. I thought to have given you a more explicit account of my situation, expectation, and feelings, but I have not time. I am wearied to death all day with a variety of perplexing circumstances—disturbed at the conduct of the militia, whose behavior and want of discipline has done great injury to the other troops, who never had officers, except in a few instances, worth the bread they eat. My time, in short, is so much engrossed that I have not leisure for corresponding, unless it is on mere matters of public business.

Repairs to Mount VernonI therefore in answer to your last Letter of the 18th shall say:

With respect to the chimney, I would not have you for the sake of a little work spoil the look of the fireplaces, tho’ that in the parlor must, I should think, stand as it does; not so much on account of the wainscotting, which I think must be altered Edition: current; Page: [84] (on account of the door leading into the new building,) as on account of the chimney piece and the manner of its fronting into the room.

The chimney in the room above ought, if it could be so contrived, to be an angle chimney as the others are: but I would not have this attempted at the expence of pulling down the partition. The chimney in the new room should be exactly in the middle of it—the doors and everything else to be exactly answerable and uniform—in short I would have the whole executed in a masterly manner.

You ought surely to have a window in the gable end of the new cellar (either under the Venetian window, or one on each side of it).

Let Mr. Herbert know that I shall be very happy in getting his brother exchanged as soon as possible, but as the enemy have more of our officers than we of theirs, and some of ours have long been confined (and claim the right of being first exchanged,) I do not know how far it may be in my power at this time, to comply with his desires.

Remember me to all our neighbors and friends, particularly to Colo. Mason, to whom I would write if I had time to do it fully and satisfactorily. Without this, I think the correspondence on my part would be unavailing—I am etc.

George Washington
Washington, George
January 25, 1777


Whereas several persons, inhabitants of the United States of America, influenced by inimical motives, intimidated by the threats of the enemy, or deluded by a Proclamation issued the 30th of November last, by Lord and General Howe, stiled the King’s Commissioners for granting pardons, &c. (now at open war, and invading these states), have been so lost to the interest and welfare of their country, as to repair to the enemy, sign a declaration of fidelity,Oaths of allegiance and in some instances have been compelled to take oaths of allegiance to and engage not to take up arms, or encourage others so to do, against the King of Great-Britain; And whereas it has become necessary to distinguish Edition: current; Page: [85] between the friends of America and those of Great-Britain, inhabitants of these States; and that every man who receives protection from, and as a subject of any State, (not being conscientiously scrupulous against bearing arms), should stand ready to defend the same against hostile invasion; I do therefore, in behalf of the United States, by virtue of the powers committed to me by Congress, hereby strictly command and require every person, having subscribed such declaration, taken such oath, and accepted such protection and certificates from Lord and General Howe or any person under their authority forthwith to repair to Head-Quarters, or to the quarters of the nearest general officer of the Continental Army, or Militia, (until further provision can be made by the Civil Authority,) and there deliver up such protections, certificates and passports, and take the oath of allegiance to the United States of America. Nevertheless hereby granting full Liberty to all such as prefer the interest and protection of Great-Britain to the freedom and happiness of their country, forthwith to withdraw themselves and families within the enemy’s lines; and I do hereby declare, that all and every person, who may neglect or refuse to comply with this order, within Thirty days from the date hereof, will be deemed adherents to the King of Great-Britain, and treated as common enemies of the American States.

George Washington
Washington, George
February 14, 1777



I have receiv’d your Letter of yesterday. In answer to it I beg leave to observe that it is not within the scan of human Wisdom to devise a perfect Plan. In all human Institutions. In the accomplishment of all great events. In the adoption of any measure for general operation, Individuals may, and will suffer; but in the case complain’d of, the matter may, I think, be answered by propounding a few questions.

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Is it not a duty Incumbent upon the Members of every State to defend the rights and liberties of that State? If so, is an [oath ex]orted from them, to observe [a con]trary conduct, obligatory [ ] If such Oath was not [extorted] but the effect of a volunta[ry act] can the person taking of[fence be] considered in any other light than as an Enemy to his Country? * In either case then, where is the Injustice of calling upon them to a declaration of their Sentiments?Defense of oath of allegiance Is a Neutral character in one of the United States, which has by her Representatives, solemnly engaged to support the Cause, a justifiable one? If it is, may it not be extended to corporate bodies; to the State at large, and to the inevitable destruction of the opposition; which under Providence, depends upon a firm union of the whole, and the spirited exertions of all its Constituent parts?

Upon the whole, it appears to me that but two kinds of People will complain much of the Proclamation, namely, those that are really disaffected, and such as want to lay by, and wait the Issue of the dispute. The first class cannot be pleased; the next are endeavouring to play a dble. game, in which their present protections may, eventually, become a sure Card.

George Washington
Washington, George
May 23, 1777
Morris Town
James Warren
Warren, James


Dear Sir:

Your favor of the 4th. instant was duly handed me. I am fully sensible of the zeal, your State has demonstrated, in the instances you recite, and in many more. With you, I consider them as great exertions, and as a decisive evidence of your inclination to do every thing in your power to advance the Common Cause. At the same time, whatever efforts have been, or can be made, are not more than adequate to the exigency of our Situation. Tho’ over sanguine and uninformed people may think differently, this is a most interesting Edition: current; Page: [87] and critical period, and will not countenance the least want of Activity or attention in any quarter. I have the highest confidence, that your State will not let the great object, we are contending for, be lost, or endangered, more than is unavoidable, by any such deficiency on their part.

Your repealing the offensive part of the Act you mention, is a proof of your justice and regard to the Sense of your Sister States. It certainly bore the features of a monopoly, and was liable to the interpretation put upon it; and, though I am ready to believe, it proceeded from impolitick, rather than Selfish, motives, I am happy the Cause of complaint is removed, and the matter placed upon a more liberal footing.

I observe, your State is not a little alarmed at the prospect of an immediate invasion. Notwithstanding the intelligence from Europe, in some measure, warrants the Supposition of such an event and makes it proper not intirely to disregard it; yet I am clearly of opinion, it is not much to be apprehended. It is by no means an eligible way to the conquest of this country; your State, from its union, numbers and Situation, being capable of a much better defence than perhaps any other; and it is presumable, the Enemy will make their attacks where Circumstances promise the greatest likelihood of Success. But, be this as it may, I cannot help disapproving the project of raising Colonial regiments for your defence,Need for a continental army at least till the Continental are filled. It is easy to perceive, as you have yourself hinted, that it will have a direct tendency to defeat your endeavours, for compleating your quota of the United Army; and it would be the most wretched policy to weaken the hands of the Continent, under the mistaken Idea of Strengthening your own. It would also be well to consider, how far it might be consistent with propriety, in the pursuit of partial schemes, to put it out of your own power to fulfill what is required of you by the Continent.

Dangers of state leviesIf the Several States, by levying Troops on the particular establishment of each, leave but a Small Continental Army in the Field, it will be impossible effectually to watch the Motions of the Enemy, and oppose them where they may in reality direct their operations; the consequences of which must be inevitably fatal. But if we have a sufficient Continental force on foot, we shall be able to watch them narrowly and counteract them wherever they may attempt to move. Every State will find its Security in such an Army, whose sole business it will be Edition: current; Page: [88] to oppose the Enemy, wherever it is most requisite. It cannot be imagined, that if your State were seriously attacked, a proportionate part of the Continental force would not be detached to Succour and protect it. My duty, inclination, and a regard to the safety of the whole would equally compel me to it. What valuable end can then be answered to you, in the Step you propose to take, which can compensate for the irretrivable injury the common cause might sustain, from our not having a Sufficient Army in the field for the purposes of general opposition? The measure, injurious in every view, can only serve to burthen the State, with an unnecessary expence, which will be intirely its own; as the Troops intended to be raised will be for local and Colonial uses, and in diminution of the common force.

I see no advantage you can derive from such an impolitic Step, which would not be fully produced, by what I assured the Assembly, on a former occasion, should be done; which is, That the Supernumerary Regiments adopted by you, should remain in your State, ’till the designs of the Enemy became so evident, as to convince us, their continuance would be no longer expedient, or useful. This assurance I repeat; and I beg you will communicate it in my name to them; earnestly recommending it to them, to relinquish the Scheme. Indeed Sir, on a Cool, dispassionate Survey of all Circumstances, it will be found replete with impolicy and danger; and I am persuaded that, either they have already, on mature deliberation laid it aside, or on a reconsideration of the matter will coincide with me in opinion, and correct the mistake. With great regard and respect, I am &c.

George Washington
Washington, George
July 22, 1777
Philip Schuyler
Schuyler, Philip


Dear Sir:

I yesterday Evening received the favour of your Letters of the 17th and 18th. instt. with their Inclosures.

I am heartily glad you have found two such advantageous spots to take post at, and I hope the progress of the Enemy will Edition: current; Page: [89] not be so rapid,The invasion by General Burgoyne as to prevent your throwing up such lines, as you may esteem necessary for their defence.

The invasion by General BurgoyneTho’ our affairs, for some days past, have worn a dark and gloomy aspect, I yet look forward to a fortunate and happy change. I trust Genl. Burgoyne’s Army will meet, sooner or later an effectual check, and as I suggested before, that the success, he has had, will precipitate his ruin. From your accounts, he appears to be pursuing that line of conduct, which of all others, is most favourable to us; I mean acting in Detachment. This conduct will certainly give room for enterprise on our part, and expose his parties to great hazard. Could we be so happy, as to cut one of them off, supposing it should not exceed four, five or six hundred Men, It would inspirit the people and do away much of their present anxiety. In such an event, they would loose sight of past misfortunes, and urged at the same time by a regard for their own security, they would fly to Arms and afford every aid in their power.

Your exertions to bring the People to view things in their proper light, to impress them with a just sense of the fatal consequences that will result to themselves, their Wives, their Children and their Country, from their taking a wrong part and for preventing Toryism, cannot be too great. Genl. Burgoyne, I have no doubt, will practise every art, his Invention shall point out, to turn their minds and seduce them from their allegiance, he should be counteracted as much as possible, as it is of the last importance to keep them firm and steady in their attachments. You have already given your attention to this matter, and I am persuaded, you will omit nothing in your power to effect these great and essential points. Stopping the roads and ordering the Cattle to be removed, were certainly right and judicious. If they are well accomplished, the Enemy must be greatly retarded and distressed.

I hope, before this you have received the Supplies of Ammunition mentioned in my late Letters. I fully expected too, that the Camp Kettles, which I ordered from hence on your first application had reached you, till yesterday, when I found on inquiry, that the Quarter Master, by some accident, did not send them before three or four days ago.

There will be no occasion to transmit to Congress a Copy of your observations, suggesting the necessity of evacuating Fort George. The Gentlemen, who mentioned the holding that post, had taken up an idea, that it was defensible with the Edition: current; Page: [90] assistance of the Vessels on the Lake, which were supposed to be better equipped, and what gave countenance to the idea, was, that the Bastion was erected under the direction and superintendence of British Engineers, and was intended as part of a very large, Strong and Extensive work. I thought it expedient to submit the matter to your further consideration, wishing you at the same time to pursue such measures respecting it, as your own judgment should advise and direct.

I could heartily wish, Harmony and a good understanding to prevail thro’ the whole Army, and between the Army and the people. The times are critical, big with important events, they demand our most vigorous efforts, and unless a happy agreement subsists, they will be feeble and weak. The Enemies of America, have cultivated nothing with greater or with so much industry, as to sow division and jealousy amongst us.

I cannot give you any certain account of Genl. Howe’s intended Operations. His conduct is puzzling and embarrassing, beyond measure; so are the informations, which I get. At one time the Ships are standing up towards the North River. In a little while they are going up the Sound,Conduct of General Howe and in an Hour after they are going out of the Hook. I think in a day or two we must know something of his intentions. I am etc.

PS: I think it will not be advisable to repose too much confidence in the Works you are about to erect and from thence to collect a large Quantity of Stores. I begin to consider Lines as a Kind of Trap and not to answer the valuable purposes expected from them. Unless they are on passes that cannot be avoided by an Enemy.

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1778–1780 The Passions of Men and the Principles of Action fpage="91" lpage="170"

The Passions of Men and the Principles of Action


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WASHINGTON and his men nearly starved at Valley Forge in the winter of 1777 – 78, yet they emerged from that trial strengthened. They became more of an army than ever, laboring under policies that were at least improved if not made perfect by Congress under constant pressure from Washington. No longer ragtag resistance fighters, they gained international stature. An alliance with France, bringing with it the arrival of much-needed men and materiel, was pending. During this period Washington’s correspondence became intense as he sought to resolve problems of recruitment, supply, and hierarchy. Through much of this time he became de facto the sole and complete ruling authority in the country.

Setbacks were yet to come. Illusory peace overtures would paralyze American efforts, while the failure of the first French expedition would imperil the alliance. In proportion as Washington’s forces gained strength the war spread, north and south, even coming to Edition: current; Page: [93] Mount Vernon itself. The one great battle in this period bore enough import to carry the fledgling country and its troops through nearly two years of wavering.

Battle of Monmouth. Replacing Howe and being denied reinforcements, General Henry Clinton considered it vital to relocate his army from Philadelphia to New York with the least delay and the fewest possible engagements on the march. Washington wished to attack while the British army was strung out along its route. He placed half his army under the command of General Charles Lee, who initiated skirmishes near Monmouth Courthouse the morning of June 29, 1778. The plan seemed provident, yet Lee ordered a premature retreat, which became confused through conflicting orders and rumors and turned into a general withdrawal. Washington halted the disappointed and overheated troops and established them athwart the line of the British approach. Clinton retired, apparently for the night, but rose before midnight and retreated to New York.

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George Washington
Washington, George
Sunday, March 1, 1778
V. Forge


Parole Arnold. Countersigns Ashford, Almbury.

The Commander in Chief again takes occasion to return his warmest thanks to the virtuous officers and soldiery of this Army for that persevering fidelity and Zeal which they have uniformly manifested in all their conduct. Their fortitude not only under the common hardships incident to a military life, but also under the additional sufferings to which the peculiar situation of these States have exposed them, clearly proves them worthy the enviable privelege of contending for the rights of human nature, the Freedom and Independence of their Country. The recent Instance of uncomplaining Patience during the scarcity of provisions in Camp is a fresh proof that they possess in an eminent degree the spirit of soldiers and the magninimity of Patriots. The few refractory individuals who disgrace themselves by murmurs it is to be hoped have repented such unmanly behaviour, and resolved to emulate the noble example of their associates upon every trial which the customary casualties of war may hereafter throw in their way. Occasional distress for want of provisions and other necessaries is a spectacle that frequently occurs in every army and perhaps there never was one which has been in general so plentifully supplied in respect to the former as ours. Surely we who are free Citizens in arms engaged in a struggle for every thing valuable in society and partaking in the glorious task of laying the foundation of an Empire, should scorn effeminately Edition: current; Page: [96] to shrink under those accidents and rigours of War which mercenary hirelings fighting in the cause of lawless ambition, rapine and devastation, encounter with cheerfulness and alacrity, we should not be merely equal, we should be superior to them in every qualification that dignifies the man or the soldier in proportion as the motive from which we act and the final hopes of our Toils, are superior to theirs. Thank Heaven! our Country abounds with provision and with prudent management we need not apprehend want for any length of time. Defects in the Commissaries department, Contingencies of weather and other temporary impediments have subjected and may again subject us to a deficiency for a few days, but soldiers! American soldiers! will despise the meanness of repining at such trifling strokes of Adversity, trifling indeed when compared to the transcendent Prize which will undoubtedly crown their Patience and Perseverence, Glory and Freedom, Peace and Plenty to themselves and the Community; The Admiration of the World, the Love of their Country and the Gratitude of Posterity!

Your General unceasingly employs his thoughts on the means of relieving your distresses, supplying your wants and bringing your labours to a speedy and prosperous issue. Our Parent Country he hopes will second his endeavors by the most vigorous exertions and he is convinced the faithful officers and soldiers associated with him in the great work of rescuing our Country from Bondage and Misery will continue in the display of that patriotic zeal which is capable of smoothing every difficulty and vanquishing every Obstacle.

At a Brigade Court Martial Feby. 27th. whereof Lt. Colo. Burr was President Lieutt. Blackall William Ball of 12th. Pennsylvania Regiment tried for disobedience of orders, Insolence and ungentlemanlike behavior. The Court after mature deliberation on the evidence produced are clearly and unanimously of opinion that Lieutt. Ball is not guilty and do therefore unanimously acquit him with the highest honor of all and every of the Articles exhibited against him. The Court do further agree and determine that the charges each and all of them are groundless, frivilous and malicious, that Lt. Ball’s behaviour was truly gentlemanlike, his attention and obedience to orders exemplary and his Conduct rather deserving applause than Censure.

The Commander in Chief confirms the opinion of the Edition: current; Page: [97] Court and orders Lieutt. Ball to be immediately released from his arrest.

At a General Court Martial whereof Colonel Cortland was President, Feb. 25th. Philip Bocker an Inhabitant of this State tried for attempting to carry Provision in to the Enemy at Philadelphia and unanimously acquitted of the charge.

At the same Court Joseph De Haven, an Inhabitant of this State tried for repeatedly going into Philadelphia since the Enemy have been in possession of it and acquitted.

Also Michael Milanberger an Inhabitant of this State tried for Supporting the Enemy with Provision and acquitted.

The Commander in Chief confirms the aforegoing opinions of the Court and orders the three last mentioned Prisoners to be immediately released from confinement.

At the same Court Jacob Cross an Inhabitant of this State tried for stealing Calves and carrying them into Philadelphia, found guilty of stealing two Calves one of which he carried into Philadelphia, the other he was carrying in when taken, being a breach of a resolution of Congress dated October 8th, ‘77 extended by another dated December 29th. and do Sentence him to receive two hundred lashes on his bare back well laid on.

The Commander in Chief approves the sentence and orders it to be put in Execution on the Grand-Parade tomorrow morning at guard mounting.

At a General Court Martial whereof Colo. Cortland was President Feby. 24th, ’78, Joseph Worrell an Inhabitant of the State of Pennsylvania tried for giving intelligence to the Enemy and for acting as guide and pilot to the Enemy; The Court are of opinion the Prisoner is guilty of acting as a guide to the Enemy (and do acquit him of the other charge against him) being a breach of a resolution of Congress dated Octr. 8th, ’77, extended by another resolution of Congress dated december 29th, 1777, and they do (upwards of two thirds agreeing) sentence him to suffer death.

His Excellency the Commander in Chief approves the sentence and orders Joseph Worrell to be executed next tuesday at 10 o’Clock in the forenoon.

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George Washington
Washington, George
April 21, 1778
Valley Forge
John Banister
Banister, John


Dear Sir:

On Saturday Evening, I had the pleasure to receive your favour of the 16th. Instant.

I thank you very much, for your obliging tender of a friendly intercourse between us; and you may rest assured, that I embrace it with chearfulness, and shall write you freely, as often as leisure will permit, of such points as appear to me material and interesting.*

I am pleased to find, that you expect the proposed establishment of the Army will succeed; though it is a painful consideration, that matters of such pressing importance and obvious necessity meet with so much difficulty and delay. Be assured the success of the measure is a matter of the most serious moment, and that it ought to be brought to a conclusion, as speedily as possible. The spirit of resigning Commissions has been long at an alarming height, and increases daily. [Applications from Officers on furlough are hourly arriving, and Genls. Heath, of Boston, McDougal on the No. River, and Mason of Virginia are asking what they are to do with the appliants to them.]

The Virginia Line has sustained a violent shock in this instance; [not less than Ninety havg. resigned already, to me], the same conduct has prevailed among the Officers from the other States, though not yet to so considerable a degree; and there are but too just Grounds to fear, that it will shake the very existence of the Army, unless a remedy is soon, very soon, applied. There is none, in my opinion, so effectual, as the one pointed out. This, I trust, will satisfy the Officers, and, at the same time, it will produce no present additional emission of Money. They will not be persuaded to sacrifice all views of present interest, and encounter the numerous vicissitudes of War, in the defence of their Country, unless she will be generous enough, on her part, to make a decent provision for their future support, I do not pronounce absolutely, that we shall have no Army, if the establishment fails: But the Army, we Edition: current; Page: [99] may have, will be without discipline, without energy, incapable of acting with vigor, and destitute of those cements necessary to promise success, on the one hand, or to withstand the shocks of adversity, on the other. It is indeed hard to say how extensive the evil may be, if the measure should be rejected, or much longer delayed. I find it a very arduous task to keep the Officers in tolerable humour, and to protract such a combination in quitting the service, as might possibly undo us forever. The difference between our service and that of the Enemy, is very striking. With us, from the peculiar, unhappy situation of things, the Officer, a few instances excepted, must break in upon his private fortune for present support, without a prospect of future relief. With them, even Companies are esteemed so honourable and so valuable, that they have sold of late from 15 to 2,200 £ Sterling, and I am credibly informed, that 4,000 Guineas have been given for a Troop of Dragoons: You will readily determine how this difference will operate; what effects it must produce. On patriotismMen may speculate as they will; they may talk of patriotism; they may draw a few examples from ancient story, of great atchievements performed by its influence; but whoever builds upon it, as a sufficient Basis for conducting a long and [bloody] War, will find themselves deceived in the end. We must take the passions of Men as Nature has given them, and those principles as a guide which are generally the rule of Action. I do not mean to exclude altogether the Idea of Patriotism. I know it exists, and I know it has done much in the present Contest. But I will venture to assert, that a great and lasting War can never be supported on this principle alone. It must be aided by a prospect of Interest or some reward. For a time, it may, of itself push Men to Action; to bear much, to encounter difficulties; but it will not endure unassisted by Interest.

The necessity of putting the Army upon a respectable footing, both as to numbers and constitution, is now become more essential than ever. The Enemy are beginning to play a Game more dangerous than their efforts by Arms, tho’ these will not be remitted in the smallest degree, and which threatens a fatal blow to American Independence, and to her liberties of course:Specious allurements of peace They are endeavouring to ensnare the people by specious allurements of Peace. It is not improbable they have had such abundant cause to be tired of the War, that they may be sincere, in the terms they offer, which, though far short of our Edition: current; Page: [100] pretensions, will be extremely flattering to Minds that do not penetrate far into political consequences: But, whether they are sincere or not, they may be equally destructive; for, to discerning Men, nothing can be more evident, than that a Peace on the principles of dependance, however limited, after what has happened, would be to the last degree dishonourable and ruinous. It is, however, much to be apprehended, that the Idea of such an event will have a very powerful effect upon the Country, and, if not combatted with the greatest address, will serve, at least, to produce supineness and dis-union. Men are naturally fond of Peace, and there are Symptoms which may authorize an Opinion, that the people of America are pretty generally weary of the present War. It is doubtful, whether many of our friends might not incline to an accommodation on the Grounds held out, or which may be, rather than persevere in a contest for Independence. If this is the case, it must surely be the truest policy to strengthen the Army, and place it upon a substantial footing. This will conduce to inspire the Country with confidence; enable those at the head of affairs to consult the public honour and interest, notwithstanding the defection of some and temporary inconsistency and irresolution of others, who may desire to compromise the dispute; and if a Treaty should be deemed expedient, will put it in their power to insist upon better terms, than they could otherwise expect.

Besides, the most vigorous exertions at Home, to increase and establish our Military force upon a good Basis; it appears to me advisable, that we should immediately try the full extent of our interest abroad and bring our European Negotiations to an Issue.European negotiations I think France must have ratified our Independence, and will declare War immediately, on finding that serious proposals of accommodation are made; but lest, from a mistaken policy, or too exalted an Opinion of our powers, from the representations she has had, she should still remain indecisive, it were to be wished proper persons were instantly dispatched, or our envoys, already there, instructed, to insist pointedly on her coming to a final determination. It cannot be fairly supposed, that she will hesitate a moment to declare War, if she is given to understand, in a proper manner, that a reunion of the two Countries may be the consequence of procrastination. An European War, and an European Alliance would effectually answer our purposes. If the step I now mention, Edition: current; Page: [101] should be eligible, despatches ought to be sent at once, by different conveyances, for fear of accidents. I confess it appears to me, a measure of this kind could not but be productive of the most salutary consequences. If possible, I should also suppose it absolutely necessary, to obtain good intelligence from England, pointing out the true springs of this manoeuvre of Ministry; the preparations of force they are making; the prospects there are of raising it; the amount, and when it may be expected.

It really seems to me, from a comprehensive view of things, that a period is fast approaching, big with events of the most interesting importance. When the councils we pursue and the part we act, may lead decisively to liberty, or to Slavery. Under this Idea, I cannot but regret, that inactivity, that inattention, that want of something, which [unhappily, I have but too often] experienced in our public Affairs. I wish that our representation in Congress was compleat and full from every State, and that it was formed of the first Abilities among us. Whether we continue to War, or proceed to Negotiate, the Wisdom of America in Council cannot be too great. Our situation will be truly delicate. To enter into a Negotiation too hastily, or to reject it altogether, may be attended with consequences equally fatal. The wishes of the people, seldom founded in deep disquisitions, or resulting from other reasonings than their present feeling, may not intirely accord with our true policy and interest. If they do not, to observe a proper line of conduct, for promoting the one, and avoiding offence to the other, will be a Work of great difficulty.Nothing short of independence Nothing short of Independence, it appears to me, can possibly do. A Peace, on other terms, would, if I may be allowed the expression, be a Peace of War. The injuries we have received from the British Nation were so unprovoked; have been so great and so many, that they can never be forgotten. Besides the feuds, the jealousies; the animosities that would ever attend a Union with them. Besides the importance, the advantages we should derive from an unrestricted commerce; Our fidelity as a people; Our gratitude; Our Character as Men, are opposed to a coalition with them as subjects, but in case of the last extremity. Were we easily to accede to terms of dependence, no nation, upon future occasions, let the oppressions of Britain be never so flagrant and unjust, would interpose for our relief, or at least they would do it with a cautious reluctance and upon Edition: current; Page: [102] conditions, most probably, that would be hard, if not dishonourable to us. France, by her supplies, has saved us from the Yoke thus far, and a wise and virtuous perseverence, would and I trust will, free us entirely.

I have sent Congress, Lord North’s Speech and two Bills offered by him to Parliament. They are spreading fast through the Country, and will soon become a subject of general notoriety. I therefore think, they had best be published in our papers, and persons of leisure and ability set to Work, to counteract the impressions, they may make on the Minds of the people.

Before I conclude, there are one or two points more upon which I will add an Observation or two.Indecision of Congress The first is, the indecision of Congress and the delay used in coming to determinations in matters referred to them. This is productive of a variety of inconveniences; and an early decision, in many cases, though it should be against the measure submitted, would be attended with less pernicious effects. Some new plan might then be tried; but while the matter is held in suspence, nothing can be attempted. Congressional jealousyThe other point is, the jealousy which Congress unhappily entertain of the Army, and which, if reports are right, some Members labour to establish. You may be assured, there is nothing more injurious, or more unjustly founded. This jealousy stands upon the common, received Opinion, which under proper limitations is certainly true, that standing Armies are dangerous to a State, and from forming the same conclusion of the component parts of all, though they are totally dissimilar in their Nature. The prejudices in other Countries has only gone to them in time of Peace, and these from their not having, in general cases, any of the ties, the concerns or interests of Citizens or any other dependence, than what flowed from their Military employ; in short, from their being Mercenaries; hirelings. It is our policy to be prejudiced against them in time of War; and though they are Citizens having all the Ties, and interests of Citizens, and in most cases property totally unconnected with the Military Line. If we would pursue a right System of policy, in my Opinion, there should be none of these distinctions. We should all be considered, Congress, Army, &c. as one people, embarked in one Cause, in one interest; acting on the same principle and to the same End. The distinction, the Jealousies set up, or perhaps only incautiously let out, can answer not a single good Edition: current; Page: [103] purpose. They are impolitic in the extreme. Among Individuals, the most certain way to make a Man your Enemy, is to tell him, you esteem him such; so with public bodies; and the very jealousy, which the narrow politics of some may affect to entertain of the Army, in order to a due subordination to the supreme Civil Authority, is a likely mean to produce a contrary effect; to incline it to the pursuit of those measures which that may wish it to avoid. It is unjust, because no Order of Men in the thirteen States have paid a more sanctimonious regard to their proceedings than the Army; and, indeed, it may be questioned, whether there has been that scrupulus adherence had to them by any other, [for without arrogance, or the smallest deviation from truth it may be said, that no history, now extant, can furnish an instance of an Army’s suffering such uncommon hardships as ours have done, and bearing them with the same patience and Fortitude. To see Men without Cloathes to cover their nakedness, without Blankets to lay on, without Shoes, by which their Marches might be traced by the Blood from their feet, and almost as often without Provisions as with; Marching through frost and Snow, and at Christmas taking up their Winter Quarters within a day’s March of the enemy, without a House or Hutt to cover them till they could be built and submitting to it without a murmur, is a mark of patience and obedience which in my opinion can scarce be parallel’d.]

There may have been some remonstrances or applications [to Congress], in the stile of complaint from the Army [and slaves indeed should we be, if this privilidge was denied], on Account of their proceedings in particular instances; but these will not Authorize nor even excuse a jealousy, that they are therefore aiming at unreasonable powers; or making strides, dangerous, or subversive of Civil Authority. Things should not be viewed in that light, more especially, as Congress, in some cases, have relieved the injuries complained of, and which had flowed from their own Acts.

I refer you to my Letter to yourself and Colonel Lee which accompanies this, upon the subject of Money for such of the Old Virginia Troops, as have or may reinlist.

In respect to the Volunteer Plan I [scarce know what opinion to give at this time.] The propriety of a requisition on this head, will depend altogether, on our operations. Such kind of Troops should not be called for, but upon the spur of the Edition: current; Page: [104] occasion and at the moment of executing an Enterprise. They will not endure a long service; and, of all Men in the Military Line, they are the most impatient of restraint and necessary Government.

[As the propositions, and the Speech of Lord North must be founded in the despair of the Nation of succeeding against us, or, from a rupture in Europe that has actually happend, or that certainly will; or from some deep political Manoeuvre; or from what I think, still more likely, a composition of the whole, would it not be good policy, in this day of uncertainty and distress to the Tories to avail ourselves of the occn. and for the sevl.Pardon of Tories States to hold out Pardon &ca. to all delinquents returng by a certain day? They are frightned, and that is the time to operate upon them. Upon a short consideration of the matter it appears to me that such a measure wd detach the Tories from the Enemy, and bring things to a much speedier conclusion and of course be a mean of saving much public treasure.]

I will now be done, and I trust that you excuse not only the length of my Letter, but the freedom with which I have delivered my sentiments in the course of it upon several occasions. The subjects struck me as important and interesting, and I have only to wish, that they may appear to you in the same light. I am etc.

George Washington
Washington, George
July 4, 1778
New Jersey
John Augustine Washington
Washington, John Augustine


Dear Brother:

Your Letter of the 20th. Ulto. came to my hands last Night; before this will have reached you,Battle of Monmouth the Acct. of the Battle of Monmouth probably will get to Virginia; which, from an unfortunate, and bad beginning, turned out a glorious and happy day.

The Enemy evacuated Philadelphia on the 18th. Instt. at ten o’clock that day I got intelligence of it, and by two o’clock, or soon after, had Six Brigades on their March for the Jerseys, and followed with the whole Army next Morning. On the 21st. Edition: current; Page: [105] we completed our passage over the Delaware at Coryells ferry (abt. 33 Miles above Philadelphia) distant from Valley forge near 40 Miles. From this Ferry we moved down towards the Enemy, and on the 27th. got within Six Miles of them.

General Lee having the command of the Van of the Army, consisting of fully 5000 chosen Men, was ordered to begin the Attack next Morning so soon as the enemy began their March, to be supported by me. But, strange to tell! when he came up with the enemy, a retreat commenced; whether by his order, or from other causes, is now the subject of inquiry, and consequently improper to be descanted on, as he is in arrest, and a Court Martial sitting for tryal of him. A Retreat however was the fact, be the causes as they may; and the disorder arising from it would have proved fatal to the Army had not that bountiful Providence which has never failed us in the hour of distress, enabled me to form a Regiment or two (of those that were retreating) in the face of the Enemy, and under their fire, by which means a stand was made long enough (the place through which the enemy were pursuing being narrow) to form the Troops that were advancing, upon an advantageous piece of Ground in the rear; hence our affairs took a favourable turn, and from being pursued, we drove the Enemy back, over the ground they had followed us, recovered the field of Battle, and possessed ourselves of their dead. but, as they retreated behind a Morass very difficult to pass, and had both Flanks secured with thick Woods, it was found impracticable with our Men fainting with fatigue, heat, and want of Water, to do any thing more that Night. In the Morning we expected to renew the Action, when behold the enemy had stole off as Silent as the Grave in the Night after having sent away their wounded. Getting a Nights March of us, and having but ten Miles to a strong post, it was judged inexpedient to follow them any further, but move towards the North River least they should have any design upon our posts there.

We buried 245 of their dead on the field of Action; they buried several themselves, and many have been since found in the Woods, where, during the action they had drawn them to, and hid them. We have taken five Officers and upwards of One hundred Prisoners, but the amount of their wounded we have not learnt with any certainty; according to the common proportion of four or five to one, there should be at least a thousand or 1200. Without exagerating, their trip through the Edition: current; Page: [106] Jerseys in killed, Wounded, Prisoners, and deserters, has cost them at least 2000 Men and of their best Troops. We had 60 Men killed, 132 Wounded, and abt. 130 Missing, some of whom I suppose may yet come in. Among our Slain Officers is Majr. Dickenson, and Captn. Fauntleroy, two very valuable ones.

I observe what you say concerning voluntary enlistments, or rather your Scheme for raising 2000 Volunteers; and candidly own to you I have no opinion of it; these measures only tend to burthen the public with a number of Officers without adding one jot to your strength, but greatly to confusion, and disorder. If the several States would but fall upon some vigorous measures to fill up their respective Regiments nothing more need be asked of them, but while these are neglected, or in other words ineffectually and feebly attended to, and these succedaniums tried, you never can have an Army to be depended upon.

The Enemy’s whole force Marched through the Jerseys (that were able) except the Regiment of Anspach, which, it is said, they were affraid to trust, and therefore sent them round to New York by Water, along with the Commissioners; I do not learn that they have received much of a reinforcement as yet; nor do I think they have much prospect of any, worth Speaking of, as I believe they Stand very critically with respect to France.

As the Post waits I shall only add my love to my Sister and the family, and Strong assurances of being with the Sincerest regard and Love, Yr. most Affect. Brother.

Mr. Ballendines Letter shall be sent to New York by the first Flag. I am now moving on towards the No. River.

George Washington
Washington, George
September 11, 1778
Comte D’Estaing
D’Estaing, Comte



Regrets to Comte d’EstaingI have had the honor of receiving your Letter of the 5th. inst: accompanied by a Copy of two Letters to Congress and Genl. Sullivan. The confidence which you have been pleased to shew in communicating these papers engage my sincere thanks. If Edition: current; Page: [107] the deepest regret that the best concerted enterprise and bravest exertions should have been rendered fruitless by a disaster which human prudence is incapable of foreseeing or preventing can alleviate disappointment, you may be assured that the whole Continent sympathizes with you;* it will be a consolation to you to reflect that the thinking part of Mankind do not form their judgment from events; and that their equity will ever attach equal glory to those actions which deserve success, as to those which have been crowned with it. It is in the trying circumstances to which your Excellency has been exposed, that the virtues of a great Mind are displayed in their brightest lustre; and that the General’s Character is better known than in the moment of Victory; it was yours, by every title which can give it, and the adverse element which robbed you of your prize, can never deprive you of the Glory due to you. Tho your success has not been equal to your expectations yet you have the satisfaction of reflecting that you have rendered essential Services to the common cause.

I exceedingly lament that in addition to our misfortunes, there has been the least suspension of harmony and good understanding between the Generals of allied Nations, whose views, must like their interests be the same. On the first intimation of it I employed my influence in restoring what I regard as essential to the permanence of an Union founded on mutual inclination and the strongest ties of reciprocal advantage. Your Excellencys offer to the Council of Boston had a powerful tendency to promote the same end, and was distinguished proof of your zeal and magnanimity.

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The present superiority of the enemy in Naval force, must, for a time, suspend all plans of offensive cooperation between us; it is not easy to foresee what change may take place by the arrival of Succours to you from Europe or what opening the enemy may give you to resume your activity; in this moment therefore, every consultation on this subject would be premature. But it is of infinite importance that we should take all the means that our circumstances will allow for the defence of a Squadron, which is so precious to the common cause of france and America, and which may have become a capital object with the enemy. Whether this really is the case can be only matter of Conjecture; the original intention of the reinforcement sent to Rhode island, was obviously the Relief of the Garrison at that post. I have to lament that, tho seasonably advised of the movement, it was utterly out of my power to counteract it. A naval force alone could have defeated the attempt; how far their views may since have been enlarged by the arrival of Byron’s fleet, Your Excellency will be best able to judge. Previous to this event, I believe Genl. Clinton was waiting orders from his court, for the conduct he was to pursue; in the mean time embarking his Stores and heavy baggage in order to be the better prepared for a promt evacuation, if his instructions should require it.

But as the present posture of affairs may induce a change of operations, and tempt them to carry the war eastward for the ruin of your Squadron, it will be necessary for us to be prepared to oppose such an enterprise. I am unhappy that our situation will not admit of our contributing more effectually to this important end; but assure you at the same time, that what ever can be attempted without losing sight of objects equally essential to the interests of the two Nations, shall be put in execution.

A Candid view of our affairs which I am going to exhibit, will make you a judge of the difficulties, under which we labour. Almost all our supplies of flour and no inconsiderable part of our meat, are drawn from the States westward of Hudson’s River;Navigation of th eHudson; defense of New York and New England this renders a secure communication across that River indispensably necessary both to the support of your Squadron and the Army. The enemy being masters of that navigation, would interrupt this essential intercourse between the States. They have been sensible of these advantages, and by the attempts which they have made, to bring about a separation Edition: current; Page: [109] of the Eastern from the Southern States, and the facility which their superiority by Sea had hitherto given him, have always obliged us besides garrisoning the Forts that immediately defend the passage, to keep a force at least, equal to that which they have had posted in New York and its dependencies.

It is incumbent upon us at this time to have a greater force in this quarter than usual, from the concentred State of the enemy’s strength and the uncertainty of their designs; in addition to this it is to be observed that they derive an inestimable advantage from the facility of transporting their troops from one point to another; these rapid movements enable them to give us uneasiness for remote unguarded parts, in attempting to succour which we should be exposed to ruinous marches, and after all perhaps be the dupes of a feint. If they could by any demonstration in another part draw our attention and strength from this important point, and by anticipating our return, possess themselves of it, the consequences would be fatal. Our dispositions must therefore have equal regard to cooperating with you in a defensive plan, and securing the North River; which, the remoteness of the two objects from each other, renders peculiarly difficult. Immediately upon the change which happened in your naval affairs, my attention was directed to conciliating these two great ends.

The necessity of transporting magazines, collected relatively to our present position, and making new arrangements for ulterior operations, has hitherto been productive of delay. These points are now nearly accomplished and I hope in a day or two to begin a general movement of the Army eastward, as a commencement of this, one division marched this morning under Major General Gates towards Danbury, and the rest of the army will follow as speedily as possible.

The following is a general Idea of my disposition: The Army will be thrown into several divisions, one of which consisting of a force equal to the Enemy’s in New York, will be posted about thirty miles in the rear of my present camp, and in the vicinity of the North River with a view to its defence; the other will be pushed on at different stages, as far towards Connecticut River, as can be done consistently with preserving a communication, and having them within supporting distance of each other; so as that when occasion may require, they may form a junction, either for their own immediate defence, or to Edition: current; Page: [110] oppose any attempts that may be made on the North River. The facility which the enemy have of collecting their whole force and turning it against any point they choose, will restrain us from extending ourselves so far as will either expose us to be beaten by detachment or endanger the Security of the North River.

This disposition will place the American forces as much in measure for assisting in the defence of your Squadron and the Town of Boston, as is compatible with the other great objects of our care.

It does not appear to me probable that the Enemy would hazard the penetrating to Boston by land, with the force which they at present have to the eastward. I am rather inclined to believe that they will draw together their whole Land and Naval strength, to give the greater probability of Success. in order to this, New York must be evacuated, an event which cannot take place without being announced by circumstances impossible to conceal and I have reason to hope that the time which must necessarily be exhausted in embarking and transporting their troops and Stores, would be sufficient for me to advance a considerable part of my army in measure for opposing them.

The observations which Your Excellency makes relative to the necessity of having intelligent Spies, are perfectly just; every measure that circumstances would admit has been to answer this valuable end, and our intelligence has in general been as good as could be expected from the situation of the Enemy.

The distance at which we are from our posts of observation in the first instance, and the long Journey which is afterwards to be performed before a letter can reach your Excellency hinder my communicating intelligence with such celerity as I could wish.

The letter which I sent giving an account of Lord Howes movement, was dispatched as soon as the fact was ascertained; but it did not arrive ’till you had gone to Sea, in pursuit of the British Squadron.

As your Excellency does not mention the letters which I last had the honor of writing to you, I am apprehensive of some delay, or miscarriage; their dates were the 3rd. and 4th. inst.

The sincere esteem and regard which I feel for Your Excellency, make me set the highest value upon every expression of Edition: current; Page: [111] friendship with which you are pleased to honor me; I entreat you to accept the most cordial returns on my part.

I shall count it a singular felicity if in the course of possible operations above alluded to, personal intercourse shd afford me the means of cultivating a closer intimacy with you, and of proving more particularly the respect and attachment with which I have the honor etc.

PS: My dispatches were going to be closed when your Excellency’s Letter of the 8th. was delivered to me.

The State of Byron’s Fleet from the best intelligence I have been able to obtain, is as follows:

Six Ships, the names of which are mentioned in the paper I had the honor of transmitting the 3rd. have arrived at New York with their Crews in very bad health.

Two vizt. The Cornwall of 74 and Monmouth of 64, had joined Lord Howe; two One of which the Admirals Ship, were missing. One had put back to Portsmouth.

George Washington
Washington, George
October 4, 1778
Gouverneur Morris
Morris, Gouverneur


Dear Sir:

My public Letters to the President of Congress will inform you of the Wind that wafted me to this place; nothing more therefore need be said on that head.

Your Letter of the 8th. Ulto. contains three questions and answers, to wit: Can the Enemy prosecute the War? Do they mean to stay on the Continent? And is it our interest to put impediments in the way of their departure? To the first you answer in the Negative; to the second you are decided in opinion that they do not; And to the third, say, clearly No.

Much, my good Sir, may be said in favor of these answers; and some things against the two first of them. By way therefore of dissertation on the first, I will also beg leave to put a question, and give it an answer. Can we carry on the War much longer? certainly NO, unless some measures can be devised, and speedily executed,Financing the war effort to restore the credit of our Currency, restrain extortion, and punish forestallers.

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Without these can be effected, what funds can stand the present expences of the Army? And what Officer can bear the weight of prices, that every necessary Article is now got to? A Rat, in the shape of a Horse, is not to be bought at this time for less than £200; a Saddle under thirty or Forty; Boots twenty, and Shoes and other articles in like proportion. How is it possible therefore for Officers to stand this, without an increase of pay? And how is it possible to advance their Pay when Flour is selling (at different places) from five to fifteen pounds pr. Ct., Hay from ten to thirty pounds pr. Tunn, and Beef and other essentials, in this proportion.

The true point of light then to place, and consider this matter in, is not simply whether G. Britain can carry on the War, but whose Finances (theirs or ours) is most likely to fail: which leads me to doubt very much the infalibility of the answer given to your Second question, respecting the Enemy’s leaving the Continent; for I believe, that they will not do it, while ever hope and the chapter of accidents can give them a chance of bringing us to terms short of Independance. But this you perhaps will say, they are now bereft of. I shall acknowledge that many things favor the idea; but add, that upon a comparative view of circumstances there is abundant matter to puzzle and confound the judgment. To your third answer, I subscribe with hand and heart. the opening is now fair, and God grant they may embrace the oppertunity of bidding an eternal adieu to our, once quit of them, happy Land. If the Spaniards would but join their Fleets to those of France, and commence hostilities, my doubts would all subside. Without it, I fear the British Navy has it too much in its power to counteract the Schemes of France.

The high prices of every necessary. The little, indeed no benefit, which Officers have derived from the intended bounty of Congress in the article of Cloathing, The change in the establishment, by which so many of them are discontinued. The unfortunate delay of this business, which kept them too long in suspence, and set a number of evil spirits to work. The unsettled Rank, and contradictory modes of adjusting it, with other causes which might be enumerated, have conspired to sour the temper of the Army exceedingly; and has, I am told, been productive of a Memorial, or representation of some kind, to Congress, which neither directly, nor indirectly did I know, or ever hear was in agitation, till some days after it was Edition: current; Page: [113] dispatched; owing, as I apprehend, to the secrecy with which it was conducted to keep it from my knowledge, as I had in a similar instance last Spring, discountenanced and stifled a child of the same illigitimacy in its birth. If you have any News worth communicating, do not put it under a bushel, but transmit it to Dr. Sir, Yrs. sincerely.

George Washington
Washington, George
November 14, 1778
Henry Laurens
Laurens, Henry


Dear Sir:

This will be accompanied by an official letter on the subject of the proposed expedition against Canada. You will perceive I have only considered it in a military light; indeed I was not authorised to consider it in any other; and I am not without apprehensions, that I may be thought, in what I have done, to have exceeded the limits intended by Congress. But my solicitude for the public welfare which I think deeply interested in this affair, will I hope justify me in the eyes of all those who view things through that just medium.

I do not know, Sir, what may be your sentiments in the present case; but whatever they are I am sure I can confide in your honor and friendship, and shall not hesitate to unbosom myself to you on a point of the most delicate and important Nature.

The question of the Canadian expedition in the form it now stands appears to me one of the most interesting that has hitherto agitated our National deliberations. I have one objection to it, untouched in my public letter, which is in my estimation, insurmountable, and alarms all my feelings for the true and permanent interests of my country. This is the introduction of a large body of French troops into Canada,Danger of French troops in Canada and putting them in possession of the capital of that Province, attached to them by all the ties of blood, habits, manners, religion and former connexion of government. I fear this would be too great a temptation, to be resisted by any power actuated by the common maxims of national policy. Let us realize for a moment the striking advantages France would derive from the possession Edition: current; Page: [114] of Canada; the acquisition of an extensive territory abounding in supplies for the use of her Islands; the opening a vast source of the most beneficial commerce with the Indian nations, which she might then monopolize; the having ports of her own on this continent independent on the precarious good will of an ally; the engrossing the whole trade of Newfoundland whenever she pleased, the finest nursery of seamen in the world; the security afforded to her Islands; and finally, the facility of awing and controuling these states, the natural and most formidable rival of every maritime power in Europe. Canada would be a solid acquisition to France on all these accounts and because of the numerous inhabitants, subjects to her by inclination, who would aid in preserving it under her power against the attempt of every other.

France acknowledged for some time past the most powerful monachy in Europe by land, able now to dispute the empire of the sea with Great Britain, and if joined with Spain, I may say certainly superior, possessed of New Orleans, on our Right, Canada on our left and seconded by the numerous tribes of Indians on our Rear from one extremity to the other, a people, so generally friendly to her and whom she knows so well how to conciliate; would, it is much to be apprehended have it in her power to give law to these states.

Let us suppose, that when the five thousand French troops (and under the idea of that number twice as many might be introduced,) were entered the city of Quebec; they should declare an intention to hold Canada, as a pledge and surety for the debts due to France from the United States, [or, under other specious pretences hold the place till they can find a bone for contention], and [in the meanwhile] should excite the Canadians to engage in supporting [their pretences and claims]; what should we be able to say with only four or five thousand men to carry on the dispute? It may be supposed that France would not choose to renounce our friendship by a step of this kind as the consequence would probably be a reunion with England on some terms or other; and the loss of what she had acquired, in so violent and unjustifiable a manner, with all the advantages of an Alliance with us. This in my opinion is too slender a security against the measure to be relied on. The truth of the position will intirely depend on naval events. If France and Spain should unite and obtain a decided superiority by Sea, a reunion with England would Edition: current; Page: [115] avail very little and might be set at defiance. France, with a numerous army at command might throw in what number of land forces she thought proper to support her pretensions; and England without men, without money, and inferior on her favourite element could give no effectual aid to oppose them. Resentment, reproaches, and submission seem to be all that would be left us. Men are very apt to run into extremes; hatred to England may carry some into an excess of Confidence in France; especially when motives of gratitude are thrown into the scale. Men of this description would be unwilling to suppose France capable of acting so ungenerous a part. I am heartily disposed to entertain the most favourable sentiments of our new ally and to cherish them in others to a reasonable degree; but it is a maxim founded on the universal experience of mankind, that no nation is to be trusted farther than it is bound by its interest; and no prudent statesman or politician will venture to depart from it. In our circumstances we ought to be particularly cautious; for we have not yet attained sufficient vigor and maturity to recover from the shock of any false step into which we may unwarily fall.

If France should even engage in the scheme, in the first instance with the purest intentions, there is the greatest danger that, in the progress of the business, invited to it by circumstances and, perhaps, urged on by the solicitations and wishes of the Canadians, she would alter her views.

As the Marquis clothed his proposition when he spoke of it to me, it would seem to originate wholly with himself; but it is far from impossible that it had its birth in the Cabinet of France and was put into this artful dress, to give it the readier currency. I fancy that I read in the countenances of some people on this occasion, more than the disinterested zeal of allies. I hope I am mistaken and that my fears of mischief make me refine too much, and awaken jealousies that have no sufficient foundation.

But upon the whole, Sir, to wave every other consideration; I do not like to add to the number of our national obligations. I would wish as much as possible to avoid giving a foreign power new claims of merit for services performed, to the United States, and would ask no assistance that is not indispensible. I am, etc.

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George Washington
Washington, George
December 18, 1778
Middle Brook
Benjamin Harrison
Harrison, Benjamin


My dear Sir:

You will be so obliging as to present the inclosed to the House when oppertunity, and a suitable occasion offers. I feel very sensibly the late honorable testimony of their remembrance; to stand well in the good opinion of my Countrymen constitutes my chiefest happiness; and will be my best support under the perplexities and difficulties of my present Station.

The mention of my lands in the back Country was more owing to accident than design; the Virga. Officers having solicited leave for Colo. Wood to attend the Assembly of that commonwealth with some representation of theirs respecting their claims, or wishes, brought my own matters (of a similar nature) to view; but I am too little acquainted with the minuti[FCael] of them to ground an application on or give any trouble to the Assembly concerning them. Under the proclamation of 1763, I am entitled to 5000 Acres of Land in my own right; and by purchase from Captn. Roots, Posey, and some other Officers, I obtained rights to several thousands more, a small part of wch. I patented during the Admn. of Lord Dunmore; another part was (I believe) Surveyed, whilst the major part remains in locations; but where (without having recourse to my Memms.) and under what circumstances, I know not at this time any more than you do, nor do I wish to give trouble abt. them.

Persistence of the enemyI can assign but two causes for the enemys continuance among us, and these balance so equally in my Mind, that I scarce know which of the two preponderates. The one is, that they are waiting the ultimate determination of Parliament; the other, that of our distresses; by which I know the Commissioners went home not a little buoyed up; and sorry I am to add, not without cause. What may be the effect of such large and frequent emissions, of the dissentions, Parties, extravagance, and a general lax of public virtue Heaven alone can tell!Lack of public virtue I am affraid even to think of It; but it appears as clear to me as ever the Sun did in its meredian brightness, that America never stood in more eminent need of the wise, patriotic, and Spirited exertions of her Sons than at this period and if it is not a sufficient cause for genl. lamentation, my misconception of Edition: current; Page: [117] the matter impresses it too strongly upon me, that the States seperately are too much engaged in their local concerns, and have too many of their ablest men withdrawn from the general Council for the good of the common weal; in a word, I think our political system may, be compared to the mechanism of a Clock; and that our conduct should derive a lesson from it for it answers no good purpose to keep the smaller Wheels in order if the greater one which is the support and prime mover of the whole is neglected. How far the latter is the case does not become me to pronounce but as there can be no harm in a pious wish for the good of ones Country I shall offer it as mine that each State wd. not only choose,Need for able men in Congress but absolutely compel their ablest Men to attend Congress; that they would instruct them to go into a thorough investigation of the causes that have produced so many disagreeable effects in the Army and Country; in a word that public abuses should be corrected, and an entire reformation worked; without these it does not, in my judgment, require the spirit of divination to foretell the consequences of the present Administration, nor to how little purpose the States, individually, are framing constitutions, providing laws, and filling Offices with the abilities of their ablest Men. These, if the great whole is mismanaged must sink in the general wreck and will carry with it the remorse of thinking that we are lost by our own folly and negligence, or the desire perhaps of living in ease and tranquility during the expected accomplishment of so great a revolution in the effecting of which the greatest abilities and the honestest Men our (i.e. the American) world affords ought to be employed. It is much to be feared my dear Sir that the States in their seperate capacities have very inadequate ideas of the present danger. Removed (some of them) far distant from the scene of action and seeing, and hearing such publications only as flatter their wishes they conceive that the contest is at an end, and that to regulate the government and police of their own State is all that remains to be done; but it is devoutly to be wished that a sad reverse of this may not fall upon them like a thunder clap that is little expected. I do not mean to designate particular States. I wish to cast no reflections upon any one. The Public believes (and if they do believe it, the fact might almost as well be so) that the States at this time are badly represented, and that the great, and important concerns of the nation are horribly conducted, for want either of abilities or application in the Edition: current; Page: [118] Members, or through discord and party views of some individuals; that they should be so, is to be lamented more at this time, than formerly, as we are far advanced in the dispute and in the opinn. of many drawg. to a happy period; have the eyes of Europe upon us, and I am perswaded many political Spies to watch, discover our situation and give information of our weaknesses and wants.

