George Washington Papers

From George Washington to John Hancock, 10 June 1776

To John Hancock

New York June 10th 1776.


Since I did myself the honor of writing to you yesterday, I have had the satisfaction of seeing (and for a few Minutes conversing) with Mr Chase & Mr Carroll from Canada—their acct of our Troops, & the situation of Affairs in that department cannot possibly surprize you more than it has done me. but I need not touch upon a subject which you will be so well informd of from the fountain head. nor shou’d I have given you the trouble of a Letter by this days Post but for the distraction which seems to prevail in the Commissary’s department (as well as others in that Quarter)—the necessity of having it under one general direction—and the dissatisfaction of Colo. Trumbell at the allowance made him by Congress (as an equivalent for his trouble)—With respect to this particular matter, I can only say that I think he is a Man well cut out for the business; and that where a shilling is saved in the Pay, a pound may be lost by mismanagement in the Office; and that his resignation at this time (I mean this Campaign) may, possibly, be attended with fatal consequences; I therefore humbly submit to Congress the propriety of handsomely rewarding those Gentlemen who hold such very important, troublesome, and hazardous Offices, as Commissary & Quartermaster.1

In speaking to the former abt the Supplies necessary for the Troops to be raiz’d, he informd me that the qty of Salt Provisions which was Shipping from hence might render his attempts to do it, precarious; in consequence of which I desired him to lay the matter before the Convention of this Colony which he will do this day; but in the meanwhile desired Congress might be informd of the matter which I cannot better do than in his own Words, Inclosed and submit the consideration of it for the Wisdom of that honourable body.2

To Congress I also submit the Propriety of keeping the two Continental Battalions (under the Comd of Colonels Shae & McGaw) at Philadelpa when there is the greatest probability of a speedy attack upon this place from the Kings Troops.3 the Incouragements given by Govr Tryon to the disaffected, which are circulated no one can well tell how—the movements of these kind of People which are more easy to perceive than describe —the confident report which is said to have come immediately from Govr Tryon, & brought by a Frigate from Hallifax that the Troops at that place were Imbarking for this, added to a thousand Incidental Circumstances trivial in themselves but strong from comparison, leaves not a doubt upon my Mind but that Troops are hourly expected at the Hook.

I had no doubt when I left this City, for Philadelphia, but that some measures would have been taken to secure the suspected, & dangerous Persons of this Government before now, and left Orders for the Military to give every aid to the Civil Power4—But, the Subject is delicate, & nothing is done in it—we may therefore have Internal, as well as external Enemies to contend with. I have the honr to be with most respectful Complimts to yourself and Congress, Sir Yr Most Obedt & Most Hble Servt

Go: Washington

ALS, DNA:PCC, item 152; LB, DLC:GW; copy, DNA:PCC, item 169; copy, DLC: Hancock Papers; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. Congress read this letter on 11 June (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends , 5:429).

1In a letter to Hancock of 9 June, which he showed to GW, Joseph Trumbull wrote: “You are very sensible, that I am by no means Satisfied with the Allowance, Congress have been pleased to make me, for my Risk, to say nothing of Services, in the Department they did me the Honor to appoint me to the 19th of July last—Notwithstanding the Congress seem so very averse to a Commission, for doing the Business of my Office, yet I do conceive, there is no Just or Equitable way of making a Compensation therein, other than that—Why should, I have, as much, when I supply only 5,000 men, as when I supply 50,000? nor can I conceive of one Single Reason against it, but that, the Pitifull Commission commonly allowed, will be a Temptation to me to expend money Wantonly & Profusely for sake of it. Would Congress speak this out as their Sentiments with respect to me, be assured, I would not serve them, even for the principal Sum. . . . Genl Washington desired me to write to some of my Friends in Congress, proposing the lowest Terms, that would Satisfy me, & that some Gentlemen he had spoken to, seemed willing to satisfy me. I want nothing but, to be saved the Risk of such sums of money, as must necessarily pass thro’ my Hands—As a Merchant you are well acquainted with the established Rule of that Risk, being 1 perCt for receiving & paying, or ½ perCt for receiving only—The Sum passing thro’ my hands, is great, & tho’ the Business, in addition to the Risk is eno’ to harass a man to death—yet I am willing in support of the present Cause, to give up one half the established Risk, & all my Services; & do the whole for one half per Ct on the money’s paid to me or my Order, by the Treasrs & Pay Masters—This, I suppose, will amount to about £2,500 per an[nu]m—sometimes more, & it may be less—& if the Idea of a Commission, is so peculiarly disagreeable, in my Case, I must Submit, tho’ with reluctance, that that sum be divided by 12, & turned into monthly Wages. . . . If it is said, why should it be more than an Officers Pay? I answer—my Department is merely Mercantile, the Risk, is the whole Sum, wished for, nay double it—I have nothing for my Services, nor can I expect any Share in the Honors of my country—which in case of good Behaviour in the Officer, is Sure to him” (DNA:PCC, item 78).

On 17 June Congress, which a year earlier had set the quartermaster general’s pay at $80 a month, resolved to pay Trumbull $150 a month in the future. Quartermaster general Stephen Moylan’s salary was fixed at $80 a month on 5 June (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends , 2:94, 190, 5:419, 451).

3For Congress’s orders directing colonels John Shee and Robert Magaw’s Pennsylvania regiments to march to New York, see Hancock to GW, 11 June 1776. John Shee (1740–1808), a Philadelphia merchant who served on the city’s committee of correspondence 1774–75 and as a captain in the 3d Battalion of Philadelphia Associators during 1775, was appointed colonel of the 3d Pennsylvania Regiment by the Continental Congress on 3 Jan. 1776. The demands of his family induced him to resign his command on 25 Sept. 1776 (see Shee to Hancock, that date, DNA:PCC, item 78). Shee was a member of the Pennsylvania board of war during 1777, state auditor of public accounts from 1780 to 1781, and a lieutenant colonel in the militia from 1780 to 1786.

Index Entries