George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Robert Stewart, 15 February 1761

From Robert Stewart

Winchester 15th Febry 1761

My Dear Sir

I arrivd here the 11th Inst. after the most severe and longest Campaign I ever Serv’d1 and the excessive pleasure I enjoy by hearing of your welfare2 rises in proportion to the great uneasiness I from a dread of the reverse was long under, not only, by the uncommon Secession of your so much desir’d, till then uninterupted, & truely valuable Corrispondence, but, my not being able to learn any thing of you, and tho’ I was very sensibly affected by this misfortune, an unalterable perswasion of your incapacity (without the clearest reasons) of dropping a Freindship which I esteem one of the greatest Blessings of my Life, would not suffer me even to suppose a possibility of its proceeding from any other cause, than the miscarriage of our Letters, and it is with inexpressibly satisfaction I find my opinion thereon so well grounded for our mutual Freind Craik3 tells me that you did me the favour to write to me which Letter he gave to Heath4 but Heath cannot recollect to whom at Pittsburgh he deliver’d it, I suspect the villainous curiosity of some mean Scoundl for robbing me of the pleasure the rect of it would have afforded me, nor Im I free from apprehensions for the many Letters I in the course of last Campaign wrote you, their having met with the same Fate, should that be the case, I flatter myself, that those generous Sentiments of Freindship, so eminently conspicuous in every part of your Behaviour to me, for a space that fills a considerable share of Life, has render’d every avenue to your Heart impregnable to every suspecion of neglect or Ingratitude in me, for it is with great Truth, I assure you, that I never let slip one opportunity of transmittg you every occurrence which I imagin’d could in any degree entertain or amuse You.5

I had resolvd after a few Days rest to have waited on You at Mount Vernon, but Im informd that you are gone to Annapolis, and is to be here soon,6 which frees me from the pain that would inavitably arise from asking for Leave of absence from Step[hen]s who I’m certainty inform’d is incessantly employd in traversing this County and with indefaticable pains practices every method of making Interest with it’s Inhabitants for Electing him their Representative in Assembly,7 his claims to disinterestedness, Public Spirit and genuine Patriotism are Trumpeted in the most turgid manner; it’s said he will reduce these shining Virtues to practice (for its undeniable that if his pretensions to them had ever an existence it must have been in Idea) by Introducing various Commercial Schemes, which, are to diffuse Gold & opulency thro’ Frederick, and prove (I suppose) as Sovereign a Remedy against Poverty and want as Glen’s red Root8 was in removing hunger and imbecillity from our Horses in Campaign 58 when they were destitude of Forrage and Sustenance of every kind, But however strange & chimerical these nonentity’s may appear to common sense, yet by his striking out of the beaten Road he has attracted the attention of the Plebeians, whose unstable Minds are agitated by every Breath of Novelty whims and nonsense, yet with his speculative Wealth and an immensity of Flummery he has brought over many, which and some groundless Reports gave me extreme uneasiness till I was certain that the Leaders and all the Patrician Families remains firm in their resolution of continuing for You, But tho’ there is every appearance of your going with a greater Majority at the next than you did at the last Election yet as in affairs of that Nature it’s difficult to form a certain Judgement from appearances, I conceive your own presence, as soon as you can conveniently come, would highly conduce to fix it beyond the most distant doubt.

I was astonish’d to hear that Jones is suspected of becoming an opposer,9 But in that Event (which I can hardly beleive) it will appear that he is actuated by the most selfish motives, and Im perswaded that the cause of his opposition will by shewing your watchfull care for whatever might affect Your Constituents, promote in place of diminishing your Interest with them—I need not tell you how happy McNeill10 and I are in arriving at a Juncture when the Flame of Burgessing kindles every Breast.

I hope to have the great pleasure of seeing you soon and I beg you’ll be so good as to offer my Complemts in the most respectfull and obliging Terms to Your Lady & the Children & beleive ever to be with the highest Esteem and most perfect Regard My Dear Colonel Your most Affecte & Most Obliged hble Servt

Robert Stewart


Robert Stewart, who had been an officer in the Virginia Regiment since 1754, at this time was serving as major under Col. William Byrd. For a summary of Stewart’s military career, see GW to George Gordon, 15 Sept. 1755 (first letter), n.1.

