George Washington Papers

From George Washington to James Milligan, 18 February 1784

To James Milligan

Mount Vernon 18th Feby 1784


The intemperance of the weather, & the great care which the Post riders seemed disposed to take of themselves, while it continued severe, prevented your Letter of the 13th of last month from reaching my hands ’till the 10th of this. I now acknowledge the receipt of it, with the accounts as they stand stated in the Treasury Books; for your trouble in transcribing which (it being unusual) you will please to accept my thanks, as the possession of them is pleasing, & may be useful to me.1

The charge of fifty Guineas paid James McCall Esqr. for the Revd Mr Smith, is perfectly just, & ought not to have been omitted by me, for I well recollect it was the desire of Mr Morris, that this sum might be carried to the credit of my public accots, & I certainly meant to do it, altho’ it has been omitted.2 For the act of justice which you have rendered, in allowing me interest upon 591 31/90 Dollars, I am much indebted to you: the same reason which induced an allowance of interest on the Ballce of my Accot to Jany 1777, prevailed in this case also; but as the principal was rescued from error, & brought into a subsequent accot, I never thought about interest; & am altogether indebted to your attention & correctness for the discovery and credit.3

In the statement of my accots, I thought a note had accompanied the articles charged, where the money had been accounted for; but in this I am either mistaken, or do not perfectly comprehend your manner of entry; from which, to me it would seem, that Saml B. Webb, Ebenr Gray, Josiah Fessendon, Elijah Bennet, Capt. Calmly & John Philips in accot A—Colo. Weedon, for 500 Dollars (but this sum is again credited)—Wm Dunn, Jos[ep]h Hunter, Hugh Mooney, John Miller & Chas Tatum, in Accot C—and Capt. Colfax & Lt Howe in Accot D, were to be charged in accots raised, or to be raised, with the several sums annexed to their respective names; whereas the money in every one of these enumerated instances has been paid for services actually performed, or upon accots which have been settled with me.41 am thus particular Sir, because it would give me pain, if thro’ any inaccuracy in my statement, either of these persons should be involved in trouble, difficulty or expence, by a future call upon them. Captn Colfax, as you may perceive from his Accots which I render’d as vouchers to my own, gave the public credit for all the sums he stands charged with by me; among which is that for £ 171.18. & closes the whole with a transfer of the money in his hands to Mr Howe. Mr Howe also, as will appear in his accounts, settled the Expenditures for family purposes with me in November last; at the time I broke up House-keeping & discharged my household; & if I recollect right, was a Creditor instead of a Debtor to the public.5

I shall take notice in this Letter, because it is not my wish to encrease the troubles of your Office by making a distinct application hereafter, that in Accot B. I stand charged with the sums of £124.7.8 and £133.16.0 which have no existence in the Treasury Books, or elsewhere. The first sum I well remember to have received; the time & circumstances of it being too remarkable ever to be forgotten by me.6 But the other sum of £133.16—I must confess I have no recollection of the receipt of it; but having found in my pocket Memo. Book, a short & blind entry to that effect, I placed it to the credit of the public Acot, altho’ no trace of it remained in my memory, or any Accot of it could be found elsewhere; with a request (in a Note at bottom)that the matter might be enquired into, & justice done. It occurs to me, that about the period of that credit, I borrowed a sum in specie of the Marqs de la Fayette (as I had done of others when the exigencies of the public pressed) & that he & my Nephew Geo. Augte Washington set off for Philadelphia a few days afterwards: ’tis possible therefore I might have written for money by him, & that that sum may have been charg’d to his accot—but if this is not the case, and no such sum can be found charged to me in any of the public Offices, of that date, under any form whatsoever—I submit it to the consideration of yourself, or to the Superintendant of Finance whether I ought to be debited with it at all: because it is as likely that the error may have originated in a wrong credit on my part, as in the omission to charge it, on that of the public—especially as I have received several sums at different times on my private account, as well as other sums for the use of Colo. Fairfax (whose business I had in my hands several years before the War), all of which I applied to public uses, whenever the public had a call for it, without attending to the property, or propriety of the measure. Upon this state of the matter, which is a very candid one, I should be glad to have your sentiments, & those of the Financr. I am perfectly willing to give the public credit for every thing that is due, but it does not comport with my circumstances to do more, or even to lie out of money which I may with propriety call to my aid.7

