George Washington Papers

To George Washington from John Potts, 20 December 1777

From John Potts

[20 December 1777]


As the decision of the present most direful and unhappy contest cannot in any degree be affected by or depend upon the distress which individuals must suffer by a seperation from their nearest and most indearing connections And as the benevolent & humane Character of your Excellency is universally acknowledged I am encouraged (altho personally a Stranger) to address you for permission to remove my family & Household furniture from my house in the Country into Philadelphia or if that shd be apprehended to be too great an indulgence that I might be permitted to use two or three Waggons unmolested When I departed from my house & by that means deprived my Wife & Children of that protection which a Husband & Parent can afford (& which I am assured is absolutely necessary to preserve them from savage Cruelty) I had great reason to beleive that myself as many other quiet Citizens were should be torn from every thing I held dear & drove into Banishmt for an indefinite Term Permit me to apply to the feelings of your Excellency’s own heart for an answer to my request. I am with the greates Respect Your Excellency’s most Obedient Humble Servant

Jno. Potts

ALS, DLC:GW. The date of this letter is taken from its docket, which reads in part “Decr 20th 1777,” and from GW’s reply to Potts of the same date. Potts enclosed Joseph Galloway’s letter to GW of 18 Dec., to which GW also replied on 20 December.

John Potts (b. 1738), a son of John Potts (1710–1768) of Pottsgrove (or Pottstown) in Philadelphia County, Pa., was a justice of the peace and a judge of the court of common pleas in Philadelphia before the war. He left the city for Pottsgrove in May 1775, having “made himself obnoxious” to its citizens by his disapproval of the Patriot cause, and lived there in quiet opposition to the war until the British occupied Philadelphia in late September 1777. After returning to Philadelphia, Potts was appointed a magistrate of police by Gen. William Howe, to whom he frequently supplied intelligence, and who later testified to his loyalty (Memorial of John Potts Esq., 15 June 1784, Egerton, Royal Commission description begins Hugh Edward Egerton, ed. The Royal Commission on the Losses and Services of American Loyalists, 1783 to 1785: Being the Notes of Mr. Daniel Parker Coke, M. P., One of the Commissioners during that Period. 1915. Reprint. New York, 1969. description ends , 136–37). Potts was described as a yeoman in an April 1778 act of attainder for treason, and his estate, known as Howe, was confiscated by the state in 1779 (Pennsylvania Packet or the General Advertiser [Lancaster], 22 April 1778, and Pennsylvania Gazette [Philadelphia], 14 April, 25 Aug. 1779). Potts went to Nova Scotia at the end of the Revolutionary War. He and his wife Margaret Carmick Potts (1748–1781), also of Philadelphia, had three children, Samuel, Stephen, and Mary Anna (Mary Ann), all apparently born in the late 1760s and early 1770s.

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