The story you have related of a proposal to redeem the paper money at its present depreciated value has also come to my ears, but I cannot vouch for the authenticity of it. I am very happy to hear that the Assembly of Virginia have put the completion of their Regiment upon a footing so apparently certain, but as one great defect of your past laws for this purpose, has lain in the mode of getting the men to the Army, I shall hope that effectual measures are pointed out in the present, to remedy the evil and bring forward all that shall be raised. The Embargo upon Provisions is a most salutary measure as I am affraid a sufficiency of flour will not easily be obtained even with money of higher estimation than ours. adieu my dear Sir.

PS: Phila. 30th. This Letter was to have gone by Post from Middle brook but missed that conveyance, since which I have come to this place at the request of Congress whence I shall soon return.

I have seen nothing since I came here (on the 22d. Instt.) to change my opinion of Men or Measrs. but abundant reason to be convinced, that our Affairs are in a more distressed, ruinous, and deplorable condition than they have been in Since the commencement of the War. By a faithful labourer then in the cause. By a Man who is daily injuring his private Estate without even the smallest earthly advantage not common to all in case of a favourable Issue to the dispute. By one who wishes the prosperity of America most devoutly and sees or thinks he sees it, on the brink of ruin, you are beseeched most earnestly my dear Colo. Harrison, to exert yourself in endeavouring to rescue your Country, by, (let me add) sending your ablest and best Men to Congress; these characters must not slumber, nor sleep at home, in such times of pressing danger; they must not content themselves in the enjoyment of places of honor or profit in their own Country,Common interests of America in ruin while the common interests of America are mouldering and sinking into irretrievable (if a remedy is not soon applied) ruin, in which theirs also must ultimately be involved. If I was to be called upon to draw A Edition: current; Page: [119] picture of the times, and of Men; from what I have seen, heard, and in part know I should in one word say that idleness, dissipation and extravagance seem to have laid fast hold of most of them. That Speculation, peculation, and an insatiable thirst for riches seems to have got the better of every other consideration and almost of every order of Men. That party disputes and personal quarrels are the great business of the day whilst the momentous concerns of an empire, a great and accumulated debt; ruined finances, depreciated money, and want of credit (which in their consequences is the want of every thing) are but secondary considerations and postponed from day to day, from week to week as if our affairs wore the most promising aspect; after drawing this picture, which from my Soul I believe to be a true one I need not repeat to you that I am alarmed and wish to see my Countrymen roused. I have no resentments, nor do I mean to point at any particular characters; this I can declare upon my honor for I have every attention paid me by Congress than I can possibly expect and have reason to think that I stand well in their estimation but in the present situation of things I cannot help asking: Where is Mason, Wythe, Jefferson, Nicholas, Pendleton, Nelson, and another I could name; and why, if you are sufficiently impressed with your danger, do you not (as New Yk. has done in the case of Mr. Jay) send an extra Member or two for at least a certain limited time till the great business of the Nation is put upon a more respectable and happy establishmt. Your Money is now sinking 5 pr. Ct. a day in this City;Depreciation of currency and I shall not be surprized if in the course of a few months a total stop is put to the currency of it. And yet an assembly, a concert, a Dinner, or Supper (that will cost three or four hundred pounds) will not only take Men off from acting in but even from thinking of this business while a great part of the Officers of your Army from absolute necessity are quitting the Service and the more virtuous few rather than do this are sinking by sure degrees into beggery and want. I again repeat to you that this is not an exaggerated acct.; that it is an alarming one I do not deny, and confess to you that I feel more real distress on acct. of the prest. appearances of things than I have done at any one time since the commencement of the dispute; but it is time to bid you once more adieu. Providence has heretofore taken us up when all other means and hope seemed to be departing from us, in this I will confide. Yr. &ca.

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George Washington
Washington, George
March 15, 1779



I have waited with anxious expectations, for some plan to be adopted by Congress which would have a general operation throughout the States for compleating their respective Battalions. No plan for this purpose has yet come to my knowledge, nor do I find that the several Governments are pursuing any measures to accomplish the end by particular arrangements of their own legislatures. I therefore hope Congress will excuse any appearance of importunity, in my troubling them again on the subject, as I earnestly wish to be enabled to realize some ideas on what may be expected towards the completion of our Battalions by the opening of the next campaign.Completion of battalions They are already greatly reduced, and will be much more so by that time; owing to the expiration of the term of Service of the last years drafts.

[At the Posts in the highlands, Nixons, Pattersons and Learneds Brigades alone, will suffer (by the first of April) a diminution of 847 Men, which must be replaced, illy as they can, and reluctantly as they will be spared from other Posts.]

The Committee, with whom I had the honor to confer, were of opinion, that the regimts. now in Service should be continued and completed; this was confirmed by the resolve of Congress of the 23d of Jany. last, which also directed some additional encouragements for recruiting the Army during the War. Aware that this expedient, though a very useful one, could not be altogether relied on, especially if the interference of State bounties, were still permitted; I furnished the Committee with my ideas of the mode which afforded the most certain prospect of success. I shall not trouble Congress with a repetition of these, as I doubt not they have been fully reported by the Committee.

Among the Troops of some States, recruiting in Camp on the new bounties has succeeded tolerably well; among others, where the expectations of State bounties have had more influence, very ill; Upon the whole, the success has been far short of our wishes and will probably be so of our necessities.

The measure of inlisting in the Country, in my opinion depends Edition: current; Page: [121] so much on the abolishing of State bounties, that without it,Abolition of state bounties I am doubtful whether it will be worth the experiment. State bounties, have been a source of immense expence and many misfortunes. The sooner the practice can be abolished, and system introduced in our manner of recruiting and keeping up our battalions, as well as in the administration of the several departments of the Army, the sooner will our Security be established and placed out of the reach of contingencies. Temporary expedients to serve the purposes of the moment, occasion more difficulties and expence than can easily be conceived.

The superior information, which Congress may have, of the political State of affairs in Europe [and of combining circumstances] may induce them to believe that, there will soon be a termination of the War; and therefore, that the expence of vigorous measures to re-inforce the Army may be avoided. If this should be the case, I dare say the reasons will be well considered before a plan is adopted; which, whatever advantages of oeconomy it may promise, [in] an eventual dissappointment, may be productive of ruinous consequences. For my own part, I confess I should be cautious of admitting the supposition that the War will terminate without another desperate effort on the part of the enemy. The Speech of the Prince,Prospects for peace and the debates of his Ministers have very little the aspect of peace; and if we reflect, that they are subsequent (as I apprehend they must have been) to the events, on which our hopes appear to be founded, they must seem no bad argumts. of a determination in the British Cabinet to continue the War. Tis true, whether this be the determination or not, tis a very natural policy that every exertion should be made by them to be in the best condition to oppose their enemies, and that there should be every appearance of vigor and preparation. But if the Ministry had serious thoughts of making peace, they would hardly insist so much as they do, on the particular point of prosecuting the American War. They would not like to raise and inflame the expectations of the People on this subject, while it was secretly their intention to disappoint them. In America,The enemy in the Southern states every thing has the complexion of a continuance of the War. The operations of the enemy in the Southern States do not resemble a transient incursion, but a serious conquest. At their posts in this quarter, every thing is in a state of tranquillity, and indicates a design, at least, to hold possession. Edition: current; Page: [122] These considerations joined to the preceeding. The infinite pains that are taken to keep up the Spirits of the disaffected and to assure them of support and protection; and several other circumstances, trifling in themselves but powerful when combined, amount to no contemptible evidence that the contest is not so near an end, as we could wish. I am fully sensible of many weighty reasons on the opposite side; but I do not think them sufficiently conclusive to destroy the force of what has been suggested, or to justify the sanguine inferences many seem inclined to draw.

Should the Court of Britain be able to send any reinforcements to America the next campaign, and carry on offensive operations; and should we not take some effectual means to recruit our batalions; when we shall have detached the force necessary to act decisively against the Indians, and the remaining drafts shall have returned home; the force which remains for our defence will be very inconsiderable indeed. We must then on every exigency have recourse to the Militia,Disadvantages in using the militia the consequence of which, besides weakness and defeat in the field, will be double or treble the necessary expence to the public. To say nothing of the injury to agriculture which attends calling out the Militia on paticular emergencies and at some critical Seasons, they are commonly twice as long coming to where they are wanted and returning home, as they are in the field; and must of course for every days real service receive two or three days pay, and consume the same proportion of provisions.

When an important matter is suspended for deliberation in Congress, I should be sorry that my sollicitude to have it determined, should contribute to a premature decision. But when I have such striking proofs of public loss and private discontent from the present management of the clothing department. When accts., inadmissible if any system existed, frequently remind me of the absolute necessity of introducing one. When I hear as I often do, of large importations of cloathing which we never see, of quantities wasting and rotting in different parts of the Country, the knowledge of which reaches me by chance.Clothing the army When I have reason to believe that the money which has been expended for cloathing the Army, if judiciously laid out [and the Cloaths regularly issued] would have effectually answered the purpose. And when I have never till now seen it otherwise than half naked. When I feel the perplexity and additional load of business thrown upon me by the irregularity in this Edition: current; Page: [123] department, and by applications from all parts of the Army for relief; I cannot forbear discovering my anxiety to have some plan decided for conducting the business hereafter, in a more provident and consistent manner. If the one proposed to the Committee does not coincide with the Sentiments of Congress, I should be happy some other could be substituted. [With the greatest respect I have the honr. etc.]

George Washington
Washington, George
March 15, 1779
Middle brook
Thomas Nelson
Nelson, Thomas


My dear Sir:

I have to thank you for your friendly letter of the 9th., and for your obliging, tho unsuccessful endeavours to procure the Horses I am indebted to my Country for. At present I have no immediate call for them, as we find it rather difficult to support the few we keep at Camp, in forage.

It gives me very singular pleasure to find that you have again taken a Seat in Congress; I think there never was a time when cool and dispassionate reasoning; strict attention and application, great integrity, and (if it was in the nature of things, unerring) wisdom were more to be wished for than the present. Our Affairs, according to my judgment, are now come to a crisis, and require no small degree of political skill, to steer clear of those shelves and Rocks which though deeply buried, may wreck our hopes, and throw us upon some inhospitable shore. Unanimity in our Councils, disinterestedness in our pursuits, and steady perseverence in our national duty, are the only means to avoid misfortunes; if they come upon us after these we shall have the consolation of knowing that we have done our best, the rest is with the Gods.

Shall I hope to have the pleasure of seeing you at Camp, when the weather gets a little settled? I can assure you that it will be a gratification of my wishes. Mrs. Washington salutes you most cordially, and offers her thanks for the letter you was kind enough to send her. I am, etc.

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George Washington
Washington, George
March 27, 1779
George Mason
Mason, George


Dear Sir:

By some interruption of the last Weeks Mail your favor of the 8th. did not reach my hands till last Night. Under cover of this Mr. Mason (if he should not have Sailed, and) to whom I heartily wish a perfect restoration of health, will receive two letters; one of them to the Marqs. de la Fayette and the other to Doctr. Franklin; in furnishing which I am happy, as I wish for instances in which I can testify the sincerity of my regard for you.

Our Commissary of Prisoners has been invariably, and pointedly instructed to exchange those Officers first who were first captivated, as far as rank will apply; and I have every reason to believe he has obeyed the order; as I have refused a great many applications for irregular exchanges in consequence, and I did it because I would not depart from my principle, and thereby incur the charge of partiality. It sometimes happens, that officers later in captivity than others, have been exchanged before them; but it is in cases where the rank of the Enemys officers in our possession, do not apply to the latter. There is a prospect now I think of a general exchange taking place, which will be very pleasing to the parties and their connexions; and will be a mean of relieving much distress to individuals, though it may not, circumstanced as we are at this time, be advantageous to us, considered in a national and political point of view. partial exchanges have, for some time past, been discontinued by the Enemy.

Though it is not in my power to devote much time to private corrispondences, owing to the multiplicity of public letters (and other business) I have to read, write, and transact; yet I can with great truth assure you, that it would afford me very singular pleasure to be favoured at all times with your sentiments in a leizure hour, upon public matters of general concernment as well as those which more immediately respect your own State (if proper conveyances would render prudent a free communication). I am particularly desirous of it at this time, because I view things very differently, I fear, from what people in general do who seem to think the contest is at an Edition: current; Page: [125] end; and to make money, and get places, the only things now remaining to do. I have seen without dispondency (even for a moment) the hours which America have stiled her gloomy ones,Eminent dangers but I have beheld no day since the commencement of hostilities that I have thought her liberties in such eminent danger as at present. Friends and foes seem now to combine to pull down the goodly fabric we have hitherto been raising at the expence of so much time, blood, and treasure; and unless the bodies politick will exert themselves to bring things back to first principles, correct abuses, and punish our internal foes, inevitable ruin must follow. Indeed we seem to be verging so fast to destruction, that I am filled with sensations to which I have been a stranger till within these three Months. Our Enemy behold with exultation and joy how effectually we labour for their benefit; and from being in a state of absolute despair, and on the point of evacuating America, are now on tiptoe; nothing therefore in my judgment can save us but a total reformation in our own conduct, or some decisive turn to affairs in Europe. The former alas! to our shame be it spoken! is less likely to happen than the latter, as it is now consistent with the views of the Speculators,Speculation and avarice various tribes of money makers, and stock jobbers of all denominations to continue the War for their own private emolument, without considering that their avarice, and thirst for gain must plunge every thing (including themselves) in one common Ruin.

Were I to indulge my present feelings, and give a loose to that freedom of expression which my unreserved friendship for you would prompt me to, I should say a great deal on this subject, but letters are liable to so many accidents, and the sentiments of Men in office sought after by the enemy with so much avidity, and besides conveying useful knowledge (if they get into their hands) for the superstructure of their plans, is often perverted to the worst of purposes, that I shall be somewhat reserved, notwithstanding this Letter goes by a private hand to Mount Vernon. I cannot refrain lamenting however in the most poignant terms, the fatal policy too prevalent in most of the States, of employing their ablest Men at home in posts of honor or profit, till the great national Interests are fixed upon a solid basis. To me it appears no unjust Simile to compare the affairs of this great continent to the Mechanism of a Clock, each State representing some one or other of the smaller parts of it, which they are endeavouring to put in fine Edition: current; Page: [126] order without considering how useless and unavailing their labour, unless the great wheel, or spring which is to set the whole in motion, is also well attended to and kept in good order. I allude to no particular state, nor do I mean to cast reflections upon any one of them. Nor ought I, it may be said, to do so upon their representatives,Congress rent by party but as it is a fact too notorious to be concealed, that C— is rent by party, that much business of a trifling nature and personal concernment withdraws their attention from matters of great national moment at this critical period. When it is also known that idleness and dissipation takes place of close attention and application, no man who wishes well to the liberties of his Country and desires to see its rights established, can avoid crying out where are our Men of abilities? Why do they not come forth to save their Country? let this voice my dear Sir call upon you, Jefferson and others; do not from a mistaken opinion that we are about to set down under our own vine and our own fig tree let our hitherto noble struggle end in ignominy; believe me when I tell you there is danger of it. I have pretty good reasons for thinking, that Administration a little while ago had resolved to give the matter up, and negotiate a peace with us upon almost any terms, but I shall be much mistaken if they do not now from the present state of our currency, dissentions, and other circumstances, push matters to the utmost extremity; nothing I am sure will prevent it but the interruption of Spain and their disappointed hope from Russia.

I thank you most cordially for your kind offer of rendering me Services. I shall without reserve as heretofore, call upon you whenever instances occur that may require it; being with the sincerest, regard, etc.

George Washington
Washington, George
March 31, 1779
James Warren
Warren, James


Dear Sir:

I beseech you not to ascribe my delay in answering your obliging favor of the the 16th. of Decr. to disrespect, or want of inclination to continue a corrispondence in which I have always taken pleasure, and thought myself honord.

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Your Letter of the above date came to my hands in Philadelphia where I attended at the request of Congress to settle some important matters respecting the army and its future operations; and where I was detained till some time in Feby., during that period my time was so much occupied by the immediate and pressing business which carried me down, that I could attend to little else; and upon my return to Camp I found the ordinary business of the Army had run so much behind hand, that, together with the arrangements I had to carry into execution, no leizure was left me to endulge myself sooner in making the acknowledgment I am now about to do, of the pleasure I felt at finding that I still enjoyed a share of your confidence and esteem, and now and then am to be informed of it by Letter. believe me Sir when I add, that this proof of your holding me in remembrance is most acceptable and pleasing.

Our conflict is not likely to cease so soon as every good Man would wish. The measure of iniquity is not yet filled; and unless we can return a little more to first principles, and act a little more upon patriotic ground, I do not know when it will, or, what may be the Issue of the contest. Speculation, Peculation, Engrossing, forestalling with all their concomitants, afford too many melancholy proofs of the decay of public virtue; and too glaring instances of its being the interest and desire of too many who would wish to be thought friends, to continue the War.

Depreciation of currencyNothing I am convinced but the depreciation of our Currency proceeding in a great measure from the foregoing Causes, aided by Stock jobbing, and party dissensions has fed the hopes of the Enemy and kept the B. Arms in America to this day. They do not scruple to declare this themselves, and add, that we shall be our own conquerers. Cannot our common Country Am. possess virtue enough to disappoint them? Is the paltry consideration of a little dirty pelf to individuals to be placed in competition with the essential rights and liberties of the present generation, and of Millions yet unborn? Shall a few designing men for their own aggrandizement, and to gratify their own avarice, overset the goodly fabric we have been rearing at the expence of so much time, blood, and treasure? and shall we at last become the victims of our own abominable lust of gain? Forbid it heaven! forbid it all and every State in the Union! by enacting and enforcing efficacious laws for checking the growth of these monstrous evils, and restoring Edition: current; Page: [128] matters, in some degree to the pristine state they were in at the commencement of the War. Our cause is noble, it is the cause of Mankind! and the danger to it, is to be apprehended from ourselves. Shall we slumber and sleep then while we should be punishing those miscreants who have brot. these troubles upon us and who are aimg. to continue us in them, while we should be striving to fill our Battalions, and devising ways and means to appreciate the currency; on the credit of wch. every thing depends?Vigorous measures against speculators I hope not. Let vigorous measures be adopted; not to limit the prices of Articles, for this I believe is inconsistent with the very nature of things, and impracticable in itself, but to punish Speculaters, forestallers, and extortioners, and above all to sink the money by heavy taxes. To promote public and private oeconomy; Encourage Manufactures &ca. Measures of this sort gone heartily into by the several States would strike at once at the root of all our evils and give the coup de grace to British hope of subjugating this Continent, either by their Arms or their Arts. The first, as I have before observed, they acknowledge is unequal to the task; the latter I am sure will be so if we are not lost to every thing that is good and virtuous.

The enemy’s designsA little time now, must unfold in some degree, the Enemys designs. Whether the state of affairs in Europe will permit them to augment their Army with more than recruits for the Regiments now on the Continent and therewith make an active and vigorous compaign, or whether with their Florida and Canadian force they will aid and abet the Indians in ravaging our Western Frontier while their Shipg. with detachments harrass (and if they mean to prosecute the predatory War threatened by Administration through their Commissioners) burn and destroy our Sea Coast; or whether, contrary to expectation, they should be more disposed to negotiate than to either is more than I can determine; the latter will depend very much upon their apprehensions from the Court of Spain, and expectations of foreign aid and powerful alliances; at present we seem to be in a Chaos but this cannot last long as I suppose the ultimate determination of the British Court will be developed at the meeting of Parliament after the Hollidays.

Mrs. Washington joins me in cordial wishes, and best respects to Mrs. Warren; she would have done herself the pleasure of writing but the present convayance was sudden. I am, etc.

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George Washington
Washington, George
May 8, 1779
Middle Brook
Gouverneur Morris
Morris, Gouverneur


Monsieur Gerard did me the honor to deliver me your favour of the 26th. I shall always be obliged to you, my dear Sir, for a free communication of your sentiments on whatsoever subject may occur.

The objects of your letter were important. Mr. Gerard I dare say has made it unnecessary for me to recapitulate what passed between him and myself and has informed you of the alternative I proposed for improving the important event announced by him. From what he told me it appears that sufficient assurances cannot be given of points which are essential to justify the great undertaking you had in view at the expense of other operations very interesting. And indeed though I was desirous to convince the Minister that we are willing to make every effort in our power for striking a decisive blow; yet my judgment rather inclined to the second plan as promising more certain success,Relief of the Southern states without putting so much to the hazard. The relief of the S[outhern] S[tates] appears to me an object of the greatest magnitude and what may lead to still more important advantages. I feel infinite anxiety on their account; their internal weakness, disaffection, the want of energy, the general languor that has seized the people at large makes me apprehend the most serious consequences; it would seem too, as if the enemy meant to transfer the principal weight of the war that way. If it be true that a large detachment has lately sailed from New York and that Sir Henry Clinton is gone with it, in which several accounts I have received agree (though I do not credit the latter) and these should be destined for the Southward as is most probable, there can be little doubt that this is the present plan. Charlestown it is likely will feel the next stroke. This if it succeeds will leave the enemy full possession of Georgia by obliging us to collect our forces for the defence of South Carolina and, will consequently open new sources for Men and supplies and prepare the way for a further career. The climate, I am aware is an obstacle but perhaps not so great as is imagined and, when we consider the difference in our respective means of preserving health it may possibly be found more adverse to our troops than to theirs. In this critical situation, Edition: current; Page: [130] I hardly know any resource we have unless it be in the event expected; and the supposed reinforcement now on its way, for want of a competent land force on our part, may make even this dependence precarious. If it should fail, our affairs which have a very sickly aspect in many respects will receive a stroke they are little able to bear.

As a variety of accidents may disappoint our hopes here it is indispensable we should make every exertion on our part to check the enemy’s progress. This cannot be done to effect, if our reliance is solely or principally on militia, for a force continually fluctuating is incapable of any material effort. The states concerned ought by all means to endeavour to draw out men for a length of time; a smaller number, on this plan would answer their purpose better; a great deal of expence would be avoided and agriculture would be much less impeded. It is to be lamented that the remoteness and weakness of this army, would make it folly to attempt to send any succour from this quarter. Perhaps for want of knowing the true state of our Foreign expectations and prospects of finance, I may be led to contemplate the gloomy side of things.The gloomy side of things But I confess they appear to me to be in a very disagreeable train. The rapid decay of our currency, the extinction of public spirit, the increasing rapacity of the times, the want of harmony in our councils, the declining zeal of the people, the discontents and distresses of the officers of the army; and I may add, the prevailing security and insensibility to danger, are symptoms, in my eye of a most alarming nature. If the enemy have it in their power to press us hard this campaign I know not what may be the consequence. Our army as it now stands is but little more than the skeleton of an army and I hear of no steps that are taking to give it strength and substance. I hope there may not be great mistakes on this head, and that our abilities in general are not overrated. The applications for succour, are numerous; but no pains are taken to put it in my power to afford them. When I endeavour to draw together the Continental troops for the most essential purposes I am embarrassed with complaints of the exhausted defenceless situation of particular states and find myself obliged either to resist solicitations, made in such a manner and with such a degree of emphasis, as scarcely to leave me a choice; or to sacrifice the most obvious principles of military propriety and risk the general safety.

I shall conclude by observing, that it is well worthy the ambition Edition: current; Page: [131] of a patriot Statesman at this juncture, to endeavour to pacify party differences, to give fresh vigor to the springs of government, to inspire the people with confidence, and above all to restore the credit of our currency. With very great regard I am, etc.

George Washington
Washington, George
May 12, 1779
Middle Brook


Brothers: I am happy to see you here. I am glad the long Journey you have made, has done you no harm; and that you are in good health: I am glad also you left All our friends of the Delaware Nation well.

Brothers: I have read your paper. The things you have said are weighty things, and I have considered them well. The Delaware Nation have shown their good will to the United States. They have done wisely and I hope they will never repent.Friendship with Indians I rejoice in the new assurances you give of their friendship. The things you now offer to do to brighten the chain, prove your sincerity. I am sure Congress will run to meet you, and will do every thing in their power to make the friendship between the people of these States, and their Brethren of the Delaware nation, last forever.

Brothers: I am a Warrior. My words are few and plain; but I will make good what I say. ‘Tis my business to destroy all the Enemies of these States and to protect their friends. You have seen how we have withstood the English for four years; and how their great Armies have dwindled away and come to very little; and how what remains of them in this part of our great Country, are glad to stay upon Two or three little Islands, where the Waters and their Ships hinder us from going to destroy them. The English, Brothers, are a boasting people. They talk of doing a great deal; but they do very little. They fly away on their Ships from one part of our Country to an other; but as soon as our Warriors get together they leave it and go to some other part. They took Boston and Philadelphia, two of our greatest Towns; but when they saw our Warriors in a great body ready to fall upon them, they were forced to leave them.

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Brothers: We have till lately fought the English all alone. Now the Great King of France is become our Good Brother and Ally. He has taken up the Hatchet with us, and we have sworn never to bury it, till we have punished the English and made them sorry for All the wicked things they had in their Hearts to do against these States. And there are other Great Kings and Nations on the other side of the big Waters, who love us and wish us well, and will not suffer the English to hurt us.

Warning to IndiansBrothers: Listen well to what I tell you and let it sink deep into your Hearts. We love our friends, and will be faithful to them, as long as they will be faithful to us. We are sure our Good brothers the Delawares will always be so. But we have sworn to take vengeance on our Enemies, and on false friends. The other day, a handful of our young men destroyed the settlement of the Onondagas. They burnt down all their Houses, destroyed their grain and Horses and Cattle, took their Arms away, killed several of their Warriors and brought off many prisoners and obliged the rest to fly into the woods. This is but the beginning of the troubles which those Nations, who have taken up the Hatchet against us, will feel.

Brothers: I am sorry to hear that you have suffered for want of necessaries, or that any of our people have not dealt justly by you.Congress and the Indians But as you are going to Congress, which is the great Council of the Nation and hold all things in their hands, I shall say nothing about the supplies you ask. I hope you will receive satisfaction from them. I assure you, I will do every thing in my power to prevent your receiving any further injuries, and will give the strictest orders for this purpose. I will severely punish any that shall break them.

Brothers: I am glad you have brought three of the Children of your principal Chiefs to be educated with us. I am sure Congress will open the Arms of love to them, and will look upon them as their own Children, and will have them educated accordingly. This is a great mark of your confidence and of your desire to preserve the friendship between the Two Nations to the end of time, and to become One people with your Brethren of the United States. My ears hear with pleasure the other matters you mention. Congress will be glad to hear them too. You do well to wish to learn our arts and ways of life, and above all, the religion of Jesus Christ. These will make you a greater and happier people than you are. Congress will do Edition: current; Page: [133] every thing they can to assist you in this wise intention; and to tie the knot of friendship and union so fast, that nothing shall ever be able to loose it.

Brothers: There are some matters about which [I do not open my Lips, because they belong to Congress, and not to us warriors; you are going to them, they will tell you all you wish to know.

Brothers: When you have seen all you want to see, I will then wish you a good Journey to Philadelphia. I hope you may find there every thing your hearts can wish, that when you return home you may be able to tell your Nation good things of us. And I pray God he may make your Nation wise and Strong, that they may always see their own] true interest and have courage to walk in the right path; and that they never may be deceived by lies to do any thing against the people of these States, who are their Brothers and ought always to be one people with them.

George Washington
Washington, George
May 22, 1779
Middle Brook



The situation of our affairs at this period appears to me peculiarly critical, and this I flatter myself will apologise for that anxiety which impels me to take the liberty of addressing you on the present occasion.State of the army The state of the army in particular is alarming on several accounts, that of its numbers is not among the least. Our battalions are exceedingly reduced, not only from the natural decay incident to the best composed armies; but from the expiration of the term of service for which a large proportion of the men were engaged. The measures hitherto taken to replace them, so far as has come to my knowledge have been attended with very partial success; and I am ignorant of any others in contemplation that afford a better prospect. A reinforcement expected from Virginia, consisting of new levies and reinlisted men is necessarily ordered to the Southward. Not far short of one third of our whole force must be detached on a service undertaken by the direction of Congress Edition: current; Page: [134] and essential in itself. I shall only say of what remains, that when it is compared with the force of the enemy now actually at New York and Rhode Island, with the addition of the succours, they will in all probablity receive from England, at the lowest computation, it will be found to justify very serious apprehensions and to demand the zealous attention of the different legislatures.

When we consider the rapid decline of our currency, the general temper of the times the disaffection of a great part of the people, the lethargy that overspreads the rest, the increasing danger to the Southern States, we cannot but dread the consequences of any misfortune in this quarter; and must feel the impolicy of trusting our security, to a want of activity and enterprise in the Enemy.

An expectation of peace and an opinion of the Enemys inability to send more troops to this country, I fear, have had too powerful an influence in our affairs. I have never heard of any thing conclusive to authorise the former, and present appearances are in my opinion against it. The accounts we receive from Europe uniformly announce vigorous preparations to continue the war, at least another campaign. The debates and proceedings in Parliament wear this complexion. The public papers speak confidently of large reinforcements destined for America.Reinforcements to General Clinton The minister in his speech asserts positively that reinforcements will be sent over to Sir Henry Clinton; though he acknowledges the future plan of the war will be less extensive than the past. Let it be supposed, that the intended succours will not exceed five thousand men. This will give the Enemy a superiority very dangerous to our safety, if their strength be properly exerted, and our situation not materially altered for the better.

These considerations and many more that might be suggested to point to the necessity of immediate and decisive exertions to complete our battalions and to make our military force more respectable. I thought it my duty to give an idea of its true state and to urge the attention of the States to a matter in which their safety and happiness are so interested. I hope a concern for the public good will be admitted as the motive and excuse of my importunity.

Defects in clothing suppliesThere is one point which I beg leave to mention also. The want of system, which has prevailed in the clothiers department has been a source of innumerable evils; defective supplies, Edition: current; Page: [135] irregular and unequal issues, great waste loss and expence to the public, general dissatisfaction in the army, much confusion and perplexity, an additional load of business to the officers commanding make but a part of them. I have for a long time past most ardently desired to see a reformation. Congress by a resolve of the 23d of March has established an ordinance for regulating this department. According to this, there is a sub or state clothier to be appointed by each state. I know not what instructions may have been given relative to these appointments; but, if the matter now rests with the particular States, I take the liberty to press their execution without loss of time. The service suffers amazingly from the disorder in this department, and the regulations for it cannot possibly be too soon carried into effect. I have the honor, etc.

George Washington
Washington, George
September 7, 1779
West point
John Jay
Jay, John


Dr Sir:

I have received Your obliging Favors of the 25th. and 31st of last month and thank you for them.

It really appears impossible to reconcile the conduct Britain is pursuing, to any system of prudence or policy. For the reasons you assign, appearances are against her deriving aid from other powers; and if it is truly the case, that she has rejected the mediation of Spain, without having made allies, it will exceed all past instances of her infatuation. Notwithstanding appearances, I can hardly bring myself fully to believe that it is the case; or that there is so general a combination against the interests of Britain among the European powers, as will permit them to endanger the political ballance. The European political balanceI think it probable enough, that the conduct of France in the affairs of the Porte and Russia will make an impression on the Empress; but I doubt whether it will be sufficient to counterballance the powerful motives she has to support England; and the Porte has been perhaps too much weakened in the last war with Russia to be overfond of renewing it. The Emperor is also the natural ally of England notwithstanding the connexions of Blood between Edition: current; Page: [136] his family and that of France; and he may prefer reasons of National policy to those of private attachment. Tis true his finances may not be in the best state, though one campaign could hardly have exhausted them, but as Holland looks up to him for her chief protection, if he should be inclined to favor England, it may give her Councils a decided biass the same way. She can easily supply what is wanting in the Article of money; and by this aid, give sinews to that confederacy. Denmark is also the natural ally of England; and though there has lately been a family bickering, her political interest may outweigh private animosity. Her marine assistance would be considerable. Portugal too, though timid and cautious at present, if she was to see connexions formed by England able to give her countenance and security, would probably declare for her interests. Russia, Denmark, The Emperor, Holland, Portugal and England would form a respectable counterpoise to the opposite scale. Though all the maritime powers of Europe were interested in the independence of this Country, as it tended to diminish the overgrown power of Britain, yet they may be unwilling to see too great a preponderacy on the side of her rivals; and when the question changes itself from the separation of America to the ruin of England as a Naval power, I should not be surprised at a proportionable change in the sentiments of some of those States which have been heretofore unconcerned Spectators or inclining to our side. I suggest these things rather as possible than probable; it is even to be expected that the decisive blow will be struck, before the interposition of the Allies England may acquire can have effect. But still as possible events, they ought to have their influence and prevent our relaxing in any measures necessary for our safety, on the supposition of a speedy peace or removal of the War from the present Theatre in America.

The account which Mr. Wharton received, of the reinforcement that came with Adml. Arbuthnot, corresponds pretty well, with respect to number, with the best information I have been able to obtain upon the subject. Some recent advices make it about Three thousand, and say that these Troops are rather in a sickly condition. It is generally said, that they are Recruits; but whether there is so great a proportion of them Scotch as his intelligence mentions, is not ascertained by any accounts I have received.

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With respect to the person you recommended last Winter, he was employed in consequence; and I have not the smallest doubt of his attachment and integrity. But he has not had it in his power, and indeed it is next to impossible that any one should circumstanced as he is, to render much essential service in the way it was intended to employ him. You will readily conceive the difficulties in such a case. The business was of too delicate a nature for him to transact it frequently himself, and the Characters, he has been obliged occasionally to confide it to, have not been able to gain any thing satisfactory or material. Indeed, I believe it will seldom happen, that a person acting in this way, can render any essential advantages more than once or twice at any rate; and that what he will be compelled to do to preserve the pretended confidence of the other party, will generally counterbalance any thing he may effect. The greatest benefits are to be derived from persons who live with the other side; whose local circumstances, without subjecting them to suspicions, give them an opportunity of making observations and comparing and combining things and Sentiments. It is with such I have endeavoured to establish a correspondence, and on whose reports I shall most rely. From these several considerations, I am doubtful whether it will be of any advantage for the person to continue longer in the way he has acted. The points to which he must have alluded in his Letter, were the movements up the North River and against Charles Town and the expedition to Virginia. I believe the first certain information of the first of these events came from him. He has never received any thing from me. The Gentleman who employed him first, had some Money deposited with him for confidential purposes; but I cannot tell how much he may have paid him.

With every sentiment of esteem etc.

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George Washington
Washington, George
September 16, 1779
West Point


The Minister opened the conference by observing, that The Council of Massachusetts had represented to him the disadvantages, which their commerce was likely to suffer from the late misfortune in Penobscot and the advantages which would result if His Excellency Count D’Estaing could detach a few ships of the line and frigates to be stationed upon their coast, for protecting their commerce and countenancing the operations of their cruisers against that of the enemy. But before he should propose such a measure to Count D’Estaing, he wished to know from The General what purposes the detachment would answer to his military operations, and whether it would enable him to prosecute any offensive enterprise against the enemy. That if he could accompany the request of the Council with assurances of this kind, a motive of such importance would have the greatest influence in determining the concurrence of Count D’Estaing, and might the better justify him in deranging or contracting his plans in the West Indies by making a detachment of his force.

Coordination of the French navy and American army in West Indies.The General answered: That if Count D’Estaing could spare a detachment superior to the enemy’s naval force upon this Continent retaining such a force in the West Indies as would put it out of the enemy’s power to detach an equal force to this Continent without leaving themselves inferior in the Islands, the measure would have a high probability of many important and perhaps decisive advantages. But these would depend upon several contingencies; the time in which the detachment can arrive, and the position and force of Edition: current; Page: [139] the enemy when it arrives. That the season proper for military operations was now pretty far advanced, and to make a Winter campaign would require a disposition of our magazines peculiar to it, which could not be made without a large increase of expence; a circumstance not to be desired in the present posture of our affairs, unless the arrival of a naval succour was an event of some certainty. That with respect to the position and force of the enemy,The outlook in New York and Rhode Island they had now about fourteen thousand men at New York, and its dependencies and between three and four thousand at Rhode Island; that to reduce the former, if it should be concentred on the Island would require extensive preparations beforehand, both as to magazines and aids of men, which could not with propriety be undertaken on a precarious expectation of assistance. But that if the garrison of Rhode Island should continue there, we should have every reason to expect its reduction in a combined operation; it might however be withdrawn. He added: That the enemy appear to be making large detachments from New York which the present situation of their affairs seems to exact. That there is a high probability of their being left so weak as to give us an opportunity, during the Winter of acting effectually against New York, in case of the arrival of a fleet to co-operate with us; even with the force we now have and could suddenly assemble on an emergency. That at all events the French Squadron would be able to strike an important stroke, in the capture and destruction of the enemys vessels of war, with a large number of transports and perhaps seamen.

He concluded with observing, That though in the great uncertainty of the arrival of a Squadron, he could not undertake to make expensive preparations for cooperating, nor pledge himself for doing it effectually; yet there was the greatest prospect of utility from the arrival of such a Squadron, and he would engage to do every thing in his power for improving its aid, if it should appear upon our coast:A combined operation suggested That if the present or future circumstances should permit His Excellency Count D’Estaing to concert a combined operation with the troops of these states against the enemy’s fleets and armies within these States, he would be ready to promote the measure to the utmost of our resources and should have the highest hopes of its success; it would however, be necessary to prevent delay and give efficacy to the project that he should have some previous notice.

The Minister replied: That The Generals delicacy upon the occasion was very proper; but as he seemed unwilling to give assurances of effectual cooperation, in conveying the application to the Admiral he would only make use of the name of the Council which would no doubt have all the weight due to the application of so respectable a body.

The General assented, observing that occasional mention Edition: current; Page: [140] might be made of the military advantages to be expected from the measure.

The Minister in the next place informed The General that there had been some negotiations between Congress and Monsieur Gerard,The Floridas on the subject of the Floridas and the limits of the Spanish dominions in that quarter, concerning which certain resolutions had been taken by Congress, which he supposed were known to The General. He added, that the Spaniards had in contemplation an expedition against the Floridas, which was either already begun or very soon would be begun, and he wished to know the Generals opinion of a cooperation on our part. That it was probable this expedition would immediately divert the enermy’s force from South Carolina and Georgia, and the question then would be whether General Lincolns army would be necessary elsewhere, or might be employed in a cooperation with the Spanish forces. That the motive with the French court for wishing such a cooperation was that it would be a meritorious act on the side of the United States towards Spain, who though she had all along been well disposed to the revolution had entered reluctantly into the war and had not yet acknowledged our independence; that a step of this kind would serve to confirm her good dispositions and to induce her not only to enter into a Treaty with us, but perhaps to assist with a loan of money. That the forces of Spain in the Islands were so considerable as would in all appearance make our aid unnecessary; on which account the utility of it only contingent and possible, was but a secondary consideration with the Court of France; the desire to engage Spain more firmly in our interests by a mark of our good will to her was the leading and principal one.

The General assured the Minister, That he had the deepest sense of the friendship of France but replied to the matter in question, that he was altogether a stranger to the measures adopted by Congress relative to the Floridas and could give no opinion of the propriety of the cooperation proposed in a civil or political light; but considering it merely as a military question, he saw no objection to the measure on the supposition that the enemy’s force in Georgia and South Carolina be withdrawn, without which it would of course be impossible.

The Minister then asked, in case the operation by the Spaniards against the Floridas should not induce the English to abandon the Southern States, whether it would be agreeable Edition: current; Page: [141] that the forces, either French or Spanish employed there should cooperate with our troops against those of the enemy in Georgia and South Carolina.

The General replied that he imagined such a cooperation would be desirable.

The Minister inquired in the next place, whether in case The Court of France should find it convenient to send directly from France a Squadron and a few Regiments attached to it, to act in conjunction with us in this quarter, it would be agreeable to The United States.

The General thought it would be very advancive of the common Cause.

The Minister informed, That Doctor Franklin had purchased a fifty gun ship which the King of France intended to equip,Newfoundland for the benefit of The United States to be sent with two or three frigates to Newfoundland to act against the enemys vessels employed in the Fishery, and afterwards to proceed to Boston to cruise from that port.

He concluded the conference with stating, that in Boston several Gentlemen of influence, some of them members of Congress had conversed with him on the subject of an expedition against Canada and Nova Scotia. Canada and Nova ScotiaThat his Christian Majesty had a sincere and disinterested desire to see those two provinces annexed to the American Confederacy and would be disposed to promote a plan for this purpose; but that he would undertake nothing of the kind unless the plan was previously approved and digested by The General. He added that a letter from The General to Congress some time since on the subject of an expedition to Canada had appeared in France and had been submitted to the best military judges who approved, the reasoning and thought the objections to the plan which had been proposed very plausible and powerful. That whenever the General should think the circumstances of this country favourable to such an undertaking, he should be very glad to recommend the Plan he should propose, and he was assured that the French Court would give it all the aid in their power.

The General again expressed his Sense of the good dispositions of his Christian Majesty; but observed, that while the enemy remain in force in these states, the difficulties stated in his letter alluded to by the Minister would still subsist; but that whenever that force should be removed, he doubted not it Edition: current; Page: [142] would be a leading object with the government to wrest the two forementioned provinces from the power of Britain; that in this case he should esteem himself honored in being consulted on the plan; and was of opinion, that though we should have land force enough for the undertaking, without in this respect intruding upon the generosity of our allies, a naval cooperation would certainly be very useful and necessary.

The rest of the Conference consisted in mutual assurances of friendship of the two countries &c. interspersed on the General’s side with occasional remarks on the importance of removing the war from these states as it would enable us to afford ample supplies to the operations in the West Indies and to act with efficacy in annoying the commerce of the enemy and dispossessing them of their dominions on this continent.

George Washington
Washington, George
November 1, 1779
Edmund Pendleton
Pendleton, Edmund


Dear Sir:

Recollecting that I am your debtor for an obliging letter written some time last Winter, I will, while my eyes are turned Southwardly (impatiently looking for, or expecting to hear something decisively of Count D’Estaing)Count d’Estaing make my acknowledgements for it, as a proof that I am not unmindful of the favor, though I have been dilatory in thanking you for it.

I shall not at this late period recount to you the occurrances of the past Campaign. I take it for granted that the published acc’ts. which have been officially handed to the public have regularly reached you and are as ample as I could give.

A New scene, though rather long delayed, is opening to our view and of sufficient importance to interest the hopes and fears of every well wisher to his Country and will engage the attention of all America. This I say on a supposition that the delays to the Southward and advanced season does not prevent a full and perfect co-operation with the French fleet in this quarter. Be this as it may; every thing in the preparatory way that depends upon me is done, and doing. To Count D’Estaing then, and that good Providence wch. has so remarkably aided us in all our difficulties, the rest is committed.

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Stony point which has been a bone of contention the whole Campaign, and the principal business of it on the part of the enemy, is totally evacuated by them.Rhode Island and New York Rhode Island is also abandoned, and the enemys whole force is drawn to a point at New York; where neither pains nor labour have been spar’d to secure the City and harbour; but in their attempts to effect the latter some unexpected disappointments have occurred (in sinking their hulks). This makes them more intent on their land batteries, wch. are so disposed as to cover the Town and the shipping equally.

All lesser matters, on both sides, are suspended while we are looking at the more important object. The consequences of all these movements are not easy to be foretold; but, another Campaign having been wasted;The enemy disgraced having had their Arms disgraced, and all their projects blasted, it may be conceiv’d that the enemy like an enraged Monster summoning his whole strength, will make some violent effort, if they should be relieved from their present apprehensions of the French fleet. If they do not detach largely for the West Indies (and I do not see how this is practicable while they remain inferior at Sea) they must from the disagreeableness of their situation feel themselves under a kind of necessity of attempting some bold, enterprizing stroke, to give, in some degree, eclat to their Arms, spirits to the Tories, and hope to the Ministry, but I am under no apprehension of a capital injury from any other source than that of the continual depreciation of our Money. This indeed is truly alarming, and of so serious a nature that every other effort is in vain unless something can be done to restore its credit. Lack of public creditCongress, the States individually, and individuals of each state, should exert themselves to effect this great end. It is the only hope; the last resource of the enemy; and nothing but our want of public virtue can induce a continuance of the War. Let them once see, that as it is in our power, so it is our inclination and intention to overcome this difficulty, and the idea of conquest, or hope of bringing us back to a state of dependance, will vanish like the morning dew; they can no more encounter this kind of opposition than the hoar frost can withstand the rays of an all chearing Sun. The liberties and safety of this Country depend upon it. the way is plain, the means are in our power, but it is virtue alone that can effect it, for without this, heavy taxes, frequently collected, (the only radical cure) and loans, are not to be obtained. Where this has been Edition: current; Page: [144] the policy (in Connecticut for instance) the prices of every article have fallen and the money consequently is in demand; but in the other States you can scarce get a single thing for it, and yet it is with-held from the public by speculators, while every thing that can be useful to the public is engrossed by this tribe of black gentry, who work more effectually against us than the enemys Arms; and are a hundd. times more dangerous to our liberties and the great cause we are engaged in.

My best respects attend Mrs. Pendleton, and with much truth and regard I am, etc.

George Washington
Washington, George
May 14, 1780
Joseph Jones
Jones, Joseph


Dear Sir:

I received the acct. of your delegation with much satisfaction and was greatly pleased to hear of your arrival in Philadelphia; as I have ever placed you among the number of my friends I mean to take this early oppertunity of giving you a mark of my confidence in an interesting moment.

Arrival of LafayetteThe arrival of the Marquis de la Fayette opens a prospect wch. offers the most important advantages to these States if proper measures are adopted to improve it. He announces an intention of his Court to send a Fleet and Army to co-operate effectually with us.

In the present state of our Finances, and in the total emptiness of our magazines a plan must be concerted to bring out the resources of the Country with vigor and decision; this I think you will agree with me cannot be effected if the measures to be taken should depend on the slow deliberations of a body so large as Congress admitting the best disposition in every member to promote the object in view. It appears to me of the greatest importance, and even of absolute necessity that a small Committee should be immediately appointed to reside near head Quarters vested with all the powers which Congress have so far as respects the purpose of a full co-operation with the French fleet and Army on the Continent.Expediting French-American cooperation There authority should be Plenipotentiary to draw out men and supplies of every kind and give their sanction to any operations which the Edition: current; Page: [145] Commander in chief may not think himself at liberty to undertake without it as well beyond, as within the limit of these States.

This Committee can act with dispatch and energy, by being on the spot it will be able to provide for exigencies as they arise and the better to judge of their nature and urgency. The plans in contemplation may be opened to them with more freedom and confidence than to a numerous body, where secrecy is impossible, where the indiscretion of a single member by disclosing may defeat the project.

I need not enlarge on the advantages of such a measure as I flatter myself they will occur to you and that you will be ready to propose and give it your support. The conjuncture is one of the most critical and important we have seen, all our prudence and exertions are requisite to give it a favourable issue. Hesitancy and delay would in all probability ruin our Affairs; circumstanced as we are the greatest good or the greatest ill must result. We shall probably fix the independence of America if we succeed and if we fail the abilities of the State will have been so strained in the attempt that a total relaxation and debility must ensue and the worst is to be apprehended.

These considerations should determine Congress to forego all inferior objects and unite with mutual confidence in those measures which seem best calculated to insure success. There is no man who can be more useful as a member of the Committee than General Schuyler. His perfect knowledge of the resources of the Country, the activity of his temper, His fruitfulness of expedients and his sound Military sense make me wish above all things he may be appointed. A well composed Committee is of primary importance, I need not hint that the delicacy of these intimations fits them only for your private ear.

The opinion I have of your friendship induces me thus freely and confidentially to impart my sentiments on the occasion and I shall be very happy you may agree with me in judgment. I am with the greatest esteem and regard Dr. Sir etc.

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George Washington
Washington, George
Joseph Reed
Reed, Joseph


Dear Sir:

I am much obliged to you for your favour of the 23. Nothing could be more necessary than the aid given by your state towards supplying us with provision. I assure you, every Idea you can form of our distresses, will fall short of the reality. There is such a combination of circumstances to exhaust the patience of the soldiery that it begins at length to be worn out and we see in every line of the army,Signs of mutiny and sedition the most serious features of mutiny and sedition. All our departments, all our operations are at a stand, and unless a system very different from that which has for a long time prevailed, be immediately adopted throughout the states our affairs must soon become desperate beyond the possibility of recovery. If you were on the spot my Dear Sir, if you could see what difficulties surround us on every side, how unable we are to administer to the most ordinary calls of the service, you would be convinced that these expressions are not too strong, and that we have every thing to dread. Indeed I have almost ceased to hope. The country in general is in such a state of insensibility and indifference to its interests, that I dare not flatter myself with any change for the better.

The Committee of Congress in their late address to the several states have given a just picture of our situation. I very much doubt its making the desired impression, and if it does not I shall consider our lethargy as incurable.Public lethargy The present juncture is so interesting that if it does not produce correspondent exertions, it will be a proof that motives of honor public good and even self preservation have lost their influence upon our minds. This is a decisive moment; one of the most [I will go further and say the most] important America has seen. The Court of France has made a glorious effort for our deliverance, and if we disappoint its intentions by our supineness we must become contemptible in the eyes of all mankind; nor can we after that venture to confide that our allies will persist in an attempt to establish what it will appear we want inclination or ability to assist them in.

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Strength of France and Spain compared to Great Britain’sEvery view of our own circumstances ought to determine us to the most vigorous efforts; but there are considerations of another kind that should have equal weight. The combined fleets of France and Spain last year were greatly superior of those of the enemy: The enemy nevertheless sustained no material damage, and at the close of the campaign have given a very important blow to our allies. This campaign the difference between the fleets from every account I have been able to collect will be inconsiderable, indeed it is far from clear that there will not be an equality. What are we to expect will be the case if there should be another campaign? In all probability the advantage will be on the side of the English and then what would become of America? We ought not to deceive ourselves.Maritime resources of Great Britain The maritime resources of Great Britain are more substantial and real than those of France and Spain united. Her commerce is more extensive than that of both her rivals; and it is an axiom that the nation which has the most extensive commerce will always have the most powerful marine. Were this argument less convincing the fact speaks for itself; her progress in the course of the last year is an incontestible proof.

It is true that France in a manner created a Fleet in a very short space and this may mislead us in the judgment we form of her naval abilities. But if they bore any comparison with those of great Britain how comes it to pass, that with all the force of Spain added she has lost so much ground in so short a time, as now to have scarcely a superiority. We should consider what was done by France as a violent and unnatural effort of the government, which for want of sufficient foundation, cannot continue to operate proportionable effects.

In modern wars the longest purse must chiefly determine the event. I fear that of the enemy will be found to be so. Though the government is deeply in debt and of course poor, the nation is rich and their riches afford a fund which will not be easily exhausted. Besides, their system of public credit is such that it is capable of greater exertions than that of any other nation. Speculatists have been a long time foretelling its downfall, but we see no symptoms of the catastrophe being very near. I am persuaded it will at least last out the war, and then, in the opinion of many of the best politicians it will be a national advantage. If the war should terminate successfully the crown will have acquired such influence and power that it Edition: current; Page: [148] may attempt any thing, and a bankruptcy will probably be made the ladder to climb to absolute authority. Administration may perhaps wish to drive matters to this issue; at any rate they will not be restrained by an apprehension of it from forcing the resources of the state. It will promote their present purposes on which their all is at stake and it may pave the way to triumph more effectually over the constitution. With this disposition I have no doubt that ample means will be found to prosecute the war with the greatest vigor.

