George Washington Papers

To George Washington from William Moultrie, 6 April 1784

From William Moultrie

Charleston South Carolina April 6th 1784


By comparing the date of the Letter with which you honored me as Senior officer in the state of South Carolina,1 with the Period of Colonel Morris’s arrival at Philadelphia it appears that the Dispatches from the Society of the Cincinnati of this State, with which he was charged came unfortunately too late to anticipate your Excellencys Enquiry concerning the Measures taken to Establish the society in South Carolina.2

The Dispatches alluded to have I hope removed every Degree of uncertainty on this Head, and I take the Liberty of enclosing herewith the proceedings of this Society from its formation to the last meeting.3

I have also to acknowledge the receipt of Your Excellency’s circular letter of the 1st of January last, and in conformity thereto, The Delegates to represent this Society in the General Society are required to appear in the City of Philadelphia on the first Monday in May next—for which purpose Lieut. Colo. Washington has already sett out, and Colo. White will shortly follow—Lieut. Colo. Morris & Captn Turner, I am in hopes are in Philadelphia 4 therefore persuade myself that the Society of this State will be fully represented on the Meeting of the General society. I have the Honor to be with the greatest respect and Esteem Your Excellency’s Obt servt

Willm Moultrie

LS, DSoC. The letter appears to be in the hand of John Sanford Dart, the secretary of the South Carolina chapter of the Society of the Cincinnati. It is identified as a letter from John Allison in Hume, Society of the Cincinnati, description begins Edgar Erskine Hume, ed. General Washington’s Correspondence concerning the Society of the Cincinnati. Baltimore, 1941. description ends 29–30

After its successful defense of Charleston in June 1776, William Moultrie’s South Carolina regiment became a part of the Continental line and Moultrie (1730–1805) himself was made brigadier general. He was captured at the fall of Charleston in 1780, and in 1782 he was exchanged for Gen. John Burgoyne and promoted to major general. At this time, in 1784, Moultrie was a member of the South Carolina house of representatives and president of the state Society of the Cincinnati. The next year he was elected governor of South Carolina.

1GW sent a circular letter dated 24 Oct. 1783 to the “Senior Officer in each of the Southern States,” asking that they inform him as president of the Society of the Cincinnati “whether the Establishment has taken place in your State, and what measures have been taken to effect it” (Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington, description begins John C. Fitzpatrick, ed. The Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources, 1745–1799. 39 vols. Washington, D.C., 1931–44. description ends 27:207–8).

2Lewis Morris, Jr. (d. 1824), son of Lewis Morris (1726–1798), who was a signer of the Declaration of Independence for New York, went to South Carolina late in 1780 as brevet lieutenant colonel in the Continental army and aide-de-camp to Gen. Nathanael Greene. In 1783 he married Ann Barnett Elliott, daughter of William Elliott (1696–1766) of Charleston. Morris remained in Charleston after the war and became active in state politics in the 1790s as a Federalist.

3The enclosures (SoCi) are copies of the proceedings of the South Carolina Society of the Cincinnati at its meetings in Charleston on 29 Aug., 3 Sept., 6 Oct. 1783 and on 5 Jan. and 5 April 1784. Forty-three officers attended the organizational meeting of 29 Aug. 1783, at which time General Moultrie was elected president. During this meeting, in acceding to the Institution of the Society of the Cincinnati the officers entered a “Declaration disclaiming all Intention of Interfering in any degree with the Constitutional powers of Congress or the Civil Authority of the State.” It was at its “Anniversary Meeting” in the City Tavern in Charleston on 5 Jan. 1784 that the society chose its delegates to the general meeting to be held in Philadelphia in May. Elected were General Moultrie, Anthony Walton White, William Washington, Thomas Shubrick, captain in the 1st South Carolina Regiment and aide-de-camp to Gen. Nathanael Greene, and Cornet John Middleton. After Moultrie and Middleton made known that they would not attend, the society elected Lewis Morris and George Turner in their stead; but Morris did not attend the general meeting in May, nor did Shubrick who was not even listed among the delegates elected (see Winthrop Sargent’s Journal, doc. II in General Meeting of the Society of the Cincinnati, 4–18 May).

4William Washington (1752–1810), GW’s cousin, was born in Stafford County, Virginia. Before joining Benjamin Lincoln in the South in 1779, Washington rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel of the 3d Continental Dragoons. He was an important cavalry leader in the Carolinas until 8 Sept. 1781 when he was captured at Eutaw Springs, South Carolina. After being paroled, he married Jane Elliott, daughter of Charles Elliott (1737–1781) of Sandy Hill and Charleston, and soon became a South Carolina planter of great wealth. Anthony Walton White (1750–1803) of New Jersey, lieutenant colonel of the 1st Continental Dragoons, fought under Benjamin Lincoln in South Carolina. He and William Washington escaped from Banastre Tarleton in May 1780 at Linud’s (Lanneau’s) Ferry, S.C., by swimming the Santee River. George Turner (c.1750–1843), a native of England, served with South Carolina forces during the Revolution, was taken prisoner at Charleston, and after his release was appointed deputy commissary general of prisoners for the southern army, 1780–81, and commissary of marine prisoners, 1782–83. In 1789 GW appointed Turner a federal judge for the Northwest Territory, and he served until 1797. Neither Lewis Morris nor Anthony Walton White are listed among those attending the meetings of the South Carolina society in 1783 and 1784 before the general meeting of the society in Philadelphia in May 1784 (see note 3).

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