George Washington Papers

To George Washington from the Virginia Delegates, 6 May 1779

From the Virginia Delegates

Philadelphia May the 6th 1779


The inclosed letter being referred by Congress to the Virginia Delegates we have judged it proper to request of you that you will be pleased to assist us with your advice upon the occasion.1

We see this business involved in circumstances of such a nature as to create much difficulty and embarrassment. On the one side is presented Colo. Spotswoods merit as an Officer, his seniority of service, the peculiar situation under which he resigned, and that resignation not accepted by Congress—On the other hand we see a probable discontent in the army, arguments drawn from his resignation, and the measures consequent thereupon such as the Office he held being filled by another, and the new arrangement having passed him by unnoticed.

In this state of things we are puzzled to know what report to make. We could wish earnestly to do justice to Colo. Spotswoods merit and his claims, whilst in doing so, we are unable to foresee the consequent ill effects that may be produced by it in the army from dissatisfied ideas of injured rank. Whether an adequate provision may not be made for him from the circumstance of the new Levies of Virginia (going Southward) which will amount to about 2000 men, we cannot be certain.2

We have understood from Colo. Spotswood that when that service was over, if any rank given him there should create dissatisfaction in the army, that he would be willing to resign, after having had that opportunity of distinguishing his zeal for the service of his country. But how this can be done, unless by his being created a Brigadier is the question, and what effect this may have on the arrangement and in the sentiments of the army we are greatly at a loss to judge. We wish exceedingly to be favored with your sentiments on this subject, for which we shall be much obliged. We have the honor to be with very particular esteem and regard Sir your most obedient and most humble servants

Meriwether Smith

Richard Henry Lee

Cyrus Griffin

Wm Fleming3


1The delegates enclosed a memorial of 29 April from Alexander Spotswood, which Congress had read on 4 May and referred to them (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 , 14:544; Spotswood’s memorial has not been found). Distraught at the wounding and capture of his older brother, Spotswood had resigned as colonel of the 2d Virginia Regiment in October 1777 and subsequently left the service despite Congress’s refusal to accept his resignation. He attempted to resume his rank in the summer of 1778 but was blocked by GW, who also rebuffed the memorial presented here by the Virginia delegates; see 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 , 9:981, Spotswood to GW, 9 Oct. 1777, and GW to the Virginia Congressional Delegates, 13 May 1779.

2For the formation of three regiments of Virginia levies to reinforce South Carolina, see GW to Richard Henry Lee, 30 April, n.1.

3Meriwether Smith (1730–1790) was born in Essex County, Va., and served in the Virginia House of Burgesses, 1774–75, before becoming a member of the state house of delegates, 1776–78 and 1781–82. Smith served as a delegate to the Continental Congress, 1778–79 and 1781. Cyrus Griffin (1748–1810), to the Continental Congress, 1778–80; for more on Griffin and his subsequent career, see Papers, Presidential Series description begins W. W. Abbot et al., eds. The Papers of George Washington, Presidential Series. 17 vols. to date. Charlottesville, Va., 1987—. description ends , 3:167–69.

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