French financesFrance is in a very different position. The abilities of her present Financier have done wonders. By a wise administration of the revenues aided by advantageous loans he has avoided the necessity of additional taxes. But I am well informed, if the war continues another campaign he will be obliged to have recourse to the taxes usual in time of war which are very heavy, and which the people of France are not in a condition to endure for any duration. When this necessity commences France makes war on ruinous terms; and England from her individual wealth will find much greater facility in supplying her exigencies.

Spain derives great wealth from her mines, but not so great as is generally imagined. Of late years the profits to government is essentially diminished. Commerce and industry are the best mines of a nation; both which are wanting to her. I am told her treasury is far from being so well filled as we have flattered ourselves. She is also much divided on the propriety of the war. There is a strong party against it. The temper of the nation is too sluggish to admit of great exertions,Spanish sluggishness and tho’ the Courts of the two kingdoms are closely linked together, there never has been in any of their wars a perfect harmony of measures, nor has it been the case in this; which has already been no small detriment to the common cause.

I mention these things to show that the circumstances of our allies as well as our own call for peace; to obtain which we must make one great effort this campaign. The present instance of the friendship of the Court of France is attended with every circumstance that can render it important and agreeable; that can interest our gratitude or fire our emulation. If we do our duty we may even hope to make the campaign decisive on this Continent. But we must do our duty in earnest, or disgrace and ruin will attend us. I am sincere in declaring a full persuasion, Edition: current; Page: [149] that the succour will be fatal to us if our measures are not adequate to the emergency.

Importance of PennsylvaniaNow my Dear Sir, I must observe to you, that much will depend on the State of Pennsylvania. She has it in her power to contribute without comparison more to our success than any other state; in the two essential articles of flour and transportation. New York, Jersey, Pensylvania and Maryland are our flour countries: Virginia went little on this article the last crop [and her resources are call’d for to the southward]. New York by legislative coercion has already given all she could spare for the use of the army. Her inhabitants are left with scarcely a sufficiency for their own subsistence. Jersey from being so long the place of the army’s residence is equally exhausted. Maryland has made great exertions; but she can still do something more. Delaware may contribute handsomely in proportion to her extent. But Pennsylvania is our chief dependence. From every information I can obtain she is at this time full of flour. I speak to you in the language of frankness and as a friend. I do not mean to make any insinuations unfavourable to the state. I am aware of the embarrassments the government labours under, from the open opposition of one party and the underhand intrigues of another. I know that with the best dispositions to promote the public service, you have been obliged to move with circumspection. But this is a time to hazard and to take a tone of energy and decision. All parties but the disaffected will acquiesce in the necessity and give their support. The hopes and fears of the people at large may be acted upon in such a manner as to make them approve and second your views.

The matter is reduced to a point. Either Pensylvania must give us all the aid we ask of her, or we can undertake nothing. We must renounce every idea of cooperation, and must confess to our allies that we look wholly to them for our safety. This will be a state of humiliation and bitterness against which the feelings of every good American ought to revolt. Your’s I am convinced will; nor have I the least doubt that you will employ all your influence to animate the Legislature and the people at large. The fate of these states hangs upon it. God grant we may be properly impressed with the consequences.

I wish the Legislature could be engaged to vest the executive with plenipotentiary powers. I should then expect every thing Edition: current; Page: [150] practicable from your abilities and zeal. This is not a time for formality or ceremony. The crisis in every point of view is extraordinary and extraordinary expedients are necessary. [I am decided in this opinion.]

I am happy to hear that you have a prospect of complying with the requisitions of Congress for specific supplies; that the spirit of the city and state seems to revive and the warmth of party decline. These are good omens of our success. Perhaps this is the proper period to unite.

I am obliged to you for the renewal of your assurances of personal regard; my sentiments for you, you are so well acquainted with as to make it unnecessary to tell you with how much esteem etc.

I felicitate you on the increase of your family. Mrs. Washington does the same and begs her particular respects and congratulations to Mrs. Reed, to which permit me to add mine.

George Washington
Washington, George
July 4, 1780
Bergen County
Joseph Reed
Reed, Joseph


My Dear Sir:

Motives of friendship not less than of public good induce me with freedom to give you my sentiments on a matter, which interests you personally as well as the good of the common cause. I flatter myself you will receive what I say, in the same spirit which dictates it, and that it will have all the influence circumstances will possibly permit.

Martial law encouragedThe legislature of Pennsylvania has vested you, in case of necessity with a power of declaring Martial law throughout the state, to enable you to take such measures as the exigency may demand; so far the legislature has done its part. Europe, America, the state itself will look to you for the rest. The power vested in you will admit of all the latitude that could be desired and may be made to mean anything the public safety may require. If it is not exerted proportionably, you will be responsible for the consequences.

Nothing My Dear Sir can be more delicate and critical than your situation; a full discretionary power lodged in your hands Edition: current; Page: [151] in conjunction with the Council; great expectations in our allies and in the people of the country; ample means in the state for great exertions of every kind; a powerful party on one hand to take advantage of every opening to prejudice you; on the other popular indolence and avarice averse to every measure inconsistent with present ease and present interest; In this dilemma there is a seeming danger whatever side you take; it remains to choose that which has least real danger and will best promote the public weal. This in my Opinion clearly is to exert the powers intrusted to you with a boldness and vigor suited to the emergency.

In general I esteem it a good maxim, that the best way to preserve the confidence of the people durably is to promote their true interest; there are particular exigencies when this maxim has peculiar force. When any great object is in view, the popular mind is roused into expectation and prepared to make sacrifices both of ease and property; if those to whom they confide the management of their affairs do not call them to make these sacrifices, and the object is not attained, or they are involved in the reproach of not having contributed as much as they ought to have done towards it; they will be mortified at the disappointment; they will feel the censure, and their resentment will rise against those who with sufficient authority have omitted to do what their interest and their honor required. Extensive powers not exercised as far as was necessary, have I believe scarcely ever failed to ruin the possessor. The legislature and the people in your case, would be very glad to excuse themselves by condemning you. You would be assailed with blame from every quarter, [and your enemies would triumph.]

The party opposed to you in government are making great efforts. I am told the bank established for supplying the army is principally under the auspices of that party, It will undoubtedly give them great credit with the people; and you have no effectual way to counterbalance this but by employing all your influence and authority to render services proportioned to your station. Hitherto I confess to you frankly my Dear Sir I do not think your affairs are in the train which might be wished; and if Pensylvania does not do its part fully it is of so much importance in the general scale that we must fail of success, or limit our views to mere defence.

I have conversed with some Gentlemen on the measure of Edition: current; Page: [152] filling your batalions. They seemed to think you could not exceed what the legislature had done for this purpose. I am of very different sentiment: The establishment of martial law implies,Power to conscript in my judgment the right of calling any part of your citizens into military service, and in any manner which may be found expedient; and I have no doubt the draft may be executed.

I write to you with the freedom of friendship and I hope you will esteem it the truest mark I could give you of it. In this view whether you think my observations well founded or not, the motive will I am persuaded render them agreeable.

In offering my respects to Mrs. Reed, I must be permitted to accompany them with a tender of my very warm acknowledgments to her and you for the civilities and attention both of you have been pleased to show Mrs. Washington; and for the honor you have done me in calling the young Christian by my name. With the greatest regard etc.

George Washington
Washington, George
August 13, 1780
Joseph Jones
Jones, Joseph


Dear Sir:

The subject of this letter will be confined to a single point. I shall make it as short as possible, and write it with frankness. If any sentiment therefore is delivered which may be displeasing to you as a member of Congress, ascribe it to the freedom which is taken with you by a friend, who has nothg. in view but the public good.

Resignation of General Greene as Quartermaster GeneralIn your letter without date, but which came to hand yesterday, an idea is held up as if the acceptance of General Green’s resignation of the Qr. Mrs. department was not all that Congress meant to do with him. If by this it is in contemplation to suspend him from his command in the line (of which he made an express reservation at the time of entering on the other duty) and it is not already enacted, let me beseech you to consider well what you are about before you resolve.

I shall neither condemn, or acquit Genl. Green’s conduct for the act of resignation, because all the antecedents are necessary to form a right judgment of the matter, and possibly, Edition: current; Page: [153] if the affair is ever brought before the public, you may find him treading on better ground than you seem to imagine; but this by the by. My sole aim at present is to advertise you of what I think would be the consequences of suspending him from his command in the line (a matter distinct from the other), without a proper tryal. A proceedure of this kind must touch the feelings of every Officer; it will shew in a conspicuous point of view the uncertain tenure by which they hold their Commissions. In a word it will exhibit such a specimen of power that I question much if there is an Officer in the whole line that will hold a Commission beyond the end of the Campaign if they do till then. Such an Act in the most Despotic Government would be attended at least with loud complaints.

It does not require, I am sure, with you argument at this time of day to prove, that there is no set of Men in the United States (considered as a body) that have made the same sacrafices of their Interest in support of the common cause as the Officers of the American Army; that nothing but a love of their Country, of honor, and a desire of seeing their labours crowned with success could possibly induce them to continue one moment in Service. That no Officer can live upon his pay, that hundreds having spent their little all in addition to their scant public allowance have resigned, because they could no longer support themselves as Officers; that numbers are, at this moment, rendered unfit for duty for want of Cloathing, while the rest are wasteing their property and some of them verging fast to the gulph of poverty and distress. Can it be supposed that men under these circumstances who can derive at best if the Contest ends happily, only the advantages which attend in equal proportion with Others will sit patient under such a precedent? surely they will not, for the measure, not the man, will be the subject of consideration and each will ask himself the question if Congress by its mere fiat, without enquiry and without tryal, will suspend one Officer to day; an officer of such high rank, may it not be my turn tomorrow and ought I to put it in the power of any man or body of men to sport with my Commission and character and lay me under the necessity of tamely acquiescing, or by an appeal to the public expose matters which must be injurious to its interests? The suspension of Genls. Schuyler and St. Clair, tho it was preceded by the loss of Ticonderoga which contributed not a little for the moment to excite prejudices against them, was by Edition: current; Page: [154] no means viewed with a satisfactory eye by many discerning Men, and tho it was in a manner supported by the public clamor; and the one in contemplation I am almost morally certain will be generally reprobated by the Army. Suffer not my Friend, if it is within the compass of your abilities to prevent it, so disagreeable an event to take place. I do not mean to justify; to countenance or excuse in the most distant degree any expressions of disrespect which the Gentn. in question, if he has used any, may have offered to Congress, no more than I do any unreasonable matters he may have required respecting the Q.M.G. department, but as I have already observed, my Letter is to prevent his suspension, because I fear, because I feel it must lead to very disagreeable and injurious consequences. Genl. Greene has his numerous Friends out of the Army as well as in it, and from his Character and consideration in the world, he might not, when he felt himself wounded in so summary way, withhold from a discussion that could not at best promote the public cause. As a Military Officer he stands very fair and very deservedly so, in the opinion of all his acquaintance.

These sentiments are the result of my own reflections on the matter and, I hasten to inform you of them. I do not know that Genl. Greene has ever heard of the matter and I hope he never may; nor am I acquainted with the opinion of a single Officer in the whole Army upon the subject. Nor will any tone be given by me. It is my wish to prevent the proceeding; for sure I am it cannot be brought to a happy issue if it takes place. I am &c.

George Washington
Washington, George
August 27, 1780
Bergen County



The Honble: the Committee of Co-operation having returned to Congress, I am under the disagreeable necessity of informing you that the Army is again reduced to an extremity of distress for want of provision.Lack of provisions The greater part of it had been without Meat from the 21st. to the 26th. To endeavour to obtain Edition: current; Page: [155] some relief, I moved down to this place, with a view of stripping the lower parts of the County of the remainder of its Cattle, which after a most rigorous exaction is found to afford between two and three days supply only, and those, consisting of Milch Cows and Calves of one or two years old. When this scanty pittance is consumed, I know not what will be our next resource, as the Commissary can give me no certain information of more than 120 head of Cattle expected from Pennsylvania and about 150 from Massachusetts. I mean in time to supply our immediate wants. Military coercion is no longer of any avail, as nothing further can possibly be collected from the Country in which we are obliged to take a position, without depriving the inhabitants of the last morsel. This mode of subsisting, supposing the desired end could be answered by it, besides being in the highest degree distressing to individuals, is attended with ruin to the Morals and discipline of the Army; during the few days which we have been obliged to send out small parties to procure provision for themselves, the most enormous excesses have been committed.

It has been no inconsiderable support of our cause, to have had it in our power to contrast the conduct of our Army with that of the enemy, and to convince the inhabitants that while their rights were wantonly violated by the British Troops, by ours they were respected. This distinction must unhappily now cease, and we must assume the odious character of the plunderers instead of the protectors of the people, the direct consequence of which must be to alienate their minds from the Army and insensibly from the cause. We have not yet been absolutely without Flour, but we have this day but one days supply in Camp, and I am not certain that there is a single Barrel between this place and Trenton. I shall be obliged therefore to draw down one or two hundred Barrels from a small Magazine which I have endeavoured to establish at West point, for the security of the Garrison in case of a sudden investiture.

From the above state of facts it may be foreseen that this army cannot possibly remain much longer together, unless very vigorous and immediate measures are taken by the States to comply with the requisitions made upon them. The Commissary General has neither the means nor the power of procuring supplies; he is only to receive them from the several Agents. Without a speedy change of circumstances, this dilemma Edition: current; Page: [156] will be involved; either the Army must disband, or what is, if possible, worse, subsist upon the plunder of the people. I would fain flatter myself that a knowledge of our situation will produce the desired relief; not a relief of a few days as has generally heretofore been the case, but a supply equal to the establishment of Magazines for the Winter. If these are not formed before the Roads are broken up by the weather, we shall certainly experience the same difficulties and distresses the ensuing Winter which we did the last. Altho’ the troops have upon every occasion hitherto borne their wants with unparralled patience, it will be dangerous to trust too often to a repetition of the causes of discontent. I have the honor etc.

George Washington
Washington, George
October 11, 1780
Passaic Falls



Three days since, I received your Excellency’s Letter of the 4th with the inclosed Resolutions, which, as the Army was in motion to this Post, I had it not in my power to answer before. I am much obliged to Congress for the honor they do me by the fresh mark of their attention and confidence conferred upon me in the reference they have been pleased to make. My wish to concur in sentiment with them, and a conviction that there is no time to be lost in carrying the measures relative to the Army into execution, make me reluctantly offer any objections to the plan that has been adopted; but a sense of what I owe to Congress and a regard to consistency will not permit me to suppress the difference of opinion, which happens to exist upon the present occasion, on points that appear to me far from unessential. In expressing it, I can only repeat the ideas which I have more than once taken the liberty to urge.

Reduction of regimentsThat there are the most conclusive reasons for reducing the number of Regiments no person acquainted with the situation of our affairs and the state of the Army will deny. A want of officers independant of other considerations were sufficient to compel us [to it]. But that the temper of the Army produced by its sufferings requires great caution, in any reforms that are attempted, is a position not less evident than the former. In Edition: current; Page: [157] Services the best established, where the hands of Government are strengthened, by the strongest interests of the Army to submission, the reducing of its regiments and dismissing a great part of its Officers is always a measure of delicacy and difficulty. In ours, where the Officers are held by the feeblest ties and are mouldering away by dayly resignations, it is peculiarly so. The last reduction occasioned many to quit the Service besides those who were reformed, and left durable seeds of discontent among those who remained. The general topic of declamation was, that it was as hard as dishonorable for men, who had made every sacrifice to the Service to be turned out of it at the pleasure of those in power without any adequate compensation. In the maturity to which their uneasinesses have now risen from a continuance in misery, they will be still more impatient under an attempt of a similar nature; how far these dispositions may be reasonable I pretend not to decide but in the extremity to which we are arrived policy forbids us to add new irritations. Too many of the Officers wish to get rid of their Commissions; but they are unwilling to be forced into it.

It is not the intention of these remarks to discourage a reform; but to shew the necessity of guarding against the ill effects by an ample provision both for the Officers who stay and for those who are reduced. This should be the basis of the plan and without it I apprehend the most mischievous consequences. This would obviate many scruples that will otherwise be found prejudicial in the extreme. I am convinced Congress are not a little straitened in the means of a present provision so ample as to give satisfaction; but this proves the expediency of a future one; and brings me to that which I have so frequently recommended as the most œconomical, the most politic and the most effectual that could be devised.Half pay for life A half pay for Life. Supported by a prospect of a permanent [in]dependence, the Officers would be tied to the Service and would submit to many momentary privations and to the inconveniences which the situation of public affairs makes unavoidable; this is exemplified in the Pensylvania Officers, who being upon this establishment are so much interested in the Service, that in the course of [five] Months, there has been only one resignation in that line.

If the objection drawn from the principle of this measure being incompatible with the genious of our government is Edition: current; Page: [158] thought insurmountable, I would propose a substitute less eligible in my opinion, but which may answer the purpose; it is to make the present half pay for Seven years whole pay for the same period to be advanced in two different payments, one half in a year after the conclusion of peace the other half in two years subsequent to the first. It will be well to have it clearly understood that the reduced Officers are to have the depreciation of their pay made good, lest any doubt should arise on this head.

No objection occurs to me, to this measure, except it be thought too great an expence; but in my judgment whatever can give consistency to our military establishment will be ultimately favourable to oeconomy. It is not easy to be conceived except by those who are witnesses to it what an additional waste and consumption of every thing and consequently what an increase of expence, results from the laxness of discipline in the Army, and where [the] Officers think they are doing the public a favor by holding their Commissions and the men are continually fluctuating it is impossible to maintain discipline. Nothing can be more obvious than that a sound Military establishment and the interests of oeconomy are the same. How much more the purposes of the War will be promoted by it in other respects will not admit of an argument.

In reasoning upon the measure of a future provision I have heard Gentlemen object the want of it in some foreign Armies, without adverting to the difference of circumstances. The Military state holds the first rank in most of the Countries of Europe and is the road to honor and emolument; the establishment is permanent, and whatever be an Officer’s provision it is for life, and he has a profession for life. He has future as well as present motives of Military honor and preferment, He is attached to the Service by the spirit of the Government; By education and in most cases by early habit; his present condition if not splendid is comfortable, Pensions, distinctions, and particular privileges are commonly his rewards in retirement. In the case of the American Officers the Military character has been suddenly taken up and is to end with the War.

Reform of the regimentsThe number of Regiments fixed upon by Congress is that which I should have wished; but I think the agregate number of men too small. Should the Regiments be compleated, making the usual deductions for casualties and not counting upon the three Regiments of South Carolina and Georgia we should Edition: current; Page: [159] not have in the Infantry above 18000 fighting men rank and file; from wch when we should have taken the garrison of West point and the different garrisons for the frontier, there would remain a force not equal even to a vigorous defensive; Intirely unequal to a decisive co-operation with our Allies, should their efforts next campaign be directed this way, as we have reason to hope. I confess too that I do not expect the States will complete their Regiments at whatever point they may be placed; if they are any thing near being full they will be apt to think the difference not material, without considering that what may be small in their quota will be very considerable in the aggregate of deficiencies, in a force originally calculated too low for our exigencies.

Assessment of troop needsThe enemy’s whole embodied force of Infantry in these States (without speaking of the occasional aids of Militia) on a moderate estimate must amount to between Eighteen and twenty thousand fighting men. We ought on no scale of reasoning to have less than an equal number in the field (exclusive of all garrisons) for a vigorous defensive. Let us then state our

R and file
Armies in the field at. 18000
West Point for complt. secury. reqs.  2500
Fort Schuyler fort Pitt and other frontier Posts require.  1500

By this calculation two and twenty thousand fighting men appear to be necessary on a defensive plan, to have which our total number must be thirty thousand rank and file. The Waggoners, Workmen at factories, Waiters, Men for other extra Services, Sick &ca. on an average make at least a fourth of the total numbers; which Congress may see by recurring to the returns of the Army from time to time.

Much less should we hesitate to exert ourselves to have this number, if we have any thoughts of recovering what we have lost. As to the abilities of the Country to maintain them, I am of opinion, they will be found adequate; and that they will be less strained, than they have heretofore been from the necessity we have been so frequently under of recurring to the aid of Militia.

It is my duty also to inform Congress that in the late conference with the French General and Admiral, though I could Edition: current; Page: [160] not give assurances, I was obliged to give an opinion of the force we might have the next Campaign; and I stated the Army in this quarter at fifteen thousand operative Continental Troops, wch will greatly exceed that which we should have by the proposed arrangement for it would not give us above Eleven. On this idea of fifteen thousand a memorial with a plan for next campaign has been transmitted to the Court of France.

Organization of regimentsI would therefore beg leave to propose that each Regiment of Infantry should consist of One Colonel, where the present Colonels are continued, or One Lieutt. Colonel Commandant; Two Majors, a first and Second; Nine Captains; Twenty two Subalterns; 1 Surgeon; 1 Mate; 1 Serjeant Major; 1 Qr. Mr. Serjeant; 45 Serjeants; 1 Drum Major; 1 Fife Major; 10 Drums; 10 Fifers; 612 Rank and file.

Fifty Regiments at 612 rank and file will amount to 30,600 rank and file, the force I have stated to be requisite.

Number of officersThe number of Officers to a regiment by our present establishment has been found insufficient. It is not only inconvenient and productive of irregularity in our formation and Manoeuvres; but the number taken for the different Offices of the Staff leaves the regiments destitute of Field Officers and the Companies so unprovided that they are obliged to be entrusted to the care of Serjeants and Corporals which soon ruins them. To obviate this I ask three field Officers to a Regimt; and, besides a Captain and two Subalterns to do the duties of each Company, three Supernumerary Subalterns as Paymaster, Adjutant and Quarter Master and one to reside in the State as a recruiting Officer. Officers continually employed in this way to improve every oppertunity that offered would engage men; while those who were occasionally detached for a short space of time would do nothing. I ask one Drum and fife extraordinary to attend this Officer. The supernumeraries to rank and rise in the Regiment with the other Officers. Three field Officers will be thought necessary, when we consider the great porportion employed as Adjutant General, Inspectors, Brigade Majrs.; Waggon Master, Superintendents of Hospitals &ca. In addition to which I would also propose a field Officer to reside in each State where the number of its regiments exceed two, and a Captain where it does not to direct the Recruiting Service and transact all business for the line to which he belongs with the State, which I think would be a very useful institution.

Edition: current; Page: [161]

CalvalryInstead of Regiments of Cavalry, I would recommend Legionary Corps which should consist of four Troops of Mounted

Dragoons of 60 each 240
Two of dismounted Do at Do 120

with the same number of Comd. and Non Comd. officers as at present. To make the Regiments larger will be attended with an excessive expence to purchase the horses in the first instance and to subsist them afterwards. And I think the augmentation though it would be useful, not essential. I prefer Legionary Corps because the kind of Service we have for horse almost constantly requires the aid of Infantry; in quarters, as they are commonly obliged to be remote from the Army for the benefit of forage it is indispensable for their security; and to attach to them Infantry drawn from the Regiments has many inconveniences.

Partisan corpsBesides the four Regiments I cannot forbear recommending that two partizan Corps may be kept up Commanded by Colo. Armand and Major Lee. Tho’ in general I dislike independant Corps, I think a Partizan Corps with an Army useful in many respects. Its name and destination stimulate to enterprize; and the two Officers I have mentioned have the best claims to public attention. Colonel Armand is an Officer of great merit wch. added to his being a foreigner, to his rank in life, and to the sacrifices of property he has made renders it a point of delicacy as well as justice to continue to him the means of serving honorably. Major Lee has rendered such distinguished Services and possesses so many Talents for commanding a Corps of this nature, he deserves so much credit for the perfection in which he has kept his Corps, as well as for the handsome exploits he has performed, that it would be a loss to the Service and a discouragement to merit to reduce him. And I do not see how he can be introduced into one of the Regiments in a manner satisfactory to himself and which will enable him to be equally useful, without giving too much disgust to the whole line of Cavalry. The Partizan Corps may consist of three Troops of

Mounted Dragoons of fifty each 150
3 ditto of dismted. Do 50 ea. 150

I would only propose one alteration in the proposed arrangement Edition: current; Page: [162] of Artillery,Artillery which is to have ten companies instead of Nine. The numerous demands of the Service have made the establishment of Companies hitherto not too great; and it would be injurious to diminish them materially. Nine Companies would be an irregular formation for a battalion of Artillery; and eight would be much too few: this makes me wish they may be fixed at Ten. The formation of nine Companies in the Infantry is with a view to one light Company to act seperately.

Terms of serviceI sincerely wish Congress had been pleased to make no alternative in the term of Service but had confined it to the War, by inlistment draft or assessment as might be found necessary. On the footing upon which their requisition now stands we shall be certain of getting very few men for the War; and must continue to feel all the evils of temporary engagements. In the present humour of the States, I should entertain the most flattering hopes that they would enter upon vigorous measures to raise an army for the War, if Congress appeared decided on the point; but if they hold up a different idea as admissible, it will be again concluded, that they do not consider an Army for the War as essential; and this will encourage the opposition of Men of narrow, interested and feeble tempers, and enable them to defeat the primary object of the Resolution. Indeed if the mode by inlistment is the only one made use of to procure the men, it must necessarily fail. In my letter of the 20th. of August I say “any period short of a year is inadmissible’’; but all my observations tend to prove the pernicious operation of engaging Men for any term short of the War, and the alternative is only on the supposition that the other should on experiment be found impracticable. But I regard it as of the highest importance, that the experiment should first be fairly tried; the alternative, if absolutely necessary, can be substituted hereafter.

The encouragemt. to the Officer and the bounty to the recruit are both too small in the present state of things unless the latter could be in specie, which it is probable would have a powerful influence. In case of recruits made in Camp no bounty is specified; it will be necessary here as well as in the Country, with this additional reason that a recruit made in the Army will be more valuable than one made in the Country.

I must confess also it would have given me infinite pleasure that Congress had thought proper to take the reduction and Edition: current; Page: [163] incorporation of the Regiments under their own direction. The mode of leaving it to the States is contrary to my Sentiments, because it is an adherence to the State system, and because I fear it will be productive of great confusion and discontent and it is requisite the business in contemplation should be conducted with the greatest circumspection. I fear also the professing to select the Officers retained in Service will give disgust, both to those who go and to those who remain; the former will be sent away under the public stigma of inferior merit and the latter will feel no pleasure in a present preference, when they reflect that at some future period they may experience a similar fate. I barely mention this as I am perswaded Congress did not advert to the operation of the expressions made use of, and will readily alter them.

I beg leave to remark before I conclude, that if Congress should be pleased to reconsider their Resolutions, it will be of the greatest moment that the number of men and term for wch. they are to be raised should be first determined and the requisitions transmitted to the several States. In this Article time presses; the others may be examined more at leizure, though it is very necessary the whole should be put into execution as speedily as possible.

To accelerate the business I have directed, agreeable to the tenor of the resolution returns to be immediately made which shall be without delay transmitted to the States to shew them at one view the force they have and the deficiencies for which they will have to provide, the moment they know the quotas respectively required of them. With the highest respect etc.

PS: In the establishment I submit, I mention two Subalterns to each Company; as we have few Ensigns, they must in general be both Lieutenants but in future appointments, there ought to be one Lieutenant and one Ensign as heretofore.

Congress will herewith receive a list of the Officers in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pensylvania and Maryland line (previous to its Marching to the Southward). Also in Crane’s and Lamb’s Artillery, Sheldons Horse, and in Hazens, Sherburne’s, Spencers and Livingstons Regiments who have actually had their resignations entered at Head Qrs. in the course of this Year, and who in general urged their necessities when they applied on the subject, and insisted, notwithstanding every persuasion to induce their continuance, that their circumstances would not Edition: current; Page: [164] admit of their remaining in Service longer. Besides these resignations there are a great many of which I have no certain account as the Officers being permitted to go home on furlough in the course of the Winter, have never rejoined the Army, and have only sent messages or written to their Regimental Officers that their own distresses and those of their families would not permit their return. As to the resignations which may have taken place in the Virginia line and the other Troops at the Southward since they were acting in that quarter, I have no account of them; but I make no doubt that many have happened. All these serve to shew the necessity of some more competent establishment than the present one, and I hold it my duty to mention, from the accts. I daily receive, unless this is the case, that I have strong reasons to believe we shall not be able to retain after the end of the Campaign, as many Officers, especially in some lines, as will be even sufficient for common duties when in Quarters. If matters fortunately should not proceed to the lengths my fears forebode, yet Congress will be sensible at the first view, of the injuries and great inconveniences which must attend such a continual change of Officers and consequent promotions which are and will be inevitable.

After having exhibited this view of the present State of the Army it is almost needless to add, that excepting in the rank of Field Officers and a very few Captains we shall have new Officers to provide rather than old ones to disband at the reduction of Regiments, and where they are to be had I know not, no disposition having been discovered of late to enter the Service. Congress have little to apprehend therefore on acct. of the expence of Supernumerary Officers when this event takes place. I am &c.

George Washington
Washington, George
October 18, 1780
Passaic Falls



In obedience to the orders of Congress, I have the honor to transmit you the present state of the troops of your line, by which you will perceive how few Men you will have left after Edition: current; Page: [165] the 1st of Jany. next. When I inform you also that the Regiments of the other Lines will be in general as much reduced as yours, you will be able to judge how exceedingly weak the Army will be at that period, and how essential it is the states should make the most vigorous exertions to replace the discharged Men as early as possible.

New plan for the armyCongress are now preparing a plan for a new establishment of their Army which when finished they will transmit to the several States with requisitions for their respective quotas. I have no doubt it will be a primary object with them to have the Levies for the War, and this appears to me a point so interesting to our Independence that I cannot forbear entering into the motives which ought to determine the States without hesitation or alternative to take their measures decisively for that object.

I am religiously persuaded that the duration of the War and the greatest part of the misfortunes and perplexities we have hitherto experienced, are chiefly to be attributed to the System of temporary enlistments. Had we in the commencement raised an Army for the War, such as was within the reach of the Abilities of these States to raise and maintain we should not have suffered those military Checks which have so frequently shaken our cause, nor should we have incurred such enormous expenditures as have destroyed our paper Currency and with it all public credit. A moderate compact force on a permanent establishment capable of acquiring the discipline essential to military operations would have been able to make head against the enemy without comparison better than the throngs of Militia which at certain periods have been, not in the field, but in their way to and from the Field; for from that want of perseverance which characterises all Militia, and of that coercion which cannot be exercised upon them, it has always been found impracticable to detain the greatest part of them in service even for the term, for which they have been called out, and this has been commonly so short, that we have had a great proportion of the time two sets of Men to feed and pay, one coming to the Army and the other going from it. From this circumstance and from the extraordinary waste and consumption of provisions, stores, Camp equipage, Arms, Cloaths and every other Article incident to irregular troops, it is easy to conceive what an immense increase of public expence has been produced from the source of which I am Edition: current; Page: [166] speaking. I might add the diminution of our Agriculture by calling off at critical Seasons the labourers employed in it, as has happened in instances without number.

In the enumeration of Articles wasted, I mention Cloathes. It may be objected that the terms of engagements of the Levies do not include this, but if we want service from the Men particularly in the cold Season we are obliged to supply them notwithstanding, and they leave us before the Cloaths are half worn out.

But there are evils still more striking that have befallen us. The intervals between the dismission of one Army and the collection of another have more than once threatened us with ruin, which humanly speaking nothing but the supineness or folly of the enemy could have saved us from. How did our cause totter at the close of 76, when with a little more than two thousand Men we were driven before the enemy thro’ Jersey and obliged to take post on the other side of the Delaware to make a shew of covering Philadelphia while in reallity nothing was more easy to them with a little enterprise, and industry than to make their passage good to that City and dissipate the remaining force which still kept alive our expiring opposition! What hindered them from dispersing our little Army and giving a fatal Blow to our affairs during all the subsequent winter, instead of remaining in a state of torpid inactivity and permitting us to hover about their Quarters when we had scarcely troops sufficient to mount the ordinary Guard? After having lost two Battles and Philadelphia in the following Campaign for want of those numbers and that degree of discipline which we might have acquired by a permanent force in the first instance, in what a cruel and perilous situation did we again find ourselves in the Winter of 77 at Valley Forge, within a days march of the enemy, with a little more than a third of their strength, unable to defend our position, or retreat from it, for want of the means of transportation? What but the fluctuation of our Army enabled the enemy to detach so boldly to the southward in 78 and 79 to take possession of the two States Georgia and South Carolina, while we were obliged here to be idle Spectators of their weakness; set at defiance by a Garrison of six thousand regular troops, accessible every where by a Bridge which nature had formed, but of which we were unable to take advantage from still greater weakness, apprehensive even for our own safety? How did the same Garrison insult the Edition: current; Page: [167] main Army of these States the ensuing Spring and threaten the destruction of all our Baggage and Stores, saved by a good countenance more than by an ability to defend them? And what will be our situation this winter, our Army by the 1st. of January dimished to a little more than a sufficient Garrison for West point, the enemy at liberty to range the Country wherever they please, and, leaving a handful of Men at N York, to undertake Expeditions for the reduction of other States, which for want of adequate means of defense will it is much to be dreaded add to the number of their conquests and to the examples of our want of energy and wisdom?

The loss of Canada to the Union and the fate of the brave Montgomery compelled to a rash attempt by the immediate prospect of being left without Troops might be enumerated in the catalogue of evils that have sprang from this fruitful source. We not only incur these dangers and suffer these losses for want of a constant force equal to our exigencies, but while we labor under this impediment it is impossible there can be any order or oeconomy or system in our finances. If we meet with any severe blow the great exertions which the moment requires to stop the progress of the misfortune oblige us to depart from general principles to run into any expence or to adopt any expedient however injurious on a larger scale to procure the force and means which the present emergency demands. Everything is thrown into confusion and the measures taken to remedy immediate evils perpetuate others. The same is the case if particular conjunctions invite us to offensive operations; we find ourselves unprepared without troops, without Magazines, and with little time to provide them. We are obliged to force our resources by the most burthensome methods to answer the end, and after all it is but half answered: the design is announced by the occasional effort, and the enemy have it in their power to counteract and elude the blow. The prices of every thing, Men provisions &ca. are raised to a height to which the Revenues of no Government, much less ours, would suffice. It is impossible the people can endure the excessive burthen of bounties for annual drafts and substitutes increasing at every new experiment: whatever it might cost them once for all to procure Men for the War would be a cheap bargain.

I am convinced our System of temporary inlistments has prolonged the War and encouraged the enemy to persevere. Edition: current; Page: [168] Baffled while we had an Army in the field, they have been constantly looking forward to the period of its reduction, as the period to our opposition, and the season of their successes. They have flattered themselves with more than the event has justified; for they believed when one Army expired, we should not be able to raise another: undeceived however in this expectation by experience, they still remained convinced, and to me evidently on good grounds, that we must ultimately sink under a system which increases our expense beyond calculation, enfeebles all our measures, affords the most inviting opportunities to the enemy, and wearies and disgusts the people. This has doubtless had great influence in preventing their coming to terms and will continue to operate in the same way, The debates on the ministerial side have frequently manifested the operation of this motive, and it must in the nature of things have had great weight.

The interpositions of Neutral powers may lead to a negociation this winter: Nothing will tend so much to make the court of London reasonable as the prospect of a permanent Army in this Country, and a spirit of exertion to support it.

Disadvantages of the militiaTis time we should get rid of an error which the experience of all mankind has exploded, and which our own experience has dearly taught us to reject; the carrying on a War with Militia, or, (which is nearly the same thing) temporary levies against a regular, permanent and disciplined force. The Idea is chimerical, and that we have so long persisted in it is a reflection on the judgment of a Nation so enlightened as we are, as well as a strong proof of the empire of prejudice over reason. If we continue in the infatuation, we shall deserve to lose the object we are contending for.

America has been almost amused out of her liberties. We have frequently heard the behavior of the Militia extolled upon one and another occasion by Men who judge only from the surface, by Men who had particular views in misrepresenting, by visionary Men whose credulity easily swallowed every vague story in support of a favorite Hypothesis. I solemnly declare I never was witness to a single instance that can countenance an opinion of Militia or raw troops being fit for the real business of fighting. I have found them useful as light parties to skirmish the Woods, but incapable of making or sustaining a serious attack. This firmness is only acquired by habit of discipline and service. I mean not to detract from the merit of the Militia; Edition: current; Page: [169] their zeal and spirit upon a variety of occasions have intitled them to the highest applause; but it is of the greatest importance we should learn to estimate them rightly. We may expect everything from ours that Militia is capable of, but we must not expect from any, service for which Regulars alone are fit. The late Battle of Campden is a melancholy comment upon this doctrine. The Militia fled at the first fire, and left the Continental troops surrounded on every side and overpowered by numbers to combat for safety instead of Victory. The enemy themselves have witnessed to their Valor.

An ill effect of short enlistments which I have not yet taken notice of, is that the constant fluctuation of their Men is one of the sources of disgust to the Officers. Just when by great trouble fatigue and vexation (with which the training of Recruits is attended) they have brought their Men to some kind of order, they have the mortification to see them go home, and to know that the drudgery is to recommence the next Campaign, In Regiments so constituted, an Officer has neither satisfaction nor credit in his command.

Every motive which can arise from a consideration of our circumstances, either in a domestic or foreign point of view calls upon us to abandon temporary expedients and substitute something durable, systematic and substantial. This applies as well to our civil administration as to our military establishment. It is as necessary to give Congress, the common Head, sufficient powers to direct the common Forces as it is to raise an Army for the War; but I should go out of my province to expatiate on Civil Affairs. I cannot forbear adding a few more remarks.

Dissatisfaction with conduct of warOur finances are in an alarming state of derangement. Public credit is almost arrived at its last Stage. The People begin to be dissatisfied with the feeble mode of conducting the War, and with the ineffectual burthens imposed upon them, which tho’ light in comparison to what other nations feel are from their novelty heavy to them. They lose their confidence in Government apace. The Army is not only dwindling into nothing, but the discontents of the Officers as well as the Men have matured to a degree that threatens but too general a renunciation of the service, at the end of the Campaign. Since January last we have had registered at Head Quarters more than one hundred and sixty resignations, besides a number of others that were never regularly reported. I speak of the Army Edition: current; Page: [170] in this Quarter. We have frequently in the course of the campaign experienced an extremity of want. Our Officers are in general indecently defective in Cloathing. Our Men are almost naked, totally unprepared for the inclemency of the approaching season. We have no magazines for the Winter; the mode of procuring our supplies is precarious, and all the reports of the Officers employed in collecting them are gloomy.

More energy to governmentThese circumstances conspire to show the necessity of immediately adopting a plan that will give more energy to Government, more vigor and more satisfaction to the Army. Without it we have every thing to fear. I am persuaded of the sufficiency of our resources if properly directed.

Should the requisitions of Congress by any accident not arrive before the Legislature is about to rise, I beg to recommend that a plan be devised, which is likely to be effectual, for raising the Men that will be required for the War, leaving it to the Executive to apply it to the Quota which Congress will fix, I flatter myself however the requisition will arrive in time.

The present Crisis of our Affairs appears to me so serious as to call upon me as a good Citizen to offer my sentiments freely for the safety of the Republic. I hope the motive will excuse the liberty I have taken. I have the honor etc.

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1780–1781 Trials and Triumph fpage="171" lpage="198"

Trials and Triumph


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WASHINGTON had urged the notion of an American union, in the context of the Revolution, as early as 1775. The progress of the war made his appeals ever more insistent and strident. In the final two years of the war, when enormous labors were required to maintain his position in the face of a determined enemy, his appeals attained the status of virtual demands. Even as the Articles of Confederation, drafted and sent out to the states in 1777, were finally being ratified in 1781 (Maryland acceding and producing ratification March 1), Washington was urging upon legislators and others the necessity for a stronger national union. The struggle of the war years and the ongoing problem of maintaining a cohesive policy in the face of both a factious Congress and a populace that did not possess a clear national vision caused Washington to observe that human nature must receive its due consideration: “we must take the passions of men as nature has given them, and those principles as a guide which are generally the rule of action.”

Though few could know it, the war was swiftly approaching its end. Throughout the entire effort, or nearly so, there existed no formal apparatus of government to direct the effort. When finally in early Edition: current; Page: [173] 1781 “The United States in Congress Assembled” was born, there was no place for celebration; a dangerous enemy, from Washington’s perspective, still loomed before them, while inadequate provision for sustaining American forces had been made. In fact, the end of the severe trials of the war was but another step toward securing the ultimate triumph—nationhood.

Siege of Yorktown. Washington and Rochambeau pressed General Clinton so closely in late August 1781 that Clinton believed their feints toward New York were real movements; on August 25 he ordered Cornwallis to send troops from the South to resist a threatened siege of New York. The American and French armies moved toward Yorktown, where Lafayette was checking Cornwallis’s movements. On September 8, Washington received long-awaited news that Count de Grasse had arrived off the coast of Virginia. The combined strength of the allied forces was then 16,400; the British forces stood at 8,500. On September 25, the army concentrated at Williamsburg took a position within two miles of the British; four days later they had environed Yorktown. The lines fought on October 6, 9, and 11. On October 19, the British army surrendered.

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George Washington
Washington, George
October 22, 1780
Passaic Falls
George Mason
Mason, George


Dear Sir:

In consequence of a resolve of Congress directing an enquiry into the conduct of Genl. Gates, and authorising me to appoint some other Officer in his place during this enquiry, I have made choice of Majr. Genl. Greene who will,Appointment of General Greene I expect, have the honor of presenting you with this Letter.

I can venture to introduce this Gentn. to you as a man of abilities bravery and coolness. He has a comprehensive knowledge of our affairs, and is a man of fortitude and resources. I have not the smallest doubt therefore, of his employing all the means which may be put into his hands to the best advantage; nor of his assisting in pointing out the most likely ones to answer the purposes of his command. With this character, I take the liberty of recommending him to your civilities and support; for I have no doubt, from the embarrassed situation of Southern affairs; of his standing much in need of the latter from every Gentn. of Influence in the Assemblies of those States.

As General Greene can give you the most perfect information, in detail of our present distresses, and future prospects, I shall content myself with giving the agregate acct. of them; and with respect to the first, they are so great and complicated, that it is scarcely within the powers of description to give an adequate idea of them; with regard to the second, unless there Edition: current; Page: [176] is a material change both in our military, and civil policy, it will be in vain to contend much longer.

We are without money, and have been so for a great length of time, without provision and forage except what is taken by Impress; without Cloathing; and shortly shall be (in a manner) without Men. In a word, we have lived upon expedients till we can live no longer, and it may truly be said that, the history of this War is a history of false hopes, and temporary devices, instead of System, and oeconomy which results from it.

Call for a new plan to conduct warIf we mean to continue our struggles (and it is to be hoped we shall not relinquish our claim) we must do it upon an entire new plan. We must have a permanent force; not a force that is constantly fluctuating and sliding from under us as a pedestal of Ice would do from a Statue in a Summers day. Involving us in expence that baffles all calculation, an expence which no funds are equal to. We must at the same time contrive ways and means to aid our Taxes by Loans, and put our finance upon a more certain and stable footing than they are at prest. Our Civil government must likewise undergo a reform, ample powers must be lodged in Congress as the head of the Federal Union, adequate to all the purposes of War. Unless these things are done, our efforts will be in vain, and only serve to accumulate expence, add to our perplexities, and dissatisfy the people without a prospect of obtaining the prize in view. but these Sentimts. do not appear well in a hasty letter, without digestion or order. I have not time to give them otherwise; and shall only assure you that they are well meant, however crude they may appear. With sincere Affectn. and esteem etc.

George Washington
Washington, George
October 22, 1780
Passaic Falls
William Fitzhugh
Fitzhugh, William


Dear Sir:

General Greene to command Southern ArmyThe Gentn. who will have the honor of presenting you with this letter, is Majr. Genl. Greene, a particular friend of mine, and one who I would beg leave to recommend to your civilities. He is going to take command of the Southern Army, and calls at Annapolis to make some arrangements with the State respecting its supplies which are turned into that direction.

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This Gentleman is so intimately acquainted with our situation and prospects, and can relate them with such accuracy, that I shall not trouble you with them. My best respects attend Mrs. Fitzhugh and the young Officer, whose final exchange is, I hope, not far distant; if the Prisoners we have in this quarter will reach the date of his captivity in the exchange we are about to make. The Comy. is now gone in with powers to effect this purpose. I am etc.

Appeal to state assembliesPS: I hope the Assemblies that are now sitting, or are about to sit, will not rise till they put three things in a fair and proper train.

First, to give full and ample powers to Congress, competent to all the purposes of War.

Secondly, by Loans and Taxes to put our finances upon a more respectable footing than they are at present. and

Thirdly, that they will endeavour to establish a permanent force. These things will secure our Independency beyond dispute, but to go on in our present Systemn; Civil as well as military is a useless and vain attempt. Tis idle to suppose that raw and undisciplined Men are fit to oppose regular Troops, and if they were, our present Military System is too expensive, for any funds except that of an Eastern Nabob; and in the Civil line instead of one head and director we have, or soon shall have, thirteen, which is as much a monster in politicks as it would be in the human form. Our prest. distresses, and future prospects of distress, arising from these and similar causes, is great beyond the powers of description and without a change must end in our ruin.

George Washington
Washington, George
December 26, 1780
New Windsor
James Duane
Duane, James


My dear Sir:

I received with much thankfulness your confidential letter of the 9th. Instt. and am greatly obliged by the affectionate expressions of personl. regard wch are contained in it. An unreserved communication of Sentiments, accompanying such infomation as you are at liberty to give, will ever be pleasing to me, and cannot fail of being useful, in this light I view, and Edition: current; Page: [178] value, your last letter; some parts of wch are new, agreeable and instructive, while that part of it wch. relates to the transactn. at the Ct. of V—is wonderfully astonishing.

Greater powers to Congress, permanency in executive bodiesThere are two things (as I have often declared) which in my opinion, are indispensably neccessary to the well being and good Government of our public Affairs; these are, greater powers to Congress, and more responsibility and permanency in the executive bodies. If individual States conceive themselves at liberty to reject, or alter any act of Congress, which in a full representation of them, has been solemnly debated and decided on; it will be madness in us, to think of prosecuting the War. And if Congress suppose, that Boards composed of their own body, and always fluctuating, are competent to the great business of War (which requires not only close application, but a constant and uniform train of thinking and acting) they will most assuredly deceive themselves. Many, many instances might be adduced in proof of this, but to a mind as observant as yours there is no need to enumerate them. One however, as we feelingly experience it, I shall name. It is the want of cloathing, when I have every reason to be convinced that the expence wch. the Public is run to in this article would Cloath our Army as well as any Troops in Europe; in place of it, we have enumerable objects of distresg. want.

Necessity alone can justify the present mode of obtaining supplies; for besides the hazard and difficulty we meet with in procuring them, I am well convinced, that the public is charged with dble. what it receives, and what it receives is doubly charged so expensive and precarious is the prest. System. When the Army marched for Winter Quarters, I visited the Hospitals and back communication from Pensa. to this place. In the Neighbourhood of Pitts town, I fell in with a parcel of Cattle that were going to be slaughtered and Salted; and can assure you upon my honor, that besides being immensely poor, they were so small that I am convinced they would not average 175 lbs. the 4 nett quarters. some could not exceed One hundd. weight, and others were mere Calves. These pass by the head and the State, or States that furnish them, will have the reputation of supplying that Numbr. of Merchantable Bullocks, when the fact is, that next Summer a starving man wd. scarce eat the Beef they were about to put up after the Salt had extracted the little fat and juices that were in it; there were about 100 in the drove I saw, and my information Edition: current; Page: [179] extended to abt. 8 or 900 more of the same kind, in the neighbourhood. I directed the Commissary to select the best for Salting, and let the others be eaten fresh, as it would be a waste of Salt, Barrels and time to put it up. I relate this as a matter coming under my own observation, many other instances of a similar nature might be given from information, but I avoid it.

This letter will accompany one to Congress on the subject of promotion. That of a lineal, instead of Regimental, I am perswaded, as well from the opinions I have heard, as from the reason and nature of the thing; will be most consistt. with justice and most pleasing to each State line. With respect to the rise of Colonels and promotion of General Officers, I have no wish to gratify, except that which I have expressed in my public letter of fixing some principle, to avoid discontent and the consequences which flow from it. Irregular promotion, unless there is obvious cause for it, is not only injurious in any Service, but in ours is derogatory of the dignity of Congress for the Officer who is superceded and afterwards restored, is hurt by the first act and does not feel himself obliged by the latter (considering it as an act of justice only); while the two acts stands as an undeniable proof on record, that there is an establishd principle wanting, or that there is a want of information, or a want of firmness in Congress to resist importunity because the restoring act, as I have obsd. is an incontestable proof of one or the other of these three things.

At present we are in no want of Major Generals, in this part of the Army at least; but while I am on the subject of promotion, and while the thing is in my mind, I will beg leave to mention, that if at any time hereafter, there should be a Brigr., junr. to Genl. Knox, promoted before him, he will be lost to the Service; tho’ he should, thereafter, be restored to his place. I mention it because under the idea of State promotion he can never rise, and because I am well perswaded that the want of him at the head of the Artillery, would be irrepairable.

I cannot conclude without mentioning the case of Lt. Colo. Smith as deserving of notice, if a remedy can be applied. This Gentn. is of the remaining Sixteen Regiments, and though one of the oldest and (without disparagement to others) one of the best Battalion Officers of the whole line, must quit the Service without a chance of staying altho’ he is extremely anxious to do so. He has, during the last Campaign, been in the Edition: current; Page: [180] Inspectorate department where I think he may still be continued in his present Rank without injury to any one, to his own satisfaction, and the public benefit, without locating his services to any particular Corps, but to be employed as circumstances may require.

Mrs. Washington, impressed with a grateful sence of your kind intention of accompanying her to Trenton, joins me in thanks for it, and complimts. to you. Mr. Tilghman (the only person of my family at this momt. with me) also prests. his compts. with every Sentimt. of estm. etc.

George Washington
Washington, George
January 5, 1781
New Windsor



It is with extreme anxiety, and pain of mind, I find myself constrained to inform Your Excellency that the event I have long apprehended would be the consequence of the complicated distresses of the Army, has at length taken place. On the night of the 1st instant a mutiny was excited by the Non Commissioned Officers and Privates of the Pennsylvania Line,Mutiny in the Pennsylvania line which soon became so universal as to defy all opposition; in attempting to quell this tumult, in the first instance, some Officers were killed, others wounded, and the lives of several common Soldiers lost. Deaf to the arguments, entreaties, and utmost efforts of all their Officers to stop them, the Men moved off from Morris Town, the place of their Cantonment, with their Arms, and six pieces of Artillery: and from Accounts just received by Genl. Wayne’s Aid De Camp, they were still in a body, on their March to Philadelphia, to demand a redress of their grievances. At what point this defection will stop, or how extensive it may prove God only knows; at present the Troops at the important Posts in this vicinity remain quiet, not being acquainted with this unhappy and alarming affair; but how long they will continue so cannot be ascertained, as they labor under some of the pressing hardships, with the Troops who have revolted.

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Poor conditions in armyThe aggravated calamities and distresses that have resulted, from the total want of pay for nearly twelve Months, for want of cloathing, at a severe season, and not unfrequently the want of provisions; are beyond description. The circumstances will now point out much more forcibly what ought to be done, than any thing that can possibly be said by me, on the subject.

It is not within the sphere of my duty to make requisitions, without the Authority of Congress, from individual States: but at such a crisis, and circumstanced as we are, my own heart will acquit me; and Congress, and the States (eastward of this) whom for the sake of dispatch, I address, I am persuaded will excuse me, when once for all I give it decidedly as my opinion, that it is in vain to think an Army can be kept together much longer, under such a variety of sufferings as ours has experienced: and that unless some immediate and spirited measures are adopted to furnish at least three Months pay to the Troops, in Money that will be of some value to them; And at the same time ways and means are devised to cloath and feed them better (more regularly I mean) than they have been, the worst that can befall us may be expected.

I have transmitted Congress a Copy of this Letter, and have in the most pressing manner requested them to adopt the measure which I have above recommended, or something similar to it, and as I will not doubt of their compliance, I have thought proper to give you this previous notice, that you may be prepared to answer the requisition.

As I have used every endeavour in my power to avert the evil that has come upon us, so will I continue to exert every means I am possessed of to prevent an extension of the Mischief, but I can neither fortell, or be answerable for the issue.

That you may have every information that an officer of rank and abilities can give of the true situation of our affairs, and the condition and temper of the Troops I have prevailed upon Brigadier Genl Knox to be the bearer of this Letter, to him I beg leave to refer your Excellency for many Matters which would be too tedious for a Letter. I have the honor etc.

