George Washington Papers

To George Washington from William Goddard, 30 May 1785

From William Goddard

Baltimore, May 30th 1785.


As the Manuscript Papers of General Lee, after his decease, came into my hands, I have been induced from several motives to arrange & prepare them for publication. The General in his Life time requested it from me, & my Profession as a Printer & Bookseller made it an object of interest worthy my attention. But as I cannot be ignorant of some unhappy differences which subsisted between Your Excellency & General Lee, I have thought proper to acquaint your Excellency with my conduct in this Business.1

Influenced by no party consideration, & altogether devoid of any sinister Intention of exalting one Character at the Expence of another, I have taken care to suppress many passages that might be offensive, in the General’s Pieces & Correspondence—while it was my duty to preserve what was useful in military & political knowledge, I took the liberty to suppress such Expressions as appeared to be the Ebullitions of a disappointed & irritated mind; so that, I flatter myself, your Excellency will be convinced of the Candor of my Intention in the Execution of the work. Inclosed I have sent a Copy of the Title Page, & the Proposals are now preparing for the Press; in a few Weeks I purpose to send them to your Excellency;2 and in the mean time, should esteem it a favour to hear, as soon as convenient, from your Excellency, whether this has come safe to your hands, & whether Your Excellency has any particular request, respecting the said Work. I am with the greatest Deference, & Esteem, Your Excellencys Most obedient & humble Servant

Wm Goddard


The fiery William Goddard (1740–1817) had come to Baltimore in 1773 from Philadelphia and at this time was publishing with his sister, Mary Katherine Goddard, the Maryland Journal. In its issue of 6 July 1779, the Journal printed Charles Lee’s “Some Queries, Political and Military,” twenty-five pointed questions about the conduct of the war by Congress and GW. The “Queries” of the court-martialed general brought out a Baltimore mob that confronted Goddard and forced a recantation, which Goddard in turn promptly repudiated. The long-term consequence of this episode was that Goddard and General Lee became fast friends. Lee visited the Goddards in Baltimore in September 1782 on his way to Philadelphia, where he died on 20 Oct., leaving one-sixth of his American estate to Goddard. Goddard married Abigail Angell of Providence, R.I., in May 1786. In 1792 he retired to Providence, and lived there until his death (Miner, Goddard, description begins Ward L. Miner. William Goddard, Newspaperman. Durham, N.C., 1962. description ends 168 et seq.; see also Sidney Lee to GW, 23 May 1784, n.3).

1It is not known exactly how the papers of Gen. Charles Lee came into the hands of his friend William Goddard. Goddard’s plans to publish the papers did not reach fruition (see Goddard to GW, 14 June 1785, n.1). Goddard’s partner in 1785, Edward Langworthy, took with him copies of some of Lee’s letters when his partnership with Goddard was terminated, and in 1792 he used them in his Memoirs of the Life of the Late Charles Lee, Esq., published in London. The original papers remained in possession of Goddard’s descendants, and in the 1870s the New-York Historical Society printed four volumes of the papers, before they all disappeared (ibid., 175–76).

2Goddard enclosed the proposed title page, written in his hand, and on 14 June he sent GW a printed title page as part of his prospectus of a projected three-volume work. The title page reads: Miscellaneous Collections from the Papers of the late Major General Charles Lee: consisting of 1st—Pieces on various political & military Subjects. 2d.Letters to the General from several Persons of the first Character, both in Europe & America. 3d.Letters from the General to his Friends in Europe, before the late War; and also to the principal American Characters, both civil & military, during his command in the Continental Army. To which are prefixed Memoirs of His Life. The whole will contain a great & useful Variety of military & political Knowledge, and in a striking manner elucidate the Abilities & decisive Conduct of this great and experienced Officer. In three Volumes.

Si Chartae fileant, quod benefeceris
Mercedem tuleris—Hor[ace]

For Goddard’s prospectus, see note 1 in his letter to GW of 14 June. For GW’s reaction to Goddard’s planned publication, see GW to Goddard, 11 June.

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