Washington, George, 1732-1799. The writings of George Washington from the original manuscript sources: Volume 4
Electronic Text Center, University of Virginia Library

| Table of Contents for this work |
| All on-line databases | Etext Center Homepage |

To JOSEPH REED Cambridge, December 15, 1775.

    Dear Sir: Since my last, I have had the pleasure of receiving your favours of the 28th ultimo, and the 2d instant. I must again


Page 165

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. 59 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. 60 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
[Note:Description of Mrs. Washington's arrival and departure from Philadelphia were published in the Pennsylvania Gazette of November 22 and 29. She arrived at Cambridge on December 11. Accompanying her were Mrs. Horatio Gates, John Parke Custis and his wife, and Warner Lewis and his wife. ]
[Note:Thus early the antagonisms in Congress were apparent to an outsider. The jealousies between the New England and southern Delegates had grown. The New England opposition to Schuyler had its roots in the Massachusetts-Connecticut feud over Silas Deane and the Ticonderoga expedition. Gates was even then unconsciously grooming, or being groomed, for New England support in the Burgoyne campaign and the Conway Cabal. But another line of cleavage was that of the group who clung to the hope of reconciliation with Britain and those who wanted complete severance from the mother country. John Adams, with his strange mixture of keen, intelligent insight and unexpected dumbness, only skimmed the surface when he wrote ( Works, vol. 2, p. 448): "It is almost impossible to move anything [in Congress], but you instantly see private friendships and enmities, and provincial views and prejudices intermingle in the consultation." Joseph Reed speedily became involved in the very situation of which he warned Washington. ]

Page 166

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's 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. 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


Page 167

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 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. 61 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.

[Note:Dunmore had issued a proclamation (November 7) declaring the colony to be under martial law and summoning every person capable of bearing arms to resort to his Majesty's standard, or be looked upon as traitors to his Majesty's crown and government. But the part that gave the most offense to the colonists was the promise of freedom to all indented servants, negroes, and others "appertaining to rebels" who should join his troops. Congress interpreted this proclamation as one "tearing up the foundations of civil authority and government" within the colony of Virginia, and advised that such a form of government should be established as should best produce the happiness of the people and most effectually secure peace and good order in the colony during the continuance of the dispute with Britain. (See Journals of the Continental Congress, Dec. 4, 1775.) A month before the proclamation was issued Dunmore had sworn, "by the living God, that if any injury or insult was offered to himself, he would declare freedom to the slaves." (See John Adams's Works, vol. 2, p. 458.) ]

    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.

    P.S. The smallpox is in every part of Boston. 62 The soldiers there who have never had it, are, we are told, under

[Note:Robert Hanson Harrison, by direction of Washington (December 15), forwarded £53.13.3 by John Parke Custis to the Massachusetts Legislature for the deserving poor of Boston. This amount had been subscribed by the people of Fairfax County, Va., and young Custis had brought it with him, bearing also a letter from John Dalton and William Ramsay, of the Fairfax committee. ]

Page 168

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. 63

[Note:The text is from Reed's Life and Correspondence of Joseph Reed ; Sparks printed this with unnoted omissions. ]