George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Robert McKenzie, 13 September 1774

From Robert McKenzie

Boston Camp [Mass.] Septr 13th 1774

Dear Sir

I am happy to take the Advantage of my Friend Mr Atchison’s Return to Virginia to pay my Respects where they are so much due as to yourself, especially as he expects to find you at Philadelphia engaged in the present important Affairs in America. No Class of People wish more cordially for a happy Accommodation than those of my Profession, and among them there is not one who is under stronger Obligations to do so than myself.1

Mr Atchison can sufficiently inform you of the State of this unhappy Province, of their tyrannical Oppression over one another, of their fixed Aim at total Independance, of the Weakness and Temper of the main Springs that set the whole in Motion, and how necessary it is that abler Heads and better Hearts shd draw a Line for their Guidance: Even when this is done ’tis much to be feared they will follow it no further than where it coincides with their present Sentiments.

Amidst all these Jarrings we have until lately lived as in a Camp of Pleasure, but the rebellious and numerous Meetings of Men in Arms, their scandalous and ungenerous Attacks upon the best Characters in the Province, obliging them to save their Lives by Flight, and their repeated but feeble Threats to dispossess the Troops have furnished sufficient Reasons to Genl Gage to put the Town in a formidable State of Defence, about which we are now fully employed, and which will be shortly accomplished to their great Mortification.2

I shall endeavour to quit this disagreeable Scene when the Regiments retire into Quarters, and hope that going or returning from James’s River to pay my Respects in Person.3

Col. Robt Stuart Dr John Stuart, and Col. Mercer were among the last Persons I parted with in London last April—I mention them as your Acquaintances—’Tho’ they all had a long Detail of Grievances, neither their Health or Spirits seem to have suffered at that Time.4 I have the Honour to be Dear Sir, your very respectful and most obedient Servant

Robert Mackenzie
Lieutt 43d Foot


Robert McKenzie served as captain in GW’s Virginia Regiment from its inception in September 1755 until General Amherst gave McKenzie a commission in the British army in 1761. See GW to Robert McKenzie, 11 Nov. 1755, and McKenzie to GW, 18 Feb. 1757 and 12 Aug. 1760. In 1776 McKenzie became paymaster general under Gen. William Howe and in 1777 became Howe’s private secretary. McKenzie has changed the spelling of his name since his earlier correspondence.

1William Aitcheson (Aitchison) and James Parker were partners in the commercial firm Aitcheson & Parker of Norfolk.

2See GW’s response of 9 Oct. from Philadelphia in which he strongly rebuts McKenzie’s view of Boston’s actions.

3McKenzie probably owned property somewhere along the lower James River and had relatives living there as well. In 1755 he went to Norfolk to get recruits for his company in the Virginia Regiment, and in 1763 he obtained leave from Gen. Jeffrey Amherst to go to Virginia to attend to private business (Robert McKenzie to Amherst, 2 Feb. 1763, Amherst to McKenzie, 7 Feb. 1763, Amherst Papers, P.R.O., C.O. 34/94 and 34/96). On 14 Mar. 1775 McKenzie wrote GW from Norfolk to say that only “the pressing Necessity of a Friend, with whom I travelled, to return to James River sooner than I intended” prevented his calling at Mount Vernon. One reason for McKenzie’s visit to Virginia was to garner support of influential friends in his attempt to have his bounty lands, which were surveyed for him by Thomas Bullitt and then disallowed by the governor, resurveyed or allowed to him. See John Camm to Preston, 22 Mar.; William Byrd to William Preston, 23 Mar.; Preston to Camm, 18 April, WHi: Draper Manuscripts, Preston Papers, 10, 11, 13. The land surveyed for McKenzie was 3,000 acres on the “fork of Harrods Creek 7 miles above the Falls of Ohio” (A List of Surveys made by Thos Bullitt and Deputys under the claimers of the Proclamation of 1763, May 1774, DLC: Breckinridge Family Papers).

4In his response of 9 Oct. GW refers to Robert Stewart and George Mercer, two longtime friends, both of whom were officers in GW’s Virginia Regiment. For the possible identity of Dr. John Stewart (Stuart), see William Fairfax to GW, 5 Sept. 1754, n.3.

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