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George Washington
Washington, George
January 15, 1781
New Windsor
John Laurens
Laurens, John


[Dear Sir]:

State of American affairsIn compliance with your reguest I shall commit to writing the result of our conferences on the present state of American affairs; in which I have given you my ideas, with that freedom and explicitness, which the objects of your commission, my intire confidence in you, and the exigency demand. To me it appears evident:

1st. That, considering the diffused population of these states, the consequent difficulty of drawing together its resources; the composition and temper of a part of its inhabitants; the want of a sufficient stock of national wealth as a foundation for Revenue and the almost total extinction of commerce; the efforts we have been compelled to make for carrying on the war, have exceeded the natural abilities of this country and by degrees brought it to a crisis, which renders immediate and efficacious succours from abroad indispensable to its safety.

2dly. That, notwithstanding from the confusion, always attendant on a revolution, from our having had governments to frame, and every species of civil and military institution to create; from that inexperience in affairs, necessarily incident to a nation in its commencement,Errors in financial administration some errors may have been committed in the administration of our finances, to which a part of our embarrassments are to be attributed, yet they are principally to be ascribed to an essential defect of means, to the want of a sufficient stock of wealth, as mentioned in the first article; which, continuing to operate, will make it impossible, by any merely interior exertions, to extricate ourselves from those embarrassments, restore public credit, and furnish the funds requisite for the support of the war.

3dly. That experience has demonstrated the impracticability,Paper credit long to maintain a paper credit without funds for its redemption. The depreciation of our currency was, in the main, a necessary effect of the want of those funds; and its restoration is impossible for the same reason; to which the general diffidence, that has taken place among the people, is an additional, Edition: current; Page: [183] and in the present state of things, an insuperable obstacle.

4thly. That the mode, which for want of money has been substituted for supplying the army; by assessing a proportion of the productions of the earth, has hitherto been found ineffectual, has frequently exposed the army to the most calamitous distress, and from its novelty and incompatibility with ancient habits, is regarded by the people as burthensome and oppressive; has excited serious discontents, and, in some places, alarming symptoms of opposition. This mode has besides many particular inconveniences which contribute to make it inadequate to our wants, and ineligible, but as an auxiliary.

5thly. That from the best estimates of the annual expence of the war, and the annual revenues which these states are capable of affording, there is a large balance to be supplied by public credit. The resource of domestic loans is inconsiderable because there are properly speaking few monied men, and the few there are can employ their money more profitably otherwise; added to which, the instability of the currency and the deficiency of funds have impaired the public credit.

6thly. That the patience of the army from an almost uninterrupted series of complicated distress is now nearly exhausted; their discontents matured to an extremity, which has recently had very disagreeable consequences, and which demonstrates the absolute necessity of speedy relief, a relief not within the compass of our means. You are too well acquainted with all their sufferings, for want of cloathing, for want of provisions, for want of pay.

Dissatisfaction of the people7thly. That the people being dissatisfied with the mode of supporting the war, there is cause to apprehend, evils actually felt in the prosecution, may weaken those sentiments which begun it; founded not on immediate sufferings, but in a speculative apprehension of future sufferings from the loss of their liberties. There is danger that a commercial and free people, little accustomed to heavy burthens, pressed by impositions of a new and odious kind, may not make a proper allowance for the necessity of the conjuncture, and may imagine, they have only exchanged one tyranny for another.

8thly. That from all the foregoing considerations result:

1st. The absolute necessity of an immediate, ample and efficacious succour of money; large enough to be a foundation for Edition: current; Page: [184] substantial arrangements of finance, to revive public credit and give vigor to future operations.

2dly. The vast importance of a decided effort of the allied arms on this Continent, the ensuing campaign, to effectuate once and for all the great objects of the alliance; the liberty and independence of these states.

Without the first, we may make a feeble and expiring effort the next campaign, in all probability the period to our opposition. With it, we should be in a condition to continue the war, as long as the obstinacy of the enemy might require. The first is essential to the last; both combined would bring the contest to a glorious issue, crown the obligations, which America already feels to the magnanimity and generosity of her ally, and perpetuate the union, by all the ties of gratitude and affection, as well as mutual advantage, which alone can render it solid and indissoluble.

Need for naval superiority9thly. That next to a loan of money a constant naval superiority on these coasts is the object most interesting. This would instantly reduce the enemy to a difficult defensive, and by removing all prospect of extending their acquistions, would take away the motives for prosecuting the war. Indeed it is not to be conceived, how they could subsist a large force in this country, if we had the command of the seas, to interrupt the regular transmission of supplies from Europe. This superiority (with an aid of money) would enable us to convert the war into a vigorous offensive. I say nothing of the advantages to the trade of both nations, nor how infinitely it would facilitate our supplies. With respect to us, it seems to be one of two deciding points; and it appears too, to be the interest of our allies, abstracted from the immediate benefits to this country, to transfer the naval war to America. The number of ports friendly to them, hostile to the British; the materials for repairing their disabled ships; the extensive supplies towards the subsistence of their fleet, are circumstances which would give them a palpable advantage in the contest of these seas.

10thly. That an additional succour of troops would be extremely desirable. Besides a reinforcement of numbers, the excellence of the French troops, that perfect discipline and order in the corps already sent, which have so happily tended to improve the respect and confidence of the people for our allies; the conciliating disposition and the zeal for the service, which distinguish every rank, sure indications of lasting harmony, Edition: current; Page: [185] all these considerations evince the immense utility of an accession of force to the corps now here. Correspondent with these motives, the inclosed minutes of a conference between Their Excellencies The Count De Rochambeau, The Chevalier De Ternay and myself will inform you that an augmentation to fifteen thousand men was judged expedient for the next campaign; and it has been signified to me, that an application has been made to the Court of France to this effect. But if the sending so large a succour of troops, should necessarily diminish the pecuniary aid, which our allies may be disposed to grant, it were preferable to diminish the aid in men; for the same sum of money, which would transport from France and maintain here a body of troops with all the neccessary apparatus, being put into our hands to be employed by us would serve to give activity to a larger force within ourselves, and its influence would pervade the whole administration.

On repayment of debts11thly. That no nation will have it more in its power to repay what it borrows than this. Our debts are hitherto small. The vast and valuable tracts of unlocated lands, the variety and fertility of climates and soils; the advantages of every kind, which we possess for commerce, insure to this country a rapid advancement in population and prosperity and a certainty, its independence being established, of redeeming in a short term of years, the comparitively inconsiderable debts it may have occasion to contract.

That notwithstanding the difficulties under which we labour and the inquietudes prevailing among the people, there is still a fund of inclination and resource in the country equal to great and continued exertions, provided we have it in our power to stop the progress of disgust, by changing the present system and adopting another more consonant with the spirit of the nation, and more capable of activity and energy in public measures; of which a powerful succour of money must be the basis. The people are discontented, but it is with the feeble and oppressive mode of conducting the war, not with the war itself. They are not unwilling to contribute to its support, but they are unwilling to do it in a way that renders private property precarious, a necessary consequence of the fluctuation of the national currency, and of the inability of government to perform its engagements, oftentimes coercively made. A large majority are still firmly attached to the independence of these states, abhor a reunion with great Britain, and are affectionate Edition: current; Page: [186] to the alliance with France, but this disposition cannot supply the place of means customary and essential in war, nor can we rely on its duration amidst the perplexities, oppressions and misfortunes, that attend the want of them.

If the foregoing observations are of any use to you I shall be happy. I wish you a safe and pleasant voyage, the full accomplishment of your mission and a speedy return; being with sentiments of perfect friendship etc.

George Washington
Washington, George
January 30, 1781
New Windsor


Head Quarters, New Windsor

Parole ———. Countersigns ———.

The General returns his thanks to Major General Howe for the judicious measures he pursued and to the officers and men under his command for the good conduct and alacrity with which they executed his orders for suppressing the late Mutiny in a part of the New Jersey line.Mutiny of the New Jersey line It gave him inexpressible pain to have been obliged to employ their arms upon such an occasion and convinced that they themselves felt all the Reluctance which former Affection to fellow Soldiers could inspire. He considers the patience with which they endured the fatigues of march through rough and mountainous roads rendered almost impassable by the depth of the Snow and the cheerfulness with which they performed every other part of their duty as the strongest proof of their Fidelity, attachment to the service, sense of subordination and abhorrence of the principles which actuated the Mutineers in so daring and atrocious a departure from what they owed to their Country, to their Officers to their Oaths and to themselves.

The General is deeply sensible of the sufferings of the army. He leaves no expedient unessayed to relieve them, and he is persuaded Congress and the several States are doing every thing in their power for the same purpose. But while we look to the public for the fullfilment of its engagements we should do it with proper allowance for the embarrassments of public affairs. We began a Contest for Liberty and Independence ill Edition: current; Page: [187] provided with the means for war, relying on our own Patriotism to supply the deficiency. We expected to encounter many wants and distresses and We should neither shrink from them when they happen nor fly in the face of the Law and Government to procure redress. There is no doubt the public will in the event do ample justice to men fighting and suffering in its defence. But it is our duty to bear present Evils with Fortitude looking forward to the period when our Country will have it more in its power to reward our services.

History is full of Examples of armies suffering with patience extremities of distress which exceed those we have suffered, and this in the cause of ambition and conquest not in that of the rights of humanity of their country, of their families of themselves;The distinction of a patriot army shall we who aspire to the distinction of a patriot army, who are contending for every thing precious in society against every thing hateful and degrading in slavery, shall We who call ourselves citizens discover less Constancy and Military virtue than the mercenary instruments of ambition? Those who in the present instance have stained the honor of the American soldiery and sullied the reputation of patient Virtue for which they have been so long eminent can only atone for their pusillanimous defection by a life devoted to a Zealous and examplary discharge of their duty. Persuaded that the greater part were influenced by the pernicious advice of a few who probably have been paid by the enemy to betray their Associates; The General is happy in the lenity shewn in the execution of only two of the most guilty after compelling the whole to an unconditional surrender, and he flatters himself no similar instance will hereafter disgrace our military History. It can only bring ruin on those who are mad enough to make the attempt; for lenity on any future occasion would be criminal and inadmissible.

The General at the same time presents his thanks to Major General Parsons for the prudent and Military dispositions he made and to Lieutenant Colonel Hull and the officers and Men under his command for the good conduct address and Courage with which they executed the enterprize against a Corps of the enemy in West Chester, having destroyed their Barracks and a large quantity of Forage, burnt a bridge across Haerlem, under the protection of one of their redoubts, brought off fifty two prisoners and a number of Horses and Cattle with inconsiderable Loss except in the death of Ensign Edition: current; Page: [188] Thompson of the 6th. Massachusett’s regiment an active and enterprizing officer.

The General also thanks Colonel Hazen and his party for their Conduct and bravery in covering Lieutenant Colonel Hull’s retreat and repelling the Enemy and the Colonels Scammell and Sherman and in general all the Officers and men of General Parsons’s command for their good Conduct in supporting the advanced Corps.

George Washington
Washington, George
New Windsor
February 4, 1781
John Sullivan
Sullivan, John


Dear Sir:

Appointment of Ministers of War, Finance, and Foreign AffairsColo. Armand deliver’d me your favor of the 29th. Ulto. last Evening and I thank you for the sevl. communications contained in it. The measure adopted by Congress of appointing a Minister of War, Finance, and for Foreign Affairs I think a very wise one. To give efficacy to it, proper characters will, no doubt, be chosen to conduct the business of these departments. How far Colo. Hamilton, of whom you ask my opinion as a financier, has turned his thoughts to that particular study I am unable to ansr. because I never entered upon a discussion on this point with him; but this I can venture to advance from a thorough knowledge of him, that there are few men to be found, of his age, who has a more general knowledge than he possesses, and none whose Soul is more firmly engaged in the cause, or who exceeds him in probity and Sterling virtue.

I am clearly in Sentiment with you that our cause only became distressed, and apparently desperate from an imprr. management of it. and that errors once discovered are more than half amended; I have no doubt of our abilities or resources, but we must not slumber nor Sleep; they never will be drawn forth if we do; nor will violent exertions which subside with the occasion answer our purposes. It is a provident foresight; a proper arrangement of business, system and order in the execution that is to be productive of that oeconomy which is to defeat the efforts and hopes of Great Britain. And I am happy, thrice happy on private as well as public acct; to find that these are in train; for it will ease my shoulders of an Edition: current; Page: [189] immense burthen which the deranged and perplexed situation of our Affairs and the distresses of every department of the Army which concentred in the Comr. in chief had placed upon them.

I am not less pleased to hear that, Maryland has acceded to the confederation, and that Virginia has relinquished its claim to the Land West of the Ohio, which for fertility of Soil, pleasantness of clime and other Natu’l advantages is equal to any known tract of Country in the Universe of the same extent, taking the great Lakes for its Northern boundary.

I wish most devoutly a happy completion to your plan of finance (which you say is near finished); and much success to your scheme of borrowing Coined specie, and Plate. but in what manner do you propose to apply the latter? as a fund to redeem its value in Paper, to be emitted; or to coin it? If the latter it will add one more to a thousand other reasons wch. might be offered in proof of the necessity of vesting legislative or dictatorial powers in Congress to make Laws of general utility for the purposes of War &c.Business with the enemy that they might prohibit under the pains, and penalty of death specie and Provisions going into the Enemy for Goods. The Traffic with New York is immense. Individual States will not make it felony, lest (among other reasons) it should not become general, and nothing short of it will ever check, much less stop a practice which at the same time that it serves to drain us of our Provisions and Specie removes the barrier between us and the enemy, corrupt the morals of our people by a lucrative traffic and by degrees weaken the opposition, affords a mean to obtain regular and perfect intelligence of everything among us while even in this respect we benefit nothing from a fear of discovery. Men of all descriptions are now indiscriminately engaging in it, Whig, Tory, Speculator. By its being practiced by those of the latter class, in a mannr. with impunity, Men who, two or three yrs. ago, would have shuddered at the idea of such connexions now pursue it with avidity and reconcile it to themselves (in which their profits plead powerfully) upon a principle of equality, with the Tory, who being actuated by principle, (favourable to us) and knowing that a forfeiture of the Goods to the Informer was all he had to dread and that this was to be eluded by an agreemt. to inform against each other, went into the measure witht. risk.

This is a degression, but the subject is of so serious a nature, Edition: current; Page: [190] and so interesting to our well being as a Nation, that I never expect to see a happy termination of the War; nor great national concerns well conducted in Peace, till there is something more than a recommendatory power in Congress. It is not possible in time of War that business can be conducted well without it. The last words therefore of my letter and the first wish of my heart concur in favor of it. I am etc.

George Washington
Washington, George
February 28, 1781
New Windsor
John Parke Custis
Custis, John Parke


Dear Custis:

If you will accept a hasty letter in return for yours of last month I will devote a few moments for this purpose, and confine myself to an interesting point, or two.

Suggestions to a young SenatorI do not suppose that so young a Senator, as you are, little versed in political disquisitions can yet have much influence in a populous assembly; composed of Gentn. of various talents and of different views. But it is in your power to be punctual in your attendance (and duty to the trust reposed in you exacts it of you), to hear dispassionately, and determine cooly all great questions. To be disgusted at the decision of questions because they are not consonant to your own ideas, and to withdraw ourselves from public assemblies, or to neglect our attendance at them upon suspicion that there is a party formed who are enimical to our Cause, and to the true interest of our Country is wrong because these things may originate in a difference of opinion; but supposing the fact is otherwise and that our suspicions are well founded it is the indispensable duty of every patriot to counteract them by the most steady and uniform opposition. This advice is the result of information, that you and others being dissatisfied at the proceedings of the Virginia Assembly and thinking your attendance of little avail (as their is a majority for measures which you and a minority conceive to be repugnant to the interest of your Country) are indifferent about the Assembly.

Need for a permanent military forceThe next and I believe the last thing I shall have time to touch upon is our military establishment. and here if I thought the conviction of having a permanent force had not, ere this, Edition: current; Page: [191] flashed upon every mans mind I could write a volume in support of the utility of it; for no day, nor hour arrives unaccompd. with proof of some loss, some expence, or some misfortune consequent of the want of it. No operation of War offensive or defensive can be carried on, for any length of time without it. No funds are adequate to the supplies of a fluctuating army; tho’ it may go under the denomination of a regular one; much less are they competent to the support of Militia. In a word, for it is, unnecessary to go into all the reasons the subject will admit of, we have brought a cause which might have been happily terminated years ago by the adoption of proper measures to the verge of ruin by temporary enlistments and a reliance on Militia. The sums expended in bounties, waste of Arms, consumption of Military Stores, Provisions, Camp Utensils &ca.; to say nothing of Cloathing which temporary Soldiers are always receiving, and always in want of, are too great for the resources of any Nation; and prove the falacy and danger of temporary expedients which are no more than Mushrooms and of as short duration, but leave a sting (that is a debt) which is continually revolving upon us behind them.

It must be a settled plan, founded on System, order and oeconomy that is to carry us triumphantly through the war. Supiness, and indifference to the distresses and cries of a sister State when danger is far of, and a general but momentary resort to arms when it comes to our doors, are equally impolitic and dangerous,Necessity of Congressional power and proves the necessity of a controuling power in Congress to regulate and direct all matters of general concern; without it the great business of war never can be well conducted, if it can be conducted at all; while the powers of congress are only recommendatory; while one State yields obedience, and another refuses it; while a third mutilates and adopts the measure in part only, and all vary in time and manner, it is scarcely possible our affairs should prosper, or that any thing but disappointmt. can follow the best concerted plans; the willing States are almost ruined by their exertions, distrust and jealousy succeeds to it; hence proceed neglect and ill-timed compliances (one state waiting to see what another will do), this thwarts all our measures after a heavy tho’ ineffectual expence is incurred.

Does not these things shew then in the most striking point of view the indispensable necessity, the great and good policy of Edition: current; Page: [192] each State’s sending its ablest and best men to Congress? Men who have a perfect understanding of the constitution of their Country, of its policy and Interests, and of vesting that body with competent powers. Our Independence depends upon it; our respectability and consequence in Europe depends upon it; our greatness as a Nation, hereafter, depends upon it. the fear of giving sufficient powers to Congress for the purposes I have mentioned is futile, without it, our Independence fails, and each Assembly under its present Constitution will be annihilated, and we must once more return to the Government of G: Britain, and be made to kiss the rod preparing for our correction. A nominal head, which at present is but another name for Congress, will no longer do. That honble body, after hearing the interests and views of the several States fairly discussed and explained by their respective representatives, must dictate, not merely recommend, and leave it to the States afterwards to do as they please, which, as I have observed before, is in many cases, to do nothing at all.

When I began this letter I did not expect to have filled more than one side of the sheet but I have run on insensibly. If you are at home, give my love to Nelly and the Children. if at Richmond present my complimts. to any enquiring friends. Sincerely and affectly. I am etc.

PS: The Public Gazettes will give you all the news and occurrances of this Quarter, our eyes are anxiously turned towards the South for events.

George Washington
Washington, George
April 30, 1781
New Windsor
Lund Washington
Washington, Lund


Dear Lund:

The British at Washington’s homeYour letter of the 18th. came to me by the last Post. I am very sorry to hear of your loss; I am a little sorry to hear of my own; but that which gives me most concern, is, that you should go on board the enemys Vessels, and furnish them with refreshments. It would have been a less painful circumstance to me, to have heard, that in consequence of your non-compliance with their request, they had burnt my House, and laid the Edition: current; Page: [193] Plantation in ruins. You ought to have considered yourself as my representative, and should have reflected on the bad example of communicating with the enemy, and making a voluntary offer of refreshments to them with a view to prevent a conflagration.

It was not in your power, I acknowledge, to prevent them from sending a flag on shore, and you did right to meet it; but you should, in the same instant that the business of it was unfolded, have declared, explicitly, that it was improper for you to yield to the request; after which, if they had proceeded to help themselves, by force, you could but have submitted (and being unprovided for defence) this was to be prefered to a feeble opposition which only serves as a pretext to burn and destroy.

I am thoroughly perswaded that you acted from your best judgment; and believe, that your desire to preserve my property, and rescue the buildings from impending danger, were your governing motives. But to go on board their Vessels; carry them refreshments; commune with a parcel of plundering Scoundrels, and request a favor by asking the surrender of my Negroes, was exceedingly ill-judged, and ‘tis to be feared, will be unhappy in its consequences, as it will be a precedent for others, and may become a subject of animadversion.

I have no doubt of the enemys intention to prosecute the plundering plan they have begun. And, unless a stop can be put to it by the arrival of a superior naval force, I have as little doubt of its ending in the loss of all my Negroes, and in the destruction of my Houses; but I am prepared for the event, under the prospect of which, if you could deposit, in safety, at some convenient distance from the Water, the most valuable and least bulky articles, it might be consistent with policy and prudence, and a mean of preserving them for use hereafter. Such, and so many things as are necessary for common, and present use must be retained and run their chance through the firy trial of this summer.

Mrs. Washington joins me in best and affectionate regard for you, Mrs. Washington and Milly Posey; and does most sincerely regret your loss. I do not know what Negros they may have left you; and as I have observed before, I do not know what number they will have left me by the time they have done; but this I am sure of, that you shall never want assistance, while it is in my power to afford it. I am etc.

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George Washington
Washington, George
October 19, 1781



Surrender at YorktownI have the Honor to inform Congress, that a Reduction of the British Army under the Command of Lord Cornwallis, is most happily effected. The unremitting Ardor which actuated every Officer and Soldier in the combined Army on this Occasion, has principally led to this Important Event, at an earlier period than my most sanguine Hopes had induced me to expect.

The singular Spirit of Emulation, which animated the whole Army from the first Commencement of our Operations, has filled my Mind with the highest pleasure and Satisfaction, and had given me the happiest presages of Success.

On the 17th instant, a Letter was received from Lord Cornwallis, proposing a Meeting of Commissioners, to consult on Terms for the Surrender of the Posts of York and Gloucester. This Letter (the first which had passed between us) opened a Correspondence, a Copy of which I do myself the Honor to inclose; that Correspondence was followed by the Definitive Capitulation, which was agreed to, and Signed on the 19th. Copy of which is also herewith transmitted, and which I hope, will meet the Approbation of Congress.

Gratitude for French cooperationI should be wanting in the feelings of Gratitude, did I not mention on this Occasion, with the warmest Sense of Acknowledgements, the very chearfull and able Assistance, which I have received in the Course of our Operations, from his Excellency the Count de Rochambeau, and all his Officers of every Rank, in their respective Capacities. Nothing could equal this Zeal of our Allies, but the emulating Spirit of the American Officers, whose Ardor would not suffer their Exertions to be exceeded.

The very uncommon Degree of Duty and Fatigue which the Nature of the Service required from the Officers of Engineers and Artillery of both Armies, obliges me particularly to mention the Obligations I am under to the Commanding and other Officers of those Corps.

I wish it was in my Power to express to Congress, how much I feel myself indebted to The Count de Grasse and the Officers of the Fleet under his Command for the distinguished Edition: current; Page: [195] Aid and Support which have been afforded by them; between whom, and the Army, the most happy Concurrence of Sentiments and Views have subsisted, and from whom, every possible Cooperation has been experienced, which the most harmonious Intercourse could afford.

Returns of the Prisoners, Military Stores, Ordnance Shipping and other Matters, I shall do myself the Honor to transmit to Congress as soon as they can be collected by the Heads of Departments, to which they belong.

Colo. Laurens and the Viscount de Noiailles, on the Part of the combined Army, were the Gentlemen who acted as Commissioners for formg and settg the Terms of Capitulation and Surrender herewith transmitted, to whom I am particularly obliged for their Readiness and Attention exhibited on the Occasion.

Colo. Tilghman, one of my Aids de Camp, will have the Honor to deliver these Dispatches to your Excellency; he will be able to inform you of every minute Circumstance which is not particularly mentioned in my Letter; his Merits, which are too well known to need my observations at this time, have gained my particular Attention, and could wish that they may be honored with the Notice of your Excellency and Congress.

Your Excellency and Congress will be pleased to accept my Congratulations on this happy Event, and believe me to be With the highest Respect etc.

PS: Tho’ I am not possessed of the Particular Returns, yet I have reason to suppose that the Number of Prisoners will be between five and Six thousand, exclusive of Seamen and others.

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George Washington
Washington, George
October 20, 1781


Parole Congress. Countersigns York, Gloucester.

Major General the Marqs. de la Fayette

For the Day tomorrow Colonel Walter Stewart

Major Reid

Brigade Major Cox

Brigadier General Hazen’s Brigade for duty tomorrow to parade at ten o’clock on their own parade.

As a great number of the axes delivered to working parties during the siege have not been returned the Commander in Chief directs that the Commandants of Corps, continental and militia, may have an immediate and strict search made in their respective commands and that all the axes found which have not been issued for their particular use may be returned to General Elbert Superintendant of the deposit of the trenches.

The Provost Guard consisting of one sub, two serjeants, Two Corporals and twenty privates to be relieved by divisions in rotation daily. The Marquis de la Fayettes will furnish it this day; Major General Lincolns division tomorrow, and the Baron’s the next day.

After Orders

Congratulations to French and American armiesThe General congratulates the Army upon the glorious event of yesterday.

The generous proofs which his most Christian Majesty has given of his attachment to the Cause of America must force conviction on the minds of the most deceived among the Enemy: relatively to the decisive good consequences of the Alliance and inspire every citizen of these States with sentiments of the most unalterable Gratitude.

His Fleet the most numerous and powerful that ever appeared in these seas commanded by an Admiral whose Fortune and Talents ensure great Events.

An Army of the most admirable composition both in officers and men are the Pledges of his friendship to the United States Edition: current; Page: [197] and their cooperation has secured us the present signal success.

The General upon his occasion entreats his Excellency Count de Rochambeau to accept his most grateful acknowledgements for his Counsels and assistance at all times. He presents his warmest thanks to the Generals Baron Viomenil, Chevalier Chastellux, Marquis de St. Simond and Count Viomenil and to Brigadier General de Choissy (who had a separate command) for the illustrious manner in which they have advanced the interest of the common cause.

He requests that Count de Rochambeau will be pleased to communicate to the Army under his immediate command the high sense he entertains of the distinguished merits of the officers and soldiers of every corps and that he will present in his name to the regiments of Gattinois and Deuxponts the two Pieces of Brass Ordnance captured by them; as a testimony of their Gallantry in storming the Enemy’s Redoubt on the Night of the 14th. instant, when officers and men so universally vied with each other in the exercise of every soldierly virtue.

The General’s Thanks to each individual of Merit would comprehend the whole Army. But He thinks himself bound however by Affection Duty and Gratitude to express his obligations to Major Generals Lincoln, de La Fayette and Steuben for their dispositions in the Trenches.

To General Du Portail and Colonel Carney for the Vigor and Knowledge which were conspicuous in their Conduct of the Attacks, and to General Knox and Colonel D’Aberville for their great care and attention and fatigue in bringing forward the Artillery and Stores and for their judicious and spirited management of them in the Parallels.

He requests the Gentlemen above mentioned to communicate his thanks to the officers and soldiers of their respective commands.

Ingratitude which the General hopes never to be guilty of would be conspicuous in him was he to omit thanking in the warmest terms His Excellency Governor Nelson for the Aid he has derived from him and from the Militia under his Command to whose Activity Emulation and Courage much Applause is due; the Greatness of the Acquisition will be an ample Compensation for the Hardships and Hazards which they encountered with so much patriotism and firmness.

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In order to diffuse the general Joy through every Breast the General orders that those men belonging to the Army who may now be in confinement shall be pardoned released and join their respective corps.

Divine Service is to be performed tomorrow in the several Brigades or Divisions.

The Commander in Chief earnestly recommends that the troops not on duty should universally attend with that seriousness of Deportment and gratitude of Heart which the recognition of such reiterated and astonishing interpositions of Providence demand of us.

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1782–1783 Washington’s Knowledge of Himself and His Army fpage="199" lpage="224"

Washington’s Knowledge of Himself and His Army


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VICTORY did not bring the end of Washington’s troubles. The British remained in place on American soil for two years more. Thus, it was as difficult as it was prudent to maintain readiness in the face of general expectations of the end of conflict. Similarly, there was a very real possibility of the soldiers’ countrymen simply dismissing them with thanks and forgetting the fact that they had served dutifully through great trials without compensation. Instead of elation, therefore, Washington’s attitude in triumph was to preserve in his men and himself the sense of a “duty to bear present trials with fortitude.” This feat proved no less valuable to his country than his skill in the field of battle.

Many charges have been made through the years that Washington’s military officers plotted to make him king. A favorite villain in this set piece has always been Alexander Hamilton, but no solid evidence against him has ever surfaced. The most definite monarchical proposals that have been established were those of Colonel Lewis Nicola in a letter to Washington of May 22, 1782. Washington’s immediate and stern rebuke to Nicola, often remembered since, is reprinted here. Nicola, an Irishman naturalized in America, was generally respected and had been shown a particular courtesy by Washington. He, who was himself Washington’s age, was so stung by Washington’s rebuke that he wrote three successive apologies in the days following.

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Nicola settled into comfortable republican habits thereafter, but agitation continued to wrack an army which had been woefully mistreated by its countrymen. No one exerted himself more than Washington to obtain justice for the officers and soldiers.

In February and March of 1783, new threats arose which culminated in the famous “Newburgh Addresses” to Congress. The first of these respectfully expressed the army’s dismay at the union’s inefficacy. The second address, unofficial and anonymous, broached the threat of a refusal to disband without obtaining pay. This latter address led to the famous Newburgh meeting in which the officers, who were supposed to concert their plans to obtain redress, needed to be restrained by Washington. While his letters are replete with sentiments of obtaining justice for the men, the remarks he made in his Newburgh speech, reprinted here, show how well he achieved the end of restraining them. It was reported that, as Washington commenced reading his address, he fumbled in his pockets to pull out spectacles he had only recently acquired. In the delay he remarked, “I have grown not only gray, but almost blind in my country’s service.” Washington carried the meeting. His officers voted him unanimous thanks and rejected “with disdain, the infamous propositions” of the anonymous pamphlets.

Edition: current; Page: [202] Edition: current; Page: [203]
George Washington
Washington, George
May 22, 1782
Lewis Nicola
Nicola, Lewis



Astonishment at Nicola’s offer to make Washington KingWith a mixture of great surprise and astonishment I have read with attention the Sentiments you have submitted to my perusal. Be assured Sir, no occurrence in the course of the War, has given me more painful sensations than your information of there being such ideas existing in the Army as you have expressed, and I must view with abhorrence, and reprehend with severety. For the present, the communicatn. of them will rest in my own bosom, unless some further agitation of the matter, shall make a disclosure necessary.

I am much at a loss to conceive what part of my conduct could have given encouragement to an address which to me seems big with the greatest mischiefs that can befall my Country. If I am not deceived in the knowledge of myself, you could not have found a person to whom your schemes are more disagreeable; at the same time in justice to my own feelings I must add, that no Man possesses a more sincere wish to see ample justice done to the Army than I do, and as far as my powers and influence, in a constitutional way extend, they shall be employed to the utmost of my abilities to effect it, should there be any occasion. Let me conjure you then, if you have any regard for your Country, concern for yourself or posterity, or respect for me, to banish these thoughts from your Edition: current; Page: [204] Mind, and never communicate, as from yourself, or any one else, a sentiment of the like Nature. With esteem I am.

George Washington
Washington, George
October 2, 1782


My dear Sir:

Painful as the task is to describe the dark side of our affairs, it some times becomes a matter of indispensable necessity. Without disguize or palliation, I will inform you candidly of the discontents which, at this moment, prevail universally throughout the Army.

Discontent in armyThe Complaint of Evils which they suppose almost remediless are, the total want of Money, or the means of existing from One day to another, the heavy debts they have already incurred, the loss of Credit, the distress of their Families (i.e. such as are Maried) at home, and the prospect of Poverty and Misery before them. [It is vain Sir, to suppose that Military Men will acquiesce contently with bare rations, when those in the Civil walk of life (unacquainted with half the hardships they endure) are regularly paid the emoluments of Office; while the human Mind is influenced by the same passions, and have the same inclinations to endulge it cannt. be. A Military Man has the same turn to sociability as a person in Civil life; he conceives himself equally called upon to live up to his rank; and his pride is hurt when circumstans. restrain him. Only conceive then, the mortification they (even the Genl. Officers) must suffer when they cannot invite a French Officer, a visiting friend, or travelling acquaintance to a better repast than stinking Whiskey (and not always that) and a bit of Beef without Vegitables, will afford them.]

Complaints of officersThe Officers also complain of other hardships which they think might and ought to be remedied without delay, viz, the stopping Promotions where there have been vacancy’s open for a long time, the withholding Commissions from those who are justly entitled to them and have Warrants or Certificates of their Appointments from the Executive of their States, and particularly the leaving the compensation for their services, in Edition: current; Page: [205] a loose equivocal state, without ascertaining their claims upon the public, or making provision for the future payment of them.

While I premise, that tho’ no one that I have seen or heard of, appears opposed to the principle of reducing the Army as circumstances may require; Yet I cannot help fearing the Result of the measure in contemplation, under present circumstances when I see such a Number of Men goaded by a thousand stings of reflexion on the past, and of anticipation on the future, about to be turned into the World, soured by penury and what they call the ingratitude of the Public, involved in debts, without one farthing of Money to carry them home, after having spent the flower of their days [and many of them their patrimonies] in establishing the freedom and Independence of their Country, and suffered every thing human Nature is capable of enduring on this side of death; I repeat it, these irritable circumstances, without one thing to sooth their feelings, or frighten the gloomy prospects, I cannot avoid apprehending that a train of Evils will follow, of a very serious and distressing Nature. On the other hand could the Officers be placed in as good a situation as when they came into service, the contention, I am persuaded, would be not who should continue in the field, but who should retire to private life.

I wish not to heighten the shades of the picture, so far as the real life would justify me in doing, or I would give Anecdotes of patriotism and distress which have scarcely ever been paralleled, never surpassed in the history of Mankind; Patience of army almost exhaustedbut you may rely upon it, the patience and long sufferance of this Army are almost exhausted, and that there never was so great a spirit of Discontent as at this instant: While in the field, I think it may be kept from breaking out into Acts of Outrage, but when we retire into Winter Quarters (unless the Storm is previously dissipated) I cannot be at ease, respecting the consequences. It is high time for a Peace.

To you, my dear Sir, I need not be more particular in describing my Anxiety and the grounds of it. You are too well acquainted, from your own service, with the real sufferings of the Army to require a longer detail; I will therefore only add that exclusive of the common hardships of a Military life, Our Troops have been, and still are obliged to perform more services, foreign to their proper duty, without gratuity or reward, than the Soldiers of any other Army; for example, the immense Edition: current; Page: [206] labours expended [in doing the duties of Artificers] in erecting Fortifications and Military Works; the fatigue of building themselves Barracks or Huts annually; And of cutting and transporting Wood for the use of all our Posts and Garrisons, without any expence whatever to the Public.

Of this Letter, (which from the tenor of it must be considered in some degree of a private nature) you may make such use as you shall think proper. Since the principal objects of it were, by displaying the Merits, the hardships, the disposition and critical state of the Army, to give information that might eventually be useful, and to convince you with what entire confidence and esteem. I am etc.

George Washington
Washington, George
December 14, 1782
Joseph Jones
Jones, Joseph


Dear Sir:

In the course of a few days Congress will, I expect, receive an Address from the Army on the subject of their grievances.

This Address, tho’ couched in very respectful terms, is one of those things which tho’ unpleasing is just now unavoidable; for I was very apprehensive once, that matters would have taken a more unfavourable turn, from the variety of discontents which prevailed at this time.

The temper of the Army is much soured, and has become more irritable than at any period since the commencement of the War. This consideration alone, prevented me (for every thing else seemed to be in a state of inactivity and almost tranquility) from requesting leave to spend this Winter in Virginia, that I might give some attention to my long neglected private concerns.

Alarming dissatisfaction of the armyThe dissatisfactions of the Army had arisen to a great and alarming height, and combinations among the Officers to resign, at given periods in a body, were beginning to take place when by some address and management their resolutions have been converted into the form in which they will now appear before Congress. What that Honble. Body can, or will do in the matter, does not belong to me to determine; but policy, in my opinion, should dictate soothing measures; as it is an uncontrovertible Edition: current; Page: [207] fact, that no part of the community has undergone equal hardships, and borne them with the same patience and fortitude, that the Army has done.

Hitherto the Officers have stood between the lower order of the Soldiery and the public, and in more instances than one, at the hazard of their lives, have quelled very dangerous mutinies. But if their discontents should be suffered to rise equally high, I know not what the consequences may be.

The spirit of enthusiasm, which overcame every thing at first, is now done away; it is idle therefore to expect more from Military men, than from those discharging the Civil departments of Government. If both were to fare equally alike with respect to the emoluments of Office, I would answer for it that the Military character should not be the first to complain. But it is an inviduous distinction, and one that will not stand the test of reason or policy, the one set should receive all, and the other no part (or that wch. is next to it) of their pay. In a word, the experiment is dangerous, and if it succeeded would only prove that, the one is actuated by more Zeal than the other, not that they have less occasion for their money. I am etc.

George Washington
Washington, George
February 6, 1783
Nathanael Greene
Greene, Nathanael


My dear Sir:

I have the pleasure to inform you that your Packet for Govr. Greene which came inclosed to me (in your private Letter of the 12th. of December) was forwarded in an hour after it came to my hands by a Gentleman returning to Rhode Island (Welcome Arnold Esquire); there can be no doubt therefore of its having got safe to the Governor.

Congratulations to General Greene on conclusion of hostilitiesIt is with a pleasure which friendship only is susceptible of, I congratulate you on the glorious end you have put to hostilities in the Southern States; the honor and advantage of it, I hope, and trust, you will live long to enjoy. when this hemisphere will be equally free is yet in the womb of time to discover; a little while, however ‘tis presumed, will disclose the determinations of the British Senate with respect to Peace or War as Edition: current; Page: [208] it seems to be agreed on all hands, that the present Premeir (especially if he should find the opposition powerful) intends to submit the decision of these matters to Parliament. The Speech, the Addresses, and Debates for which we are looking in every direction, will give a data from which the bright rays of the one, or the gloomy prospect of the other, may be discovered.

If Historiographers should be hardy enough to fill the page of History with the advantages that have been gained with unequal numbers (on the part of America) in the course of this contest, and attempt to relate the distressing circumstances under which they have been obtained, it is more than probable that Posterity will bestow on their labors the epithet and marks of fiction; for it will not be believed that such a force as Great Britain has employed for eight years in this Country could be baffled in their plan of Subjugating it by numbers infinitely less, composed of Men oftentimes half starved; always in Rags, without pay, and experiencing, at times, every species of distress which human nature is capable of undergoing.

I intended to have wrote you a long letter on sundry matters but Majr. Burnett popped in unexpectedly, at a time when I was preparing for the Celebration of the day; and was just going to a review of the Troops, previous to the Fue de joy. As he is impatient, from an apprehension of the Sleighing failing, and as he can give you the occurrences of this quarter more in detail than I have time to do, I will refer you to him. I cannot omit informing you however, that I let no oppertunity slip to enquire after your Son George at Princeton, and that it is with pleasure I hear he enjoys good health, and is a fine promising boy.

Mrs. Washington joins me in most Affectionate regards, and best wishes for Mrs Greene and yourself. With great truth and sincerity and every sentiment of friendship. I am etc.

Edition: current; Page: [209]
George Washington
Washington, George
February 15, 1783


Parole Gottenburgh. Countersigns Hannover, Inverness.

For the day tomorrow Major Gibbs.

For duty the 2d. Jersey regiment.

Completion of a chapel at headquartersThe New building being so far finished as to admit the troops to attend public worship therein after tomorrow, it is directed that divine Service should be performed there every Sunday by the several Chaplains of the New Windsor Cantonment, in rotation and in order that the different brigades may have an oppertunity of attending at different hours in the same day (when ever the weather and other circumstances will permit which the Brigadiers and Commandants of brigades must determine) Instructions to chaplainsthe General recommends that the Chaplains should in the first place consult the Commanding officers of their Brigades to know what hour will be most convenient and agreeable for attendance that they will then settle the duty among themselves and report the result to the Brigadiers and Commandants of Brigades who are desired to give notice in their orders and to afford every aid and assistance in their power for the promotion of that public Homage and adoration which are due to the supreme being, who has through his infinite goodness brought our public Calamities and dangers (in all humane probability) very near to a happy conclusion.

The General has been surprised to find in Winter Qrs. that the Chaplains have frequently been almost all absent, at the same time, under an idea their presence could not be of any utility at that season; he thinks it is proper, he should be allowed to judge of that matter himself, and therefore in future no furloughs will be granted to Chaplains except in consequence of permission from Head quarters, and any who may be now absent without such permission are to be ordered by the Commanding officers of their Brigades to join immediately, after which not more than one third of the whole number will be indulged with leave of absence at a time. They are requested to agree among themselves upon the time and length of their furloughs before any application shall be made to Head quarters on the subject.

The Commander in Chief also desires and expects the Edition: current; Page: [210] Chaplains in addition to their public functions will in turn constantly attend the Hospitals and visit the sick, and while they are thus publickly and privately engaged in performing the sacred duties of their office they may depend upon his utmost encouragement and support on all occasions, and that they will be considered in a very respectable point of light by the whole Army.

George Washington
Washington, George
March 4, 1783
Benjamin Harrison
Harrison, Benjamin


Dear Sir:

Your favor of the 31st. of Jany. came to my hands the Post before last, and the Acct. from Genl. Lavalette by the last Post. Upon receipt of the latter, your Letter and Lavalettes acct. was sent to Sir Guy Carleton with a request to remit the money to Colo. Smith at Dobbs’s Ferry; who is desired to forward it to the Chevr. de la Luzerne at Philadelphia.

Expectations of peaceYou ask what my expectations of Peace are? I answer, I am scarcely able to form any ideas at all on the subject, since I have seen (what is called, for we have no authentic acct. of its being so) the King’s Speech; and the variety of contradictory reports respecting the Negociations for it. The Enemy in New York are as impatient, and as much in the dark as we are on this occasion; not having received a Packet for more than two Months. Although I cannot give you a decided opinion, under present appearances, I will transcribe the answer I gave about the first of Jany. to a question similar to yours from a Gentleman of my acquaintance in Maryland; which as matters are yet undecided, or rather the decision, if any, unannounced, I see no occasion to depart from.

[The Fitzpatrick edition of Washington’s writings omits a passage here.]

Impost LawWhat, My dear Sir, could induce the State of Virginia to rescind its assent to the Impost Law? How are the numerous Creditors in Civil life and the Army to be paid if no regular and certain funds are established to discharge the Interest of Monies borrowed for these purposes? and what Tax can be more just or better calculated to this end than an Impost?

Edition: current; Page: [211]

Discussion of Rhode Island complaintsThe alarm Bell, which has been rung with such tremendous sound by the State of Rhode Island, to shew the danger of entrusting Congress with the Money, is too selfish and feutile to require a serious answer. Congress are in fact, but the People; they return to them at certain short periods; are amenable at all times for their conduct, and subject to a recall at any moment. What interest therefore can a man have, under these circumstances distinct from his Constituents? Can it be supposed, that with design, he would form a junto, or pernicious Aristocracy that would operate agt. himself; in less than a month perhaps, after it was established? I cannot conceive it. But from the observations I have made in the course of this War (and my intercourse with the States in their United as well as seperate capacities has afforded ample oppertunities of judging) Enlargement of powers of CongressI am decided in my opinion, that if the powers of Congress are not enlarged, and made competent to all general purposes, that the Blood which has been spilt, the expence that has been incurred, and the distresses which have been felt, will avail us nothing; and that the band, already too weak, wch. holds us together, will soon be broken; when anarchy and confusion must prevail.

I shall make no apology for the freedom of these Sentiments. they proceed from an honest heart, altho’ they may be the result of erroneous thinking. They will at least prove the sincerity of my friendship, as they are altogether undisguised. With the greatest esteem etc.

George Washington
Washington, George
March 4, 1783
Alexander Hamilton
Hamilton, Alexander


Dear Sir:

I have received your favor of February, and thank you for the information and observations it has conveyed to me. I shall always think myself obliged by a free communication of Sentiments, and have often thought (but suppose I thought wrong as it did not accord with the practice of Congress) that the public interest might be benefitted, Role of Commander-in-Chiefif the Commander in Chief of the Army was let more into the political and pecuniary state of our Affairs than he is. Enterprises, and the adoption Edition: current; Page: [212] of Military and other arrangements that might be exceedingly proper in some circumstances would be altogether improper in others. It follows then by fair deduction, that where there is a want of information there must be chance medley; and a man may be upon the brink of a precipice before he is aware of his danger. when a little foreknowledge might enable him to avoid it. But this by the by.

Loan from HollandThe hint contained in your letter, and the knowledge I have derived from the public Gazettes respecting the non-payment of Taxes, contain all the information I have received of the danger that stares us in the face on Acct. of our funds, and so far was I from conceiving that our Finances was in so deplorable a state at this time that I had imbibed ideas from some source or another, that with the prospect of a loan from Holland, we should be able to rub along.

Political dissolutionTo you, who have seen the danger, to which the Army has been exposed, to a political dissolution for want of subsistence, and the unhappy spirit of licentiousness which it imbibed by becoming in one or two instances its own proveditors, no observations are necessary to evince the fatal tendency of such a measure; but I shall give it as my opinion, that it would at this day be productive of Civil commotions and end in blood. Unhappy situation this! God forbid we should be involved in it.

The army, Congress, and the statesThe predicament in which I stand as Citizen and Soldier, is as critical and delicate as can well be conceived. It has been the Subject of many contemplative hours. The sufferings of a complaining Army on one hand, and the inability of Congress and tardiness of the States on the other, are the forebodings of evil, and may be productive of events which are more to be deprecated than prevented; but I am not without hope, if there is such a disposition shewn as prudence and policy will dictate, to do justice, that your apprehensions, in case of Peace, are greater than there is cause for. In this however I may be mistaken, if those ideas, which you have been informed are propagated in the Army should be extensive; the source of which may be easily traced as the old leven, it is said, for I have no proof of it, is again, beginning to work, under a mask of the most perfect dissimulation, and apparent cordiallity.

Be these things as they may, I shall pursue the same steady line of conduct which has governed me hitherto; fully convinced that the sensible, and discerning part of the Army, cannot Edition: current; Page: [213] be unacquainted (altho’ I never took pains to inform them) of the Services I have rendered it on more occasions than one. This, and pursuing the suggestions of your Letter, which I am happy to find coincides with my practice for several Months past and which was the means of directing the business of the Army into the Channel it now is, leaves me under no great apprehension of its exceeding the bounds of reason and moderation, notwithstanding the prevailing sentiment in the Army is, that the prospect of compensation for past Services will terminate with the War.

Just claims of the armyThe just claims of the Army ought, and it is to be hoped will, have their weight with every sensible Legislature in the Union, if Congress point to their demands; shew (if the case is so) the reasonableness of them, and the impracticability of complying with them without their Aid. In any other point of view it would, in my opinion, be impolitic to introduce the Army on the Tapis; lest it should excite jealousy, and bring on its concomitants. The States cannot, surely, be so devoid of common sense, common honesty, and common policy as to refuse their aid on a full, clear, and candid representation of facts from Congress; more especially if these should be enforced by members of their own Body; who might demonstrate what the inevitable consequences of failure will lead to.

In my opinion it is a matter worthy of consideration how far an Adjournment of Congress for a few Months is advisable. The Delegates in that case, if they are in Unison themselves, respecting the great defects of their Constitution, may represent them fully and boldly to their Constituents. To me, who know nothing of the business which is before Congress, nor of the Arcanum, it appears that such a measure would tend to promote the public weal; for it is clearly my opinion, unless Congress have powers competent to all general purposes, that the distresses we have encountered, the expence we have incurred, and the blood we have spilt in the course of an Eight years war, will avail us nothing.

The contents of your letter is known only to myself, and your prudence will direct what should be done with this. With great esteem etc.

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George Washington
Washington, George
March 12, 1783



It is with inexpressible concern, I make the followg Report to your Excellency.

A general meeting of army officersTwo Days ago, anonymous papers were circulated in the Army, requesting a general meeting of the Officers on the next day. A Copy of one of these papers is inclosed, No. 1. About the same Time, another anonymous paper purporting to be an Address to the Officers of the Army, was handed about in a clandestine manner: a Copy of this is mark’d No 2. To prevent any precipitate and dangerous Resolutions from being taken at this perilous moment, while the passions were all inflamed; as soon as these things came to my knowledge, the next Morng. I issued the inclosed Order No. 3.* And in this situation the Matter now rests.

As all opinion must be suspended until after the meeting on Saturday, I have nothing further to add, except a Wish, that the measures I have taken to dissipate a Storm, which had gathered so suddenly and unexpectedly, may be acceptable to Congress: and to assure them, that in every vicisitude of Circumstances, still actuated with the greatest zeal in their Service, I shall continue my utmost Exertions to promote the Edition: current; Page: [215] wellfare of my Country under the most lively Expectation, that Congress have the best Intentions of doing ample Justice to the Army, as soon as Circumstances will possibly admit. With the highest Respect etc.

PS: Since writing the foregoing another anonymous paper is put in Circulation, Copy of which is inclosed, No. 4.

George Washington
Washington, George
March 12, 1783
Joseph Jones
Jones, Joseph


Dear Sir:

I have received your letter of the 27th. Ulto., and thank you for the information and freedom of your communications.

Information on the temper of the armyMy Official Letter to Congress of this date will inform you of what has happened in this Quarter, in addition to which, it may be necessary it should be known to you, and to such others as you may think proper, that the temper of the Army, tho very irritable on acct. of their long-protracted sufferings has been apparently extremely quiet while their business was depending before Congress untill four days past. In the mean time, it should seem reports have been propagated in Philadelphia that dangerous combinations were forming in the Army; and this at a time when there was not a syllable of the kind in agitation in Camp.

It also appears, that upon the arrival of a certain Gentleman from Phila. in Camp, whose name, I do not, at present, incline to mention such sentiments as these were immediately and industriously circulated. That it was universally expected the Army would not disband untill they had obtained Justice. That the public creditors looked up to them for redress of their Grievances, would afford them every aid, and even join them in the Field, if necessary. That some Members of Congress wished the Measure might take effect, in order to compel the Public, particularly the delinquent States, to do justice. With many other suggestions of a Similar Nature; from whence, and a variety of other considerations it is generally believ’d the Scheme was not only planned, but also digested and matured in Philadelphia; and that some people have been playing a double game; spreading at the Camp and in Philadelphia Reports Edition: current; Page: [216] and raising jealousies equally void of Foundation untill called into being by their vile Artifices; for as soon as the Minds of the Army were thought to be prepared for the transaction, anonymous invitations were circulated, requesting a general Meeting of the Officers next day; at the same instant many Copies of the Address to the Officers of the Army was scattered in every State line of it.

So soon as I obtained knowledge of these things, I issued the order of the 11th. (transmitted to Congress;) in order to rescue the foot, that stood wavering on the precipice of despair, from taking those steps which would have lead to the abyss of misery while the passions were inflamed, and the mind trimblingly alive with the recollection of past sufferings, and their present feelings. I did this upon the principle that it is easier to divert from a wrong to a right path, than it is to recall the hasty and fatal steps which have been already taken.

Potential dangers of officers’ meetingIt is commonly supposed, if the Officers had met agreeable to the anonymous Summons, resolutions might have been formed, the consequences of which may be more easily conceived than expressed. Now, they will have leisure to view the matter more calmly and seriously. It is to be hoped they will be induced to adopt more rational measures, and wait a while longer for the settlemts. of their Accts.; the postponing of which gives more uneasiness in the Army than any other thing. there is not a man in it, who will not acknowledge that Congress have not the means of payment; but why not say they, one and all, liquidate the Accts. and certifie our dues? Are we to be disbanded and sent home without this? Are we, afterwards, to make individual applications for such settlements at Philadelphia, or any Auditing Office in our respective states; to be shifted perhaps from one board to another; dancing attendence at all, and finally perhaps be postponed till we loose the substance in pursuit of the shadow. While they are agitated by these considerations there are not wanting insiduous characters who tell them, it is neither the wish nor the intention of the public to settle your accounts; but to delay this business under one pretext or another till Peace wch. we are upon the eve of, and a seperation of the Army takes place when it is well known a general settlement never can be effected and that individual loss, in this instance, becomes a public gain.

