George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Joseph Reed, 4 June 1777

From Joseph Reed

Philadelphia June 4. 1777

Dear Sir

I was honoured with yours of the 29th May per Express & take the first Oppy to express my sincere & grateful Acknowledgments of the Favour intended me by appointing me to the Command of the Horse.

The Difficulties which have arisen in Congress, the Time, Manner & Circumstances under which the Appointment as General Officer has been made so as to enable me to profit by your Favour, added to the great Inconvenience my Family & private Affairs must now sustain by my unexpected Absence: the Expence of Equipment & Difficulty of it in any short Time have been such Discouragements to my accepting the Commission that I am advising with my Friends what is the proper Line of Duty & Honour. I should have declined it without any Hesitation if I had not been restrained by those Principles of Respect & Attachment to you from which whatever my Enemies have insinuated upon my Honour I have never deviated. I can readily acknowledge that a Zeal for the Service & Anxiety to correct the horrid Abuses which prevailed in our Army & a Hope of introducing Honesty & Courage at least among our Troops betrayed me into a Warmth of Expression which considering with whom I had to do was imprudent tho not unjust.1 I blame myself for opposing a Torrent which was so irresistable & prevailing & regret that I did not avail myself of your Example of Patience & Silence under Evils which I fear are too deeply rooted to admit of a total Cure. The Abuse & Calumny which with equal Cowardice & Baseness some Persons have bestowed would have given me little Pain, if I did not apprehend that it had lessened me in your Friendship & Esteem—in this Part I confess I have received the severest Wound, for I am sure you are too just & discerning to suffer the unguarded Expressions of another Person to obliterate the Proofs I had given of a sincere, disinterested Attachment to your Person & Fame since you first favoured me with your Regard.

I am sensible, my dear Sir, how difficult it is to regain lost Friendship but the Consciousness of never having justly forfeited yours & the Hope that it may be in my Power fully to convince you of it, is some Consolation for an Event which I never think of but with the greatest Concern.

In the mean Time, my dear General, let me intreat you to judge of me by Realities not by Appearances & believe that I never entertained or express’d a Sentiment incompatible with that Regard I professed for your Person & Character & which whether I shall be so happy as to possess your future good Opinion or not I shall carry to my Grave with me.

A late Perusal of the Letters you honoured me with at Cambridge & New York last Year, afforded me a melancholy Pleasure, I cannot help acknowledging myself deeply affected on a Comparison with those which I have since received.

I should not my dear Sir have trespass’d on your Time & Patience at this Juncture so long, but that a former Letter upon this Subject I fear has miscarried:2 And whatever may be my future Destination & Course of Life, I could not support the Reflection of being thought ungrateful & insincere to a Friendship which was equally my Pride & my Pleasure.

I have sent this by Jos: Arrowsmith whose Discharge I have obtained— he still professes an unalterable Attachment to our Cause & Interest. But how far it may be proper to depend upon him without some previous Tryal I cannot say. Mr Schenck at Millstone & General Lincoln may probably give you some Information from which you can judge of the Propriety of employing him. I have hinted it to him & he very readily came into it. I at the same Time suggested that if he could perform any essential Service, it might possibly lead to some Compensation for the Loss & Expence occasioned by his Imprisonment.3

May God Almighty crown your Virtue my dr & much respected General with deserved Success & make your Life as happy & honourable to yourself as it has been useful to your Country. Believe me with the most infeigned Regard & Respect—Dear Sir Your most Obliged & Affectionate Hbble Sert

Jos: Reed


1Reed is apologizing for the strong criticism of GW’s indecisiveness contained in his private letter to Charles Lee of 21 Nov. 1776, about which GW had learned indirectly when he by accident opened and read Lee’s reply to Reed of 24 Nov., thinking that it concerned public rather than private affairs (see GW to Reed, 30 Nov. 1776, and note 1).

3Joseph Arrowsmith of Somerset County, N.J., had been arrested and jailed by New Jersey authorities in late March on the charge of being an accomplice in James Molesworth’s treasonous activities (see N.J. Archives description begins Documents Relating to the Colonial, Revolutionary and Post-Revolutionary History of the State of New Jersey. 42 vols. Newark and Trenton, 1880–1949. description ends , 2d ser., 1:334–35, 344). In October 1778 Arrowsmith was found guilty of joining the king’s army, and his property was confiscated and sold at public auction (see ibid., 2:568; 3:49, 128, 153). Peter Schenck (c.1710–c.1779), a merchant at Millstone, N.J., represented Somerset County in the New Jersey provincial congress in 1775, and he was a member of the provincial committee of safety from 1775 to 1776.

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