1Gen. Robert Monckton in July 1760 ordered Stewart to march from Winchester with a small detachment to Venango and there rebuild the fort destroyed by the French (Monckton to Henry Bouquet, 28 July 1760, in Waddell, Bouquet Papers description begins Donald H. Kent et al., eds. The Papers of Henry Bouquet. 6 vols. Harrisburg, Pa., 1951-94. description ends , 4:658–61). Too few men and a shortage of food made his task difficult. He was relieved in late December and returned to Fort Pitt where he remained most of January before returning to Winchester via Fort Cumberland (see particularly Stewart to Mordecai Buckner, 23 Dec. 1760, and Bouquet to Monckton, 26 Jan. 1761, ibid., 5:201–3, 265–66).

2Stewart wrote “welware.”

3James Craik was at this time the surgeon in the Virginia Regiment as he had been since 1755.

4Heath was probably William Heath, a soldier in the Virginia Regiment. See Orders, 12 July 1756, n.8, in Papers, Colonial Series description begins W. W. Abbot et al., eds. The Papers of George Washington, Colonial Series. 10 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1983–95. description ends , 3:250–59.

5The only letter found written at Venango in 1760 to GW by Stewart is dated 2 October. No letter from GW to Stewart has been found between those dated 11 Aug. 1758 and 27 April 1763. It was not GW’s practice at this time to retain copies either of the personal letters he wrote or, usually, of those he received.

6Stewart and GW saw one another before 12 Mar., either at Mount Vernon or, more likely in Frederick County. See Stewart to GW, 12 Mar. 1761 (first letter), n.3. No evidence has been found to indicate that GW went to Annapolis in the spring of 1761.

7When Gov. Francis Fauquier notified the Virginia council on 11 Feb. 1761 of the death of George II and the accession of George III, he decided to delay dissolving the old assembly and ordering elections for a new House of Burgesses until the end of the next session due to commence on 5 Mar. (Exec. Journals of Virginia Council description begins H. R. McIlwaine et al., eds. Executive Journals of the Council of Colonial Virginia. 6 vols. Richmond, 1925–66. description ends , 6:177–79; Fauquier to Board of Trade, 17 Feb., 12 May 1761, in Reese, Fauquier description begins George Reese, ed. The Official Papers of Francis Fauquier, Lieutenant Governor of Virginia, 1758–1768. 3 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1980–83. description ends , 2:477–78, 524–26). Lt. Col. Adam Stephen, who was second in command of the Virginia Regiment under Col. William Byrd as he had been under GW, at this time was acting as commander of the regiment in Winchester. Stephen obviously did not wait for the dissolution of the old assembly on 10 April to begin his bid for a seat in the House of Burgesses to replace either GW or Thomas Bryan Martin, from Frederick County, but neither did GW wait (see Stewart to GW, 12 Mar. 1761 [first letter], and notes). GW was reelected, and George Mercer replaced Martin.

8John Forbes’s kinsman James Glen, governor of South Carolina from 1743 to 1756, visited Forbes’s army in the summer of 1758 as Forbes prepared for his march on Fort Duquesne. Major Stewart at the time was captain of the horse guard of the Virginia regiments. A number of plants growing in the region were called “red root.”

9The lawyer Gabriel Jones remained in Winchester in 1758 to support GW’s election to the House of Burgesses from Frederick County; he lost his own seat in Augusta County in that election but was elected from Hampshire County. His name does not appear as a candidate on the Frederick County poll sheet, 18 May 1761 (DLC:GW). See Stewart to GW, 10 June 1761, n.1, for references to the poll sheet.

10John McNeill, a captain in the Virginia Regiment since 1757, went down with Dr. James Craik from Fort Cumberland to Winchester in July 1758 to work for GW’s election to the House of Burgesses.

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