However derogatory these ideas are with the dignity, honor, Edition: current; Page: [217] and justice of government yet in a matter so interesting to the Army, and at the same time so easy to be effected by the Public, as that of liquidating the Accounts, is delayed without any apparent, or obvious necessity, they will have their place in a mind that is soured and irritated. Justice to the armyLet me entreat you therefore my good Sir to push this matter to an issue, and if there are Delegates among you, who are really opposed to doing justice to the Army, scruple not to tell them, if matters should come to extremity, that they must be answerable for all the ineffable horrors which may be occasioned thereby. I am etc.



Opposition to the call for a general meetingBy an anonymous summons, an attempt has been made to convene you together; how inconsistent with the rules of propriety! how unmilitary! and how subversive of all order and discipline, let the good sense of the Army decide.

In the moment of this Summons, another anonymous production was sent into circulation, addressed more to the feelings and passions, than to the reason and judgment of the Army. The author of the piece, is entitled to much credit for the goodness of his Pen and I could wish he had as much credit for the rectitude of his Heart, for, as Men see thro’ different Optics, and are induced by the reflecting faculties of the Mind, to use different means, to attain the same end, the Author of the Address, should have had more charity, than to mark for Suspicion, the Man who should recommend moderation and longer forbearance, or, in other words, who should not think as he thinks, and act as he advises. But he had another plan in view, in which candor and liberality of Sentiment, regard to justice, and love of Country, have no part; and he was right, to insinuate the darkest suspicion, to effect the blackest designs.

That the Address is drawn with great Art, and is designed to answer the most insidious purposes. That it is calculated to impress the Mind, with an idea of premeditated injustice in Edition: current; Page: [218] the Sovereign power of the United States, and rouse all those resentments which must unavoidably flow from such a belief. That the secret mover of this Scheme (whoever he may be) intended to take advantage of the passions, while they were warmed by the recollection of past distresses, without giving time for cool, deliberative thinking, and that composure of Mind which is so necessary to give dignity and stability to measures is rendered too obvious, by the mode of conducting the business, to need other proof than a reference to the proceeding.

Thus much, Gentlemen, I have thought it incumbent on me to observe to you, to shew upon what principles I opposed the irregular and hasty meeting which was proposed to have been held on Tuesday last: and not because I wanted a disposition to give you every oppertunity consistent with your own honor, and the dignity of the Army, to make known your grievances. If my conduct heretofore, has not evinced to you, that I have been a faithful friend to the Army, my declaration of it at this time wd. be equally unavailing and improper. But as I was among the first who embarked in the cause of our common Country. As I have never left your side one moment, but when called from you on public duty. As I have been the constant companion and witness of your Distresses, and not among the last to feel, and acknowledge your Merits. As I have ever considered my own Military reputation as inseperably connected with that of the Army. As my Heart has ever expanded with joy, when I have heard its praises, and my indignation has arisen, when the mouth of detraction has been opened against it, it can scarcely be supposed, at this late stage of the War, that I am indifferent to its interests. But, how are they to be promoted? The way is plain, says the anonymous Addresser. If War continues, remove into the unsettled Country; there establish yourselves, and leave an ungrateful Country to defend itself. But who are they to defend? Our Wives, our Children, our Farms, and other property which we leave behind us. Or, in this state of hostile seperation, are we to take the two first (the latter cannot be removed), to perish in a Wilderness, with hunger, cold and nakedness? If Peace takes place, never sheath your Swords, Says he, untill you have obtained full and ample justice; this dreadful alternative, of either deserting our Country in the extremest hour of her distress, or turning our Arms against it, (which is the apparent object, unless Congress can Edition: current; Page: [219] be compelled into instant compliance) has something so shocking in it, that humanity revolts at the idea. My God! what can this writer have in view, by recommending such measures? Can he be a friend to the Army? Can he be a friend to this Country? Rather, is he not an insidious Foe? Some Emissary, perhaps, from New York, plotting the ruin of both, by sowing the seeds of discord and seperation between the Civil and Military powers of the Continent? And what a Compliment does he pay to our Understandings, when he recommends measures in either alternative, impracticable in their Nature?

But here, Gentlemen, I will drop the curtain, because it wd. be as imprudent in me to assign my reasons for this opinion, as it would be insulting to your conception, to suppose you stood in need of them. A moment’s reflection will convince every dispassionate Mind of the physical impossibility of carrying either proposal into execution.

There might, Gentlemen, be an impropriety in my taking notice, in this Address to you, of an anonymous production, but the manner in which that performance has been introduced to the Army, the effect it was intended to have, together with some other circumstances, will amply justify my observations on the tendency of that Writing. With respect to the advice given by the Author, to suspect the Man, who shall recommend moderate measures and longer forbearance, I spurn it, as every Man, who regards that liberty, and reveres that justice for which we contend, undoubtedly must; for if Men are to be precluded from offering their Sentiments on a matter, which may involve the most serious and alarming consequences, that can invite the consideration of Mankind, reason is of no use to us; the freedom of Speech may be taken away, and, dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep, to the Slaughter.

I cannot, in justice to my own belief, and what I have great reason to conceive is the intention of Congress, conclude this Address, without giving it as my decided opinion, that that Honble Body, entertain exalted sentiments of the Services of the Army; and, from a full conviction of its merits and sufferings, will do it compleat justice. That their endeavors, to discover and establish funds for this purpose, have been unwearied, and will not cease, till they have succeeded, I have not a doubt. But, like all other large Bodies, where there is a variety of different interests to reconcile, their deliberations are slow. Edition: current; Page: [220] Why then should we distrust them? and, in consequence of that distrust, adopt measures, which may cast a shade over that glory which, has been so justly acquired; and tarnish the reputation of an Army which is celebrated thro’ all Europe, for its fortitude and Patriotism? and for what is this done? to bring the object we seek nearer? No! most certainly, in my opinion, it will cast it at a greater distance.

For myself (and I take no merit in giving the assurance, being induced to it from principles of gratitude, veracity and justice), a grateful sence of the confidence you have ever placed in me, a recollection of the chearful assistance, and prompt obedience I have experienced from you, under every vicissitude of fortune, and the sincere affection I feel for an Army, I have so long had the honor to Command, will oblige me to declare, in this public and solemn manner, that, in the attainment of compleat justice for all your toils and dangers, and in the gratification of every wish, so far as may be done consistently with the great duty I owe my Country, and those powers we are bound to respect, you may freely command my Services to the utmost of my abilities.

While I give you these assurances, and pledge myself in the most unequivocal manner, to exert whatever ability I am possessed of, in your favor, let me entreat you, Gentlemen, on your part, not to take any measures, which, viewed in the calm light of reason, will lessen the dignity, and sully the glory you have hitherto maintained; let me request you to rely on the plighted faith of your Country, and place a full confidence in the purity of the intentions of Congress; that, previous to your dissolution as an Army they will cause all your Accts. to be fairly liquidated, as directed in their resolutions, which were published to you two days ago, and that they will adopt the most effectual measures in their power, to render ample justice to you, for your faithful and meritorious Services. And let me conjure you, in the name of our common Country, as you value your own sacred honor, as you respect the rights of humanity, and as you regard the Military and National character of America, to express your utmost horror and detestation of the Man who wishes, under any specious pretences, to overturn the liberties of our Country, and who wickedly attempts to open the flood Gates of Civil discord, and deluge our rising Empire in Blood. By thus determining, and thus acting, you will pursue the plain and direct road to the attainment of your Edition: current; Page: [221] wishes. You will defeat the insidious designs of our Enemies, who are compelled to resort from open force to secret Artifice. You will give one more distinguished proof of unexampled patriotism and patient virtue, rising superior to the pressure of the most complicated sufferings; And you will, by the dignity of your Conduct, afford occasion for Posterity to say, when speaking of the glorious example you have exhibited to Mankind, ``had this day been wanting, the World had never seen the last stage of perfection to which human nature is capable of attaining.”

George Washington
Washington, George
March 18, 1783



The result of the proceedings of the grand Convention of the Officers, which I have the honor of enclosing to your Excellency for the inspection of Congress, will, I flatter myself, be considered as the last glorious proof of Patriotism which could have been given by Men who aspired to A patriot armythe distinction of a patriot Army; and will not only confirm their claim to the justice, but will increase their title to the gratitude of their Country.

Having seen the proceedings on the part of the Army terminate with perfect unanimity, and in a manner entirely consonant to my wishes; being impressed with the liveliest sentiments of affection for those who have so long, so patiently and so chearfully suffered and fought under my immediate direction; having from motives of justice, duty and gratitude, spontaneously offered myself as an advocate for their rights; and having been requested to write to your Excellency earnestly entreating the most speedy decision of Congress upon the subjects of the late Address from the Army to that Honble. Body, it now only remains for me to perform the task I have assumed, and to intercede in their behalf, as I now do, that the Sovereign Power will be pleased to verify the predictions I have pronounced of, and the confidence the Army have reposed in the justice of their Country.

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Pleading the army’s causeAnd here, I humbly conceive it is altogether unnecessary, (while I am pleading the cause of an Army which have done and suffered more than any other Army ever did in the defence of the rights and liberties of human nature,) to expatiate on their Claims to the most ample compensation for their meritorious Services, because they are perfectly known to the whole World, and because, (altho’ the topics are inexhaustible) enough has already been said on the subject.

To prove these assertions, to evince that my sentiments have ever been uniform, and to shew what my ideas of the rewards in question have always been, I appeal to the Archives of Congress, and call on those sacred deposits to witness for me. And in order that my observations and Arguments in favor of a future adequate provision for the Officers of the Army may be brought to remembrance again, and considered in a single point of view without giving Congress the trouble of having recourse to their files, I will beg leave to transmit herewith an Extract from a representation made by me to a Committee of Congress so long ago as the 29th of January 1778. and also the transcript, of a Letter to the President of Congress, dated near Passaic Falls Octr. 11th. 1780 That in the critical and perilous moment when the last mentioned communication was made, there was the utmost danger of a dissolution of the Army would have taken place unless measures similar to those recommended had been adopted, will not admit a doubt. That the adoption of the Resolution granting half-pay for life has been attended with all the happy consequences I had foretold, so far as respected the good of the service; let the astonishing contrast between the State of the Army at this instant, and at the former period determine. And that the establishment of funds, and security of the payment of all the just demands of the Army will be the most certain means of preserving the National faith and future tranquillity of this extensive Continent, is my decided opinion.

By the preceeding remarks it will readily be imagined that instead of retracting and reprehending (from farther experience and reflection) the mode of compensation so strenuously urged in the Inclosures, I am more and more confirmed in the Sentiment, and if in the wrong suffer me to please myself with the grateful delusion.

For if, besides the simple payment of their Wages, a farther compensation is not due to the sufferings and sacrifices of the Edition: current; Page: [223] Officers, then have I been mistaken indeed. If the whole Army have not merited whatever a grateful people can bestow, then have I been beguiled by prejudice, and built opinion on the basis of error. If this Country should not in the Event perform every thing which has been requested in the late Memorial to Congress, then will my belief become vain, and the hope that has been excited void of foundation. And “if, (as has been suggested for the purpose of inflaming their passions) the Officers of the Army are to be the only sufferers by this revolution; if retiring from the Field, they are to grow old in poverty wretchedness and contempt. If they are to wade thro’ the vile mire of dependency and owe the miserable remnant of that life to charity, which has hitherto been spent in honor,” then shall I have learned what ingratitude is, then shall I have realized a tale, which will imbitter every moment of my future life. But I am under no such apprehensions, a Country rescued by their Arms from impending ruin, will never leave unpaid the debt of gratitude.

Should any intemperate or improper warmth have mingled itself amongst the foregoing observations, I must entreat your Excellency and Congress it may be attributed to the effusion of an honest zeal in the best of Causes, and that my peculiar situation may be my apology. And I hope I need not, on this momentuous occasion make any new protestations of personal disinterestedness, having ever renounced for myself the idea of pecuniary reward. The consciousness of having attempted faithfully to discharge my duty, and the approbation of my Country will be a sufficient reccompense for my Services. I have the honor etc.

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1783 Washington’s Knowledge of His Countrymen fpage="225" lpage="250"

Washington’s Knowledge of His Countrymen


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WASHINGTON’s famous “Circular Letter” constitutes the centerpiece of his statesmanship, carrying directly to his countrymen a coherent vision of the unfinished work which lay before them in the aftermath of peace. His view of that work was that “we have a national character to establish.”

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George Washington
Washington, George
March 18, 1783
Joseph Jones
Jones, Joseph


The storm which seemed to be gathering with unfavourable prognostics, when I wrote to you last, is dispersed; and we are again in a state of tranquility. But do not, My dear Sir, suffer this appearance of tranquility to relax your endeavors to bring the requests of the Army to an issue.Requests of the army for pay Believe me, the Officers are too much pressed by their present wants, and rendered too sore by the recollection of their past sufferings to be touched much longer upon the string of forbearance, in matters wherein they can see no cause for delay. Nor would I have further reliance placed on any influence of mine to dispel other Clouds if any should arise, from the causes of the last.

By my official Letter to Congress, and the Papers inclosed in it, you will have a full view of my assurances to, and the expectations of the Army; and I perswade myself that the well wishers to both, and of their Country, will exert themselves to the utmost to irradicate the Seeds of distrust, and give every satisfaction that justice requires, and the means which Congress possess, will enable them to do.

In a former letter I observed to you, that a liquidation of Accts, in order that the Ballances might be ascertained, is the great object of the Army; and certainly nothing can be more reasonable. To have these Ballances discharged at this, or in any short time; however desirable, they know is impracticable, and do not expect it; altho’, in the meantime, they must labour Edition: current; Page: [228] under the pressure of those sufferings; which is felt more sensibly by a comparison of circumstances.

The situation of these Gentlemen merit the attention of every thinking and grateful mind. As Officers, they have been obliged to dress, and appear in character, to effect which, they have been obliged to anticipate their pay, or participate their Estates. By the first, debts have been contracted. By the latter, their patrimony is injured. To disband Men therefore under these circumstances, before their Accts. are liquidated, and the Ballances ascertained, would be, to sett open the doors of the Gaols, and then to shut them upon Seven Years faithful and painful Services. Under any circumstances which the nature of the case will admit, they must be considerable Sufferers; because necessity will compell them to part with their certificates for whatever they will fetch; to avoid the evil I have mentioned above: and how much this will place them in the hands of unfeeling, avaricious speculators a recurrence to past experience will sufficiently prove.

It may be said by those who have no disposition to compensate the Services of the Army, that the Officers have too much penetration to place dependance (in any alternative) upon the strength of their own Arm; I will readily concede to these Gentlemen that no good could result from such an attempt; but I hope they will be equally candid in acknowledging, that much mischief may flow from it,Possible response of army to unfair treatment and that nothing is too extravagent to expect from men, who conceive they are ungratefully, and unjustly dealt by; especially too if they can suppose that characters are not wanting, to foment every passion which leads to discord, and that there are—but—time shall reveal the rest.

Let it suffice, that the very attempt, wd. imply a want of justice, and fix an indelible stain upon our national character; as the whole world, as well from the enemies publication (without any intention to serve us) as our own, must be strongly impressed with the sufferings of this army from hunger, cold and nakedness in allmost every stage of the War. Very sincerely etc.

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George Washington
Washington, George
March 31, 1783
Nathanael Greene
Greene, Nathanael


Dear Sir:

I have the pleasure to inclose to you a letter from the Marquis de la Fayette, which came under cover to me, by the Packet Triumph, dispatched by the Marquis and the Count de Estaing from Cadiz to Phila.

All the Accounts which this Vessel has bro’t, of a Conclusion of a General Peace, you will receive before this can reach you.

You will give the highest Credit to my Sincerity, when I beg you to accept my warmest Congratulations on this glorious and happy Event, an Event which crowns all our Labors and will sweeten the Toils which we have experienced in the Course of Eight Years distressing War. The Army here, universally participate in the general Joy which this Event has diffused, and, from this Consideration, together with the late Resolutions of Congress, for the Commutation of the Half pay, and for a Liquidation of all their Accounts, their Minds are filled with the highest Satisfaction. I am sure you will join with me in this additional occasion of joy.

It remains only for the States to be Wise, and to establish their Independence on that Basis of inviolable efficacious Union, and firm Confederation, which may prevent their being made the Sport of European Policy; may Heaven give them Wisdom to adopt the Measures still necessary for this important Purpose. I have the honor etc.

George Washington
Washington, George
March 31, 1783
Alexander Hamilton
Hamilton, Alexander


Dear Sir:

I have duly received your favors of the 17th. and 24th. Ulto. I rejoice most exceedingly that there is an end to our Warfare, and that such a field is opening to our view as will, with wisdom Edition: current; Page: [230] to direct the cultivation of it, make us a great, a respectable, and happy People; but it must be improved by other means than State politics, and unreasonable jealousies and prejudices; or (it requires not the second sight to see that) we shall be instruments in the hands of our Enemies, and those European powers who may be jealous of our greatness in Union to dissolve the confederation; but to attain this, altho’ the way seems extremely plain, is not so easy.

Union of the statesMy wish to see the Union of these States established upon liberal and permanent principles, and inclination to contribute my mite in pointing out the defects of the present Constitution, are equally great. All my private letters have teemed with these Sentiments, and whenever this topic has been the subject of conversation, I have endeavoured to diffuse and enforce them; but how far any further essay by me might be productive of the wished for end, or appear to arrogate more than belongs to me, depends so much upon popular opinions, and the timper and dispositions of People, that it is not easy to decide. I shall be obliged to you however for the thoughts which you have promised me on this Subject, and as soon as you can make it convenient.

Need to reform the ConfederationNo Man in the United States is, or can be more deeply impressed with the necessity of a reform in our present Confederation than myself. No Man perhaps has felt the bad effects of it more sensibly; for the defects thereof, and want of Powers in Congress, may justly be ascribed the prolongation of the War, and consequently the expenses occasioned by it. More than half the perplexities I have experienced in the course of my command, and almost the whole of the difficulties and distress of the Army, have their origin here; but still the prejudices of some, the designs of others, and the mere Machinery of the Majority, makes address and management necessary to give weight to opinions which are to Combat the doctrines of those different classes of Men, in the field of Politics.

I would have been more full on this subject but the bearer (in the Clothing department) is waiting. I wish you may understand what I have written. I am etc.

PS: The inclosed extract of a Letter to Mr. Livingston, I give you in confidence; I submit it to your consideration, fully perswaded that you do not want inclination to gratify the Marquis’s Wishes as far as is consistent with our National honor.

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George Washington
Washington, George
April 4, 1783
Theodorick Bland
Bland, Theodorick


Dear Sir:

On Sunday last the Baron de Steuben handed me your obliging favor of the 22d. Ulto. permit me to offer you my unfeigned thanks for the clear and candid opinions which you have given me of European politics. your reasonings upon the conduct of the different Powers at War would have appeard conclusive had not the happy event which has been since announced to us, and on which I most sincerely congratulate you, proved how well they were founded. Peace has given rest to speculative opinions respecting the time, and terms of it. The first has come as soon as we could well have expected under the disadvantages we have labd. and the latter, is abundantly satisfactory. It is now the bounden duty of every one, to make the blessing thereof as diffusive as possible.

Nothing would so effectually bring this to pass as the removal of those local prejudices which intrude upon and embarrass that great line of policy which alone can make us a free, happy, and powerful people. Unless our Union can be fixed upon such a basis as to accomplish these ends certain I am we have toiled, bled and spent our treasure to very little purpose.

Establishment of a national characterWe have now a National character to establish; and it is of the utmost importance to stamp favourable impressions upon it; let justice then be one of its characteristics, and gratitude another.Payment of national obligations Public Creditors of every denomination will be comprehended in the first. The Army in a particular manner will have a claim to the latter; to say that no distinction can be made between the claims of public Creditors, is to declare that there is no difference in circumstances or, that the Services of all Men are equally alike. This Army, is of near 8 years standing; 6 of which they have spent in the field, without any other shelter from the inclemency of the Seasons than Tents, or such Houses as they could build for themselves, without expence to the public. they have encountered hunger, cold and Nakedness. they have fought many Battles, and bled freely. they have lived without pay, and in consequence of it, Officers as well as Men have been obliged to subsist upon their Rations: they have often, very often been reduced to the necessity of Edition: current; Page: [232] eating Salt Porke or Beef not for a day or a week only but months together without Vegetables of any kind or money to buy them; or a cloth to wipe on. Many of them, to do better and to dress as Officers, have contracted heavy Debts, or spent their Patrimonies; the first see the doors of Gaols opening to receive them whilst those of the latter are shut against them. Is there no discrimination then, no extra exertion to be made in favor of men under these Circumstances in the hour of their Military dissolution? Or, if no worse comes of it, are they to be turned adrift soured and discontented, complaining of the ingratitude of their Country, and under the irritation of these passions to become fit subjects for unfavourable impressions and unhappy dissentions? For permit me to add, tho’ every Man in the Army feels the distress of his situatn it is not every one that reasons to the cause of it.

I would not, from the observatns. here made, be understood to mean that Congress should (because I know they cannot, nor does the Army expect it) pay the full arrearages due to them till Continental or State funds are established for the purpose; they would, from what I can learn, go home contented; nay thankful, to receive what I have mentioned in a more public Letter of this date, and in the manner there expressed. and surely this may be effected with proper exertions; or what possibility was there of keeping the Army together if the war had continued when the victualling, clothing and other exps were to have. . . . Another thing Sir, (as I mean to be frank and free in my communications on this subject) I will not conceal from you, it is dissimilarities in the payments of Men in Civil and Military life. the first receive every thing, the other get nothing, but bare subsistence. They ask what this is owing to? and reasons have been assigned, which say they, amount to this: that Men in Civil life have stronger passions and better pretensions to indulge them or less virtue and regd. for their Country than us; otherwise, as we are all contending for the same prize and equally interested in the attainment of it, why is not the burthen borne equally.

These, and other comparisons, which are unnecessary to enumerate, give a keener edge to their feelings, and contribute not a little to sour their tempers.

As it is the first wish of my Soul to see the war happily and speedily terminated, and those who are now in Arms return to Citizenship with good dispositions, I think it a duty which I Edition: current; Page: [233] owe to candor and to friendship to point you to such things as will have a tendency to harmony and to bring them to pass. With great esteem etc.

George Washington
Washington, George
April 5, 1783
Marquis de Lafayette
Lafayette, Marquis de


My dear Marqs.:

It is easier for you to conceive than for me to express the sensibility of my Heart at the communications in your letter of the 5th. of February. from Cadiz. It is to these communications we are indebted for the only acct.The report of a general peace yet recd of a general Pacification. My mind upon the receipt of this news was instantly assailed by a thousand ideas, all of them contending for pre-eminence, but believe me my dear friend none could supplant, or ever will eradicate that gratitude, which has arisen from a lively sense of the conduct of your Nation: from my obligations to many illustrious characters of it, among whom (I do not mean to flatter, when) I place you at the head of them; And from my admiration of the Virtues of your August Sovereign; who at the same time that he stands confessed the Father of his own people, and defender of American rights has given the most exalted example of moderation in treating with his Enemies.

We now stand an Independent People, and have yet to learn political Tactics. We are placed among the Nations of the Earth, and have a character to establish; but how we shall acquit ourselves time must discover; the probability, at least I fear it is, that local, or state Politics will interfere too much with that more liberal and extensive plan of government which wisdom and foresight, freed from the mist of prejudice, would dictate; and that we shall be guilty of many blunders in treading this boundless theatre before we shall have arrived at any perfection in this Art. In a word that the experience which is purchased at the price of difficulties and distress, will alone convince us that the honor, power, and true Interest of this Country must be measured by a Continental scale; and that every departure therefrom weakens the Union, and may ultimately Edition: current; Page: [234] break the band, which holds us together. To avert these evils,A constitution of sufficient powers to form a Constitution that will give consistency, stability and dignity to the Union; and sufficient powers to the great Council of the Nation for general purposes is a duty which is incumbent upon every Man who wishes well to his Country, and will meet with my aid as far as it can be rendered in the private walks of life; for hence forward my Mind shall be unbent; and I will endeavor to glide down the stream of life ‘till I come to that abyss, from whence no traveller is permitted to return.

The Armament wch. was preparing at Cadiz, and in which you were to have acted a distinguished part would have carried such conviction with it, that it is not to be wondered at, that Great Britain should have been impressed with the force of such reasoning. To this cause I am perswaded, the Peace is to be ascribed. Your going to Madrid from thence, instead of coming immediately to this Country, is another instance My Dear Marquis of your Zeal for the American Cause; and lays a fresh claim to the gratitude of her Sons, who will, at all times, receive you with open Arms; but as no Official dispatches are yet received, either at Phila. or New York of the completion of the treaty, nor any measures taken for the reduction of the Army, my detention therewith is quite uncertain; to say then (at this time) where I may be at the epoch for your intended visit to this Continent is too vague even for conjecture; but nothing can be more true than that the pleasure with which I shall receive you, will be equal to your wishes. I shall be better able to determine then than now, on the practicability of accompanying you to France. A Country to which I shall ever feel a Warm Affection; and if I do not pay it that tribute of respect which is to be derived from a visit it may be ascribed with more justice to any other cause, than a want of inclination; or the pleasure of going there under the auspices of your friendship.

Lack of congressional action on army reliefI have already observed, that the determinations of Congress, if they have come to any, respecting the Army, is yet unknown to me; but as you wish to be informed of every thing that concerns it, I do, for your satisfaction, transmit authentic documents of some very interesting occurrences, which have happened within the last Six Months. but I ought first to have premised, that from accumulated sufferings, and little or no prospect of relief, the discontents of the Officers last Fall put Edition: current; Page: [235] on the threatning appearance of a total resignation, till the business was diverted into the channel which produced the Address and Petition to Congress which stands first on the file herewith inclosed. I shall make no comment on these proceedings; to one as well acquainted with the sufferings of the American Army as you are, it is unnecessary, it will be sufficient to observe, that the more Virtue and forbearence of it is tried, the more resplendent it appears. My hopes, that the military exit of this valuable class of the community will exhibit such a proof of Amor patri[FCael] as will do them honor in the page of history.

These papers with my last letter (which was intended to go by Colo. Gouvion, containing extensive details of Military Plans) will convey to you every information I can give, in the present uncertainty, worthy of attention. If you should get sleepy, and tired of reading them, recollect, for my exculpation, that it is in compliance with your request, I have run into such prolixity.

I made a proper use of the confidential part of your Letter of the 5th. of February.

Black emancipationThe scheme, my dear Marqs. which you propose as a precedent, to encourage the emancipation of the black people of this Country from that state of Bondage in wch. they are held, is a striking evidence of the benevolence of your Heart. I shall be happy to join you in so laudable a work; but will defer going into a detail of the business, ‘till I have the pleasure of seeing you.

Lord Stirling is no more; he died at Albany in Jany. last, very much regretted. Colo. Barber was snatched from us about the same time; in a way equally unexpected, sudden and distressing; leaving many friends to bemoan his fate.

Tilghman is on the point of Matrimony with a namesake and Couzin; Sister to Mrs. Carroll of Baltimore. It only remains for me now, My dear Marqs., to make a tender of my respectful Compliments in which Mrs. Washington unites, to Madame La Fayette; and to wish you, her, and your little offspring, all the happiness this life can afford. I will extend my Compliments to the Gentlemen, with whom I have the honor of an Acquaintance, in your circle. I need not add how happy I shall be to see you in America, and more particularly at Mount Vernon; or with what truth and warmth of Affection I am etc.

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George Washington
Washington, George
April 18, 1783


Parole Kenalal. Countersigns Litchfield, Montreal.

For the day tomorrow Brigadier Genl. Stark.

Brigd. Qr. Mr. York Brigade.

The Jersey regiment gives the Guards and the Jersey battalion the fatigues tomorrow.

Cessation of hostilitiesThe Commander in Chief orders the Cessation of Hostilities between the United States of America and the King of Great Britain to be publickly proclaimed tomorrow at 12 o’clock at the Newbuilding, and that the Proclamation which will be communicated herewith, be read tomorrow evening at the head of every regiment and corps of the army. After which the Chaplains with the several Brigades will render thanks to almighty God for all his mercies,Orders to chaplains particularly for his over ruling the wrath of man to his own glory, and causing the rage of war to cease amongst the nations.

Although the proclamation before alluded to, extends only to the prohibition of hostilities and not to the annunciation of a general peace, yet it must afford the most rational and sincere satisfaction to every benevolent mind, as it puts a period to a long and doubtful contest, stops the effusion of human blood, opens the prospect to a more splendid scene, and like another morning star, promises the approach of a brighter day than hath hitherto illuminated the Western Hemisphere; on such a happy day, a day which is the harbinger of Peace, a day which compleats the eighth year of the war, it would be ingratitude not to rejoice! it would be insensibility not to participate in the general felicity.

The Commander in Chief far from endeavouring to stifle the feelings of Joy in his own bosom, offers his most cordial Congratulations on the occasion to all the Officers of every denomination, to all the Troops of the United States in General, and in particular to those gallant and persevering men who had resolved to defend the rights of their invaded country so long as the war should continue. For these are the men who ought to be considered as the pride and boast of the American Army; And, who crowned with well earned laurels, may soon Edition: current; Page: [237] withdraw from the field of Glory, to the more tranquil walks of civil life.

The accomplishments of independenceWhile the General recollects the almost infinite variety of Scenes thro which we have passed, with a mixture of pleasure, astonishment, and gratitude; While he contemplates the prospects before us with rapture; he can not help wishing that all the brave men (of whatever condition they may be) who have shared in the toils and dangers of effecting this glorious revolution, of rescuing Millions from the hand of oppression, and of laying the foundation of a great Empire, might be impressed with a proper idea of the dignifyed part they have been called to act (under the Smiles of providence) on the stage of human affairs; for, happy, thrice happy shall they be pronounced hereafter, who have contributed any thing, who have performed the meanest office in erecting this steubendous fabrick of Freedom and Empire on the broad basis of Indipendency; who have assisted in protecting the rights of humane nature and establishing an Asylum for the poor and oppressed of all nations and religions. The glorius task for which we first fleu to Arms being thus accomplished, the liberties of our Country being fully acknowledged, and firmly secured by the smiles of heaven, on the purity of our cause, and the honest exertions of a feeble people (determined to be free) against a powerful Nation (disposed to oppress them) and the Character of those who have persevered, through every extremity of hardship; suffering and danger being immortalized by the illustrious appellation of the patriot Army:Remaining tasks of army Nothing now remains but for the actors of this mighty Scene to preserve a perfect, unvarying, consistency of character through the very last act; to close the Drama with applause; and to retire from the Military Theatre with the same approbation of Angells and men which have crowned all their former vertuous Actions. For this purpose no disorder or licentiousness must be tolerated, every considerate and well disposed soldier must remember it will be absolutely necessary to wait with patience untill peace shall be declared or Congress shall be enabled to take proper measures for the security of the public stores &ca.; as soon as these Arrangements shall be made the General is confident there will be no delay in discharging with every mark of distinction and honor all the men enlisted for the war who will then have faithfully performed their engagements Edition: current; Page: [238] with the public. The General has already interested himself in their behalf; and he thinks he need not repeat the assurances of his disposition to be useful to them on the present, and every other proper occasion. In the mean time he is determined that no Military neglects or excesses shall go unpunished while he retains the command of the Army.

The Adjutant General will have such working parties detailed to assist in making the preperations for a general rejoycing as the Chief Engineer with the Army shall call for, and the Quarter Master Genl. will also furnish such materials as he may want.

The Quarter Master General will without delay procure such a number of Discharges to be printed as will be sufficient for all the men enlisted for the War; he will please to apply to Head Quarters for the form.

An extra ration of liquor to be issued to every man tomorrow, to drink Perpetual Peace, Independence and Happiness to the United States of America.

George Washington
Washington, George
April 24, 1783
Tench Tilghman
Tilghman, Tench


Dear Sir:

I received with much pleasure the kind congratulations contained in your letter of the 25th. Ulto. from Philadelphia, on the honorable termination of the War. No Man, indeed, can relish the approaching Peace with more heart felt,The approach of peace and grateful satisfaction than myself. A Mind always upon the stretch, and tortured with a diversity of perplexing circumstances, needed a respite; and I anticipate the pleasure of a little repose and retirement. It has been happy for me, always to have Gentlemen about me willing to share my troubles, and help me out of difficulties. To none of these can I ascribe a greater share of merit than to you.

I can scarce form an idea at this moment, when I shall be able to leave this place. The distresses of the Army for want of Money; the embarrassments of Congress, and the conseqt. delays, Edition: current; Page: [239] and disappointments on all sides, encompass me with difficulties; and produce, every day, some fresh source for uneasiness. But as I now see the Port opening to which I have been steering, I shall persevere till I have gained admittence. I will then leave the States to improve their present constitution, so as to make that Peace and Independencey for which we have fought and obtained, a blessing to Millions yet unborn; but to do this, liberallity must supply the place of prejudice, and unreasonable jealousies must yield to that confidence, which ought to be placed in the sovereign Power of these States. In a word the Constitution of Congress must be competent to the general purposes of Government; and of such a nature as to bind us together. Otherwise, we may well be compared to a rope of Sand,A rope of sand and shall as easily be broken and in a short time become the sport of European politics, altho’ we might have no great inclination to jar among ourselves.

From the intimation in your Letter, and what I have heard from others I presume this letter will find you in the State of Wedlock. On this happy event I pray you, and your Lady, to accept of my best wishes, and sincerest congratulations; in which Mrs. Washington joins hers most cordially. With the most Affectionate esteem, etc.

George Washington
Washington, George
June 14, 1783



Domestic retirementThe great object for which I had the honor to hold an appointment in the Service of my Country, being accomplished, I am now preparing to resign it into the hands of Congress, and to return to that domestic retirement, which, it is well known, I left with the greatest reluctance, a Retirement, for which I have never ceased to sigh through a long and painful absence, and in which (remote from the noise and trouble of the World) I meditate to pass the remainder of life in a state of undisturbed repose; But before I carry this resolution into effect, I think it a duty incumbent on me, to make this my last official communication,Congratulations to congratulate you on the glorious events Edition: current; Page: [240] which Heaven has been pleased to produce in our favor, to offer my sentiments respecting some important subjects, which appear to me, to be intimately connected with the tranquility of the United States, to take my leave of your Excellency as a public Character, and to give my final blessing to that Country, in whose service I have spent the prime of my life, for whose sake I have consumed so many anxious days and watchfull nights, and whose happiness being extremely dear to me, will always constitute no inconsiderable part of my own.

Impressed with the liveliest sensibility on this pleasing occasion, I will claim the indulgence of dilating the more copiously on the subjects of our mutual felicitation. When we consider the magnitude of the prize we contended for, the doubtful nature of the contest, and the favorable manner in which it has terminated, we shall find the greatest possible reason for gratitude and rejoicing; this is a theme that will afford infinite delight to every benevolent and liberal mind, whether the event in contemplation, be considered as the source of present enjoyment or the parent of future happiness; and we shall have equal occasion to felicitate ourselves on the lot which Providence has assigned us, whether we view it in a natural, a political or moral point of light.

America’s futureThe Citizens of America, placed in the most enviable condition, as the sole Lords and Proprietors of a vast Tract of Continent, comprehending all the various soils and climates of the World, and abounding with all the necessaries and conveniencies of life, are now by the late satisfactory pacification, acknowledged to be possessed of absolute freedom and Independency; They are, from this period, to be considered as the Actors on a most conspicuous Theatre, which seems to be peculiarly designated by Providence for the display of human greatness and felicity; Here, they are not only surrounded with every thing which can contribute to the completion of private and domestic enjoyment, but Heaven has crowned all its other blessings, by giving a fairer oppertunity for political happiness, than any other Nation has ever been favored with. Nothing can illustrate these observations more forcibly, than a recollection of the happy conjuncture of times and circumstances, under which our Republic assumed its rank among the Nations;Foundation of American empire The foundation of our empire was not laid in the gloomy age of Ignorance and Superstition, but at an Epocha when the rights of mankind were better understood and more clearly Edition: current; Page: [241] defined, than at any former period; the researches of the human mind, after social happiness, have been carried to a great extent; the Treasures of knowledge, acquired through a long succession of years, by the labours of Philosophers, Sages and Legislatures, are laid open for our use, and their collected wisdom may be happily applied in the Establishment of our forms of Government; the free cultivation of Letters, the unbounded extension of Commerce, the progressive refinement of Manners, the growing liberality of sentiment, and above all, the pure and benign light of Revelation, have had a meliorating influence on mankind and increased the blessings of Society. At this auspicious period, the United States came into existence as a Nation, and if their Citizens should not be completely free and happy, the fault will be intirely their own.

Such is our situation, and such are our prospects: but notwithstanding the cup of blessing is thus reached out to us, notwithstanding happiness is ours, if we have a disposition to seize the occasion and make it our own; yet, it appears to me there is an option still left to the United States of America, that it is in their choice, and depends upon their conduct, whether they will be respectable and prosperous, or contemptable and miserable as a Nation;A time of political probation This is the time of their political probation; this is the moment when the eyes of the whole World are turned upon them; this is the moment to establish or ruin their national Character forever; this is the favorable moment to give such a tone to our Federal Government, as will enable it to answer the ends of its institution; or this may be the ill-fated moment for relaxing the powers of the Union, annihilating the cement of the Confederation, and exposing us to become the sport of European politics, which may play one State against another to prevent their growing importance, and to serve their own interested purposes. For, according to the system of Policy the States shall adopt at this moment, they will stand or fall; and by their confirmation or lapse, it is yet to be decided, whether the Revolution must ultimately be considered as a blessing or a curse: a blessing or a curse, not to the present age alone, for with our fate will the destiny of unborn Millions be involved.

The importance of the present crisisWith this conviction of the importance of the present Crisis, silence in me would be a crime; I will therefore speak to your Excellency, the language of freedom and of sincerity, without disguise; I am aware, however, that those who differ from me Edition: current; Page: [242] in political sentiment, may perhaps remark, I am stepping out of the proper line of my duty, and they may possibly ascribe to arrogance or ostentation, what I know is alone the result of the purest intention, but the rectitude of my own heart, which disdains such unworthy motives, the part I have hitherto acted in life, the determination I have formed, of not taking any share in public business hereafter, the ardent desire I feel, and shall continue to manifest, of quietly enjoying in private life, after all the toils of War, the benefits of a wise and liberal Government, will, I flatter myself, sooner or later convince my Countrymen, that I could have no sinister views in delivering with so little reserve, the opinions contained in this Address.

Four pillars of independenceThere are four things, which I humbly conceive, are essential to the well being, I may even venture to say, to the existence of the United States as an Independent Power:

1st. An indissoluble Union of the States under one Federal Head.

2dly. A Sacred regard to Public Justice.

3dly. The adoption of a proper Peace Establishment, and

4thly. The prevalence of that pacific and friendly Disposition, among the People of the United States, which will induce them to forget their local prejudices and policies, to make those mutual concessions which are requisite to the general prosperity, and in some instances, to sacrifice their individual advantages to the interest of the Community.

These are the Pillars on which the glorious Fabrick of our Independency and National Character must be supported; Liberty is the Basis, and whoever would dare to sap the foundation, or overturn the Structure, under whatever specious pretexts he may attempt it, will merit the bitterest execration, and the severest punishment which can be inflicted by his injured Country.

On the three first Articles I will make a few observations, leaving the last to the good sense and serious consideration of those immediately concerned.

Principles of unionUnder the first head, altho’ it may not be necessary or proper for me in this place to enter into a particular disquisition of the principles of the Union, and to take up the great question which has been frequently agitated, whether it be expedient and requisite for the States to delegate a larger proportion of Power to Congress, or not, Yet it will be a part of my duty, and that of every true Patriot, to assert without reserve, Edition: current; Page: [243] and to insist upon the following positions, That unless the States will suffer Congress to exercise those prerogatives, they are undoubtedly invested with by the Constitution, every thing must very rapidly tend to Anarchy and confusion, That it is indispensable to the happiness of the individual States, that there should be lodged somewhere, a Supreme Power to regulate and govern the general concerns of the Confederated Republic, without which the Union cannot be of long duration. That there must be a faithfull and pointed compliance on the part of every State, with the late proposals and demands of Congress,Union and liberty or the most fatal consequences will ensue, That whatever measures have a tendency to dissolve the Union, or contribute to violate or lessen the Sovereign Authority, ought to be considered as hostile to the Liberty and Independency of America, and the Authors of them treated accordingly, and lastly, that unless we can be enabled by the concurrence of the States, to participate of the fruits of the Revolution, and enjoy the essential benefits of Civil Society, under a form of Government so free and uncorrupted, so happily guarded against the danger of oppression, as has been devised and adopted by the Articles of Confederation, it will be a subject of regret, that so much blood and treasure have been lavished for no purpose, that so many sufferings have been encountered without a compensation, and that so many sacrifices have been made in vain. Many other considerations might here be adduced to prove, that without an entire conformity to the Spirit of the Union, we cannot exist as an Independent Power; it will be sufficient for my purpose to mention but one or two which seem to me of the greatest importance. It is only in our united Character as an Empire, that our Independence is acknowledged, that our power can be regarded, or our Credit supported among Foreign Nations. The Treaties of the European Powers with the United States of America, will have no validity on a dissolution of the Union. We shall be left nearly in a state of Nature, or we may find by our own unhappy experience, that there is a natural and necessary progression, from the extreme of anarchy to the extreme of Tyranny; and that arbitrary power is most easily established on the ruins of Liberty abused to licentiousness.

Justice to public creditorsAs to the second Article, which respects the performance of Public Justice, Congress have, in their late Address to the United States, almost exhausted the subject, they have explained Edition: current; Page: [244] their Ideas so fully, and have enforced the obligations the States are under, to render compleat justice to all the Public Creditors, with so much dignity and energy, that in my opinion, no real friend to the honor and Independency of America, can hesitate a single moment respecting the propriety of complying with the just and honorable measures proposed; if their Arguments do not produce conviction, I know of nothing that will have greater influence; especially when we recollect that the System referred to, being the result of the collected Wisdom of the Continent, must be esteemed, if not perfect, certainly the least objectionable of any that could be devised; and that if it shall not be carried into immediate execution, a National Bankruptcy, with all its deplorable consequences will take place, before any different Plan can possibly be proposed and adopted, So pressing are the present circumstances! and such is the alternative now offered to the States!

The ability of the Country to discharge the debts which have been incurred in its defence, is not to be doubted; an inclination, I flatter myself, will not be wanting; the path of our duty is plain before us; honesty will be found on every experiment, to be the best and only true policy; let us then as a Nation be just; let us fulfil the public Contracts, which Congress had undoubtedly a right to make for the purpose of carrying on the War, with the same good faith we suppose ourselves bound to perform our private engagements; in the mean time, let an attention to the chearfull performance of their proper business, as Individuals, and as members of Society, be earnestly inculcated on the Citizens of America, then will they strengthen the hands of Government, and be happy under its protection: every one will reap the fruit of his labours; every one will enjoy his own acquisitions without molestation and without danger.

TaxationIn this state of absolute freedom and perfect security, who will grudge to yield a very little of his property to support the common interest of Society, and insure the protection of Government? Who does not remember, the frequent declarations, at the commencement of the War, that we should be compleatly satisfied, if at the expence of one half, we could defend the remainder of our possessions? Where is the Man to be found, who wishes to remain indebted, for the defence of his own person and property, to the exertions, the bravery, and the blood of others, without making one generous effort to repay Edition: current; Page: [245] the debt of honor and of gratitude? In what part of the Continent shall we find any Man, or body of Men, who would not blush to stand up and propose measures, purposely calculated to rob the Soldier of his Stipend, and the Public Creditor of his due? and were it possible that such a flagrant instance of Injustice could ever happen, would it not excite the general indignation, and tend to bring down, upon the Authors of such measures, the aggravated vengeance of Heaven?

. . . and disunionIf after all, a spirit of disunion or a temper of obstinacy and perverseness, should manifest itself in any of the States, if such an ungracious disposition should attempt to frustrate all the happy effects that might be expected to flow from the Union, if there should be a refusal to comply with the requisitions for Funds to discharge the annual interest of the public debts, and if that refusal should revive again all those jealousies and produce all those evils, which are now happily removed, Congress, who have in all their Transaction shewn a great degree of magnanimity and justice, will stand justified in the sight of God and Man, and the State alone which puts itself in opposition to the aggregate Wisdom of the Continent, and follows such mistaken and pernicious Councils, will be responsible for all the consequences.

Military payFor my own part, conscious of having acted while a Servant of the Public, in a manner I conceived best suited to promote the real interests of my Country; having in consequence of my fixed belief in some measure pledged myself to the Army, that their Country would finally do them compleat and ample Justice; and not wishing to conceal any instance of my official conduct from the eyes of the World, I have thought proper to transmit to your Excellency the inclosed collection of Papers, relative to the half pay and commutation granted by Congress to the Officers of the Army; From these communications, my decided sentiment will be clearly comprehended, together with the conclusive reasons which induced me, at an early period, to recommend the adoption of the measure, in the most earnest and serious manner. As the proceedings of Congress, the Army, and myself are open to all, and contain in my opinion, sufficient information to remove the prejudices and errors which may have been entertained by any; I think it unnecessary to say any thing more, than just to observe, that the Resolutions of Congress, now alluded to, are undoubtedly as absolutely binding upon the United States, as the most solemn Edition: current; Page: [246] Acts of Confederation or Legislation. As to the Idea, which I am informed has in some instances prevailed, that the half pay and commutation are to be regarded merely in the odious light of a Pension, it ought to be exploded forever; that Provision, should be viewed as it really was, a reasonable compensation offered by Congress, at a time when they had nothing else to give, to the Officers of the Army, for services then to be performed. It was the only means to prevent a total dereliction of the Service, It was a part of their hire, I may be allowed to say, it was the price of their blood and of your Independency, it is therefore more than a common debt, it is a debt of honour, it can never be considered as a Pension or gratuity, nor be cancelled until it is fairly discharged.

Compensation for soldiersWith regard to a distinction between Officers and Soldiers, it is sufficient that the uniform experience of every Nation of the World, combined with our own, proves the utility and propriety of the discrimination. Rewards in proportion to the aids the public derives from them, are unquestionably due to all its Servants; In some Lines, the Soldiers have perhaps generally had as ample a compensation for their Services, by the large Bounties which have been paid to them, as their Officers will receive in the proposed Commutation, in others, if besides the donation of Lands, the payment of Arrearages of Cloathing and Wages (in which Articles all the component parts of the Army must be put upon the same footing) we take into the estimate, the Bounties many of the Soldiers have received and the gratuity of one Year’s full pay, which is promised to all, possibly their situation (every circumstance being duly considered) will not be deemed less eligible than that of the Officers. Should a farther reward, however, be judged equitable, I will venture to assert, no one will enjoy greater satisfaction than myself, on seeing an exemption from Taxes for a limited time, (which has been petitioned for in some instances) or any other adequate immunity or compensation, granted to the brave defenders of their Country’s Cause;Commutation of half pay but neither the adoption or rejection of this proposition will in any manner affect, much less militate against, the Act of Congress, by which they have offered five years full pay, in lieu of the half pay for life, which had been before promised to the Officers of the Army.

Before I conclude the subject of public justice, I cannot omit to mention the obligations this Country is under, to that meritorious Class of veteran Non-commissioned Officers and Privates, Edition: current; Page: [247] who have been discharged for inability,Disabled soldiers in consequence of the Resolution of Congress of the 23d of April 1782, on an annual pension for life, their peculiar sufferings, their singular merits and claims to that provision need only be known, to interest all the feelings of humanity in their behalf: nothing but a punctual payment of their annual allowance can rescue them from the most complicated misery, and nothing could be a more melancholy and distressing sight, than to behold those who have shed their blood or lost their limbs in the service of their Country, without a shelter, without a friend, and without the means of obtaining any of the necessaries or comforts of Life; compelled to beg their daily bread from door to door! Suffer me to recommend those of this discription, belonging to your State, to the warmest patronage of your Excellency and your Legislature.

It is necessary to say but a few words on the third topic which was proposed, and which regards particularly the defence of the Republic, As there can be little doubt but Congress will recommend a proper Peace Establishment for the United States,A regular and uniform militia in which a due attention will be paid to the importance of placing the Militia of the Union upon a regular and respectable footing; If this should be the case, I would beg leave to urge the great advantage of it in the strongest terms. The Militia of this Country must be considered as the Palladium of our security, and the first effectual resort in case of hostility; It is essential therefore, that the same system should pervade the whole; that the formation and discipline of the Militia of the Continent should be absolutely uniform, and that the same species of Arms, Accoutrements and Military Apparatus, should be introduced in every part of the United States; No one, who has not learned it from experience, can conceive the difficulty, expence, and confusion which result from a contrary system, or the vague Arrangements which have hitherto prevailed.

If in treating of political points, a greater latitude than usual has been taken in the course of this Address, the importance of the Crisis, and the magnitude of the objects in discussion, must be my apology: It is, however, neither my wish or expectation, that the preceding observations should claim any regard, except so far as they shall appear to be dictated by a good intention, consonant to the immutable rules of Justice; calculated to produce a liberal system of policy, and founded on Edition: current; Page: [248] whatever experience may have been acquired by a long and close attention to public business. Here I might speak with the more confidence from my actual observations, and, if it would not swell this Letter (already too prolix) beyond the bounds I had prescribed myself: I could demonstrate to every mind open to conviction, that in less time and with much less expence than has been incurred, the War might have been brought to the same happy conclusion, if the resourses of the Continent could have been properly drawn forth, that the distresses and disappointments which have very often occurred, have in too many instances, resulted more from a want of energy, in the Continental Government, than a deficiency of means in the particular States. That the inefficiency of measures, arising from the want of an adequate authority in the Supreme Power, from a partial compliance with the Requisitions of Congress in some of the States, and from a failure of punctuality in others, while it tended to damp the zeal of those which were more willing to exert themselves; served also to accumulate the expences of the War, and to frustrate the best concerted Plans, and that the discouragement occasioned by the complicated difficulties and embarrassments, in which our affairs were, by this means involved, would have long ago produced the dissolution of any Army, less patient, less virtuous and less persevering, than that which I have had the honor to command. But while I mention these things, which are notorious facts,Defects of federal government in time of war as the defects of our Federal Government, particularly in the prosecution of a War, I beg it may be understood, that as I have ever taken a pleasure in gratefully acknowledging the assistance and support I have derived from every Class of Citizens, so shall I always be happy to do justice to the unparalleled exertion of the individual States, on many interesting occasions.

I have thus freely disclosed what I wished to make known, before I surrendered up my Public trust to those who committed it to me, the task is now accomplished, I now bid adieu to your Excellency as the Chief Magistrate of your State, at the same time I bid a last farewell to the cares of Office, and all the imployments of public life.

It remains then to be my final and only request, that your Excellency will communicate these sentiments to your Legislature at their next meeting, and that they may be considered as the Legacy of One, who has ardently wished, on all occasions, Edition: current; Page: [249] to be useful to his Country, and who, even in the shade of Retirement, will not fail to implore the divine benediction upon it.

An earnest prayerI now make it my earnest prayer, that God would have you, and the State over which you preside, in his holy protection, that he would incline the hearts of the Citizens to cultivate a spirit of subordination and obedience to Government, to entertain a brotherly affection and love for one another, for their fellow Citizens of the United States at large, and particularly for their brethren who have served in the Field, and finally, that he would most graciously be pleased to dispose us all, to do Justice, to love mercy, and to demean ourselves with that Charity, humility and pacific temper of mind, which were the Characteristicks of the Divine Author of our blessed Religion, and without an humble imitation of whose example in these things, we can never hope to be a happy Nation.

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1783 The General Resigns fpage="251" lpage="274"


The General Resigns


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WASHINGTON’S transition from statesman-general to citizen-statesman occurred almost effortlessly. The year-and-a half delay between the decisive victory at Yorktown and the achievement of a negotiated peace, with the subsequent six-month delay before all appropriate ratifications had been secured, imposed upon Washington the difficult and sensitive task of maintaining an army prepared to fight at the same time as the new nation was yearning to reacquire the arts of peace. Washington acted on the principle that the army had to remain standing less for the sake of defending the nation’s freedom than for the sake of symbolizing a free nation until the rest of the world officially concurred in its existence. From the beginning of this time, however, he inculcated lessons—which were acts of legislation in all but form—of political responsibility which entailed strengthening the federal union, honoring its debts, and regulating its orderly expansion through the continent. His wide correspondence bears universally the mark of his solicitude—above all for the just compensation of the soldiers.

