George Washington Papers

From George Washington to John Robinson, 18 April 1756

To John Robinson

[Winchester, c.18 April 1756]1

To the Speaker of the House of Burgesses.
Dear Sir,

It gave me infinite concern to hear by several letters that the Assembly are incensed against the Virginia Regiment; and think they have cause to accuse the Officers of all inordinate vices; but more especially of drunkenness and profanity! How far any one individual may have subjected himself to such reflections, I will not pretend to determine: but this I am certain of; and can with the highest safety call my conscience, my God! and (what I suppose will still be a more demonstrable proof, at least in the eye of the World,) the Orders and Instructions which I have given, to evince the purity of my own intentions, and to shew on the one hand, that my incessant endeavours have been directed to discountenance Gaming, drinking, swearing, and other vices, with which all camps too much abound: while on the other, I have used every expedient to inspire a laudable emulation in the Officers, and an unerring exercise of Duty in the Soldiers. How far I may have mistaken the means to attain so salutary an end, behooves not me to determine: But this I presume to say, that a mans intentions should be allowed in some respects to plead for his actions. I have been more explicit, Sir, on this head than I otherwise shou’d, because I find that my own character must of necessity be involved in the general censure: for which reason I can not help observing, that if the country think they have cause to condemn my conduct, and have a person in view that will act; that he may do. But, who will endeavour to act more for her Interests than I have done? It will give me the greatest pleasure to resign a command, which I solemnly declare I accepted against my will.

I know, Sir, that my inexperience may have lead me into innumerable errors: For which reason I shou’d think myself an unworthy member of the community and greatly deficient in the love I owe my country, which has ever been the first principle of my actions, were I to require more than a distant hint of its dissatisfaction to resign a commission which I confess to you I am no ways fond of keeping.

These sentiments I communicate to you, Sir, not only as to a Gentleman for whom I entertain the highest respect, and greatest friendship; but also as a member of the assembly—that the contents, if you think proper, may be communicated to the whole. For, be assured, I shall never wish to hold a Commission, when it ceases to be by unanimous consent.

The unhappy differences which subsisted so long about command, did, I own, prevent me from going to Fort Cumberland, to enforce those Orders which I never failed to send there; and caused I dare say many gross irregularities to creep into that Garrison (which you know is in another Colony;) But whose fault was that? Ought it not to have been attributed to the officer commanding there (Capt. Dagworthy)2 whose business it was to suppress vice in every shape? Surely it was. However, I am far from attempting to vindicate the characters of all the officers: For that I am sensible would be a task too arduous: There are some who have the seeds of Idleness too strongly instilled into their constitution, either to be serviceable to themselves, or beneficial to the Country: Yet even those have not missed my best advice: nor have my unwearied endeavours ever been wanting to serve my Country with the highest integrity. For which reasons I shou’d ever be content in retirement; and reflect with no little pleasure, that no sordid views have influenced my conduct, nor have the hopes of unlawful gain swerved me in any measure, from the strictest dictates of Honor! I have diligently sought the public welfare; and have endeavoured to inculcate the same principles on all that are under me. These reflections will be a cordial to my mind so long as I am able to distinguish between Good & Evil. I am &c.


LB, DLC:GW. The italicized words in this letter represent one of the lesser problems that GW’s corrected and recopied letter books pose for anyone using them. Throughout the letter books there are occasional letters and orders in which one or more words have been underlined. The underlineations usually make sense but sometimes not. It may be that GW himself made the underlinings either when he first wrote the letter in the letter book or when he was correcting it for the copyist, and the clerk faithfully copied GW’s markings. But also it may be that GW’s copyist did the underlining on his own, that GW added the lines when looking over his copyist’s work, or that someone like Jared Sparks working in the papers after GW’s death did the deed. It is fair to say, however, that if GW’s two surviving original letter books and his surviving original letters are any guide, GW himself made very few underlinings in any of his original letters and letter books of this period.

Only when a word is clearly underlined and the emphasis thus given to the word does not seem nonsensical has the word been printed in italics.

1GW’s copyist entered this undated letter at the end of December 1756 in the letter book, but GW composed it shortly before or after he wrote Dinwiddie on 18 April.

2This is the only instance in GW’s surviving writings when he seems to concede that John Dagworthy instead of Lt. Col. Adam Stephen of the Virginia Regiment was, in fact, the commander at Fort Cumberland during the late fall and winter of 1755–56.

Index Entries