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, January 31, 1776.

    Dear Sir: In my last, (date not recollected) by Mr. John Adams, I communicated my distresses to you on account of my want of your assistance. Since this I have been under some concern at doing of it, lest it should precipitate your return before you were ripe for it, or bring on a final resignation which I am unwilling to think of, if your return can be made convenient and agreeable. True it is, that from a variety of causes my business has been, and now is, multiplied and perplexed; whilst the means of execution is greatly contracted.


Page 297

This may be a cause for my wishing you here, but no inducement to your coming, if you hesitated before.

    I have now to thank you for your favors of the 15th, 16th, and 20th inst., and for the several articles of intelligence, which they convey. The account given of your navy, at the same time that it is exceedingly unfavorable to our wishes, is a little provoking to me, inasmuch as it has deprived us of a necessary article 68 which otherwise would have been sent hither; but which a kind of fatality, I fear, will for ever deprive us of. In the instance of New York, we are not to receive a particle of what you expected would be sent from thence; the time and season passing away, as I believe the troops in Boston also will, before the season for taking the field arrives. I dare say they are preparing for it now, as we have undoubted intelligence of Clinton's leaving Boston with a number of troops, (by differrent accounts, from four or five hundred to ten companies of grenadiers, and nine of light infantry), believed to be designed for Long Island, or New York, in consequence of assurances from Governor Tryon of powerful aid from the Tories there.

[Note:Powder. ]

    I hope my countrymen (of Virginia) will rise superior to any losses the whole navy of Great Britain can bring on them, and that the destruction of Norfolk, and the threatened devastation of other places, will have no other effect, than to unite the whole country in one indissoluble band against a nation which seems to be lost to every sense of virtue, and those feelings which distinguish a civilized people from the most barbarous savages. A few more of such flaming arguments, as were exhibited at Falmouth and Norfolk, 69 added to the sound doctrine and unanswerable reasoning contained in the pamphlet " Common Sense, " will not leave numbers at a loss to decide upon the propriety of a separation.

[Note:The town of Norfolk, in Virginia, had been bombarded and burned by Lord Dunmore on January 1. -- Sparks. ]

Page 298

    By a letter of the 21st instant from Wooster, I find, that Arnold was continuing the blockade of Quebec on the 19th, which, under tile heaviness of our loss there, is a most favorable circumstance, and exhibits a fresh proof of Arnold's ability and perseverance in the midst of difficulties. The reinforcements ordered to him will, I hope, complete the entire conquest of Canada this winter; and but for the loss of the gallant chief, and his brave followers, I should think the rebuff rather favorable than otherwise; for had the country been subdued by such a handful of men, it is more than probable, that it would have been left to the defence of a few, and rescued from us in the spring. Our eyes will now be open not only to the importance of holding it, but to the numbers which are requisite to that end. In return for your two beef and poultry vessels from New York, I can acquaint you that our Commodore Manly has just taken two ships from White Haven to Boston, with coal and potatoes, and sent them into Plymouth, and fought a tender (close by the light house where the vessels were taken), long enough to give his prizes time to get off, in short, till she thought it best to quit the combat, and he to move off from the men-of-war, which were spectators of this scene.

    In my last I think I informed you of my sending General Lee to New York, with the intention of securing the Tories of Long Island, &c. and to prevent, if possible, the King's troops from making a lodgment there; but I fear the Congress will be duped by the representations from that government, or yield to them in such a manner as to become marplots to the expedition.

    The city seems to be entirely under the government of Tryon and the captain of the man-of-war.

    Mrs. Washington desires I will thank you for the picture sent her. Mr. Campbell, whom I never saw to my knowledge,


Page 299

has made a very formidable figure of the Commander-in-chief, giving him a sufficient portion of terror in his countenance. 70 Mrs. Washington also desires her compliments to Mrs. Reed, as I do, and, with the sincerest regard and affection, I remain, dear Sir, your most obedient servant.

[Note:This mezzotinto is described by Baker in his Engraved Portraits of Washington, and represents Washington in "full figure in uniform and cocked hat, on horseback, advancing to the right. A drawn sword in the right hand is held across the body, a battle in the right distance." Mr. Baker concludes that "in every sense they [the Campbell portraits of Washington] may be classed among the fictitious portraits.…The presumption is that the portrait of portraits.…were manufactured at the beginning of the Revolutionary War, for some enterprising publisher either in London or on the Continent, for the express purpose of being engraved, in anticipation of a demand which is was felt must arise." -- Ford. ]