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Washington disbanded the army just as soon as the peace was made final. In taking leave of his troops he no less exhorted them to a republican faith than he had exhorted their fellow-republicans, the civilians, to keep faith with the troops. The war struggle had lasted eight years, and its effect on Washington and the soldiers is best symbolized, perhaps, in Washington’s farewell, when he assembled his officers at a tavern and endeavored to utter some parting sentiments. In the end, he could do no more than reach out in a warm embrace of the portly General Henry Knox, who stood nearest. The other officers filed by, silence pervading, and reenacted the ritual.

The effect of the war on the country is perhaps best symbolized by Washington’s resignation of his commission immediately after disbanding the army. At that point the United States stood as a free republic under no armed domination. Congress then sat at Annapolis, Maryland, to which Washington journeyed. He inquired how Congress would prefer to receive his farewell, by letter or public address. Congress summoned him to appear and speak; he did so as recorded in this chapter, resigning “with satisfaction the appointment [he] accepted with diffidence.”

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George Washington
Washington, George
June 15, 1783
John Augustine Washington
Washington, John Augustine


My dear Brother:

I have received your favor of the 12th. of April from Berkley, and am obliged to you for the Acct. contained in it of our deceased brothers affairs. I have since heard that his Widow survived him but a little while. I am also obliged to you for taking upon you the direction of my mothers Interest at the little Fall Quarter, which I believe has been under most wretched Management. equally burthensome to me, and teazing to her.

In answer to the question you have propounded to me, respecting our Nephew Ferdinand, I must observe to you, that the presumption is, for I cannot speak with certainty, that our Navy, if it can be called one, will be laid up, or otherwise disposed of; consequently there can be no birth for Ferdinand there. It follows then, that there is only the other alternative of getting him on board a Merchant Ship, and this, possibly, may be the best of the two; your knowledge, together with that of his mothers friends, of the Trade, and Trading people of Virginia (where his Connections and Interest lyes) will point him much better than I can do, to the proper channel for employment.

Desire for private lifeI wait here with much impatience, the arrival of the Definitive Treaty; this event will put a period not only to my military Service, but also to my public life; as the remainder of my natural one shall be spent in that kind of ease and repose Edition: current; Page: [256] which a man enjoys that is free from the load of public cares, and subject to no other Controul than that of his own judgment, and a proper conduct for the walk of private Life.

It is much to be wished (but I think a good deal to be doubted) that the States would adopt a liberal and proper line of Conduct for the Government of this Country. It should be founded in justice. Prejudices, unreasonable jealousies, and narrow policy should be done away. Competent powers for all general purposes should be bested in the Sovereignty of the United States, or Anarchy and Confusion will soon succeed. Liberty,On liberty when it degenerates into licenciousness, begets confusion, and frequently ends in Tyranny or some woeful catastrophe, and to suppose that the Affairs of this Continent can be conducted by thirteen distinct Sovereignties, or by one without adequate powers, are mere solecisms in politicks. It is in our United capacity we are known, and have a place among the Nations of the Earth. Depart from this, and the States separately would stand as unknown in the World and as contemptable (comparatively speaking) as an individual County in any one State is to the State itself; and in others perhaps, has never been heard of and would be as little attended to but for the sport of Politicians to answer their sinister views, or the purposes of designing Courts, if they should grow jealous of our rising greatness as an Empire, and wish to play off one State against another. We are a young Nation and have a character to establish. It behoves us therefore to set out right for first impressions will be lasting, indeed are all in all. If we do not fulfil our public engagement, if we do not religeously observe our Treaties. If we shall be faithless to, and regardless of those who have lent their money, given their personal Services, and spilt their Blood; and who are now returning home poor and pennyless; in what light shall we be considered? And that there is but too much reason to apprehend these, none who see the daily publications, and will attend to the c[onduct] of some of the States, can har[dly] have any doubt of. So far therefore as the claims of the Army are concerned, and the Half pay or commutation of it is to be effected, I have suffered Extracts of Original Papers, in my possession, to be published; to shew the justice, oeconomy, and even the necessity that Congress were under of granting this, to keep the Army in the Field at so early a period as 1778. One of these I herewith send you.

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My love, in which Mrs. Washington joins me, is offered to my Sister and your family; present my Complimts. to all enquiring friends, and be assured etc.

George Washington
Washington, George
July 8, 1783
William Gordon
Gordon, William


Dear Sir:

Your favor of the 19th. of June came to my hands on Sunday last by the Southern Mail; from this circumstance, and the date of it I conclude it has been to Philadelphia, a mistake not very unusual for the Post master at Fishkiln to commit.

I delayed not a moment to forwd. the letters which came to me under your cover of the 26th. of Feby. to New York. I did not answer the letter which accompanied them in due Season; not so much from the hurry of business, as because my Sentiments on the essential part of it had been communicated to you before; and because the Annunciation of Peace, which came close upon the heels of it, put an end to all speculative opinions with respect to the time and terms of it.

I now thank you for your kind congratulations on this event. I feel sensibly the flattering expressions, and fervent wishes with which you have accompanied them, and make a tender of mine, with much cordiality, in return. It now rests with the Confederated Powers, by the line of conduct they mean to adopt, to make this Country great, happy, and respectable; or to sink it into littleness; worse perhaps, into Anarchy and Confusion;Power to Congress for certain I am, that unless adequate Powers are given to Congress for the general purposes of the Federal Union that we shall soon moulder into dust and become contemptable in the Eyes of Europe, if we are not made the sport of their politicks; to suppose that the general concern of this Country can be directed by thirteen heads, or one head without competent powers, is a solecism, the bad effects of which every Man who has had the practical knowledge to judge from, that I have, is fully convinced of; tho’ none perhaps has felt them in so forcible, and distressing a degree. The People at large, and at a distance from the theatre of Action, who only know that the Machine was kept in motion, and that they are at last arrived Edition: current; Page: [258] at the first object of their Wishes are satisfied with the event, without investigating the causes of the slow progress to it, or of the Expences which have accrued and which they now seem unwilling to pay; great part of which has arisen from that want of energy in the Federal Constitution which I am complaining of, and which I wish to see given to it by a Convention of the People, instead of hearing it remarked that as we have worked through an arduous Contest with the Powers Congress already have (but which, by the by, have been gradually diminishing) why should they be invested with more?

On ProvidenceTo say nothing of the invisible workings of Providence, which has conducted us through difficulties where no human foresight could point the way; it will appear evident to a close Examiner, that there has been a concatenation of causes to produce this Event; which in all probability at no time, or under any Circumstances, will combine again. We deceive ourselves therefore by this mode of reasoning, and what would be much worse, we may bring ruin upon ourselves by attempting to carry it into practice.

Sovereignity of the StateWe are known by no other character among Nations than as the United States; Massachusetts or Virginia is no better defined, nor any more thought of by Foreign Powers than the County of Worcester in Massachusetts is by Virginia, or Glouster County in Virginia is by Massachusetts (respectable as they are); and yet these Counties, with as much propriety might oppose themselves to the Laws of the State in wch. they are, as an Individual State can oppose itself to the Federal Government, by which it is, or ought to be bound. Each of these Counties has, no doubt, its local polity and Interests. these should be attended to, and brought before their respective legislatures with all the force their importance merits; but when they come in contact with the general Interest of the State; when superior considerations preponderate in favor of the whole, their Voices should be heard no more; so should it be with individual States when compared to the Union. Otherwise I think it may properly be asked for what purpose do we farcically pretend to be United? Why do Congress spend Months together in deliberating upon, debating, and digesting plans, which are made as palatable, and as wholesome to the Constitution of this Country as the nature of things will admit of, when some States will pay no attention to them, and others regard them but partially; by which means all those evils which Edition: current; Page: [259] proceed from delay, are felt by the whole; while the compliant States are not only suffering by these neglects, but in many instances are injured most capitally by their own exertions; which are wasted for want of the United effort. A hundd. thousand men coming one after another cannot move a Ton weight; but the united strength of 50 would transport it with ease. so has it been with great part of the expence which has been incurred this War. In a Word, I think the blood and treasure which has been spent in it has been lavished to little purpose, unless we can be better Cemented; and that is not to be effected while so little attention is paid to the recommendations of the Sovereign Power.

To me it would seem not more absurd, to hear a traveller, who was setting out on a long journey, declare he would take no Money in his pocket to defray the Expences of it but rather depend upon chance and charity lest he should misapply it, than are the expressions of so much fear of the powers and means of Congress. For Heavens sake who are Congress?Congress is not a danger are they not the Creatures of the People, amenable to them for their Conduct, and dependant from day to day on their breath? Where then can be the danger of giving them such Powers as are adequate to the great ends of Government, and to all the general purposes of the Confederation (I repeat the word gen, because I am no advocate for their having to do with the particular policy of any State, further than it concerns the Union at large). What may be the consequences if they have not these Powers I am at no loss to guess; and deprecate the worst; for sure I am, we shall, in a little time, become as contemptable in the great Scale of Politicks as we now have it in our power to be respectable; and that, when the band of Union gets once broken, every thing ruinous to our future prospects is to be apprehended; the best that can come of it, in my humble opinion is, that we shall sink into obscurity, unless our Civil broils should keep us in remembrance and fill the page of history with the direful consequences of them.

You say that, Congress loose time by pressing a mode that does not accord with the genius of the People, and will thereby, endanger the Union; and that it is the quantum they want. Permit me to ask if the quantum has not already been demanded? Whether it has been obtained? and whence proceed the accumulated evils, and poignant distresses of many of the public Creditors, particularly in the Army? For my own part I Edition: current; Page: [260] hesitate not a moment to confess, that I see nothing wherein the Union is endangered by the late requisition of that body; but a prospect of much good, justice, and propriety from the compliance with it. I know of no Tax more convenient; none so agreeable, as that which every man may pay, or let it alone as his convenience, abilities, or Inclination shall prompt. I am therefore a warm friend to the Impost.

I can only repeat to you, that whenever Congress shall think proper to open the door of their Archives to you, (which can be best known, and with more propriety discovered through the Delegates of your own State), All my Records and Papers shall be unfolded to your View, and I shall be happy in your Company at Mt. Vernon, while you are taking such Extracts from them, as you may find convenient. It is a piece of respect wch. I think is due to the Sovereign Power to let it take the lead in this business (without any interference of mine). And another reason why I choose to withhold mine, to this epoch is, that I am positive no History of the Revolution can be perfect if the Historiographer has not free access to that fund of Information.

Mrs. Washington joins me in Compliments to Mrs. Gordon and I am etc.

George Washington
Washington, George
September 7, 1783
Rocky Hill
James Duane
Duane, James



I have carefully perused the Papers which you put into my hands relative to Indian Affairs

Conduct toward Indians and citizens in western landsMy Sentiments with respect to the proper line of Conduct to be observed towards these people coincides precisely with those delivered by Genl. Schuyler, so far as he has gone in his Letter of the 29th. July to Congress (which, with the other Papers is herewith returned), and for the reasons he has there assigned; a repetition of them therefore by me would be unnecessary. But independant of the arguments made use of by him the following considerations have no small weight in my Mind.

To suffer a wide extended Country to be over run with Edition: current; Page: [261] Land Jobbers, Speculators, and Monopolisers or even with scatter’d settlers, is, in my opinion, inconsistent with that wisdom and policy which our true interest dictates, or that an enlightened People ought to adopt and, besides, is pregnant of disputes both with the Savages, and among ourselves, the evils of which are easier, to be conceived than described; and for what? But to aggrandize a few avaricious Men to the prejudice of many, and the embarrassment of Government. For the People engaged in these pursuits without contributing in the smallest degree to the Support of government, or considering themselves as amenable to its Laws, will involve it by their unrestrained conduct, in inextricable perplexities, and more than probable in a great deal of Bloodshed.

My ideas therefore of the line of conduct proper to be observed not only towards the Indians, but for the government of the Citizens of America, in their Settlement of the Western Country (which is intimately connected therewith) are simply these.

First and as a preliminary, that all Prisoners of whatever age or Sex, among the Indians shall be delivered up.

That the Indians should be informed, that after a Contest of eight years for the Sovereignty of this Country G: Britain has ceded all the Lands of the United States within the limits discribed by the arte. of the Provisional Treaty.

That as they (the Indians) maugre all the advice and admonition which could be given them at the commencemt; and during the prosecution of the War could not be restrained from acts of Hostility, but were determined to join their Arms to those of G Britain and to share their fortune; so, consequently, with a less generous People than Americans they would be made to share the same fate; and be compelld to retire along with them beyond the Lakes. But as we prefer Peace to a state of Warfare, as we consider them as a deluded People; as we perswade ourselves that they are convinced, from experience, of their error in taking up the Hatchet against us, and that their true Interest and safety must now depend upon our friendship. As the Country, is large enough to contain us all; and as we are disposed to be kind to them and to partake of their Trade, we will from these considerations and from motives of Compn., draw a veil over what is past and establish a boundary line between them and us beyond which we will endeavor to restrain our People from Hunting or Settling, Edition: current; Page: [262] and within which they shall not come, but for the purposes of Trading, Treating, or other business unexceptionable in its nature.

In establishing this line, in the first instance, care should be taken neither to yield nor to grasp at too much. But to endeavor to impress the Indians with an idea of the generosity of our disposition to accommodate them, and with the necessity we are under, of providing for our Warriors, our Young People who are growing up, and strangers who are coming from other Countries to live among us. And if they should make a point of it, or appear dissatisfied at the line we may find it necessary to establish, compensation should be made them for their claims within it.

It is needless for me to express more explicitly because the tendency of my observns. evinces it is my opinion that if the Legislature of the State of New York should insist upon expelling theThe Six Nations Six Nations from all the country they Inhabited previous to the War, within their Territory (as General Schuyler seems to be apprehensive of) that it will end in another Indian War. I have every reason to believe from my enquiries, and the information I have received, that they will not suffer their Country (if it was our policy to take it before we could settle it) to be wrested from them without another struggle. That they would compromise for a part of it I have very little doubt, and that it would be the cheapest way of coming at it, I have no doubt at all. The same observations, I am perswaded, will hold good with respect to Virginia, or any other state which has powerful Tribes of Indians on their Frontiers; and the reason of my mentioning New York is because General Schuyler has expressed his opinion of the temper of its Legislature; and because I have been more in the way of learning the Sentimts. of the Six Nations, than of any other Tribes of Indians on the Subject.

The limits being sufficiently extensive (in the New Ctry.) to comply with all the engagements of Government and to admit such emigrations as may be supposed to happen within a given time not only from the several States of the Union but from Foreign Countries, and moreover of such magnitude as to form a distinct and proper Government; a Proclamation in my opinion, should issue, making it Felony (if there is power for the purpose and if not imposing some very heavy restraint) for any person to Survey or Settle beyond the Line; and the Officers Edition: current; Page: [263] Commanding the Frontier Garrison should have pointed and peremptory orders to see that the Proclamation is carried into effect.

Measures of this sort would not only obtain Peace from the Indians, but would, in my opinion, be the surest means of preserving it. It would dispose of the Land to the best advantage; People the Country progressively, and check Land Jobbing and Monopolizing (which is now going forward with great avidity) while the door would be open, and the terms known for every one to obtain what is reasonable and proper for himself upon legal and constitutional ground.

Every advantage that could be expected or even wished for would result from such a mode of procedure. Our Settlements would be compact, Government well established, and our Barrier formidable, not only for ourselves but against our Neighbours, and the Indians as has been observed in Genl Schuylers Letter will ever retreat as our Settlements advance upon them and they will be as ready to sell, as we are to buy; That it is the cheapest as well as the least distressing way of dealing with them, none who are acquainted with the Nature of Indian warfare, and has ever been at the trouble of estimating the expence of one, and comparing it with the cost of purchasing their Lands, will hesitate to acknowledge.

Unless some such measures as I have here taken the liberty of suggesting are speedily adopted one of two capital evils, in my opinion, will inevitably result, and is near at hand; either that the settling, or rather overspreading the Western Country will take place, by a parcel of Banditti, who will bid defiance to all Authority while they are skimming and disposing of the Cream of the Country at the expence of many suffering officers and Soldiers who have fought and bled to obtain it, and are now waiting the decision of Congress to point them to the promised reward of their past dangers and toils, or a renewal of Hostilities with the Indians, brought about more than probably, by this very means.

Indian affairs agentsHow far agents for Indian Affrs. are indispensably necessary I shall not take upon me to decide; but if any should be appointed, their powers in my opinion should be circumscribed, accurately defined, and themselves rigidly punished for every infraction of them. A recurrence to the conduct of these People under the British Administration of Indian Affairs will manifest the propriety of this caution, as it will there Edition: current; Page: [264] be found, that self Interest was the principle by which their Agents were actuated; and to promote this by accumulating Lands and passing large quantities of Goods thro their hands, the Indians were made to speak any language they pleased by their representation; were pacific or hostile as their purposes were most likely to be promoted by the one or the other. No purchase under any pretence whatever should be made by any other authority than that of the Sovereign power, or the Legislature of the State in which such Lands may happen to be. Nor should the Agents be permitted directly or indirectly to trade; but to have a fixed, and ample Salary allowed them as a full compensation for their trouble.

Indian tradeWhether in practice the measure may answer as well as it appears in theory to me, I will not undertake to say; but I think, if the Indian Trade was carried on, on Government Acct., and with no greater advance than what would be necessary to defray the expence and risk, and bring in a small profit, that it would supply the Indians upon much better terms than they usually are; engross their Trade, and fix them strongly in our Interest; and would be a much better mode of treating them than that of giving presents; where a few only are benefitted by them. I confess there is a difficulty in getting a Man, or set of Men, in whose Abilities and integrity there can be a perfect reliance; without which, the scheme is liable to such abuse as to defeat the salutary ends which are proposed from it. At any rate, no person should be suffered to Trade with the Indians without first obtaining a license, and giving security to conform to such rules and regulations as shall be prescribed; as was the case before the War.

Settlers in western landsIn giving my Sentiments in the Month of May last (at the request of a Committee of Congress) on a Peace Establishmt. I took the liberty of suggesting the propriety, which in my opinion there appeared, of paying particular attention to the French and other Settlers at Detroit and other parts within the limits of the Western Country; the perusal of a late Pamphlet entitled “Observations on the Commerce of the American States with Europe and the West Indies” impresses the necessity of it more forcibly than ever on my Mind. The author of that Piece strongly recommends a liberal change in the Government of Canada, and tho’ he is too sanguine in his expectations of the benefits arising from it, there can be no doubt of the good policy of the measure. It behooves us therefore to Edition: current; Page: [265] counteract them, by anticipation. These People have a disposition towards us susceptible of favorable impressions; but as no Arts will be left unattempted by the British to withdraw them from our Interest, the prest. moment should be employed by us to fix them in it, or we may loose them forever; and with them, the advantages, or disadvantages consequent of the choice they may make. From the best information and Maps of that Country, it would appear that from the Mouth of the Great Miami River wch. empties into the Ohio to its confluence with the Mad River, thence by a Line to the Miami Fort and Village on the other Miami River wch. empties into Lake Erie, and Thence by a Line to include the Settlement of Detroit would with Lake Erie to the No.ward, Pensa. to the Eastwd. and the Ohio to the Soward form a Governmt. sufficiently extensive to fulfill all the public engagements, and to receive moreover a large population by Emigrants, and to confine The Settlement of the New States within these bounds would, in my opinion, be infinitely better even supposing no disputes were to happen with the Indians and that it was not necessary to guard against those other evils which have been enumerated than to suffer the same number of People to roam over a Country of at least 500,000 Square Miles contributing nothing to the support, but much perhaps to the Embarrassment of the Federal Government.

Was it not for the purpose of comprehending the Settlement of Detroit within the Jurisdn. of the New Governmt a more compact and better shaped district for a State would be for the line to proceed from the Miami Fort and Village along the River of that name to Lake Erie leaving In that case the Settlement of Detroit, and all the Territory No. of the Rivers Miami and St. Josephs between the Lakes Erie, St. Clair, Huron, and Michigan to form, hereafter, another State equally large compact and water bounded.

At first view, it may seem a little extraneous, when I am called upon to give an opinion upon the terms of a Peace proper to be made with the Indians, that I should go into the formation of New States; but the Settlemt. of the Western Country and making a Peace with the Indians are so analogous that there can be no definition of the one without involving considerations of the other. For I repeat it, again, and I am clear in my opinion, that policy and economy point very strongly to the expediency of being upon good terms with the Indians,Purchase of Indian land Edition: current; Page: [266] and the propriety of purchasing their Lands in preference to attempting to drive them by force of arms out of their Country; which as we have already experienced is like driving the Wild Beasts of the Forest which will return as soon as the pursuit is at an end and fall perhaps on those that are left there; when the gradual extension of our Settlements will as certainly cause the Savage as the Wolf to retire; both being beasts of prey tho’ they differ in shape. In a word there is nothing to be obtained by an Indian War but the Soil they live on and this can be had by purchase at less expence, and without that bloodshed, and those distresses which helpless Women and Children are made partakers of in all kinds of disputes with them.

If there is any thing in these thoughts (which I have fully and freely communicated) worthy attention I shall be happy and am Sir Yr. etc.

PS: A formal Address, and memorial from the Oneida Indians when I was on the Mohawk River, setting forth their Grievances and distresses and praying relief, induced me to order a pound of Powder and 3 lbs. of Lead to be issued to each Man, from the Military Magazines in the care of Colo. Willet; this, I presume, was unknown to Genl. Schuyler at the time he recommended the like measure in his Letter to Congress.

George Washington
Washington, George
November 2, 1783


The United States in Congress assembled after giving the most honorable testimony to the merits of the foederal Armies, and presenting them with the thanks of their country for their long, eminent, and faithful services, having thought proper by their proclamation bearing date the 18th. day of October last to discharge such part of the Troops as were engaged for the war, and to permit the Officers on furlough to retire from service from and after to-morrow; which proclamation having been communicated in the publick papers for the information and government of all concerned; it only remains for the Edition: current; Page: [267] Comdr in Chief to address himself once more, and that for the last time, to the Armies of the U.States (however widely dispersed the individuals who compose them may be) and to bid them an affectionate, a long farewell.

Recollection of the warBut before the Comdr in Chief takes his final leave of those he holds most dear, he wishes to indulge himself a few moments in calling to mind a slight review of the past. He will then take the liberty of exploring, with his military friends, their future prospects, of advising the general line of conduct, which in his opinion, ought to be pursued, and he will conclude the Address by expressing the obligations he feels himself under for the spirited and able assistance he has experienced from them in the performance of an arduous Office.

A contemplation of the compleat attainment (at a period earlier than could have been expected) of the object for which we contended against so formidable a power cannot but inspire us with astonishment and gratitude. The disadvantageous circumstances on our part, under which the war was undertaken, can never be forgotten. The singular interpositions of Providence in our feeble condition were such, as could scarcely escape the attention of the most unobserving; while the unparalleled perseverence of the Armies of the U States, through almost every possible suffering and discouragement for the space of eight long years, was little short of a standing miracle.

It is not the meaning nor within the compass of this address to detail the hardships peculiarly incident to our service, or to describe the distresses, which in several instances have resulted from the extremes of hunger and nakedness, combined with the rigours of an inclement season; nor is it necessary to dwell on the dark side of our past affairs. Every American Officer and Soldier must now console himself for any unpleasant circumstances which may have occurred by a recollection of the uncommon scenes in which he has been called to Act no inglorious part, and the astonishing events of which he has been a witness, events which have seldom if ever before taken place on the stage of human action, nor can they probably ever happen again. For who has before seen a disciplined Army form’d at once from such raw materials? Who, that was not a witness, could imagine that the most violent local prejudices would cease so soon, and that Men who came from the different parts of the Continent, strongly disposed, by the habits of Edition: current; Page: [268] education, to despise and quarrel with each other, would instantly become but one patriotic band of Brothers, or who, that was not on the spot, can trace the steps by which such a wonderful revolution has been effected, and such a glorious period put to all our warlike toils?

It is universally acknowledged, that the enlarged prospects of happiness, opened by the confirmation of our independence and sovereignty, almost exceeds the power of description. And shall not the brave men, who have contributed so essentially to these inestimable acquisitions, retiring victorious from the field of War to the field of agriculture, participate in all the blessings which have been obtained; in such a republic, who will exclude them from the rights of Citizens and the fruits of their labour. In such a Country, so happily circumstanced, the pursuits of Commerce and the cultivation of the soil will unfold to industry the certain road to competence. To those hardy Soldiers, who are actuated by the spirit of adventure the Fisheries will afford ample and profitable employment, and the extensive and fertile regions of the West will yield a most happy asylum to those, who, fond of domestic enjoyments are seeking for personal independence.Payment of soldiers Nor is it possible to conceive, that any one of the U States will prefer a national bankruptcy and a dissolution of the union, to a compliance with the requisitions of Congress and the payment of its just debts; so that the Officers and Soldiers may expect considerable assistance in recommencing their civil occupations from the sums due to them from the public, which must and will most inevitably be paid.

In order to effect this desirable purpose and to remove the prejudices which may have taken possession of the minds of any of the good people of the States, it is earnestly recommended to all the Troops that with strong attachments to the Union, they should carry with them into civil society the most conciliating dispositions; and that they should prove themselves not less virtuous and useful as Citizens, than they have been persevering and victorious as Soldiers. What tho, there should be some envious individuals who are unwilling to pay the debt the public has contracted, or to yield the tribute due to merit; yet, let such unworthy treatment produce no invective or any instance of intemperate conduct; let it be remembered that the unbiassed voice of the free Citizens of the United States has promised the just reward, and given the Edition: current; Page: [269] merited applause; let it be known and remembered, that the reputation of the foederal Armies is established beyond the reach of malevolence; and let a consciousness of their achievements and fame still incite the men, who composed them to honourable actions; under the persuasion that the private virtues of oeconomy, prudence, and industry, will not be less amiable in civil life, than the more splendid qualities of valour, perseverance, and enterprise were in the Field. Every one may rest assured that much, very much of the future happiness of the Officers and Men will depend upon the wise and manly conduct which shall be adopted by them when they are mingled with the great body of the community. And, altho the General has so frequently given it as his opinion, in the most public and explicit manner, that, unless the principles of the federal government were properly supported and the powers of the union increased, the honour, dignity, and justice of the nation would be lost forever. Yet he cannot help repeating, on this occasion, so interesting a sentiment, and leaving it as his last injunction to every Officer and every Soldier, who may view the subject in the same serious point of light, to add his best endeavours to those of his worthy fellow Citizens towards effecting these great and valuable purposes on which our very existence as a nation so materially depends.

Thanks to all troopsThe Commander in chief conceives little is now wanting to enable the Soldiers to change the military character into that of the Citizen, but that steady and decent tenor of behaviour which has generally distinguished, not only the Army under his immediate command, but the different detachments and seperate Armies through the course of the war. From their good sense and prudence he anticipates the happiest consequences; and while he congratulates them on the glorious occasion, which renders their services in the field no longer necessary, he wishes to express the strong obligations he feels himself under for the assistance he has received from every Class, and in every instance. He presents his thanks in the most serious and affectionate manner to the General Officers, as well for their counsel on many interesting occasions, as for their ardor in promoting the success of the plans he had adopted. To the Commandants of Regiments and Corps, and to the other Officers for their great zeal and attention, in carrying his orders promptly into execution. To the Staff, for their alacrity and exactness in performing the Duties of their Edition: current; Page: [270] several Departments. And to the Non Commissioned Officers and private Soldiers, for their extraordinary patience in suffering, as well as their invincible fortitude in Action. To the various branches of the Army the General takes this last and solemn opportunity of professing his inviolable attachment and friendship. He wishes more than bare professions were in his power, that he were really able to be useful to them all in future life. He flatters himself however, they will do him the justice to believe, that whatever could with propriety be attempted by him has been done, and being now to conclude these his last public Orders, to take his ultimate leave in a short time of the military character, and to bid a final adieu to the Armies he has so long had the honor to Command, he can only again offer in their behalf his recommendations to their grateful country, and his prayers to the God of Armies. May ample justice be done them here, and may the choicest of heaven’s favours, both here and hereafter, attend those who, under the devine auspices, have secured innumerable blessings for others; with these wishes, and this benediction, the Commander in Chief is about to retire from Service. The Curtain of seperation will soon be drawn, and the military scene to him will be closed for ever.

George Washington
Washington, George
November 27, 1783
New York



The illustrious and happy event on which you are pleased to congratulate and wellcome me to this City, demands all our gratitude; while the favorable sentiments you have thought proper to express of my conduct, intitles you to my warmest acknowledgements.

Disposed, at every suitable opportunity to acknowledge publicly our infinite obligations to the Supreme Ruler of the Universe for rescuing our Country from the brink of destruction; Edition: current; Page: [271] I cannot fail at this time to ascribe all the honor of our late successes to the same glorious Being. And if my humble exertions have been made in any degree subservient to the execution of the divine purposes, a contemplation of the benediction of Heaven on our righteous Cause, the approbation of my virtuous Countrymen, and the testimony of my own Conscience, will be a sufficient reward and augment my felicity beyond anything which the world can bestow.

The establishment of Civil and Religious Liberty was the Motive which induced me to the Field; the object is attained, and it now remains to be my earnest wish and prayer, that the Citizens of the United States would make a wise and virtuous use of the blessings, placed before them; and that the reformed german Congregation in New York; may not only be conspicuous for their religious character, but as examplary, in support of our inestimable acquisitions, as their reverend Minister has been in the attainment of them.

George Washington
Washington, George
December 9, 1783



The perfect establishment of American Independence is indeed an event of such infinite importance as to fill the mind with gratitude and Joy; and afford the fairest occasion for mutal congratulations.

The honorable sentiments you are pleased to express respecting the Merits of the Army; the just idea you entertain of their bravery, sufferings and magnanimity; and the honest desire you manifest of making an adequate compensation for their Services; are circumstances highly satisfactory to me, as well as extremely flattering to the gallant Men who are more immediately concerned. And I must take the liberty to add, that the punctuality of the Merchants and other Citizens of Philadelphia in raising their proportion of Taxes for the support of the War, and their chearfulness in affording every other assistance in their power, are marks of Patriotism which deserve the warmest acknowledgements.

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I am happy in having one more opportunity of expressing the personal obligations I feel myself under to You Gentlemen, for your favorable opinion and for the present as well as for every former instance of your polite attention.

Having long since been convinced of the expediency and even necessity of rendering compleat justice to all the public Creditors; and having at the same time been impressed with a belief that the good sense of my Countrymen would ultimately induce them to comply with the requisitions of Congress, I could not avoid being greatly pleased with the Example set by the State of Pennsylvania; nor can I conceal my satisfaction at finding your sentiments coincide so exactly with my own. Let us flatter ourselves, that the day is not remote, when a wise and just system of policy will be adopted by every State in the Union; then will national faith be inviolably preserved, public credit durably established, the blessings of Commerce extensively diffused, and the reputation of our new-formed Empire supported with as much Eclat as has been acquired in laying the foundation of it.

George Washington
Washington, George
December 23, 1783


Mr. President:

The great events on which my resignation depended having at length taken place; I have now the honor of offering my sincere Congratulations to Congress and of presenting myself before them to surrender into their hands the trust committed to me, and to claim the indulgence of retiring from the Service of my Country.

Happy in the confirmation of our Independence and Sovereignty, and pleased with the oppertunity afforded the United States of becoming a respectable Nation, I resign with satisfaction the Appointment I accepted with diffidence. A diffidence in my abilities to accomplish so arduous a task, which however was superseded by a confidence in the rectitude of our Cause, the support of the Supreme Power of the Union, and the patronage of Heaven.

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The Successful termination of the War has verified the most sanguine expectations, and my gratitude for the interposition of Providence, and the assistance I have received from my Countrymen, encreases with every review of the momentous Contest.

While I repeat my obligations to the Army in general, I should do injustice to my own feelings not to acknowledge in this place the peculiar Services and distinguished merits of the Gentlemen who have been attached to my person during the War. It was impossible the choice of confidential Officers to compose my family should have been more fortunate. Permit me Sir, to recommend in particular those, who have continued in Service to the present moment, as worthy of the favorable notice and patronage of Congress.

I consider it an indispensable duty to close this last solemn act of my Official life, by commending the Interests of our dearest Country to the protection of Almighty God, and those who have the superintendence of them, to his holy keeping.

Having now finished the work assigned me, I retire from the great theatre of Action; and bidding an Affectionate farewell to this August body under whose orders I have so long acted, I here offer my Commission, and take my leave of all the employments of public life.

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The Citizen Stirs


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WASHINGTON returned to Mount Vernon, which was in considerable disrepair, to resume the domestic arts he had so long pined for. Martha Washington had visited him in the army’s camp when occasion permitted and shared with him and his men their many privations. Her ministrations to the soldiers were a source of comfort to them and George Washington. He had returned home but once during the long war, taking a brief stop there during the Yorktown campaign. He could already see at that time the labors which lay before him to bring Mount Vernon back to its former glory. He also saw what could not be restored: Martha’s son Jack Custis had died just after the victory at Yorktown. Both her children were now gone, and she and Washington had none of their own.

Though Washington plunged back into the managing of his estates, he found himself under no less weight of correspondence than formerly. He assured one friendly inquirer, “I have not leisure to turn my thoughts to commentaries.” Public concerns still pressed in on him; everyone, it seemed, sought his opinion, and he disappointed none. He resumed his prewar efforts to produce a waterway connecting the transappalachian region and the Potomac, as much for reasons of state—“to cement the union”—as for reasons of commerce. Continuing to press for a strengthening of the Union, between the end of 1783 and 1786 Washington drew a coterie of reform-minded men around him whose efforts at length gave hope of a general reform of the Confederation.

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George Washington
Washington, George
January 5, 1784
Mount Vernon
Jonathan Trumbull, Jr.
Trumbullm, Jonathan, Jr.


Dear Trumbull:

Your obliging Letter of the 15th. of November did not reach me until some days after we had taken possession of the city of New York. The scene that followed, of festivity, congratulation, addresses and resignation, must be my apology for not replying to it sooner.

Governor Trumbull’s addressI sincerely thank you for the copy of the address of Govr. Trumbull to the Genl. Assembly and free Men of your State; the sentiments contained in it are such as would do honor to a patriot of any age or Nation; at least, they are too coincident with my own, not to meet with my warmest approbation. Be so good as to present my most cordial respects to the Governor and let him know that it is my wish, the mutual friendship and esteem which have been planted and fostered in the tumult of public life, may not wither and die in the serenity of retirement: tell him we shou’d rather amuse our evening hours of Life in cultivating the tender plants, and bringing them to perfection, before they are transplanted to a happier clime.

Local jealousiesNotwithstanding the jealous and contracted temper which seems to prevail in some of the States, yet I cannot but hope and believe that the good sense of the people will ultimately get the better of their prejudices; and that order and sound policy, tho’ they do not come so soon as one wou’d wish, will be produced from the present unsettled and deranged state of Edition: current; Page: [278] public affairs. Indeed I am happy to observe that the political disposition is actually meliorating every day; several of the States have manifested an inclination to invest Congress with more ample powers; most of the Legislatures appear disposed to do perfect justice; and the Assembly of this Commonwealth have just complied with the requisitions of Congress, and I am informed without a dissentient voice. Every thing My Dear Trumbull will come right at last, as we have often prophesied; my only fear is that we shall lose a little reputation first.

After having passed with as much prosperity as could be expected, through the career of public Life, I have now reached the goal of domestic enjoyment; in which state, I assure you I find your good wishes most acceptable to me. The family at Mount Vernon joins in the same compliments and cordiality, with which I am, &c.

George Washington
Washington, George
January 18, 1784
Mount Vernon
Benjamin Harrison
Harrison, Benjamin


My dear Sir:

Return to private lifeI have just had the pleasure to receive your letter of the 8th., for the friendly and affectionate terms in which you have welcomed my return to this Country and to private life; and for the favourable light in which you are pleased to consider, and express your sense of my past services, you have my warmest and most grateful acknowledgments.

American prospectsThat the prospect before us is, as you justly observe, fair, none can deny; but what use we shall make of it, is exceedingly problematical; not but that I believe, all things will come right at last; but like a young heir, come a little prematurely to a large inheritance, we shall wanton and run riot until we have brought our reputation to the brink of ruin, and then like him shall have to labor with the current of opinion, when compelled perhaps, to do what prudence and common policy pointed out as plain as any problem in Euclid, in the first instance.

State jealousies of Congress and of one anotherThe disinclination of the individual States to yield competent powers to Congress for the Federal Government, their unreasonable jealousy of that body and of one another, and the disposition which seems to pervade each, of being all-wise and all-powerful within itself, will, if there is not a change in Edition: current; Page: [279] the system be our downfal as a nation. This is as clear to me as the A, B, C; and I think we have opposed Great Britain, and have arrived at the present state of peace and independency, to very little purpose, if we cannot conquer our own prejudices. The powers of Europe begin to see this, and our newly acquired friends the British, are already and professedly acting upon this ground; and wisely too, if we are determined to persevere in our folly. They know that individual opposition to their measures is futile, and boast that we are not sufficiently united as a Nation to give a general one! Is not the indignity alone, of this declaration, while we are in the very act of peacemaking and conciliation, sufficient to stimulate us to vest more extensive and adequate powers in the sovereign of these United States? For my own part, altho’ I am returned to, and am now mingled with the class of private citizens, and like them must suffer all the evils of a Tyranny, or of too great an extension of federal powers; I have no fears arising from this source, in my mind, but I have many, and powerful ones indeed which predict the worst consequences from a half-starved, limping Government, that appears to be always moving upon crutches, and tottering at every step. Men, chosen as the Delegates in Congress are, cannot officially be dangerous; they depend upon the breath, nay, they are so much the creatures of the people, under the present constitution, that they can have no views (which could possibly be carried into execution,) nor any interests, distinct from those of their constituents.Political creed My political creed therefore is, to be wise in the choice of Delegates, support them like Gentlemen while they are our representatives, give them competent powers for all federal purposes, support them in the due exercise thereof, and lastly, to compel them to close attendance in Congress during their delegation. These things under the present mode for, and termination of elections, aided by annual instead of constant Sessions, would, or I am exceedingly mistaken, make us one of the most wealthy, happy, respectable and powerful Nations, that ever inhabited the terrestrial Globe, without them, we shall in my opinion soon be every thing which is the direct reverse of them.

I shall look for you, in the first part of next month, with such other friends as may incline to accompany you, with great pleasure, being with best respects to Mrs. Harrison, in which Mrs. Washington joins me, dear Sir, &c.

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George Washington
Washington, George
February 1, 1784
Mount Vernon
Marquis de Lafayette
Lafayette, Marquis de


At length my Dear Marquis I am become a private citizen on the banks of the Potomac, and under the shadow of my own Vine and my own Fig-tree, free from the bustle of a camp and the busy scenes of public life, I am solacing myself with those tranquil enjoyments, of which the Soldier who is ever in pursuit of fame,Tranquil enjoyments of private life the Statesman whose watchful days and sleepless nights are spent in devising schemes to promote the welfare of his own, perhaps the ruin of other countries, as if this globe was insufficient for us all, and the Courtier who is always watching the countenance of his Prince, in hopes of catching a gracious smile, can have very little conception. I am not only retired from all public employments, but I am retiring within myself; and shall be able to view the solitary walk, and tread the paths of private life with heartfelt satisfaction. Envious of none, I am determined to be pleased with all; and this my dear friend, being the order for my march, I will move gently down the stream of life, until I sleep with my Fathers.

Except an introductory letter or two, and one countermanding my request respecting plate, I have not written to you since the middle of October by Genl. Duportail.British evacuation of New York To inform you at this late hour, that the city of New York was evacuated by the British forces on the 25th. of November; that the American Troops took possession of it the same day, and delivered it over to the civil authority of the State; that good order, contrary to the expectation and predictions of Gl. Carleton, his Officers and all the loyalists, was immediately established; and that the harbour of New York was finally cleared of the British flag about the 5th. or 6th. of Decemr., would be an insult to your intelligence. And to tell you that I remained eight days in New York after we took possession of the city; that I was very much hurried during that time, which was the reason I did not write to you from thence; that taking Phila. in my way, I was obliged to remain there a week; that at Annapolis, where Congress were then, and are now sitting, I did, on the 23d. of December present them my commission, and made them my last bow, and on the Eve of Christmas entered these doors an Edition: current; Page: [281] older man by near nine years, than when I left them, is very uninteresting to any but myself. Since that period, we have been fast locked up in frost and snow, and excluded in a manner from all kinds of intercourse, the winter having been, and still continues to be, extremely severe.

I have now to acknowledge, and thank you for your favors of the 22d of July and 8th of September, both of which, altho’ the first is of old date, have come to hand since my letter to you of October. The accounts contained therein of the political and commercial state of affairs as they respect America, are interesting, and I wish I could add that they were altogether satisfactory; and the agency you have had in both, particularly with regard to the free ports in France, is a fresh evidence of your unwearied endeavours to serve this country; but there is no part of your Letters to Congress My Dear Marquis, which bespeaks the excellence of your heart more plainly than that, which contains those noble and generous sentiments on the justice which is due to the faithful friends and Servants of the public; but I must do Congress the justice to declare, that as a body, I believe there is every disposition in them, not only to acknowledge the merits, but to reward the services of the army: There is a contractedness, I am sorry to add, in some of the States, from whence all our difficulties on this head, proceed; but it is to be hoped, the good sense and perseverance of the rest, will ultimately prevail, as the spirit of meanness is beginning to subside.

From a letter which I have just received from the Governor of this State I expect him here in a few days, when I shall not be unmindful of what you have written about the bust, and will endeavour to have matters respecting it, placed on their proper basis. I thank you most sincerely My Dear Marqs. for your kind invitation to your house, if I should come to Paris. At present I see but little prospect of such a voyage,Little prospect of trip to France the deranged situation of my private concerns, occasioned by an absence of almost nine years, and an entire disregard of all private business during that period, will not only suspend, but may put it for ever out of my power to gratify this wish. This not being the case with you, come with Madame la Fayette and view me in my domestic walks. I have often told you, and repeat it again, that no man could receive you in them with more friendship and affection than I should do; in which I am sure Mrs. Washington would cordially join me. We unite in Edition: current; Page: [282] respectful compliments to your Lady, and best wishes for your little flock. With every sentiment of esteem, Admiration and Love, I am etc.

George Washington
Washington, George
March 25, 1784
Mount Vernon
Dr. James Craik
Craik, Dr. James


Dear Sir:

In answer to Mr. Bowie’s request to you, permit me to assure that Gentleman, that I shall at all times be glad to see him at this retreat. That whenever he is here, I will give him the perusal of any public papersUse of public papers antecedent to my appointment to the command of the American army, that he may be laying up materials for his work. And whenever Congress shall have opened their Archives to any Historian for information, that he shall have the examination of all others in my possession which are subsequent thereto; but that ‘till this epoch, I do not think myself at liberty to unfold papers which contain all the occurrences and transactions of my late command; first, because I conceive it to be respectful to the sovereign power to let them take the lead in this business; and next, because I have, upon this principle, refused Doctr. Gordon and others who are about to write the History of the revolution, this priviledge.

Publication of biographiesI will frankly declare to you, My Dr. Doctor that any memoirs of my life, distinct and unconnected with the general history of the war, would rather hurt my feelings than tickle my pride whilst I lived. I had rather glide gently down the stream of life, leaving it to posterity to think and say what they please of me, than by any act of mine to have vanity or ostentation imputed to me. And I will further more confess that I was rather surprised into a consent, when Doctor. Witherspoon (very unexpectedly) made the application, than considered the tendency of that consent. It did not occur to me at that moment, from the manner in which the question was propounded, that no history of my life, without a very great deal of trouble indeed, could be written with the least degree of accuracy, unless recourse was had to me, or to my papers for information; that it would not derive sufficient authenticity without a promulgation of this fact; and that such a promulgation Edition: current; Page: [283] would subject me to the imputation I have just mentioned, which would hurt me the more, as I do not think vanity is a trait of my character.

It is for this reason, and candour obliges me to be explicit, that I shall stipulate against the publication of the memoirs Mr. Bowie has in contemplation to give the world, ‘till I shou’d see more probability of avoiding the darts which I think would be pointed at me on such an occasion; and how far, under these circumstances, it wou’d be worth Mr. Bowie’s while to spend time which might be more usefully employed in other matters, is with him to consider; as the practicability of doing it efficiently, without having free access to the documents of this War, which must fill the most important pages of the Memoir, and which for the reasons already assigned cannot be admitted at present, also is. If nothing happens more than I at present foresee, I shall be in Philadelphia on or before the first of May; where ‘tis probable I may see Mr. Bowie and converse further with him on this subject; in the mean while I will thank you for communicating these Sentiments. I am, etc.

George Washington
Washington, George
March 29, 1784
Mount Vernon
Thomas Jefferson
Jefferson, Thomas


Dear Sir:

It was not in my power to answer your favor of the 15th. by the last post, for the reason then assigned. I wish I may be able to do it to your satisfaction now, as I again am obliged to pay my attention to other Company, (the Govr. being gone).

On need for connection between Potomac and Ohio riversMy opinion coincides perfectly with yours respecting the practicability of an easy, and short communication between the Waters of the Ohio and Potomac. Of the advantages of that communication, and the preference it has over all others. And of the policy there would be in this State, and Maryland to adopt and render it facile; but I confess to you freely, I have no expectation that the public will adopt the measure; for besides the jealousies wch. prevail, and the difficulty of proportioning such funds as may be allotted for the purposes you have mentioned, there are two others, which, in my opinion, will be yet harder to surmount; these are (if I have not imbibed Edition: current; Page: [284] too unfavourable an opinion of my Countrymen) the impracticability of bringing the great, and truly wise policy of the measure to their view; and the difficulty of drawing money from them, for such a purpose if you could do it. for it appears to me, maugre all the sufferings of the public creditors, breach of public faith, and loss of public reputation, that payment of the taxes which are already laid, will be postponed as long as possible! how then are we to expect new ones, for purposes more remote?

I am not so disinterested in this matter as you are; but I am made very happy to find that a man of discernment and liberality (who has no particular interest in the plan) thinks as I do, who have Lands in that Country the value of which would be enhanced, by the adoption of such a Scheme.

Previous history of Potomac navigationMore than ten years ago I was struck with the importance of it, and despairing of any aid from the public, I became a principal Mover of a Bill to empower a number of Subscribers to undertake, at their own expence, (upon conditions which were expressed) the extension of the Navigation from tide Water to Wills’s Creek (about 150 Miles) and I devoutly wish that this may not be the only expedient by which it can be effected now. To get this business in motion, I was obliged, even upon that ground, to comprehend James River, in order to remove the jealousies which arose from the attempt to extend the Navigation of the Potomack. The plan however, was in a tolerable train when I set out for Cambridge in 1775, and would have been in an excellent way had it not been for the difficulties which were met with in the Maryland Assembly; from the opposition which was given (according to report) by the Baltimore Merchants; who were alarmed, and perhaps not without cause, at the consequence of Water transportation to George Town of the produce which usually came to their Market.

Local jealousies and war defeat projectThe local interest of that place (Baltimore) joined with the short sighted politics, or contracted views of another part of that Assembly, gave Mr. Thomas Johnson who was a warm promoter of the Scheme on the No. side of the River, a great deal of trouble. In this situation things were when I took command of the Army; the War afterwards called Mens attention to different objects, and all the Money they could or would raise, were applied to other purposes; but with you, I am satisfied that not a moment ought to be lost in recommencing this business;New York for I know the Yorkers will delay no time to remove Edition: current; Page: [285] every obstacle in the way of the other communication, so soon as the Posts at Oswego and Niagara are surrendered; and I shall be mistaken if they do not build Vessels for the Navigation of the Lakes, which will supercede the necessity of coasting on either side.

Virginia and MarylandIt appears to me that the Interest and policy of Maryland is proportionably concerned with that of Virginia to remove obstructions, and to invite the trade of the Western territory into the channel you have mentioned. You will have frequent oppertunities of learning the Sentiments of the principal characters of that State, respecting this matter, and if you should see Mr. Johnson (formerly Govr. of the State) great information may be derived from him. How far, upon more mature consideration I may depart from the resolution I had formed of living perfectly at my ease, exempt from all kinds of responsibility, is more than I can, at present, absolutely determine. The Sums granted, the manner of granting them, the powers and objects, would merit consideration. The trouble, if my situation at the time would permit me to engage in a work of this sort would be set at naught; and the immense advantages which this Country would derive from the measure, would be no small stimulus to the undertaking; if that undertaking could be made to comport with those ideas, and that line of conduct with which I meant to glide gently down the stream of life; and it did not interfere with any other plan I might have in contemplation.

The extension of VirginiaI am not less in sentiment with you respecting the impolicy of this State’s grasping at more territory than they are competent to the Government of. And for the reasons you assign, I very much approve of a Meridian from the Mouth of the Great Kanhawa as a convenient and very proper line of seperation. But I am mistaken if our chief Magistrate will coincide with us in this opinion.

CommerceI will not enter upon the subject of Commerce, it has its advantages and disadvantages, but which of them preponderates is not the question. From Trade our Ctizens will not be restrained, and therefore it behoves us to place it in the most convenient channels, under proper regulation, freed as much as possible, from those vices which luxury, the consequence of wealth and power, naturally introduce.

CongressThe incertitude which prevails in Congress, and the non-attendance of its Members, is discouraging to those who are Edition: current; Page: [286] willing, and ready to discharge the trust which is reposed in them; whilst it is disgraceful, in a high degree to our Country. but I believe the case will never be otherwise, so long as that body persist in their present mode of doing business; and will hold constant, instead of annual Sessions; against the former of which, my mind furnishes me with a variety of Arguments, but not one, in times of peace, in favor of the latter.

Annual Sessions would always produce a full representation, and alertness at business. The Delegates, after a recess of 8 or 10 Months would meet each other with glad Countenances; they would be complaisant; they would yield to each other as much as the duty they owed their constituents would permit; and they would have oppertunities of becoming better acquainted with the Sentiments of them and removing their prejudices, during the recess. Men who are always together get tired of each others Company; they throw off the proper restraint; they say and do things which are personally disgusting; this begets opposition; opposition begets faction; and so it goes on till business is impeded, often at a stand. I am sure (having the business prepared by proper Boards or a Committee) an Annual Session of two Months would dispatch more business than is now done in twelve; and this by a full representation of the Union.

Long as this letter is, I intended to be more full on some of the points, and to have touched upon some others; but it is not in my power, as I am obliged to snatch the moments which give you this hasty production from Co. With very great esteem &c.

Quoery, have you not made the distance from Cuyahoga to New York too great?

George Washington
Washington, George
June 12, 1784
Mount Vernon
James Madison
Madison, James


Dear Sir:

Thomas PaineCan nothing be done in our Assembly for poor Paine? Must the merits, and Services of Common Sense continue to glide down the stream of time, unrewarded by this Country? His writings certainly have had a powerful effect on the public Edition: current; Page: [287] mind; ought they not then to meet an adequate return? He is poor! he is chagreened! and almost, if not altogether, in despair of relief. New York it is true, not the least distressed, nor best able State in the Union, has done something for him. This kind of provision he prefers to an allowance from Congress; he has reasons for it, which to him are conclusive, and such I think as would have weight with others. His views are moderate; a decent independency is, I believe, all he aims at. Should he not obtain this? If you think so, I am sure you will not only move the matter, but give it your support. For me, it only remains to feel for his Situation, and to assure you of the sincere esteem and regard with which I have the honor &c.

George Washington
Washington, George
October 10, 1784
Mount Vernon
Benjamin Harrison
Harrison, Benjamin


Dear Sir:

Upon my return from the western Country a few days ago, I had the pleasure to receive your favor of the 17th. ulto. It has always been my intention to pay my respects to you before the chance of another early and hard winter should make a warm fireside too comfortable to be relinquished. And I shall feel an additional pleasure in offering this tribute of friendship and respect to you, by having the company of the Marqs. de la Fayette, when he shall have revisited this place from his Eastern tour; now every day to be expected.

I shall take the liberty now, my dear sir, to suggest a matter, which would (if I am not too shortsighted a politician) mark your administration as an important era in the Annals of this Country, if it should be recommended by you, and adopted by the Assembly.

Need for an inland waterwayIt has been long my decided opinion that the shortest, easiest, and least expensive communication with the invaluable and extensive Country back of us, would be by one, or both of the rivers of this State which have their sources in the Apalachian mountains. Nor am I singular in this opinion. Evans, in his Map and Analysis of the middle Colonies which (considering the early period at which they were given to the public) are done with amazing exactness. And Hutchins since, Edition: current; Page: [288] in his topographical description of the Western Country, (a good part of which is from actual surveys), are decidedly of the same sentiments; as indeed are all others who have had opportunities, and have been at the pains to investigate and consider the subject.

