George Washington Papers

To George Washington from William Gordon, 25 March 1794

From William Gordon

St Neots [England] March 25. 1794

My Dear Sir

The goodness of my intention will apologize for the present letter. The purport of which, I conceive, may not be known to any American. You may possibly be under the disagreeable necessity of appointing military officers for active service in dangerous warlike undertakings. I have a great regard for Genl Otho Williams, & am under peculiar obligations to him; but if what our deceased friend Genl Greene told me, has not been mentioned to You, it is proper, I apprehend, to acquaint You with it. When conversing about him the words of Genl Greene were nearly to this purpose—“Williams does not want for courage, he will fight any thing; but he has no fortitude, & cannot bear up under disasters; he was so dispirited by the rapid pursuit of Cornwallis before he joined me, that I would have beaten him with forty old squaws.” 1

You had the blessing of being endued from above, with both courage & fortitude. Greene’s distinction between the two qualities pleased me so much, that I have never forgotten it. Wishing your Excellency all that special wisdom which is wanted, for guiding the state helm in this critical period; & that You may have the guidance of the supreme Governor of the universe, I remain Your affectionate friend & humble Servt

William Gordon

Mrs Gordon joins in most cordial regards to Self & your Lady.

P.S. My friend the Revd Mr Hickman who is intrusted with this has one of an earlier date, together with Flower upon the French Constitution of 1791, a present from the author, if sent in time.2


1In preparation for writing The History of the Rise, Progress, and Establishment, of the Independence of the United States of America: Including An Account of the Late War; and of the Thirteen Colonies, From their Origin to that Period (N.Y., 1789), Gordon had interviewed Gen. Nathanael Greene (1742–1786) at his home in Newport, R.I. (Greene to Henry Knox, 25 March 1784, Greene Papers description begins Richard K. Showman et al., eds. The Papers of General Nathanael Greene. 13 vols. Chapel Hill, N.C., 1976–2005. description ends , 13:275–76). After receiving an appointment from Washington, in October 1780, to replace Gen. Horatio Gates as commander of the southern army, Greene was successful in gradually forcing the British troops under the command of Gen. Charles Cornwallis to retreat from previously held territory in the southern states of Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina. Prior to Greene’s appointment, Otho Holland Williams, then a colonel, evidently had been discouraged by his participation in the ill-fated campaign led by Gates, but he performed well, both on and off the field, under Greene’s leadership. Williams was in poor health by 1794, in part because of his experience as a prisoner of war, 1776–78, and he died on 15 July at about 45 years of age.

2The other letter entrusted to the Rev. Hickman was Gordon’s letter to GW of 7 March. The second edition of The French Constitution; With Remarks on Some of Its Principal Articles was accompanied by Benjamin Flower’s letter to GW of 17 March.

Index Entries