George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Thomas Mifflin, 9 January 1784

From Thomas Mifflin

Annapolis [Md.] 9th January 1784


I have the Honor to transmit to you an Act of Congress of the 5th Inst.; relative to a Proposal from the Secretary of the Polish Order of Knights of Divine Providence; containd in your Excellencys Letter of the 28th August last.1 I have the Honor to be with the greatest Respect Your Excellencys most Obedt humble Servt

Thomas Mifflin

ALS, DLC:GW; LB, DNA:PCC, item 16.

Thomas Mifflin (1744–1800), born a Quaker in Philadelphia, was GW’s aide-de-camp briefly in the summer of 1775 before becoming quartermaster general of the Continental army. He was one of the main supporters of the move in 1777 to have Horatio Gates replace GW as commander in chief. Elected president of the Congress on 3 Nov. 1783, he served until 3 June 1784.

1In his letter of 28 Aug. 1783, GW asked Congress how he should respond to Jean de Heintz’s letter to him of 13 May 1783 proposing that Congress select a number of Americans for admission to the Polish “L’ordre Institué en Honeur de la Providence Divine.” Both GW’s and Heintz’s letters as well as a printed list of the members of the order (1778) are in DNA:PCC, item 152. Jean de Heintz is identified in the list as a chevalier of the order, a native of Poland, and a major in the service of the king of Poland. The resolution that Mifflin enclosed, adopted on 5 Jan. and signed by Charles Thomson, secretary of the Congress, reads: “On the report of a Commttee to whom was referred a Letter from the Commander in Chief of 28th August containing a proposal from the Secretary of the Polish Order of Knights of Divine Providence that Congress should nominate a number of suitable persons to be created Knights of the said Order.

“Resolved that the late Commander in Chief be requested to inform the Chevalier Jean de Heintz Secretary of the Order of Divine Providence, that Congress are sensible of the attention of that Order in proposing to them to nominate a number of suitable persons to be created Knights of the Order of Divine Prov⟨idence⟩ but that Congress cannot consistently with the principles of the Confederation accept of their obliging proposal.” The resolution is also printed in 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 26:7.

In 1786, when writing about the opposition to the Society of the Cincinnati in 1783 and 1784, Jefferson reported: “No circumstance indeed brought the consideration of it [the society] expressly before Congress, yet it had sunk deep into their minds. An offer having been made to them on the part of the Polish order of divine providence to receive some of their distinguished citizens into that order, they made that an occasion to declare that these distinctions were contrary to the principles of their confederation” (Jefferson’s Observations on Démeunier’s Manuscript in Boyd, Jefferson Papers, description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 40 vols. to date. Princeton, N.J., 1950—. description ends 10:50). Boston’s Independent Chronicle, and the Universal Advertiser, which led the fight against the Cincinnati in Massachusetts, printed this resolution of 5 Jan. on 1 April 1784.

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