George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Pierre Van Cortlandt, 8 January 1776

To Pierre Van Cortlandt

Cambridge Jany 8. 1776


Having undoubted Intelligence of the fitting out of a Fleet at Boston, and the Embarkation of Troops from thence, which from the season of the year & other circumstances must be destin’d for some expedition South of this—and having such information as I can rely on, that the Inhabitants of Long Island in your Governmt, or a great part of them are not only inimical to the rights and liberties of America, but by their conduct & professions have discovered an apparent Inclination to lend a helping hand to Subjugate their fellow Citizens to Ministerial tyranny, there is the greatest reason to beleive that this Armament, If not designed immediately against the City of New York, is nevertheless Intended for Long Island, I have therefore thought It expedient to dispatch Majr Genl Lee, with such Volunteers as he can quickly Assemble on his March (for I have not Troops to spare from hence, if the distance and Time would admit of it) to put the City of New York in the best posture of defence, the Season and circumstances will admit of.

To his Instructions, which I have desired him to lay before you, I beg leave to refer;1 firmly persuaded that your Honourable body, will give every assistance in their power to facilitate the end of his coming, as there needs no other Argumt than a retrospective view of the conduct of the Ministrl Tro⟨ops⟩ in Boston & the consequences resulting from it, to prove what a fatal stab It would give to the Interests of America to Suffer th⟨e⟩ City of New York to fall into the hands of our Enemies. I am &c.


LB, in Robert Hanson Harrison’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. The letter-book copy is addressed “to the Chairmn of the Committee of Safety of New York,” and the Varick transcript is addressed “to Henry Remsin Esqr. Chairman &c.” Pierre Van Cortlandt (1721–1814) was chairman of the committee of safety from 3 to 23 Jan. 1776 when personal business called him to his seat in Westchester County. Joseph Hallett was named temporary chairman in his place (N.Y. Prov. Congress Journals description begins Journals of the Provincial Congress, Provincial Convention, Committee of Safety, and Council of Safety of the State of New-York, 1775–1776–1777. 2 vols. Albany, 1842. (Microfilm Collection of Early State Records). description ends , 1:235, 262). Van Cortlandt became lieutenant governor of New York in 1777.

Col. David Waterbury of Connecticut delivered this letter to the committee of safety on 1 Feb. when it was read and filed (ibid., 277). For the committee of safety’s ambivalent attitude toward Lee’s mission, see Lee to GW, 24 Jan. and 5 Feb. 1776.

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