George Washington Papers

To George Washington from the Pennsylvania Council of Safety, 23 November 1776

From the Pennsylvania Council of Safety

In Council of Safety Philadelphia 23rd Novr 1776.


The uncertain intelligence which we have received respecting the movements of General Howe’s Army, and the evacuation of Fort Lee, renders it absolutely necessary for us to apply to your Excellency for further, and more perfect information concerning these movements, and we earnestly request your Excellency will inform this Board if it is your judgment that he intends for this state, and such other matters, relating to this great object, as you may think proper to communicate—The vast importance of this enquiry will excuse the trouble we give your Excellency at this critical and interesting moment. We are with the utmost respect Your Excellency’s most obedient & very humble servants

By order of the Council

Tho. Wharton junr Presidt1

P.S. The bearer hereof Mr John Dunlap is a Citizen of Character and in whom the utmost confidence can be placed, it is on that accot tht we have applyd to this Gentleman to undertake this business as your Excelly may communicate very freely, either by Letter or verbelly, any information you think may be useful for us to know.2


LS, DLC:GW. The postscript is in Wharton’s writing.

1Thomas Wharton, Jr. (1735–1778), a Philadelphia merchant who had taken a strong stand against the Stamp Act in 1765 and had been a leading advocate of nonimportation agreements before the war, served as a deputy to the Pennsylvania provincial convention in 1774, a member of the provincial committee of safety from June 1775 to July 1776, president of the state council of safety from August 1776 to December 1777, and president of the state’s supreme executive council from March 1777 until his death in May 1778. Wharton appended “junior” to his signature in order to distinguish himself from a slightly older cousin of the same name.

2John Dunlap (1747–1812), a prominent Philadelphia printer who had come to the city from Ireland about the age of ten, founded the Pennsylvania Packet; and the General Advertiser in 1771 and published it under varying titles until 1790. The first broadside version of the Declaration of Independence was printed by Dunlap on 4–5 July 1776, and from 1778 to 1789 he was printer to Congress. As cornet of the Philadelphia troop of light horse, Dunlap saw active military service during the New Jersey campaign of the next two months and the Philadelphia campaign in the fall of 1777. By September 1779 Dunlap was lieutenant of the light-horse troop.

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