George Washington Papers

To George Washington from John Collins, 15 September 1775

From John Collins

Newport Sept. 15th 1775


Agreeable to a Vote of the Committee of Inspection for this Town, I inclose you a true Copy of an intercepted Letter from the late Govr Hutchinson to a Gentleman in this Colony, only omitting the Names of that Gentleman, and the Bearer of the Letter, both of whom are Friends to the Liberties of America.

The Letter was laid before the Committee the last Evening; and although it is of an old Date; yet as it contains a Paragraph which may respect your Excellency as Generalissimo of the Forces of the United Colonies of America, We thought it our Duty thus early to transmit you a Copy of it.1 I am with the greatest Respect Your Excellency’s most obedt Hble Servant

John Collins Chairn


John Collins (1717–1795), a prominent merchant in Newport, was active on the town’s committee of safety as early as January 1774. He served in the Rhode Island general assembly from 1774 to 1778, and in Sept. 1776 he was a member of the committee that the assembly sent to confer with GW about defending the state. Elected to the Continental Congress in May 1778, Collins remained a delegate until 1783 except for a period of several months between the spring of 1781 and the fall of 1782.

1Thomas Hutchinson (1711–1780), royal governor of Massachusetts from 1771 to 1774, had long been a leading antagonist of the radical Whigs in America. In June 1774 he sailed to England, expecting to return soon to his native Massachusetts, but the coming of the war obliged him to remain in exile for the remainder of his days. The copy of Hutchinson’s letter that Collins enclosed to GW is dated 2 June 1775, St. James’s Street, London. “I could not let—go to America without a Line to my old Friend and Acquaintance,” Hutchinson wrote. “I hope it will find you alive and in health, but looking forward towards the hopeful state of peace and quiet in a World to which you and I are hastening. If I had no Connexions with America, my Situation in England would be far from disagreeable, but I find my Attachment to my Native Country increased by my distance from it. I am distressed by the last News of Hostillities commenced between the King’s Troops and the Inhabitants of Massachusetts Bay, and at present, see nothing but ruin and misery like to follow, the general Voice here being for greater force to be sent to America, but I am informed the Ministry wait for dispatches from General Gage which are not yet arrived. I think your State must be not unlike that of the Man who stands upon the Shore and sees the Ships, in the Storm, tossed with the Waves, and their Crews in danger of perishing every moment, and, though he feels pity and compassion for them, yet he blesses his Maker for preserving him in Security from the like Storms and Perils” (DLC:GW).

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