The Account of my expenditures in Philadelphia & on my return home, I transmitted many days previous to the receipt of your Letter to Mr Morris, & presume it is in your Office long before this; & that I shall have the pleasure of receiving, as in the case of the former, an official statement of it from the Treasury books.8

For the honor of your kind congratulations on the great events which have taken place, & my return to domestic life, be pleased to accept my grateful thanks, & best wishes, in return. I am, Sir, Your Most Obt &ca

G: Washington


1Milligan explained in his letter of 13 Jan. that he was sending to GW a copy of the treasury’s statement of his military accounts, 1775–83, even though it was not customary to do so.

4On 9 Mar. Milligan sent GW a revised copy of the treasury’s statement of his military accounts (see note 1). In this revised statement, also dated 23 Dec.1783, Milligan inserted on the cover of schedule A (1 June 1775–31 Dec.1776): “Note—The Persons in the within Account to whose Names this mark ✻ is prefixed, Vizt Saml B. Webb Ebenezer Gray Josiah Fessendon [Fessenden]Elijah Bennet Captn [Lt. Elijah or Miles] Oakley, or Calmly & John Phillips, Are not to be charged in the Books, nor held accountable, As appears by Genl Washingtons letter to the Comptroller dated Febry 18th 1784—J.M.” Milligan makes a similar notation on the cover of schedule C (1 Jan. 1777–6 Sept.1781), listing the names Dunn, Hunter, Mooney, Miller, and Tatum. On the cover of schedule E (1 Aug.—8 Dec. 1783), he notes that Capt. William Colfax and Lt. Bezaleel Howe “are not to be charged in the Books nor held accountable.” There is also this entry in the treasury’s account: “No. 5 Colo. [George]Weedon for his Regt Feby 1777—500.”

5The entry in the treasury statement is: “Advances to Sundry Persons for defraying the Expences of his Household, for which said Persons are to accot—Vizt Capt. Wm Colfax ⟨ ⟩ No. 2—£171.18.o[;] Lieut. B. Howe—[No.]4—170.18.0.” As members of the commander in chief’s guards, both Colfax and Howe received and disbursed funds for the support of GW’s military household. Colfax was a lieutenant in the 1st Connecticut Regiment when he was assigned to GW’s guards on 8 Mar. 1778. Howe, a lieutenant in the 1st New Hampshire Regiment, joined the guards on 5 Sept. 1778. Accounts of both Colfax and Howe of GW’s household expenditures may be found in DLC:GW.

6In his own copy of his accounts (Accounts, G. Washington—with the United States, Commencing June 1775, and ending June 1783, Comprehending a Space of 8 Years, DLC:GW), GW notes that in January 1777, which was immediately after the brief Trenton-Princeton campaign, he received £124.7.8 “By Cash of Robt Morris Esqr. in specie pr acct.”

7In his own accounts (see note 6), GW has an entry for 13 May 1780: “By Cash—133.16,” in “Lawful” money. An asterisk by this entry refers to GW’s notation: “This sum stands in my acct as a credit to the Public—but I can find no charge of it against me in any of the Public offices—where the Mistake lyes I know not, but wish it could be ascertained, as I have no desire to injure or be injured.” Milligan explained to GW on 9 Mar. that the £133.16 was paid, on GW’s instructions, to George Augustine Washington for him to repay a loan that Lafayette had made to GW; and on 1 April GW wrote Milligan accepting his explanation of the charges.

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