But that this may not now stand as mere matter of opinion or assertion, unsupported by facts (such at least as the best maps now extant, compared with the oral testimony, which my opportunities in the course of the war have enabled me to obtain); I shall give you the different routs and distances from Detroit, by which all the trade of the North Western parts of the United territory, must pass; unless the Spaniards, contrary to their present policy, should engage part of it; or the British should attempt to force nature by carrying the trade of the upper Lakes by the river Outawaies into Canada, which I scarcely think they will or could effect. Taking Detroit then (which is putting ourselves in as unfavourable a point of view as we can be well placed, because it is upon the line of the British territory) as a point by which, as I have already observed, all that part of the trade must come, it appears from the statement enclosed, that the tide waters of this State are nearer to it by 168 miles than that of the river St. Lawrence; or than that of the Hudson at Albany by 176 miles.

Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York prospectsMaryland stands upon similar ground with Virginia. Pennsylvania altho’ the Susquehanna is an unfriendly water, much impeded it is said with rocks and rapids, and nowhere communicating with those which lead to her capital; has it in contemplation to open a communication between Toby’s Creek (which empties into the Alleghany river, 95 miles above Fort Pitt) and the west branch of Susquehanna; and to cut a canal between the waters of the latter, and the Schuylkill; the expence of which is easier to be conceived than estimated or described by me. A people however, who are possessed of the spirit of commerce, who see, and who will pursue their advantages, may achieve almost anything. In the mean time, under the uncertainty of these undertakings, they are smoothing the roads and paving the ways for the trade of that western World. That New York will do the same so soon as the British Garrisons are removed, which are at present, insurmountable obstacles in their way, no person who knows the temper, genius, and policy of those people as well as I do, can harbour the smallest doubt.

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Objections in VirginiaThus much with respect to rival States; let me now take a short view of our own; and being aware of the objections which are in the way, I will enumerate, in order to contrast them with the advantages.

The first and principal one is, the unfortunate Jealousy, which ever has and it is to be feared ever will prevail, lest one part of the State should obtain an advantage over the other part (as if the benefits of trade were not diffusive and beneficial to all); then follow a train of difficulties viz: that our people are already heavily taxed; that we have no money; that the advantages of this trade are remote that the most direct rout for it is thro’ other States, over whom we have no controul; that the routs over which we have controul, are as distant as either of those which lead to Philadelphia, Albany or Montreal; That a sufficient spirit of commerce does not pervade the citizens of this commonwealth; that we are in fact doing for others, what they ought to do for themselves.

Objections counteredWithout going into the investigation of a question, which has employed the pens of able politicians, namely, whether trade with Foreigners is an advantage or disadvantage to a country. This State as a part of the confederated States (all of whom have the spirit of it very strongly working within them) must adopt it, or submit to the evils arising therefrom without receiving its benefits; common policy therefore points clearly and strongly, to the propriety of our enjoying all the advantages which nature and our local situation afford us; and evinces clearly that unless this spirit could be totally eradicated in other States, as well as in this, and every man made to become either a cultivator of the Land, or a manufacturer of such articles as are prompted by necessity, such stimulas should be employed as will force this spirit; by shewing to our Countrymen the superior advantages we possess beyond others; and the importance of being upon a footing with our Neighbours.

If this is fair reasoning, it ought to follow as a consequence, that we should do our part towards opening the communication with the fur and peltry trade of the Lakes; and for the produce of the Country which lies within; and which will, so soon as matters are settled with the Indians, and the terms on which Congress means to dispose of the Land, and found to be favourable, are announced, settle faster than any other ever did, or any one would imagine. This then when considered in Edition: current; Page: [290] an interested point of view, is alone sufficient to excite our endeavours; but in my opinion, there is a political consideration for so doing, which is of still greater importance.

Political considerationsI need not remark to you Sir, that the flanks and rear of the United States are possessed by other powers, and formidable ones too; nor how necessary it is to apply the cement of interest, to bind all parts of the Union together by indissoluble bonds, especially that part of it, which lies immediately west of us, with the middle States. For, what ties, let me ask, shou’d we have upon those people? How entirely unconnected with them shall we be, and what troubles may we not apprehend, if the Spaniards on their right, and Gt. Britain on their left, instead of throwing stumbling blocks in their way as they now do, should hold out lures for their trade and alliance. What, when they get strength, which will be sooner than most people conceive (from the emigration of foreigners who will have no particular predilection towards us, as well as from the removal of our own citizens) will be the consequence of their having formed close connexions with both, or either of those powers in a commercial way? It needs not, in my opinion, the gift of prophecy to foretell.

Western settlers discussedThe Western settlers, (I speak now from my own observation) stand as it were upon a pivot; the touch of a feather, would turn them any way. They have look’d down the Mississippi, until the Spaniards (very impoliticly I think, for themselves) threw difficulties in their way; and they looked that way for no other reason, than because they could glide gently down the stream; without considering perhaps, the fatigues of the voyage back again, and the time necessary to perform it in; and because they have no other means of coming to us but by a long Land transportation and unimproved roads. These causes have hitherto checked the industry of the present settlers; for except the demand for provisions, occasioned by the increase of population, and a little flour which the necessities of Spaniards compel them to buy, they have no incitements to labour. But smooth the road once, and make easy the way for them, and then see what an influx of articles will be poured upon us; how amazingly our exports will be encreased by them, and how amply we shall be compensated for any trouble and expence we may encounter to effect it.

Virginia’s advantagesA combination of circumstances makes the present conjuncture more favourable for Virginia, than for any other State in Edition: current; Page: [291] the Union, to fix these matters. The jealous and untoward disposition of the Spaniards on one hand, and the private views of some individuals, coinciding with the general policy of the Court of Great Britain, on the other, to retain as long as possible the Posts of Detroit, Niagara, and Oswega &c. (which, tho’ done under the letter of the Treaty, is certainly an infraction of the spirit of it, and injurious to the Union) may be improved to the greatest advantage by this State; if she would open the avenues to the trade of that Country, and embrace the present moment to establish it. It only wants a beginning; the Western Inhabitants wou’d do their part towards its execution. Weak as they are, they would meet us at least half way, rather than be driven into the arms of, or be made dependant upon foreigners; which would, eventually, either bring on a separation of them from us, or a war between the United States and one or the other of those powers, most probably with the Spaniards.

The preliminary steps to the attainment of this great object, would be attended with very little expence, and might, at the same time that it served to attract the attention of the Western Country, and to convince the wavering Inhabitants thereof of our disposition to connect ourselves with them, and to facilitate their commerce with us, would be a mean of removing those jealousies which otherwise might take place among ourselves.

Appointment of commissionersThese, in my opinion are; to appoint Commissioners, who from their situation, integrity and abilities, can be under no suspicion of prejudice or predilection to one part more than to another. Let these Commissioners make an actual survey of James river and Potomack from tide-water to their respective sources. Note with great accuracy the kind of navigation, and the obstructions in it; the difficulty and expence attending the removal of these obstructions; the distances from place to place thro’ the whole extent; and the nearest and best Portages between these waters and the Streams capable of improvement which run into the Ohio; traverse these in like manner to their junction with the Ohio, and with equal accuracy. The navigation of this river (i.e., the Ohio) being well known, they will have less to do in the examination of it; but nevertheless, let the courses and distances of it be taken to the mouth of the Muskingum, and up that river (notwithstanding it is in the ceded lands) to the carrying place with Edition: current; Page: [292] Cayahoga; down the Cayahoga to Lake Erie, and thence to Detroit. Let them do the same with big Bever creek, although part of it is in the State of Pennsylvania; and with the Scioto also. In a word, let the Waters East and West of the Ohio, which invite our notice by their proximity, and the ease with which Land transportation may be had between them and the Lakes on one side, and the rivers Potomac and James on the other, be explored, accurately delineated, and a correct and connected Map of the whole be presented to the public. These things being done, I shall be mistaken if prejudice does not yield to facts; jealousy to candour, and finally, that reason and nature thus aided, will dictate what is right and proper to be done.

In the meanwhile, if it should be thought that the lapse of time which is necessary to effect this work, may be attended with injurious consequences, could not there be a sum of money granted towards opening the best, or if it should be deemed more eligible, two of the nearest communications, one to the Northward and another to the Southward, with the settlements to the westward?A public or private venture And an act be passed (if there should not appear a manifest disposition in the Assembly to make it a public undertaking) to incorporate, and encourage private Adventurers if any should associate and sollicit the same, for the purpose of extending the navigation of Potomac or James river? And, in the former case, to request the concurrence of Maryland in the measure.Geographic consideration It will appear from my statement of the different routs (and as far as my means of information have extended, I have done it with the utmost candour), that all the produce of the settlements about Fort Pitt can be brought to Alexandria by the Yohoghaney in 304 Miles; whereof only 31 is land transportation: And by the Monongahela and Cheat river in 300 miles; 20 only of which are land carriage. Whereas the common road from Fort Pitt to Philadelphia is 320 miles, all Land transportation; or 476 miles, if the Ohio, Toby’s Creek, Susquehanna and Schuylkill are made use of for this purpose: how much of this is by land, I know not; but from the nature of the Country it must be very considerable. How much the interests and feelings of people thus circumstanced would be engaged to promote it, requires no illustration.

For my own part, I think it highly probable, that upon the strictest scrutiny (if the Falls of the Great Kanhawa can be made navigable, or a short portage be had there), it will be Edition: current; Page: [293] found of equal importance and convenience to improve the navigation of both the James and Potomac. The latter I am fully persuaded, affords the nearest communication with the Lakes; but James river may be more convenient for all the settlers below the mouth of the Gt. Kanhawa, and for some distance perhaps above, and west of it: for I have no expectation that any part of the trade above the falls of the Ohio will go down that river and the Mississippi, much less that the returns will ever come up them; unless our want of foresight and good management is the occasion of it. Or upon trial, if it should be found that these rivers, from the beforementioned Falls, will admit the descent of Sea vessels; in which case, and the navigation of the former’s becoming free, it is probable that both vessels and the cargoes will be carried to foreign markets and sold; but the returns for them will never in the natural course of things, ascend the long and rapid current of that river; which with the Ohio to the Falls, in their meanderings, is little if any short of 2000 miles. Upon the whole, the object, in my estimation is of vast commercial and political importance: in these lights I think posterity will consider it, and regret (if our conduct should give them cause) that the present favourable moment to secure so great a blessing for them, was neglected.

Position of PennsylvaniaOne thing more remains, which I had like to have forgot, and that is the supposed difficulty of obtaining a passage thro’ the State of Pennsylvania. How an application to its Legislature would be relished, in the first instance, I will not undertake to decide; but of one thing I am almost certain, such an application would place that body in a very delicate situation. There is in the State of Pennsylvania at least 100,000 souls west of the Laurel hill, who are groaning under the inconveniences of a long land transportation; they are wishing, indeed they are looking for the improvement and extension of inland navigation; and if this cannot be made easy for them, to Philada (at any rate it must be lengthy), they will seek a mart elsewhere; the consequence of which would be, that the State, tho’ contrary to the policy and interests of its Sea-ports, must submit to the loss of so much of its trade, or hazard not only the trade but the loss of the Settlement also; for an opposition on the part of Government to the extension of water transportation, so consonant with the essential interests of a large body of people, or any extraordinary impositions upon the exports or imports to, or from another State, would ultimately bring on a Edition: current; Page: [294] separation between its Eastern and Western Settlements; towards which, there is not wanting a disposition at this moment in that part of it, which is beyond the mountains. I consider Rumsey’s discovery for working Boats against stream, by mechanical powers (principally) as not only a very fortunate invention for these States in general, but as one of those circumstances which have combined to render the present epocha favourable above all others for fixing, if we are disposed to avail ourselves of them, a large portion of the trade of the Western Country in the bosom of this State irrevocably.

Lengthy as this letter is, I intended to have written a fuller and more digested one, upon this important subject, but have met with so many interruptions since my return home, as almost to have precluded my writing at all. What I now give is crude; but if you are in sentiment with me, I have said enough; if there is not an accordance of opinion I have said too much and all I pray in the latter case is, that you will do me the justice to believe my motives are pure, however erroneous my judgment may be on this matter, and that I am with the most perfect esteem etc.

George Washington
Washington, George
October 15, 1784
Mount Vernon
Thomas Johnson
Johnson, Thomas


Dear Sir:

On a supposition that you are now at Annapolis, the petition of the Potomack Company is enclosed to your care. A duplicate has been forwarded to the Assembly of this state; the fate of which I have not yet heard, but entertain no doubt of its favorable reception, as there are many auspicious proofs of liberality and justice already exhibited in the proceedings of the present session. I hope the same spirit will mark the proceedings of yours. The want of energy in the Federal government, the pulling of one State and party of States against another and the commotion amongst the Eastern people have sunk our national character much below par; and has brought our politics and credit to the brink of a precipice; a step or two Edition: current; Page: [295] farther must plunge us into a Sea of Troubles, perhaps anarchy and confusion. I trust that a proper sense of justice and unanimity in those States which have not drunk so deep of the cup of folly may yet retrieve our affairs. But no time is to be lost in essaying them. I have written to no gentlemen in your Assembly respecting the Potomack business but yourself. The justice of the cause and your management of it will insure success. With great regard and respect I am etc.

George Washington
Washington, George
January 22, 1785
Mount Vernon
Benjamin Harrison
Harrison, Benjamin


My dear Sir:

It is not easy for me to decide by which my mind was most affected upon the receipt of your letter of the 6th. inst., surprise or gratitude: both were greater than I have words to express. The attention and good wishes which the Assembly have evidenced by their act for vesting in me 150Gift of shares in navigation company shares in the navigation of each of the rivers Potomac and James, are more than mere compliment; there is an unequivocal and substantial meaning annexed. But believe me sir, notwithstanding these, no circumstance has happened to me since I left the walks of public life, which has so much embarrassed me. On the one hand, I consider this act, as I have already observed, as a noble and unequivocal proof of the good opinion, the affection, and disposition of my Country to serve me; and I should be hurt, if by declining the acceptance of it, my refusal should be construed into disrespect, or the smallest slight upon the generous intention of the country: or, that an ostentatious display of disinterestedness or public virtue, was the source of the refusal. On the other hand, it is really my wish to have my mind, and my actions which are the result of contemplation, as free and independent as the air, that I may be more at liberty (in things which my opportunities and experience have brought me to the knowledge of) to express my sentiments, and if necessary, to suggest what may occur to me, under the fullest conviction, that altho’ my judgment may be arraigned, there will be no suspicion that sinister motives had the smallest Edition: current; Page: [296] influence in the suggestion. Not content then with the bare consciousness of my having, in all this navigation business, acted upon the clearest conviction of the political importance of the measure; I would wish that every individual who may hear that it was a favorite plan of mine, may know also that I had no other motive for promoting it, than the advantage I conceived it would be productive of to the Union, and to this State in particular, by cementing the Eastern and Western Territory together, at the same time that it will give vigor and encrease to our commerce, and be a convenience to our Citizens.

How would this matter be viewed then by the eye of the world; and what would be the opinion of it, when it comes to be related that G W— exerted himself to effect this work, and G. W— has received 20,000 Dollars, and £5,000 Sterling of the public money as an interest therein? Would not this in the estimation of it (if I am entitled to any merit for the part I have acted; and without it there is no foundation for the act) deprive me of the principal thing which is laudable in my conduct? Would it not, in some respects, be considered in the same light as a pension? And would not the apprehension of this make me more reluctantly offer my sentiments in future? In a word, under what ever pretence, and however customary these gratuitous gifts are made in other Countries, should I not thence forward be considered as a dependant? One moments thought of which would give me more pain, than I should receive pleasure from the product of all the tolls, was every farthing of them vested in me: altho’ I consider it as one of the most certain and increasing Estates in the Country.

I have written to you with an openness becoming our friendship. I could have said more on the subject; but I have already said enough to let you into the State of my mind. I wish to know whether the ideas I entertain occurred to, and were expressed by any member in or out of the House. Upon the whole, you may be assured my Dr. Sir, that my mind is not a little agitated. I want the best information and advice to settle it. I have no inclination (as I have already observed) to avail myself of the generosity of the Country: nor do I want to appear ostentatiously disinterested (for more than probable my refusal would be ascribed to this motive) or that the Country should harbour an idea that I am disposed to set little value on her favours, the manner of granting which is as flattering, Edition: current; Page: [297] as the grant is important. My present difficulties however shall be no impediment to the progress of the undertaking. I will receive the full and frank opinions of my friends with thankfulness. I shall have time enough between the sitting of the next Assembly to consider the tendency of the act, and in this, as in all other matters, will endeavor to decide for the best.

My respectful compliments and best wishes, in which Mrs. Washington and Fanny Bassett (who is much recovered) join, are offered to Mrs. Harrison and the rest of your family. It would give us great pleasure to hear that Mrs. Harrison had her health restored to her. With every sentiment of esteem, regard and friendship. I am, etc.

George Washington
Washington, George
February 8, 1785
Mount Vernon


Dear Sir:

Inland communications with western territorySince my last, I have had the honor to receive your favors of the 26th. of Decr. and 16th. of January. I have now the pleasure to inform you, that the Assemblies of Virginia and Maryland have enacted Laws, of which the enclosed is a copy; they are exactly similar in both States. At the same time and at the joint and equal expence of the two Governments, the sum of 6666 2/3 Dollars are voted for opening and keeping in repair a road from the highest practicable navigation of this river, to that of the river Cheat or Monongahela, as commissioners (who are appointed to survey and lay out the same) shall find most convenient and beneficial to the Western Settlers: and have concurred in an application to the State of Pennsylvania for permission to open another road from Fort Cumberland to the Yohoganey, at the three forks or Turkey foot. A similar Bill to the one enclosed, is passed by our Assembly, respecting the navigation of James river, and the communication between it and the waters of the great Kanhawa, and the Executive authorised by a resolve of the Assembly to appoint Commissioners to examine and report the most convenient course for a canal between Elizabeth river and the waters of Roanoke; with an estimate of the expence: and if the best communication shall be found to require the concurrence of the State of Edition: current; Page: [298] No. Carolina thereto, to make application to the Legislature thereof accordingly.

A plan to spread Christianity among the IndiansTowards the latter part of the year 1783 I was honored with a letter from the Countess of Huntington, briefly reciting her benevolent intention of spreading Christianity among the Tribes of Indians inhabiting our Western Territory; and expressing a desire of my advice and assistance to carry this charitable design into execution. I wrote her Ladyship for answer, that it would by no means comport with the plan of retirement I had promised myself, to take an active or responsible part in this business; and that it was my belief, there was no other way to effect her pious and benevolent designs, but by first reducing these people to a state of greater civilization, but that I wou’d give every aid in my power, consistent with the ease and tranquility, to which I meant to devote the remainder of my life, to carry her plan into effect. Since that I have been favored with other letters from her, and a few days ago under cover from Sir James Jay the papers herewith enclosed.

As the plan contemplated by Lady Huntington, according to the outlines exhibited, is not only unexceptionable in its design and tendency, but has humanity and charity for its object; and may I conceive, be made subservient to valuable political purposes, I take the liberty of laying the matter before you for your free and candid sentiments thereon; the communication I make of this matter to you sir, is in a private way, but you are at full liberty to communicate the plan of Lady Huntington, to the members individually; or officially to Congress, as the importance and propriety of the measure may strike you. My reasons for it are these: 1st. I do not believe that any of the States to whom she has written (unless it may be New York) are in circumstances, since their cession of Territory, to comply with the requisition respecting emigration; for it has been privately hinted to me, and ought not to become a matter of public notoriety, that notwithstanding the indefinite expressions of the Address respecting the numbers or occupations of the emigrants, which was purposely omitted to avoid giving alarms in England, the former will be great, and the useful artisans among them, many. 2d Because such emigration, if it should effect the object in view, besides the humane and charitable purposes which would be thereby answered, will be of immense political consequence; and even if this should not succeed to her Ladyships wishes, it must nevertheless, be of Edition: current; Page: [299] considerable importance from the encrease of population by orderly and well disposed characters, who would at once form a barrier and attempt the conversion of the Indians without involving an expence to the Union. I see but one objection to a compact, unmixed and powerful settlement of this kind, if it is likely to be so, the weight of which you will judge. It is, (and her Ladyship seems to have been aware of it, and endeavours to guard against it) placing a people in a body upon our exterior, where they will be contiguous to Canada, who may bring with them strong prejudices against us, and our form of Government, and equally strong attachments to the country and Constitution they leave, without the means, being detached and unmixed with Citizens of different sentiments, of having them eradicated. Her Ladyship has spoken so feelingly and sensibly, on the religeous and benevolent purposes of the plan, that no language of which I am possessed, can add aught to enforce her observations. And no place I think bids so fair to answer her views as that spot in Hutchin’s map, mark’d Miami Village and Fort, from hence there is a communication to all parts by water and at which, in my opinion we ought to have a Post.

Do not think it strange my good Sir, that I send you the original papers from Lady Huntington. Many, mistakenly, think I am retired to ease and that kind of tranquility which would grow tiresome for want of employment; but at no period of my life, not in the eight years I served the public, have I been obliged to write so much myself, as I have done since my retirement. Was this confined to friendly communications, and to my own business, it would be equally pleasing and trifling; but I have a thousand references of old matters with which I ought not to be troubled; but which, nevertheless, must receive some answer; these, with applications for certificates, copies of Orders &c. &c. &c. deprive me of my usual and necessary exercise.

Seeks secretaryI have tryed, but hitherto in vain, to get a Secretary or Clerk, to take upon him the drudging part of this business: that you might not wonder at my parting with original papers on an important subject, I thought it incumbent upon me to assign the reason, and I beg you to be assured, that I have no other motive for it.

Please to accept my thanks for the pamphlet you sent me, and for the resolutions respecting the temporary and permanent Edition: current; Page: [300] seat of Government. If I might be permitted to hazard an opinion of the latter, I would say, that by the time your Federal buildings on the banks of the Delaware, along the point of triangle, are fit for the reception of Congress; it will be found that they are very improperly placed for the seat of the Empire, and will have to undergo a second edition in a more convenient one. If the union continues, and this is not the case, I will agree to be classed among the false prophets, and suffer for evil prediction. The letter for the Marqs. de la Fayette, I pray you to forward by the Packet. With great esteem and regard, I am etc.

George Washington
Washington, George
June 22, 1785
Mount Vernon
William Grayson
Grayson, William


Dr. Sir:

Since my last to you I have been favored with your letters of the 5th, 27th, and—of May, and beg your acceptance of my thanks for their enclosures, and for the communications you were pleased to make me therein.

I am very glad to find you have pass’d an Ordinance of Congress respecting the sale of the Western Lands: I am too well acquainted with the local politics of individual States, not to have foreseen the difficulties you met with in this business; these things are to be regretted, but not to be altered until liberallity of sentiment is more universal.Establishment of a site for a national capital Fixing the Seat of Empire at any spot on the Delaware, is in my humble opinion, demonstrably wrong: to incur an expence for what may be call’d the permanent seat of Congress, at this time, is I conceive evidently impolitic; for without the gift of prophecy, I will venture to predict that under any circumstance of confederation, it will not remain so far to the Eastward long; and that until the public is in better circumstances, it ought not to be built at all. Time, too powerful for sophistry, will point out the place and disarm localities of their power. In the meanwhile let the widow, the Orphan and the suffering Soldier, who are crying to you for their dues, receive that which can very well be rendered to them.

There is nothing new in this quarter of an interesting nature, Edition: current; Page: [301] to communicate, unless you should not have been informed that the Potomac navigation proceeds under favourable auspices: At the general meeting of the subscribers in May last, it appeared that upwards of 400 of the 500 shares had been engaged; many more have been subscribed since; a Board of Directors have been chosen, proper characters and Labourers advertized for, to commence the work in the least difficult parts of the river, ‘till a skillful Engineer can be engaged to undertake those which are more so; and it is expected the work will be begun by the 10th. of next month. With great esteem, &c.

George Washington
Washington, George
July 25, 1785
Mount Vernon
David Humphreys
Humphreys, David


My dr. Humphreys:

Since my last to you, I have received your letter of the 15th. of January, and I believe that of the 11th. of November, and thank you for them. It always gives me pleasure to hear from you; and I should think if amusements would spare you, business could not so much absorb your time as to prevent your writing more frequently, especially as there is a regular conveyance once a month by the Packet.

European politics: war, peace, emigrationAs the complexion of European politics seems now (from letters I have received from the Marqs. de la Fayette, Chevrs. Chartellux, De la Luzerne, &c.,) to have a tendency to Peace, I will say nothing of war, nor make any animadversions upon the contending powers; otherwise, I might possibly have said that the retreat from it seemed impossible after the explicit declaration of the parties: My first wish is to see this plague to mankind banished from off the Earth, and the sons and Daughters of this world employed in more pleasing and innocent amusements, than in preparing implements and exercising them for the destruction of mankind: rather than quarrel about territory let the poor, the needy and oppressed of the Earth, and those who want Land, resort to the fertile plains of our western country, the second land of Promise, and there dwell in peace, fulfilling the first and great commandment.

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Praise of HumphreysIn a former letter, I informed you my Dr. Humphreys, that if I had talents for it, I have not leisure to turn my thoughts to commentaries: a consciousness of a defective education, and a certainty of the want of time, unfit me for such an undertaking; what with company, letters and other matters, many of them quite extraneous, I have not been able to arrange my own private concerns so as to rescue them from that disorder’d state into which they have been thrown by the war, and to do which is become absolutely necessary for my support, whilst I remain on this stage of human action. The sentiments of your last letter on this subject gave me great pleasure; I should be pleased indeed to see you undertake this business: your abilities as a writer; your discernment respecting the principles which lead to the decision by arms; your personal knowledge of many facts as they occurred in the progress of the War; your disposition to justice, candour and impartiality, and your diligence in investigating truth, combining fit you, when joined with the vigor of life, for this task; and I should with great pleasure, not only give you the perusal of all my papers, but any oral information of circumstances, which cannot be obtained from the former, that my memory will furnish: and I can with great truth add that my house would not only be at your service during the period of your preparing this work, but (and without an unmeaning compliment I say it) I should be exceedingly happy if you would make it your home. You might have an apartment to yourself, in which you could command your own time; you wou’d be considered and treated as one of the family; and meet with that cordial reception and entertainment which are characteristic of the sincerest friendship.

To reverberate European news would be idle, and we have little of domestic kind worthy of attention: We have held treaties indeed, with the Indians; but they were so unseasonably delayed, that these people by our last accounts from the westward, are in a discontented mood, supposed by many to be instigated thereto by our late enemies, now, to be sure, fast friends; who from any thing I can learn, under the indefinite expression of the treaty hold, and seem resolved to retain possession of our western Posts.Congressional ordinance on western lands Congress have also, after a long and tedious deliberation, passed an ordinance for laying off the Western Territory into States, and for disposing of the land; but in a manner and on terms which few people (in the Edition: current; Page: [303] Southern States) conceive can be accomplished: Both sides are sure, and the event is appealed to, let time decide it. It is however to be regretted that local politics and self-interested views obtrude themselves into every measure of public utility: but to such characters be the consequences.

Inland navigationMy attention is more immediately engaged in a project which I think big with great political, as well as commercial consequences to these States, especially the middle ones: it is, by removing the obstructions, and extending the inland navigation of our rivers, to bring the States on the Atlantic in close connexion with those forming to the westward, by a short and easy transportation: without this, I can easily conceive they will have different views, separate interests and other connexions. I may be singular in my ideas; but they are these, that to open a door to, and make easy the way for those Settlers to the westward (which ought to progress regularly and compactly) before we make any stir about the navigation of the Mississippi, and before our settlements are far advanced towards that river, would be our true line of policy. It can, I think, be demonstrated, that the produce of the western Territory (if the navigations which are now in hand succeed, and of which I have no doubt) as low down the Ohio as the Great Kanhawa, I believe to the Falls, and between the parts above and the Lakes, may be brought either to the highest shipping port on this or James river, at a less expence, with more ease, (including the return) and in a much shorter time, than it can be carried to New Orleans if the Spaniards instead of restricting, were to throw open their ports and invite our trade. But if the commerce of that country should embrace this channel, and connexions be formed; experience has taught us (and there is a very recent proof with G: Britain) how next to impracticable it is to divert it; and if that should be the case, the Atlantic States (especially as those to the westward will in a great degree fill with foreigners) will be no more to the present union, except to excite perhaps very justly our fears, than the Country of California which is still more to the westward, and belonging to another power.

Mrs. Washington presents her compliments to you, and with every wish for your happiness, I am etc.

Edition: current; Page: [304]
George Washington
Washington, George
July 25, 1785
Mount Vernon
Marquis de Lafayette
Lafayette, Marquis de


My Dear Marquis:

I have to acknowledge and thank you for your several favors of the 9th. of February, 19th. of March and 16th. of April, with their enclosures; all of which (the last only yesterday) have been received since I had the honor to address you in February.

I stand before you as a Culprit: but to repent and be forgiven are the precepts of Heaven: I do the former, do you practice the latter, and it will be participation of a divine attribute. Yet I am not barren of excuses for this seeming inattention; frequent absences from home, a round of company when at it, and the pressure of many matters, might be urged as apologies for my long silence; but I disclaim all of them, and trust to the forbearance of friendship and your wonted indulgence: indeed so few things occur, in the line on which I now move, worthy of attention, that this also might be added to the catalogue of my excuses; especially when I further add, that one of my letters, if it is to be estimated according to its length, would make three of yours.

I now congratulate you, and my heart does it more effectually than my pen, on your safe arrival at Paris, from your voyage to this Country, and on the happy meeting with Madame la Fayette and your family in good health. May the blessing of this long continue to them, and may every day add increase of happiness to yourself.

Peace and the Ohio landsAs the clouds which overspread your hemisphere are dispersing, and peace with all its concomitants is dawning upon your Land, I will banish the sound of War from my letter: I wish to see the sons and daughters of the world in Peace and busily employed in the more agreeable amusement of fulfilling the first and great commandment, Increase and Multiply: as an encouragement to which we have opened the fertile plains of the Ohio to the poor, the needy and the oppressed of the Earth; any one therefore who is heavy laden, or who wants land to cultivate, may repair thither and abound, as in the Land of promise, with milk and honey: the ways are preparing, Edition: current; Page: [305] and the roads will be made easy, thro’ the channels of Potomac and James river.

Speaking of these navigations, I have the pleasure to inform you that the subscriptions, (especially for the first) at the surrender of the books, agreeably to the act which I enclosed you in my last, exceeded my most sanguine expectation: for the latter, that is James river, no comparison of them has yet been made.

Potomac navigationOf the £50,000 Sterlg. required for the Potomac navigation, upwards of £40,000, was subscribed before the middle of May, and encreasing fast. A President and four Directors, consisting of your hble. Servant, Govrs. Johnson and Lee of Maryland, and Colo. Fitzgerald and Gilpin of this State, were chosen to conduct the undertaking. The first dividend of the money was paid in on the 15th. of this month; and the work is to be begun the first of next, in those parts which require least skill; leaving the more difficult ’till an Engineer of abilities and practical knowledge can be obtained; which reminds me of the question which I propounded to you in my last, on this subject, and on which I should be glad to learn your sentiments. This prospect, if it succeeds and of which I have no doubt, will bring the Atlantic States and the Western Territory into close connexion, and be productive of very extensive commercial and political consequences; the last of which gave the spur to my exertions, as I could foresee many, and great mischiefs which would naturally result from a separation, and that a separation would inevitably take place, if the obstructions between the two countries remained, and the navigation of the Mississippi should be made free.

Commercial policy of Great BritainGreat Britain, in her commercial policy is acting the same unwise part, with respect to herself, which seems to have influenced all her Councils; and thereby is defeating her own ends: the restriction of our trade, and her heavy imposts on the staple commodities of this Country, will I conceive, immediately produce powers in Congress to regulate the Trade of the Union; which, more than probably would not have been obtained without in half a century. The mercantile interests of the whole Union are endeavouring to effect this, and will no doubt succeed; they see the necessity of a controuling power, and the futility, indeed the absurdity, of each State’s enacting Laws for this purpose independent of one another. This will Edition: current; Page: [306] be the case also, after a while, in all matters of common concern. It is to be regretted, I confess, that Democratical States must always feel before they can see: it is this that makes their Governments slow, but the people will be right at last.

Congressional disposal of western landsCongress after long deliberation, have at length agreed upon a mode for disposing of the Lands of the United States in the Western territory: it may be a good one, but it does not comport with my ideas. The ordinance is long, and I have none of them by me, or I would send one for your perusal. They seem in this instance, as in almost every other, to be surrendering the little power they have, to the States individually which gave it to them. Many think the price which they have fixed upon the Lands too high; and all to the Southward I believe, that disposing of them in Townships, and by square miles alternately, they will be a great let to the sale: but experience, to which there is an appeal, must decide.

A donkey from the King of SpainSoon after I had written to you in Feby., Mr. Jefferson, and after him Mr. Carmichael informed me that in consequence of an application from Mr. Harrison for permission to export a Jack for me from Spain, his Catholic Majesty had ordered two of the first race in his Kingdom (lest an accident might happen to one) to be purchased and presented to me as a mark of his esteem. Such an instance of condescension and attention from a crowned head is very flattering, and lays me under great obligation to the King; but neither of them is yet arrived: these I presume are the two mentioned in your favor of the 16th. of April; one as having been shipped from Cadiz, the other as expected from the Isle of Malta, which you would forward. As they have been purchased since December last, I began to be apprehensive of accidents; which I wish may not be the case with respect to the one from Cadiz, if he was actually shipped at the time of your account: should the other pass thro’ your hands you cannot oblige me more, than by requiring the greatest care, and most particular attention to be paid to him. I have long endeavoured to procure one of a good size and breed, but had little expectation of receiving two as a royal gift.

Hounds and seedsI am much obliged to you my dear Marquis, for your attention to the hounds, and not less sorry that you should have met the smallest difficulty, or experienced the least trouble in obtaining them: I was no way anxious about these, consequently should have felt no regret, or sustained no loss if you had not succeeded in your application. I have commissioned three or Edition: current; Page: [307] four persons (among whom Colo. Marshall is one,) to procure for me in Kentucke, for the use of the Kings Garden’s at Versailles or elsewhere, the seeds mentioned in the list you sent me from New York, and such others as are curious, and will forward them as soon as they come to my hands; which cannot be ‘till after the growing Crop has given its seeds.

My best wishes will accompany you to Potsdam, and into the Austrian Dominions whenever you set out upon that tour. As an unobserved spectator, I should like to take a peep at the troops of those Monarch’s at their manoeuverings, upon a grand field day; but as it is among the unattainable things, my philosophy shall supply the place of curiosity, and set my mind at ease.

In your favor of the 19th. of March you speak of letters which were sent by a Mr. Williams; but none such have come to hand. The present for the little folks did not arrive by Mr. Ridouts Ship as you expected; to what cause owing I know not. Mrs. Washington has but indifferent health; and the late loss of her mother, and only brother Mr. Barthw. Dandridge (one of the Judges of our Supreme Court) has rather added to her indisposition. My mother and friends enjoy good health. George has returned after his peregrination thro’ the West Indies, to Bermuda, the Bahama Islands, and Charlestown; at the last place he spent the winter. He is in better health than when he set out, but not quite recovered: He is now on a journey to the Sweet Springs, to procure a stock sufficient to fit him for a matrimonial voyage in the Frigate F. Bassett, on board which he means to embark at his return in October: how far his case is desperate, I leave you to judge, if it is so, the remedy however pleasing at first, will certainly be violent.

The latter end of April I had the pleasure to receive in good order, by a Ship from London, the picture of yourself, Madame la Fayette and the children, which I consider as an invaluable present, and shall give it the best place in my House. Mrs. Washington joins me in respectful compliments, and in every good wish for Madame de la Fayette, yourself and family, all the others who have come under your kind notice present their compliments to you. For myself, I can only repeat the sincere attachment, and unbounded affection of My Dr. Marqs., &c.

Edition: current; Page: [308]
George Washington
Washington, George
July 30, 1785
Mount Vernon
Edmund Randolph
Randolph, Edmund


Dear Sir:

Altho’ it is not my intention to derive any pecuniary advantage from the generous vote of the Assembly of this State, consequent of its gratuitous gift of fifty shares in each of the navigations of the rivers Potomac and James; yet, as I consider these undertakings as of vast political and commercial importance to the States on the Atlantic, especially to those nearest the centre of the Union,Shares in waterways companies for charitable purposes and adjoining the Western Territory, I can let no act of mine impede the progress of the work: I have therefore come to the determination to hold the shares which the Treasurer was directed to subscribe on my account, in trust for the use and benefit of the public; unless I shall be able to discover, before the meeting of the Assembly, that it would be agreeable to it to have the product of the Sales arising from these shares, applied as a fund on which to establish two Charity schools, one on each river, for the Education and support of the Children of the poor and indigent of this Country who cannot afford to give it; particularly the children of those men of this description, who have fallen in defence of the rights and liberties of it. If the plans succeed, of which I have no doubt, I am sure it will be a very productive and encreasing fund, and the monies thus applied will be a beneficial institun.

I am aware that my non-acceptance of these shares will have various motives ascribed to it, among which an ostentatious display of disinterestedness, perhaps the charge of disrespect or slight of the favors of my Country, may lead the van: but under a consciousness that my conduct herein is not influenced by considerations of this nature, and that I shall act more agreeably to my own feelings and more consistent with my early declarations, by declining to accept them; I shall not only hope for indulgence, but a favorable interpretation of my conduct: my friends, I persuade myself, will acquit me, the World I hope will judge charitably.

Perceiving by the advertisement of Messrs. Cabell, Buchanan and Southa; that half the sum required by the Act, for opening and extending the navigation of James river, is subscribed; and the 20th. of next month appointed for the Edition: current; Page: [309] subscribers to meet at Richmond, I take the liberty of giving you a power to act for me on that occasion. I would (having the accomplishment of these navigations much at heart) have attended in person; but the President and Directors of the Potomac Company by their own appointment, are to commence the survey of this river in the early part of next month; for which purpose I shall leave home tomorrow. Besides which, if the Ejectments which I have been obliged to bring for my Land in Pennsylva. are to be tried at the September Term, as Mr. Smith, my Lawyer, conceived they would, and is to inform me, I shall find it necessary I fear, to attend the trial; an intermediate journey therefore, in addition, to Richmond would be impracticable for me to accomplish. I am, etc.

George Washington
Washington, George
August 22, 1785
Mount Vernon
James McHenry
McHenry, James


Dr. Sir:

Your letter of the first inst: came to this place whilst I was absent on a tour up the river, or an earlier acknowledgment of it shou’d have been sent to you: the inclosure shall, either by this or the next post, be sent to Dr. Gordon for his information, and that justice may be done to a character so deserving American gratitude and the pen of an historian, as the Marqs. de la Fayette.

I am very glad to hear that Congress are relieved from the embarrassment which originated with Longchamp: had the demand of him been persisted in, it might have involved very serious consequences; it is better for the Court of France to be a little vexed, than for it to have perservered in the demand of him.

Powers of Congress over regulation of commerceAs I have ever been a friend to adequate powers of Congress, without which it is evident to me we never shall establish a national character, or be considered as on a respectable footing by the powers of Europe, I am sorry I cannot agree with you in sentiment not to enlarge them for the regulating of commerce. I have neither time nor abilities to enter into a full discussion of this subject, but it should seem to me that your arguments against it; principally, that some States may be Edition: current; Page: [310] more benefited than others by a commercial regulation, apply to every matter of general utility; for can there be a case enumerated in which this argument has not its force in a greater or less degree? We are either a united people under one head, and for federal purposes; or we are thirteen independant sovereignties, eternally counteracting each other: if the former, whatever such a majority of the States as the Constitution points out, conceives to be for the benefit of the whole, should, in my humble opinion, be submitted to by the minority; let the southern States always be represented; let them act more in union; let them declare freely and boldly what is for the interest of, and what is prejudicial to their constituents; and there will, there must be an accommodating spirit; in the establishment of a navigation act, this in a particular manner ought, and will doubtless be attended to. If the assent of nine (or as some propose, of eleven) States is necessary to give validity to a Commercial system; it insures this measure, or it cannot be obtained: Wherein then lies the danger? But if your fears are in danger of being realized, cannot certain provisos in the ordinance guard against the evil? I see no difficulty in this, if the southern Delegates would give their attendance in Congress, and follow the example, if it should be set them, of hanging together to counteract combinations. I confess to you candidly, that I can foresee no evil greater than disunion than those unreasonable jealousies (I say unreasonable, because I would have a proper jealousy always awake, and the United States on the watch to prevent individual States from infracting the constitution with impunity) which are continually poisoning our minds and filling them with imaginary evils to the prevention of real ones.

Imposts on trade with Great BritainAs you have asked the question, I answer, I do not know that we can enter upon a war of Imposts with Gt: Britain, or any other foreign power; but we are certain that this war has been waged agst. us by the former, professedly upon a belief that we never could unite in opposition to it; and I believe there is no way of putting an end to, or at least of stopping the encrease of it, but to convince them of the contrary. Our trade in all points of view, is as essential to G: B: as hers is to us; and she will exchange it upon reciprocal and liberal terms, if better cannot be had. It can hardly be supposed, I think, that the carrying business will devolve wholly on the States you have named, or remain long with them if it should; for either G: B: will depart Edition: current; Page: [311] from her present contracted system; or the policy of the southern States in framing the Act of navigation, or by Laws passed by themselves individually, will devise ways and means to encourage seamen for the transportation of the product of their respective Countries, or for the encouragement of ———. But admitting the contrary; if the Union is considered as permanent, (and on this I presume all superstructures are built) had we not better encourage seamen among ourselves, with less imports, than divide it with foreigners, and by increasing the amount of them, ruin our Merchants and greatly injuring the mass of our Citizens?

To sum up the whole, I foresee, or think I do it, the many advantages which will arise from giving powers of this kind to Congress (if a sufficient number of States are required to exercise them) without any evil, save that which may proceed from inattention, or want of wisdom in the formation of the act; whilst without them we stand in a ridiculous point of view in the eyes of the nations of the world with whom we are attempting to enter into Commercial treaties, without means of carrying them into effect; who must see and feel that the Union, or the States individually are sovereigns as best suits their purposes; in a word, that we are one nation today, and thirteen to-morrow, who will treat with us on such terms? But perhaps I have gone too far, and therefore will only add that Mrs. Washington offers her compliments and best wishes for you and that with great esteem etc.

George Washington
Washington, George
October 3, 1785
Mount Vernon
George Mason
Mason, George


Dr. Sir:

On taxes for the support of teachers of Christianity in VirginiaI have this moment received yours of yesterday’s date, enclosing a memorial and remonstrance against the Assessment Bill, which I will read with attention. At present I am unable to do it, on account of company. The bill itself I do not recollect ever to have read; with attention I am certain I never did, but will compare them together.

Altho, no man’s sentiments are more opposed to any kind of restraint upon religious principles than mine are; yet I must Edition: current; Page: [312] confess, that I am not amongst the number of those who are so much alarmed at the thoughts of making people pay towards the support of that which they profess, if of the denomination of Christians; or declare themselves Jews, Mahomitans or otherwise, and thereby obtain proper relief. As the matter now stands, I wish an assessment had never been agitated, and as it has gone so far, that the Bill could die an easy death; because I think it will be productive of more quiet to the State, than by enacting it into a Law; which, in my opinion, would be impolitic, admitting there is a decided majority for it, to the disquiet of a respectable minority. In the first case the matter will soon subside; in the latter, it will rankle and perhaps convulse, the State. The Dinner Bell rings, and I must conclude with an expression of my concern for your indisposition. Sincerely and affectionately, I am &c.

George Washington
Washington, George
October 7, 1785
Mount Vernon
James Warren
Warren, James


Dear Sir:

The assurances of your friendship, after a silence of more than six years, are extremely pleasing to me. Friendships, formed under the circumstances that ours commenced, are not easily eradicated; and I can assure you, that mine has undergone no diminution; every occasion, therefore, of renewing it, will give me pleasure, and I shall be happy at all times to hear of your welfare.

The war, as you have justly observed, has terminated most advantageously for America, and a fair field is presented to our view; but I confess to you freely, My Dr. Sir, that I do not think we possess wisdom or Justice enough to cultivate it properly. Illiberality, Jealousy, and local policy mix too much in all our public councils for the good government of the Union. In a word, the confederation appears to me to be little more than a shadow without the substance; and Congress a nugatory body, their ordinances being little attended to. To me, it is a solecism in politics: indeed it is one of the most extraordinary things in nature, that we should confederate as a Nation, and yet be afraid to give the rulers of that nation, who are the Edition: current; Page: [313] creatures of our making, appointed for a limited and short duration, and who are amenable for every action, and recallable at any moment, and are subject to all the evils which they may be instrumental in producing, sufficient powers to order and direct the affairs of the same.Wheels of government clogged By such policy as this the wheels of Government are clogged, and our brightest prospects, and that high expectation which was entertained of us by the wondering world, are turned into astonishment; and from the high ground on which we stood, we are descending into the vale of confusion and darkness.

That we have it in our power to become one of the most respectable Nations upon Earth, admits, in my humble opinion, of no doubt; if we would but pursue a wise, just, and liberal policy towards one another, and would keep good faith with the rest of the World: that our resources are ample and encreasing, none can deny; but while they are grudgingly applyed, or not applyed at all, we give a vital stab to public faith, and shall sink, in the eyes of Europe, into contempt.

Usefulness of foreign commerceIt has long been a speculative question among Philosophers and wise men, whether foreign Commerce is of real advantage to any Country; that is, whether the luxury, effeminacy, and corruptions which are introduced along with it; are counterbalanced by the convenience and wealth which it brings with it; but the decision of this question is of very little importance to us; we have abundant reason to be convinced, that the spirit for Trade which pervades these States is not to be restrained; it behooves us then to establish just principles; and this, any more than other matters of national concern, cannot be done by thirteen heads differently constructed and organized. The necessity, therefore, of a controuling power is obvious; and why it should be withheld is beyond my comprehension.

Philadelphia Agricultural SocietyThe Agricultural Society, lately established in Philadelphia, promises extension usefulness if it is prosecuted with spirit. I wish most sincerely that every State in the Union would institute similar ones; and that these Societies would correspond fully and freely with each other, and communicate all useful discoveries founded on practice, with a due attention to climate, soil, and Seasons to the public.

Union and inland navigationThe great works of improving and extending the inland navigations of the two large rivers Potomac and James, which interlock with the waters of the Western Territory, are already begun, and I have little doubt of their success. The consequences Edition: current; Page: [314] to the Union, in my judgment are immense: more so in a political, than in a commercial view; for unless we can connect the new States which are rising to our view in those regions, with those on the Atlantic by interest, (the only binding cement, and no otherwise to be effected but by opening such communications as will make it easier and cheaper for them to bring the product of their labour to our markets, instead of going to the Spaniards southerly, or the British northerly), they will be quite a distinct people; and ultimately may be very troublesome neighbours to us. In themselves considered merely as a hardy race, this may happen; how much more so, if linked with either of those powers in politics and commerce.

It would afford me great pleasure to go over those grounds in your State with a mind more at ease, than when I travelled them in 1775 and 1776; and to unite in congratulating on the happy change, with those characters, who participated of the anxious moments we passed in those days, and for whom I entertain a sincere regard; but I do not know whether to flatter myself with the enjoyment of it: the deranged state of my affairs, from an absence and total neglect of them for almost nine years, and a pressure of other matters, allow me little leisure for gratifications of this sort. Mrs. Washington offers her compliments and best wishes to Mrs. Warren, to which be pleased to add those of, dear Sir, &c.

George Washington
Washington, George
November 30, 1785
Mount Vernon
James Madison
Madison, James


My dear Sir:

Receive my thanks for your obliging communications of the 11th. I hear with much pleasure that the Assembly are engaged,A simple law code seriously, in the consideration of the revised Laws. A short and simple code, in my opinion, tho’ I have the sentiments of some of the Gentlemen of the long robe against me, would be productive of happy consequences, and redound to the honor of this or any Country which shall adopt such.

Resolution on regualtion of commerceI hope the resolutions which were published for the consideration of the House, respecting the reference to Congress for the regulation of a Commercial system will have passed. The Edition: current; Page: [315] proposition in my opinion is so self evident that I confess I am at a loss to discover wherein lyes the weight of the objection to the measure. We are either a United people, or we are not. If the former, let us, in all matters of general concern act as a nation, which have national objects to promote, and a national character to support. If we are not, let us no longer act a farce by pretending to it. For whilst we are playing a dble. game, or playing a game between the two we never shall be consistent or respectable; but may be the dupes of some powers and, most assuredly, the contempt of all. In any case it behoves us to provide good Military Laws, and look well to the execution of them, but, if we mean by our conduct that the States shall act independently of each other it becomes indispensably necessary, for therein will consist our strength and respectabity in the Union.

It is much to be wished that public faith may be held inviolate. Painful is it even in thought that attempts should be made to weaken the bands of it. It is a dangerous experiment, once slacken the reins and the power is lost, and it is questionable with me whether the advocates of the measure foresee all the consequences of it. It is an old adage that honesty is the best policy; this applies to public as well as private life, to States as well as individuals. I hope the Port and assize Bills no longer sleep, but are awakened to a happy establishment. The first with some alterations, would, in my judgment be productive of great good to this Country; without it, the Trade thereof I conceive will ever labor and languish; with respect to the Second if it institutes a speedier Administration of Justice it is equally desirable.

Rivers, roads, and canalsIt gives me great pleasure to hear that our assembly were in a way of adopting a mode for establishing the Cut betwn. Elizabeth river and Pasquotank which was likely to meet the approbation of the State of No. Carolina. It appears to me that no Country in the Universe is better calculated to derive benefits from inland Navigation than this is, and certain I am, that the conveniences to the Citizens individually, and the sources of wealth to the Country generally, which will be opened thereby will be found to exceed the most sanguine imagination; the Mind can scarcely take in at one view all the benefits which will result therefrom. The saving in draught Cattle, preservation of Roads &ca. &ca. will be felt most interestingly. This business only wants a beginning. Rappahanock, Shannondoah, Edition: current; Page: [316] Roanoke, and the branches of York River will soon perceive the advantages which water transportation (in ways hardly thought of at first) have over that of Land and will extend Navigation to almost every mans door.

From the complexion of the debates in the Pensylvania it should seem as if that Legislature intended their assent to the proposition from the States of Virginia and Maryland respecting a road to the Yohiogany should be conditional of permission given to open a Communication between the Chesapeak and Delaware by way of the rivers Elk and Christeen, which I am sure will never be obtained if the Baltimore interest can give it effectual opposition.

The Directors of the Potomack Company have sent to the Delegates of this County to be laid before the Assembly a Petition (which sets forth the reasons) for relief in the depth of the Canals which it may be found necessary to open at the great and little Falls of the River. As public oeconomy and private interest equally prompt the measure and no possible disadvantage that we can see will attend granting the prayer of it, we flatter ourselves no opposition will be given to it.

To save trouble to expidite the business, and to secure uniformity without delay, or an intercourse between the Assemblies on so trivial a matter we have taken the liberty of sending the draught of a Bill to Members of both Assemblies which if approved will be found exactly similar. With the highest esteem etc.

George Washington
Washington, George
April 5, 1786
Mount Vernon
Henry Lee
Lee, Henry


My Dr. Sir:

Ascribe my silence to any cause rather than a want of friendship, or to a disclination to keep up a friendly intercourse with you, by letter. Absences from home, hurry of business, Company &c., however justly they might be offered, are too stale and common place to be admitted. I therefore discard them; throwing myself upon your lenity, and depending more upon your goodness, than on any apology I can make as an excuse Edition: current; Page: [317] for not having acknowledged the receipt of your favours of the 16th. of Feby. and 2d. of March, before this time.

Visit to canal worksThe first came to hand just after I had made one trip to our works at the great Falls of this River; and when I was upon the eve of another to the same place, where the Board of Directors by appointment met the first of last month. I can therefore inform you from my own observation, that this business is progressing in a manner that exceeds our most sanguine expectation, difficulties vanish as we proceed, the time and expence which it was supposed we should have to encounter at this place, will both be considerably reduced. After a thorough investigation of the ground there we have departed from Ballandine’s rout for the Canal, and marked a fresh cut, which in our judgments will save 4/5th. of the labour, consequently proportionate time and expence, and in the opinion of Mr. Brindley who has just been to see it, 9/10ths., and be equally good when effected. Upon the whole, to be laconic, if there are any doubts remaining of the success of this work, they must be confined to three classes of men, viz: those who have not opportunities of investigations, who will not be at the trouble of doing it when it is in their power, and those whose interests being opposed, do not wish to be convinced. The great Fall is the only place where, under our present view of the River, we conceive it necessary to establish Locks; the ground favors them, and there can be no doubt (this being the case) of Locks succeeding as well in this as in other Countries, as the materials for erecting them are abundant. What difficulties may be found where no difficulty was apprehended, I will not take upon me to declare: where they were thought wholly to lie, we are free from apprehension.

Conduct of the statesMy sentiments with respect to the foederal Government, are well known, publicly and privately have they been communicated without reserve; but my opinion is, that there is more wickedness than ignorance in the conduct of the States, or in other words, in the conduct of those who have too much influence in the government of them; and until the curtain is withdrawn, and the private views and selfish principles upon which these men act, are exposed to public notice, I have little hope of amendment without another convulsion. The picture of our Affairs as drawn by the Committee, approved by Congress and handed to the public, did not at all surprize me: before that report, tho’ I could not go into the minutiae of Edition: current; Page: [318] matters, I was more certain of the agregate of our [Here the available manuscript is blank.] than I am now of the remedy which will be applied; without the latter I do not see upon what ground your Agent at the Court of Morocco, and the other at Algiers, are to treat, unless, having to do with new hands, they mean to touch the old string, and make them dance awhile to the tune of promises.

I thank you for the pamphlet which contains the correspondence between Mr. Jay and Mr. Littlepage; and shall be obliged to you for a Gazette containing the publication of the latter, which appears to have given rise to them. I am, etc.

George Washington
Washington, George
April 12, 1786
Mount Vernon
Robert Morris
Morris, Robert


Dear Sir:

Society of QuakersI give you the trouble of this letter at the instance of Mr. Dalby of Alexandria; who is called to Philadelphia to attend what he conceives to be a vexatious lawsuit respecting a slave of his, which a Society of Quakers in the city (formed for such purposes) have attempted to liberate; The merits of this case will no doubt appear upon trial. but from Mr. Dalby’s state of the matter, it should seem that this Society is not only acting repugnant to justice so far as its conduct concerns strangers, but, in my opinion extremely impolitickly with respect to the State, the City in particular; and without being able, (but by acts of tyranny and oppression) to accomplish their own ends. He says the conduct of this society is not sanctioned by Law: had the case been otherwise, whatever my opinion of the Law might have been, my respect for the policy of the State would on this occasion have appeared in my silence; because against the penalties of promulgated Laws one may guard; but there is no avoiding the snares of individuals, or of private societies. And if the practice of this Society of which Mr. Dalby speaks, is not discountenanced, none of those whose misfortune it is to have slaves as attendants, will visit the City if they can possibly avoid it; because by so doing they hazard their property; or they must be at the expence (and this will not always succeed) of providing servants of another description for the trip.

Edition: current; Page: [319]

SlaveryI hope it will not be conceived from these observations, that it is my wish to hold the unhappy people, who are the subject of this letter, in slavery. I can only say that there is not a man living who wishes more sincerely than I do, to see a plan adopted for the abolition of it; but there is only one proper and effectual mode by which it can be accomplished, and that is by Legislative authority; and this, as far as my suffrage will go, shall never be wanting. But when slaves who are happy and contented with their present masters, are tampered with and seduced to leave them; when masters are taken unawares by these practices; when a conduct of this sort begets discontent on one side and resentment on the other, and when it happens to fall on a man, whose purse will not measure with that of the Society, and he looses his property for want of means to defend it; it is oppression in the latter case, and not humanity in any; because it introduces more evils than it can cure.

I will make no apology for writing to you on this subject; for if Mr. Dalby has not misconceived the matter, an evil exists which requires a remedy; if he has, my intentions have been good, though I may have been too precipitate in this address. Mrs. Washington joins me in every good and kind wish for Mrs. Morris and your family, and I am, &c.

George Washington
Washington, George
May 10, 1786
Mount Vernon
Marquis de Lafayette
Lafayette, Marquis de


My dear Marquis:

The Letter which you did me the favor to write to me by Mr. Barrett dated the 6th. of Feby., together with the parcel and packages which accompanied it, came safely to hand; and for which I pray you to accept my grateful acknowledgments.

Lafayette’s European tourThe account given of your tour thro’ Prussia and other States of Germany, to Vienna and back; and of the Troops which you saw reviewed in the pay of those Monarchs, at different places, is not less pleasing than it is interesting; and must have been as instructive as entertaining to yourself. Your reception at the Courts of Berlin, Vienna, and elsewhere must have been pleasing to you: to have been received by the King Edition: current; Page: [320] of Prussia, and Prince Henry his brother, (who as soldiers and politicians can yield the palm to none) with such marks of attention and distinction, was as indicative of their discernment, as it is of your merit, and will encrease my opinion of them. It is to be lamented however that great characters are seldom without a blot. That one man should tyranise over millions, will always be a shade in that of the former; whilst it is pleasing to hear that a due regard to the rights of mankind, is characteristic of the latter: I shall revere and love him for this trait of his character. To have viewed the several fields of Battle over which you passed, could not, among other sensations, have failed to excite this thought, here have fallen thousands of gallant spirits to satisfy the ambition of, or to support their sovereigns perhaps in acts of oppression or injustice! melancholy reflection! For what wise purposes does Providence permit this? Is it as a scourge for mankind, or is it to prevent them from becoming too populous? If the latter, would not the fertile plains of the Western world receive the redundancy of the old?

For the several articles of intelligence with which you have been so good as to furnish me, and for your sentimts. on European politics, I feel myself very much obliged; on these I can depend. Newspaper accounts are too sterile, vague and contradictory, on which to form any opinion, or to claim even the smallest attention.

One evil of democratic governmentThe account of and observations which you have made on the policy and practice of Great Britain at the other Courts of Europe, respecting these States, I was but too well informed and convinced of before. Unhappily for us, though their accounts are greatly exaggerated, yet our conduct has laid the foundation for them. It is one of the evils of democratical governments, that the people, not always seeing and frequently misled, must often feel before they can act right; but then evils of this nature seldom fail to work their own cure. It is to be lamented, nevertheless, that the remedies are so slow, and that those, who may wish to apply them seasonably are not attended to before they suffer in person, in interest and in reputation. I am not without hopes, that matters will take a more favorable turn in the foederal Constitution. The discerning part of the community have long since seen the necessity of giving adequate powers to Congress for national purposes; and the ignorant and designing must yield to it ere long. Several Edition: current; Page: [321] late Acts of the different Legislatures have a tendency thereto; among these, the Impost which is now acceded to by every State in the Union, (tho’ clogged a little by that of New York) will enable Congress to support the national credit in pecuniary matters better than it has been; whilst a measure in which this state has taken the lead at its last session, will it is to be hoped give efficient powers to that Body for all commercial purposes.Nomination of commissioners to revise congressional powers This is a nomination of some of its first characters to meet other Commissioners from the several States in order to consider of and decide upon such powers as shall be necessary for the sovereign power of them to act under; which are to be reported to the respective Legislatures at their autumnal sessions for, it is to be hoped, final adoption; thereby avoiding those tedious and futile deliberations, which result from recommendations and partial concurrences; at the same time that it places it at once in the power of Congress to meet European Nations upon decisive and equal ground. All the Legislatures, which I have heard from, have come into the proposition, and have made very judicious appointments: much good is expected from this measure, and it is regretted by many, that more objects were not embraced by the meeting. A General Convention is talked of by many for the purpose of revising and correcting the defects of the foederal government; but whilst this is the wish of some, it is the dread of others from an opinion that matters are not yet sufficiently ripe for such an event.

British in the westThe British still occupy our Posts to the Westward, and will, I am persuaded, continue to do so under one pretence or another, no matter how shallow, as long as they can: of this, from some circumstances which had occurred, I have been convinced since August, 1783 and gave it as my opinion at that time, if not officially to Congress as the sovereign, at least to a number of its members, that they might act accordingly. It is indeed evident to me, that they had it in contemplation to do this at the time of the Treaty; the expression of the Article which respects the evacuation of them, as well as the tenor of their conduct since relative to this business, is strongly marked with deception. I have not the smallest doubt but that every secret engine is continually at work to inflame the Indian mind, with a view to keep it at variance with these States, for the purpose of retarding our settlements to the Westward, and depriving us of the fur and peltry trade of that country.

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Donkeys from SpainYour assurances my dear Marquis, respecting the male and female Asses, are highly pleasing to me, I shall look for them with much expectation and great satisfaction, as a valuable acquisition and important service.

The Jack which I have already received from Spain, in appearance is fine; but his late royal master, tho’ past his grand climacteric, cannot be less moved by female allurements than he is; or when prompted, can proceed with more deliberation and majestic solemnity to the work of procreation. The other Jack perished at Sea.

Potomac CompanyMr. Littlepage in his dispute with Mr. Jay seems to have forgot his former situation. It is a pity, for he appears to be a young man of abilities. At the next meeting of the Potomac Company (which I believe will not be ’till August) I will communicate to them your sentiments respecting the terms on which a good Ingénieur des ponts and chaussées may be had and take their opinion thereon.

Emancipation of slavesThe benevolence of your heart my Dr. Marqs. is so conspicuous upon all occasions, that I never wonder at any fresh proofs of it; but your late purchase of an estate in the colony of Cayenne, with a view of emancipating the slaves on it, is a generous and noble proof of your humanity. Would to God a like spirit would diffuse itself generally into the minds of the people of this country; but I despair of seeing it. Some petitions were presented to the Assembly, at its last Session, for the abolition of slavery, but they could scarcely obtain a reading. To set them afloat at once would, I really believe, be productive of much inconvenience and mischief; but by degrees it certainly might, and assuredly ought to be effected; and that too by legislative authority.

I give you the trouble of a letter to the Marqs. de St. Simon, in which I have requested to be presented to Mr. de Menonville. The favourable terms in which you speak of Mr. Jefferson gives me great pleasure: he is a man of whom I early imbibed the highest opinion. I am as much pleased, therefore, to meet confirmations of my discernment in these matters, as I am mortified when I find myself mistaken.

I send herewith the copies of your private Letters to me, promised in my last, and which have been since copied by your old aid. As Mrs. Washington and myself have both done ourselves the honor of writing to Madame de la Fayette, I shall not give you the trouble at this time of presenting my respects to Edition: current; Page: [323] her; but pray to accept every good wish which this family can render for your health and every blessing this life can afford you. I cannot conclude without expressing to you the earnest enquiries and ardent wishes of your friends (among whom, I claim to stand first) to see you in America, and of giving you repeated assurances of the sincerity of my friendship, and of the Affectionate regard with which I am etc.

George Washington
Washington, George
May 18, 1786
Mount Vernon


Dear Sir:

In due course of post, I have been honored with your favors of the 2d. and 16th. of March; since which I have been a good deal engaged and pretty much from home. For the enclosure which accompanied the first, I thank you. Mr. Littlepage seems to have forgot what had been his situation, forgot what was due to you, and indeed what was necessary to his own character: and his guardian, I think, seems to have forgotten every thing.

Errors in governmentI coincide perfectly in sentiment with you, my Dr. Sir, that there are errors in our national Government which call for correction, loudly I would add; but I shall find myself happily mistaken if the remedies are at hand. We are certainly in a delicate situation, but my fear is that the people are not yet sufficiently misled to retract from error. To be plainer, I think there is more wickedness than ignorance mixed in our Councils. Under this impression, I scarcely know what opinion to entertain of a general convention. That it is necessary to revise and amend the articles of confederation, I entertain no doubt; but what may be the consequences of such an attempt is doubtful. Yet something must be done, or the fabrick must fall, for it certainly is tottering.

Ignorance and design are difficult to combat. Out of these proceed illiberal sentiments, improper jealousies, and a train of evils which oftentimes, in republican governments, must be sorely felt before they can be removed. The former, that is ignorance, being a fit soil for the latter to work in, tools are Edition: current; Page: [324] employed by them which a generous mind would disdain to use; and which nothing but time, and their own puerile or wicked productions can show the inefficacy and dangerous tendency of. I think often of our situation and view it with concern. From the high ground we stood upon, from the plain path which invited our footsteps, to be so fallen! so lost! it is really mortifying; but virtue, I fear has, in a great degree, taken its departure from us; and the want of disposition to do justice is the source of the national embarrassments; for whatever guise or colorings are given to them, this I apprehend is the origin of the evils we now feel, and probably shall labour under for some time yet. With respectful complimts. to Mrs. Jay, and sentiments of sincere friendship, I am &c.

George Washington
Washington, George
August 15, 1786
Mount Vernon
Marquis de Lafayette
Lafayette, Marquis de


My dr. Marqs:

I will not conceal that my numerous correspondencies are daily becoming irksome to me; yet I always receive your letters with augmenting satisfaction, and therefore rejoice with you in the measures which are likely to be productive of a more frequent intercourse between our two nations.French and English commercial policy Thus, motives of a private as well as of a public nature conspire to give me pleasure, in finding that the active policy of France is preparing to take advantage of the supine stupidity of England, with respect to our commerce.

While the latter by its impolitic duties and restrictions is driving our Ships incessantly from its harbours; the former seems by the invitations it is giving to stretch forth the friendly hand to invite them into its Ports. I am happy in a conviction, that there may be established between France and the U.S.,French and American friendship and commerce such a mutual intercourse of good offices and reciprocal interests, as cannot fail to be attended with the happiest consequences. Nations are not influenced, as individuals may be, by disinterested friendships; but, when it is their interest to live in amity, we have little reason to apprehend any rupture. This principle of union can hardly exist in a more distinguished Edition: current; Page: [325] manner between two nations, than it does between France and the United States. There are many articles of manufacture which we stand absolutely in need of and shall continue to have occasion for so long as we remain an agricultural people, which will be while lands are so cheap and plenty, that is to say, for ages to come.

In the mean time we shall have large quantities of timber, fish, oil, wheat, Tobo., rice, Indigo, &c. to dispose of: Money we have not. Now it is obvious that we must have recourse for the Goods and manufactures we may want, to the nation which will enable us to pay for them by receiving our Produce in return. Our commerce with any of the great manufacturing Kingdoms of Europe will therefore be in proportion to the facility of making remittance, which such manufacturing nation may think proper to afford us. On the other hand, France has occasion for many of our productions and raw materials; let her judge whether it is most expedient to receive them by direct importation and to pay for them in goods; or to obtain them thro’ the circuitous channel of Britain and to pay for them in money as she formerly did.

British trade expectationsI know that Britain arrogantly expects we will sell our produce wherever we can find a market and bring the money to purchase goods from her; I know that she vainly hopes to retain what share she pleases in our trade, in consequence of our prejudices in favor of her fashions and manufactures; but these are illusions, which will vanish and disappoint her, as the dreams of conquest have already done. Experience is constantly teaching us, that these predilections were founded in error. We find the quality and price of the French goods we receive in many instances, to be better than the quality and price of the English. Time, and a more thorough acquaintance with the business may be necessary to instruct your merchants in the choice and assortment of Goods necessary for such a Country. As to an ability for giving credit, in which the English merchants boast a superiority, I am confident it would be happy for America if the practice could be entirely abolished.

Future growth of American commercial influenceHowever unimportant America may be considered at present, and however Britain may affect to despise her trade, there will assuredly come a day, when this country will have some weight in the scale of Empires. While connected with us as Colonies only, was not Britain the first power in the World? Since the dissolution of that connexion, does not France occupy Edition: current; Page: [326] the same illustrious place? Your successful endeavors my Dr. Marqs., to promote the interests of your two Countries (as you justly call them) must give you the most unadulterated satisfaction: be assured the measures which have lately been taken with regard to the two Articles of Oil and Tobacco, have tended very much to endear you to your fellow Citizens on this side of the Atlantic.

Influence of commerce on humanityAltho’ I pretend to no peculiar information respecting commercial affairs, nor any foresight into the scenes of futurity; yet as the member of an infant empire, as a Philanthropist by character, and (if I may be allowed the expression) as a Citizen of the great republic of humanity at large; I cannot help turning my attention sometimes to this subject. I would be understood to mean, I cannot avoid reflecting with pleasure on the probable influence that commerce may hereafter have on human manners and society in general. On these occasions I consider how mankind may be connected like one great family in fraternal ties. I indulge a fond, perhaps an enthusiastic idea, that as the world is evidently much less barbarous than it has been, its melioration must still be progressive; that nations are becoming more humanized in their policy, that the subjects of ambition and causes for hostility are daily diminishing, and, in fine, that the period is not very remote, when the benefits of a liberal and free commerce will, pretty generally, succeed to the devastations and horrors of war.

Prussia, the Barbary statesSome of the late treaties which have been entered into, and particularly that between the King of Prussia and the Ud. States, seem to constitute a new era in negotiation, and to promise the happy consequences I have just now been mentioning. But let me ask you my Dr. Marquis, in such an enlightened, in such a liberal age, how is it possible the great maritime powers of Europe should submit to pay an annual tribute to the little piratical States of Barbary? Would to Heaven we had a navy able to reform those enemies to mankind, or crush them into non-existence.

I forbear to enter into a discussion of our domestic Politics, because there is little interesting to be said upon them, and perhaps it is best to be silent, since I could not disguise or palliate where I might think them erroneous. The British still hold the frontier Posts, and are determined to do so. The Indians commit some trifling ravages, but there is nothing like a general or even open war. You will have heard what a loss we Edition: current; Page: [327] have met with by the death of poor Genl. Greene. General McDougal and Colo. Tilghman are also dead.

It is a great satisfaction to have it in my power to pay some attention to Monsr. Du Plessis, by whom I had the happiness of receiving your last letter: he is now at Mount Vernon on his way to Georgia.

You will see by the length to which I have extended this letter, that I can never find myself weary of conversing with you. Adieu, My Dr. Marqs.

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1786–1788 Making a Constitution fpage="329" lpage="404"

Making a Constitution


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WASHINGTON’s replies to Bushrod Washington in 1786 distill much of his political judgment in the period of constitutional turmoil immediately prior to the Constitutional Convention. Our understanding is bettered in knowing the context set forth by Bushrod’s letter of September 27, 1786. In that letter, Bushrod announced to Washington the formation of a “Patriotic Society” whose object was “to inquire into the state of public affairs; to consider in what the true happiness of the people consists, and what are the evils which have pursued, and still continue to molest us; the means of attaining the former, and escaping the latter; to inquire into the conduct of those who represent us, and to give them our sentiments upon those laws, which ought to be or are already made.” In reply to Washington’s initial response, which questioned the motives of such an association, Bushrod answered: “we thought that an appearance of corruption was discoverable in the mass of the people. . . .” He held that the Patriotic Society did not aim to usurp the privileges of duly constituted representatives, but only to reinforce the most salutary aspects of republican government. Washington’s second letter (November 15) closed the correspondence.

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The expectant air of Washington’s correspondence during this period justifies his observation that “the present era is pregnant of great and strange events.” The role he played in these events becomes central in constructing an accurate view of his political ideas. In the Constitutional Convention, Washington played a pivotal though quiet role. Elected to preside, he did not participate in the debates, with one notable exception. On the final day of the Convention, after the Constitution had been readied for signing, a motion was made to alter the rule of representation to facilitate greater participation by the people. The Convention had debated and rejected that proposition more than once in the preceding weeks. Washington stepped down from the presiding chair and declared “his wish that the alteration proposed might take place.” The debate ceased there, and a unanimous vote of approval followed. The influence which was visible on that singular occasion had been exercised invisibly throughout the course of the Convention, as Washington maintained regular though informal conversation with the diverse delegates.

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George Washington
Washington, George
August 15, 1786
Mount Vernon
John Jay
Jay, John


Dear Sir:

I have to thank you very sincerely for your interesting letter of the 27th of June, as well as for the other communications you had the goodness to make at the same time.

Violation of peace treaty with Great BritainI’m sorry to be assured, of what indeed I had little doubt before, that we have been guilty of violating the treaty in some instances. What a misfortune it is the British should have so well grounded a pretext for their palpable infractions? And what a disgraceful part, out of the choice of difficulties before us, are we to act?

Your sentiments, that our affairs are drawing rapidly to a crisis, accord with my own. What the event will be is also beyond the reach of my foresight. We have errors to correct. We have probably had too good an opinion of human nature in forming our confederation. Experience has taught us, that men will not adopt & carry into execution, measures the best calculated for their own good without the intervention of a coercive power. I do not conceive we can exist long as a nation, without having lodged somewhere a power which will peruade the whole Union in as energetic a manner, as the authority of the different state governments extend over the several States. To be fearful of vesting Congress, constituted as that body is, with ample authorities for national purposes, appears to me the very climax of popular absurdity and madness. Edition: current; Page: [334] Could Congress exert them for the detriment of the public without injuring themselves in as equal or greater proportion? Are not their interests inseparably connected with those of their constituents? By the rotation of appointment must they not mingle frequently with the mass of citizens? Is it not rather to be apprehended, if they were possessed of the power before described, that the individual members would be induced to use them, on many occasions, very timidly & inefficaciously for fear of losing their popularity & future election? We must take human nature as we find it. Perfection falls not to the share of mortals. Many are of opinion that Congress have too frequently made use of the suppliant humble tone of requisition, in applications to the States, when they had a right to assume their imperial dignity and command obedience. Be that as it may, requisitions are a perfect nihility, where thirteen sovereign, independent, disunited States are in the habit of discussing & refusing compliance with them at their option. Requisitions are actually little better than a jest and a bye word throughout the Land. If you tell the Legislatures they have violated the treaty of peace and invaded the prerogatives of the confederacy they will laugh in your face. What then is to be done? Things cannot go on in the same manner forever. It is much to be feared, as you observe, that the better kind of people being disgusted with the circumstances will have their minds prepared for any revolution whatever. We are apt to run from one extreme into another. To anticipate & prevent disastrous contingencies would be the part of wisdom & patriotism.

Monarchical governmentWhat astonishing changes a few years are capable of producing! I am told that even respectable characters speak of a monarchical form of government without horror. From thinking proceeds speaking, thence to acting is often but a single step. But how irrevocable and tremendous! What a triumph for the advocates of despotism to find that we are incapable of governing ourselves, and that systems founded on the basis of equal liberty are merely ideal and fallacious! Would to God that wise measures may be taken in time to avert the consequences we have but too much reason to apprehend.

Retired as I am from the world, I frankly acknowledge I cannot feel myself an unconcerned spectator. Yet having happily assisted in bringing the ship into port & having been fairly discharged; it is not my business to embark again on the sea of Edition: current; Page: [335] troubles. Nor could it be expected that my sentiments and opinions would have much weight on the minds of my countrymen they have been neglected, tho’ given as a last legacy in the most solemn manner. I had then perhaps some claims to public attention. I consider myself as having none at present. With sentiments of sincere esteem & friendship

I am, my dear Sir,
Yr. Most Obed. & Affect.
Hble Servant
G. Washington
George Washington
Washington, George
September 30, 1786
Mount Vernon
Bushrod Washington
Washington, Bushrod


Dear Bushrod:

I was from home when your servant arrived, found him in a hurry to be gone when I returned; have company in the House, and am on the eve of a journey up the river to meet the Directors of the Potomac Company; these things combining, will not allow me time to give any explicit answer to the question you have propounded.*

On societiesGenerally speaking, I have seen as much evil as good result from such Societies as you describe the Constitution of yours to be; they are a kind of imperium in imperio, and as often clog as facilitate public measures. I am no friend to institutions except in local matters which are wholly or in a great measure confined to the County of the Delegates. To me it appears much wiser and more politic, to choose able and honest representatives, and leave them in all national questions to determine from the evidence of reason, and the facts which shall be adduced, when internal and external information is given to them in a collective state. What certainty is there that Societies in a corner or remote part of a State can possess that knowledge which is necessary for them to decide on many Edition: current; Page: [336] important questions which may come before an Assembly? What reason is there to expect, that the society itself may be accordant in opinion on such subjects? May not a few members of this society (more sagacious and designing than the rest) direct the measures of it to private views of their own? May not this embarrass an honest, able Delegate, who hears the voice of his Country from all quarters, and thwart public measures?

These are first thoughts, but I give no decided opinion. Societies nearly similar to such as you speak of, have lately been formed in Massachusetts: but what has been the consequence? Why they have declared the Senate useless; many other parts of the Constitution unnecessary; salaries of public officers burthensome &c. To point out the defects of the constitution (if any existed) in a decent way, was proper enough; but they have done more: they first vote the Court of Justice, in the present circumstances of the State, oppressive; and next, by violence stop them; which has occasioned a very solemn Proclamation and appeal from the Governor to the people. You may say no such matters are in contemplation by your Society: granted: a snow-ball gathers by rolling; possibly a line may be drawn between occasional meetings for special purposes, and a standing Society to direct with local views and partial information the affairs of the Nation, which cannot be well understood but by a large and comparative view of circumstances. Where is this so likely to enter as in the general Assembly of the people? What figure then must a Delegate make who comes there with his hands tied, and his judgment forestalled? His very instructors, perhaps (if they had nothing sinister in view) were they present at all the information and arguments, which would come forward, might be the first to change sentiments.

Hurried as this letter is, I am sensible I am writing to you upon a very important subject. I have no time to copy, correct, or even peruse it; for which reason I could wish to have it or a copy returned to me. George and his wife set off yesterday for the races at Fredericksburg; the rest of the family are well and join in love and good wishes for all at Bushfield. I am, &c.

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George Washington
Washington, George
October 31, 1786
Mount Vernon
Henry Lee
Lee, Henry


My Dr. Sir:

I am indebted to you for your several favors of the 1st. 11th. and 17th. of this instt: and shall reply to them in the order of their dates; but first let me thank you for the interesting communications imparted by them.

The picture which you have exhibited, and the accounts which are published of the commotions, and temper of numerous bodies in the Eastern States, are equally to be lamented and deprecated. They exhibit a melancholy proof of what our trans-Atlantic foe has predicted; and of another thing perhaps, which is still more to be regretted, and is yet more unaccountable,On mankind and government that mankind when left to themselves are unfit for their own Government. I am mortified beyond expression when I view the clouds that have spread over the brightest morn that ever dawned upon any Country. In a word, I am lost in amazement when I behold what intrigue, the interested views of desperate characters, ignorance and jealousy of the minor part, are capable of effecting, as a scourge on the major part of our fellow Citizens of the Union; for it is hardly to be supposed that the great body of the people, tho’ they will not act, can be so shortsighted, or enveloped in darkness, as not to see rays of a distant sun thro’ all this mist of intoxication and folly.

Insurgency in MassachusettsYou talk, my good Sir, of employing influence to appease the present tumults in Massachusetts. I know not where that influence is to be found; and if attainable, that it would be a proper remedy for the disorders. Influence is no Government. Let us have one by which our lives, liberties and properties will be secured; or let us know the worst at once. Under these impressions, my humble opinion is, that there is a call for decision. Know precisely what the insurgents aim at. If they have real grievances, redress them if possible; or acknowledge the justice of them, and your inability to do it in the present moment. If they have not, employ the force of government against them at once. If this is inadequate, all will be convinced that the superstructure is bad, or wants support. To be more exposed in the eyes of the world, and more contemptible than Edition: current; Page: [338] we already are, is hardly possible. To delay one or the other of these, is to exasperate on the one hand, or to give confidence on the other, and will add to their numbers; for, like snow-balls, such bodies increase by every movement, unless there is something in the way to obstruct and crumble them before the weight is too great and irresistible.

These are my sentiments. Precedents are dangerous things; let the reins of government then be braced and held with a steady hand, and every violation of the Constitution be reprehended: if defective, let it be amended, but not suffered to be trampled upon whilst it has an existence.

Navigation of the Mississippi RiverWith respect to the navigation of the Mississippi, you already know my sentiments thereon: they have been uniformly the same, and as I have observed to you in a former letter, are controverted by one consideration only of weight, and that is the operation the occlusion of it may have on the minds of the western settlers, who will not consider the subject in a relative point of view or on a comprehensive scale, and may be influenced by the demagogues of the country to acts of extravagance and desperation, under a popular declamation that their interests are sacrificed. Colo. Mason, at present, is in a fit of the gout; what [his] sentiments on the subject are, I know not, nor whether he will be able to attend the Assembly during the present Session. For some reasons, however, (which need not be mentioned) I am inclined to believe he will advocate the navigation of that river. But in all matters of great national moment, the only true line of conduct, in my opinion, is, dispassionately to compare the advantages and disadvantages of the measure proposed, and decide from the balance. The lesser evil, where there is a choice of them, should always yield to the greater. What benefits (more than we now enjoy) are to be obtained by such a Treaty as you have delineated with Spain, I am not enough of a Commercial man to give any opinion on. The China came to hand without much damage; and I thank you for your attention in procuring and forwarding of it to me. Mrs. Washington joins me in best wishes for Mrs. Lee and yourself and I am &c.

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George Washington
Washington, George
November 5, 1786
Mount Vernon
James Madison
Madison, James


My dear Sir:

Concern for fate of federal governmentI thank you for the communications in your letter of the first instt. The decision of the House on the question respecting a paper emission, is portentous I hope, of an auspicious Session. It may certainly be classed among the important questions of the present day; and merited the serious consideration of the Assembly. Fain would I hope, that the great, and most important of all objects, the federal governmt., may be considered with that calm and deliberate attention which the magnitude of it so loudly calls for at this critical moment. Let prejudices, unreasonable jealousies, and local interest yield to reason and liberality. Let us look to our National character, and to things beyond the present period. No morn ever dawned more favourably than ours did; and no day was ever more clouded than the present! Wisdom, and good examples are necessary at this time to rescue the political machine from the impending storm. Virginia has now an opportunity to set the latter, and has enough of the former, I hope, to take the lead in promoting this great and arduous work. Without some alteration in our political creed, the superstructure we have been seven years raising at the expence of so much blood and treasure, must fall. We are fast verging to anarchy and confusion!

A letter which I have just received from Genl Knox, who had just returned from Massachusetts (whither he had been sent by Congress consequent of the commotion in that State) is replete with melancholy information of the temper, and designs of a considerable part of that people. Among other things he says,

there creed is, that the property of the United States, has been protected from confiscation of Britain by the joint exertions of all, and therefore ought to be the common property of all. And he that attempts opposition to this creed is an enemy to equity and justice, and ought to be swept from off the face of the Earth.


They are determined to anihillate all debts public and private, and Edition: current; Page: [340] have Agrarian Laws, which are easily effected by the means of unfunded paper money which shall be a tender in all cases whatever.

He adds:

The numbers of these people amount in Massachusetts to about one fifth part of several populous Counties, and to them may be collected, people of similar sentiments from the States of Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New Hampshire, so as to constitute a body of twelve or fifteen thousand desperate, and unprincipled men. They are chiefly of the young and active part of the Community.

How melancholy is the reflection, that in so short a space, we should have made such large strides towards fulfilling the prediction of our transatlantic foe! “Leave them to themselves, and their government will soon dissolve.” Will not the wise and good strive hard to avert this evil? Or will their supineness suffer ignorance, and the arts of self-interested designing disaffected and desperate characters, to involve this rising empire in wretchedness and contempt? What stronger evidence can be given of the want of energy in our governments than these disorders? If there exists not a power to check them, what security has a man for life, liberty, or property? To you, I am sure I need not add aught on this subject, the consequences of a lax, or inefficient government, are too obvious to be dwelt on. Thirteen Sovereignties pulling against each other, and all tugging at the foederal head will soon bring ruin on the whole; whereas a liberal, and energetic Constitution, well guarded and closely watched, to prevent incroachments, might restore us to that degree of respectability and consequence, to which we had a fair claim, and the brightest prospect of attaining. With sentiments of the sincerest esteem etc.

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George Washington
Washington, George
November 15, 1786
Mount Vernon
Bushrod Washington
Washington, Bushrod


Dear Bushrod:

The Patriotic SocietyYour letter of the 31st. of October in reply to mine of the 30th. of Septr. came safe to hand. It was not the intention of my former letter either to condemn, or give my voice in favor of the Patriotic Society, of which you have now, but not before, declared yourself a member; nor do I mean to do it now. I offered observations under the information I had then received, the weight of which was to be considered. As first thoughts, they were undigested, and might be very erroneous.

That representatives ought to be the mouth of their Constituents, I do not deny, nor do I mean to call in question the right of the latter to instruct them. It is to the embarrassment, into which they may be thrown by these instructions in national matters that my objections lie. In speaking of national matters I look to the foederal Government, which in my opinion it is the interest of every State to support; and to do this, as there are a variety of interests in the union, there must be a yielding of the parts to coalesce the whole. Now a County, a District, or even a State might decide on a measure which, tho’ apparently for the benefit of it in its unconnected state, may be repugnant to the interests of the nation, and eventually to the State itself as a part of the confederation. If then, members go instructed, to the Assembly, from certain Districts, the requisitions of Congress repugnant to the sense of them, and all the lights which they may receive from the communications of that body to the Legislature, must be unavailing; altho’ the nature and necessity of them, when the reasons therefor are fully expounded; which can only be given by Congress to the Assembly thro’ the Executive, and which come before them in their legislative capacity, are as clear as the sun. In local matters which concern the District; or things which respect the internal police of the State, there may be nothing amiss in instructions. In national matters also, the sense, but not the Law of the District may be given, leaving the Delegates to judge from the nature of the case and the evidence before them.

The instructions of your Society as far as they have gone, meet my entire approbation, except in the article of com-mutables. Edition: current; Page: [342] Here, if I understand the meaning and design of the clause, I must disagree to it most heartily; for if the intention of it is to leave it optional with the person taxed to pay any staple commodity (Tobo. would be least exceptionable) in lieu of specie, the people will be burthened, a few speculators enriched, and the public derive no benefit from it. Have we not had a recent and melancholy proof of this during the war in the provision tax? Did not the people pay this in some way or other, perhaps badly; and was not the army almost starved? Can any instance be given where the public has sold Tobacco, Hemp, Flour or any other commodity upon as good terms as individuals have done it? Must not there be places of deposit for these commutables; Collectors, Storekeepers &c. &c. employed? These, rely on it, will sink one half, and a parcel of Speculators will possess themselves of the other half. It was to these things that we owe the present depravity of the minds of so many people of this Country, and filled it with so many knaves and designing characters.

Among the great objects which you took into consideration at your meeting at Richmond, how comes it to pass, that you never turned your eyes to the inefficacy of the Foederal Government, so as to instruct your Delegates to accede to the propositions of the Commrs. at Annapolis; or to devise some other mode to give it that energy, which is necessary to support a national character? Every man who considers the present constitution of it, and sees to what it is verging, trembles. The fabrick which took nine years, at the expense of much blood and treasure, to rear, now totters to the foundation, and without support must soon fall.

The determination of your Society to promote frugality and industry by example, to encourage manufactures, and to avoid dissipation, is highly praise-worthy: these, and premiums for the most useful discoveries in Agriculture within your district, the most profitable course of cropping, and the best method of fencing to save timber &c. would soon make us a rich and happy people. With every good wish for you and yours, in which your aunt joins. I am, &c.

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George Washington
Washington, George
November 18, 1786
Mount Vernon
James Madison
Madison, James


My Dr. Sir:

Not having sent to the Post Office with my usual regularity, your favor of the 8th. did not reach me in time for an earlier acknowledgment than of this date. It gives me the most sensible pleasure to hear that the acts of the present session* are marked with wisdom, justice and liberality. They are the palladium of good policy, and the sure paths that lead to national happiness. Would to God every State would let these be the leading features of their constituent characters: those threatening clouds, which seem ready to burst on the Confederacy, would soon dispel. The unanimity with which the Bill was received,Appointment of Delegates to the Constitutional Convention for appointing Commissioners agreeably to the recommendation of the Convention at Annapolis; and the uninterrupted progress it has met with since, are indications of a favourable issue. It is a measure of equal necessity and magnitude; and may be the spring of reanimation.

Altho’ I had bid adieu to the public walks of life in a public manner, and had resolved never more to tread that theatre; yet, if upon an occasion so interesting to the well-being of the Confederacy it should have been the wish of the Assembly that I should have been an associate in the business of revising the foederal System; I should, from a sense of the obligation I am under for repeated proofs of confidence in me, more than from any opinion I should have entertained of my usefulness, have obeyed its call; but it is now out of my power to do this with any degree of consistency, the cause I will mention.

Society of the CincinnatiI presume you heard Sir, that I was first appointed, and have since been rechosen, President of the Society of the Cincinnati; and you may have understood also, that the triennial Genl. Meeting of this body is to be held in Philada. the first Monday in May next. Some particular reasons combining with the peculiar situation of my private concerns; the necessity of paying attention to them; a wish for retirement and relaxation from public cares, and rheumatic pains which I begin to feel very sensibly, induced me on the 31st ulto. to address a circular Edition: current; Page: [344] letter to each State society informing them of my intention not to be at the next meeting, and of my desire not to be rechosen President. The Vice President is also informed of this, that the business of the Society may not be impeded by my absence. Under these circumstances it will readily be perceived that I could not appear at the same time and place on any other occasion, without giving offence to a very respectable and deserving part of the Community, the late officers of the American Army. I feel as you do for our acquaintance Colo. Lee; better never have delegated than left him out, unless some glaring impropriety of conduct had been ascribed to him. I hear with pleasure that you are in the new choice. With sentiments of the highest esteem and affectn. I am &c.

George Washington
Washington, George
December 16, 1786
Mount Vernon
James Madison
Madison, James


My dear Sir:

Your favor of the 7th. came to hand the evening before last. The resolutions which you say are inserted in the Papers, I have not yet seen. The latter come irregularly, tho’ I am a subscriber to Hay’s Gazette.

Besides the reasons which are assigned in my circular letter to the several State Societies of the Cincinnati, for my nonattendance at the next General meeting to be holden at Philadelphia the first Monday of May, there existed one of a political nature, which operates more forceably on my mind than all the others; and which, in confidence, I will now communicate to you.

Purpose of the Society of the CincinnatiWhen this Society was first formed, I am persuaded not a member of it conceived that it would give birth to those Jealousies, or be chargeable with those dangers (real or imaginary) with which the minds of many, and some of respectable characters, were filled. The motives which induced the Officers to enter into it were, I am confident, truly and frankly recited in the Institution: one of which, indeed the principal, was to establish a charitable fund for the relief of such of their compatriots, the Widows, and descendants of them, as were fit objects for their support; and for whom no public provision had Edition: current; Page: [345] been made. But the trumpet being sounded, the alarm was spreading far and wide; I readily perceived therefore that unless a modification of the plan could be effected (to anihilate the Society altogether was impracticable on acct. of the foreign officers who had been admitted), that irritations wd. arise which would soon draw a line betwn. the Society, and their fellow Citizens.

To prevent this, To conciliate the affections, And to convince the world of the purity of the plan, I exerted myself, and with much difficulty, effected the changes which appeared in the recommendation from the General Meeting to those of the States; the accomplishment of which was not easy; and I have since heard, that whilst some States acceded to the recommendation, others are not disposed thereto, alledging that, unreasonable prejudices, and ill founded jealousies ought not to influence a measure laudable in its institution, and salutary in its objects and operation.

Under these circumstances, there will be no difficulty in conceiving, that the part I should have had to have acted, would have been delicate. On the one hand, I might be charged with dereliction to the Officers, who had nobly supported me, and had treated me with uncommon marks of attention and attachment. On the other, with supporting a measure incompatible (some say) with republican principles. I thought it best therefore without assigning this (the principal reason) to decline the Presidency, and to excuse my attendance at the meeting on the ground, which is firm and just; the necessity of paying attention to my private concerns; to conformity to my determination of passing the remainder of my days in a state of retirement; and to indisposition; occasioned by Rheumatic complaints with which, at times, I am a good deal afflicted. Professing at the sametime my entire approbation of the institution as altered, and the pleasure I feel at the subsidence of those Jealousies which yielded to the change. Presuming, on the general adoption of them.

I have been thus particular to shew, that under circumstances like these, I should feel myself in an aukward situation to be in Philadelphia on another public occasion during the sitting of this Society. That the prest. era is pregnant of great, and strange events, none who will cast their eyes around them, can deny; what may be brought forth between this and the first of May to remove the difficulties which at present labour Edition: current; Page: [346] in my mind, against the acceptance of the honor which has lately been conferred on me by the Assembly, is not for me to predict; but I should think it incompatible with that candour which ought to characterize an honest mind, not to declare that under my present view of the matter, I should be too much embarrassed by the meetings of these two bodies in the same place, in the same moment (after what I have written) to be easy in the situation; and consequently, that it wd. be improper to let my appointment stand in the way of another. Of this, you who have had the whole matter fully before you, will judge; for having received no other than private intimation of my election, and unacquainted with the formalities which are, or ought to be used on these occasions, silence may be deceptious, or considered as disrespectful; The imputation of both, or either, I would wish to avoid. This is the cause of the present disclosure, immediately on the receipt of your letter, which has been locked up by Ice; for I have had no communication with Alexandria for many days, till the day before yesterday.

My Sentiments are decidedly against Commutables; for sure I am it will be found a tax without a revenue. That the people will be burthened. The public expectation deceived, and a few Speculators only, enriched. Thus the matter will end, after the morals of some, are more corrupted than they now are; and the minds of all, filled with more leaven, by finding themselves taxed, and the public demands in full force. Tobacco, on acct. of the public places of deposit, and from the accustomed mode of negotiating the article, is certainly better fitted for a Commutable than any other production of this Country; but if I understand the matter rightly (I have it from report only) will any man pay five pound in Specie for five taxables, when the same sum (supposing Tobo. not to exceed 20/. per Ct.) will purchase 500 lbs. of Tobo. and this, if at 28/. will discharge the tax on Seven? And will not the man who neither makes, nor can easily procure this commodity, complain of the inequality of such a mode, especially when he finds that the revenue is diminished by the difference be it what it may, between the real and nominal price? and that he is again to be taxed to make this good. These, and such like things, in my humble opinion, are extremely hurtful, and are among the principal causes that present depravity and corruption without accomplishing the object in view for it is not the shadow, but the Edition: current; Page: [347] substance with which Taxes must be paid, if we mean to be honest. With sentiments of sincere esteem etc.

George Washington
Washington, George
December 21, 1786
Mount Vernon
Edmund Randolph
Randolph, Edmund



I had not the honor of receiving your Excellency’s favor of the 6th, with its enclosures, till last night. Sensible as I am of the honor conferred on me by the General Assembly,Appointment to the Philadelphia Convention in appointing me one of the Deputies to a Convention proposed to be held in the City of Philadelphia in May next, for the purpose of revising the Foederal Constitution; and desirous as I am on all occasions, of testifying a ready obedience to the calls of my Country; yet, Sir, there exists at this moment, circumstances, which I am persuaded will render my acceptance of this fresh mark of confidence incompatible with other measures which I had previously adopted; and from which, seeing little prospect of disengaging myself, it would be disengenuous not to express a wish that some other character, on whom greater reliance can be had, may be substituted in my place; the probability of my non-attendance being too great to continue my appointment.

As no mind can be more deeply impressed than mine is with the awful situation of our affairs; resulting in a great measure from the want of efficient powers in the foederal head, and due respect to its Ordinances, so, consequently, those who do engage in the important business of removing these defects, will carry with them every good wish of mine which the best dispositions towards the attainment can bestow. I have the honr. etc.

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George Washington
Washington, George
December 26, 1786
Mount Vernon
Henry Knox
Knox, Henry


My dear Sir:

Nothing but the pleasing hope of seeing you under this roof in the course of last month, and wch. I was disposed to extend even to the present moment, has kept me till this time from acknowledging the receipt of your obliging favor of the 23d of October. Despairing now of that pleasure, I shall thank you for the above letter, and the subsequent one of the 17th. instt., which came to hand yesterday evening.

Insurgency in MassachusettsLamentable as the conduct of the Insurgents of Massachusetts is, I am exceedingly obliged to you for the advices respecting them; and pray you, most ardently, to continue the acct. of their proceedings; because I can depend upon them from you without having my mind bewildered with those vague and contradictory reports which are handed to us in Newspapers, and which please one hour, only to make the moments of the next more bitter. I feel, my dear Genl. Knox, infinitely more than I can express to you, for the disorders which have arisen in these States. Good God! who besides a Tory could have foreseen, or a Briton predicted them! were these people wiser than others, or did they judge of us from the corruption, and depravity of their own hearts? The latter I am persuaded was the case, and that notwithstanding the boasted virtue of America, we are far gone in every thing ignoble and bad.

I do assure you, that even at this moment, when I reflect on the present posture of our affairs, it seems to me to be like the vision of a dream. My mind does not know how to realize it, as a thing in actual existence, so strange, so wonderful does it appear to me! In this, as in most other matter, we are too slow. When this spirit first dawned, probably it might easily have been checked; but it is scarcely within the reach of human ken, at this moment, to say when, where, or how it will end. There are combustibles in every State, which a spark might set fire to. In this State, a perfect calm prevails at present, and a prompt disposition to support, and give energy to the foederal System is discovered, if the unlucky stirring of the dispute respecting Edition: current; Page: [349] the navigation of the Mississippi does not become a leaven that will ferment, and sour the mind of it.

Political issues in VirginiaThe resolutions of the prest. Session respecting a paper emission, military certificates, &ca., have stamped justice and liberality on the proceedings of the Assembly, and By a late act, it seems very desirous of a General Convention to revise and amend the foederal Constitution.. . . and the Eastern states Apropos, what prevented the Eastern States from attending the September meeting at Annapolis? Of all the States in the Union it should have seemed to me, that a measure of this sort (distracted as they were with internal commotions, and experiencing the want of energy in the government) would have been most pleasing to them. What are the prevailing sentiments of the one now proposed to be held in Philadelphia, in May next? and how will it be attended? You are at the fountain of intelligence, and where the wisdom of the Nation, it is to be presumed, has concentered; consequently better able (as I have had abundant experience of your intelligence, confidence, and candour to solve these questions).

. . . and MarylandThe Maryland Assembly has been violently agitated by the question for a paper emission. It has been carried in the House of Delegates, but what has, or will be done with the Bill in the Senate I have not yet heard. The partisans in favor of the measure in the lower House, threaten, it is said, a secession if it is rejected by that Branch of the Legislature. Thus are we advancing. In regretting, which I have often done with the deepest sorrow, the death of our much lamented frd. General Greene, I have accompanied it of late with a quaere, whether he would not have prefered such an exit to the scenes which it is more than probable many of his compatriots may live to bemoan.

In both your letters you intimate, that the men of reflection, principle and property in New England, feeling the inefficacy of their present government, are contemplating a change; but you are not explicit with respect to the nature of it. It has been supposed, that, the Constitution of the State of Massachusetts was amongst the most energetic in the Union;. . . and Massachusetts May not these disorders then be ascribed to an endulgent exercise of the powers of Administration? If your laws authorized, and your powers were adequate to the suppression of these tumults, in the first appearances of them, delay and temporizing expedients were, in my opinion improper; these are rarely well Edition: current; Page: [350] applied, and the same causes would produce similar effects in any form of government, if the powers of it are not enforced. I ask this question for information, I know nothing of the facts.

Actions of Great BritainThat G. B will be an unconcerned Spectator of the present insurrections (if they continue) is not to be expected. That she is at this moment sowing the Seeds of jealousy and discontent among the various tribes of Indians on our frontier admits of no doubt, in my mind. And that she will improve every opportunity to foment the spirit of turbulence within the bowels of the United States, with a view of distracting our governments, and promoting divisions, is, with me, not less certain. Her first Manoeuvres will, no doubt, be covert, and may remain so till the period shall arrive when a decided line of conduct may avail her. Charges of violating the treaty, and other pretexts, will not then be wanting to colour overt acts, tending to effect the grt. objects of which she has long been in labour. A Man is now at the head of their American Affairs well calculated to conduct measures of this kind, and more than probably was selected for the purpose. We ought not therefore to sleep nor to slumber. Vigilance in watching, and vigour in acting, is, in my opinion, become indispensably necessary. If the powers are inadequate amend or alter them, but do not let us sink into the lowest state of humiliation and contempt, and become a byword in all the earth. I think with you that the Spring will unfold important and distressing Scenes, unless much wisdom and good management is displayed in the interim. Adieu; be assured no man has a higher esteem and regard for you than I have; none more sincerely your friend, and more Affecte. etc.

George Washington
Washington, George
December 26, 1786
Mount Vernon
David Humphreys
Humphreys, David


My Dr. Humphreys:

I am much indebted to you for your several favors of the 1st. 9th. and 16th. of Novr. the last came first. Mr. Morse, having in mind the old proverb, was determined not to make more haste than good speed in prosecuting his journey to Georgia, so I got the two first lately.

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For your publication respecting the treatment of Captn. Asgill, I am exceedingly obliged to you. The manner of making it is the best that cou’d be devised; whilst the matter will prove the illiberality, as well as the fallacy of the reports which have been circulated on that occasion, and which are fathered upon that officer as the author.

Insurgency in MassachusettsIt is with the deepest and most heartfelt concern, I perceive by some late paragraphs extracted from the Boston papers, that the Insurgents of Massachusetts, far from being satisfied with the redress offered by their general Court, are still acting in open violation of law and government, and have obliged the chief Magistrate in a decided tone to call upon the Militia of the State to support the Constitution. What, gracious God, is man! that there should be such inconsistency and perfidiousness in his conduct? It is but the other day, that we were shedding our blood to obtain the Constitutions under which we now live; Constitutions of our own choice and making; and now we are unsheathing the sword to overturn them. The thing is so unaccountable, that I hardly know how to realize it, or to persuade myself that I am not under the illusion of a dream.

My mind, previous to the receipt of your letter of the 1st. ulto., had often been agitated by a thought similar to the one you have expressed respecting an old friend of your’s; but Heaven forbid that a crisis should come when he shall be driven to the necessity of making choice of either of the alternatives there mentioned. Let me entreat you, my dr. Sir, to keep me advised of the situation of affairs in your quarter. I can depend on your accounts. Newspaper paragraphs unsupported by other testimony, are often contradictory and bewildering. At one time these insurgents are spoken of as a mere mob; at other times as systematic in all their proceedings. If the first, I would fain hope that like other Mobs it will, however formidable, be of short duration. If the latter there are surely men of consequence and abilities behind the curtain who move the puppets; the designs of whom may be deep and dangerous. They may be instigated by British counsel; actuated by ambitious motives, or being influenced by dishonest principles, had rather see the Country in the horror of civil discord, than do what justice would dictate to an honest mind.

Society of the CincinnatiI had scarcely despatched my circular letters to the several State Societies of the Cincinnati, when I received letters from Edition: current; Page: [352] some of the principal members of our Assembly expressing a wish that they might be permitted to name me as one of the Deputies of this State to the Convention proposed to be held at Philadelphia the first of May next. I immediately wrote to my particular friend Mr. Madison (and gave similar reasons to the others) the answer is contained in the extract No. 1; in reply I got the extract No. 2. This obliged me to be more explicit and confidential with him on points which a recurrence to the conversations we have had on this subject will bring to your mind and save me the hazard of a recital in this letter. Since this interchange of letters I have received from the Governor the letter No. 4 and have written No. 5 in answer to it. Should this matter be further pressed, (which I hope it will not, as I have no inclination to go) what had I best do? You as an indifferent person, and one who is much better acquainted with the sentiments and views of the Cincinnati than I am; (for in this State where the recommendations of the General Meeting have been agreed to hardly any thing is said about it) as also with the temper of the people and state of politics at large, can determine upon better ground and fuller evidence than myself; especially as you have opportunities of knowing in what light the States to the Eastward consider the Convention, and the measures they are pursuing to contravene, or to give efficiency to it.

On the last occasion, only five States were represented; none East of New York. Why the Nw. England Governments did not appear, I am yet to learn; for of all others the distractions and turbulent temper of these people would, I should have thought, have afforded the strongest evidence of the necessity of competent powers somewhere. That the Foederal Government is nearly, if not quite at a stand, none will deny. The first question then is, shall it be annihilated or supported? If the latter,Philadelphia Convention the proposed convention is an object of the first magnitude, and should be supported by all the friends of the present Constitution. In the other case, if on a full and dispassionate revision thereof, the continuance shall be adjudged impracticable or unwise, as only delaying an event which must ‘ere long take place; would it not be better for such a Meeting to suggest some other, to avoid if possible civil discord or other impending evils? I must candidly confess, as we could not remain quiet more than three or four years in time of peace, under the Constitutions of our own choosing; which it was Edition: current; Page: [353] believed, in many States at least, were formed with deliberation and wisdom, I see little prospect either of our agreeing upon any other, or that we should remain long satisfied under it if we could. Yet I would wish any thing, and every thing essayed to prevent the effusion of blood, and to avert the humiliating and contemptible figure we are about to make in the annals of mankind.

If this second attempt to convene the States for the purposes proposed by the report of the partial representation at Annapolis in September, should also prove abortive, it may be considered as an unequivocal evidence that the States are not likely to agree on any general measure which is to pervade the Union, a