George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Robert Howe, 7 July 1783

Philadelphia 7th of July 1783


The Troops encamped within Two Miles of this Town on Saturday where They remain still, for having procured Tents for Them. They are permitted to hold little or no Communication with the Town.

Immediately on my Arrival I took Measures to carry into Execution the Intentions of Congress to the utmost Extent—but I have it to regret that where so much ought to be known so Little Means of Investigation are Left—two Officers absolutely concern’d in it are escaped & gone to England—three others against whom there are Suspicions are to be tried—several Non-Commissiond Officers & Soldiers who have been active are also to be tried.

Orders have been sent to the Officer commanding at Lancaster—to which as yet no Answer has been received—indeed there has not been Time enough for it.

Should my Presence become necessary I shall instantly go there.

I have taken every Method to avoid the least Contention with the executive of this State.

The inclosed Copy of my Letter to the President previous to my Entering it—to which the whole of my subsequent Conduct has been & shall be similar will I persuade myself prevent a Possibility of any Interference.

Six or seven Companies of Pensylvanians are momentarily expected to arrive from Carolina—what their Conduct may be upon their Arrival is a Doubt with some tho’, as we are here, I have none but that ‘twill be proper.

I mentiond to the Members of Congress the Necessity of a Judge Advocate & understand that your Excellency was to be written to upon the Subject am & inform’d that you have been, I therefore expect his Arrival & earnestly wish it. The more especially as some of the Trials Will probably be critical & consequently require to be managed With Address—The appointing a Person here to act in that Office will, and not in my Opinion be so well-[run] could we even find a Man whose Abilities & Experience were adequate to the Office, A special Appointment might be supposed to be invidious & Malevolence have Occasion to say that he acted under Bias, & to avoid the least Cause for this Imputation appears upon this Occasion to be very necessary as our Conduct is narrowly watched by those too desirous of aspersing it.

It is much against my Inclination to be in Lodgings in this Town but the Quarter Master General has not yet been able to procure me any Quarters [structure].

When we are prepared fully for courts martial which will be in five Days—Should the Judge Advocate not arrive we will endeavour to proceed without him as far as we can—still however hoping his speedy Arrival.

Your Excellency’s Letter to Virginia relative to the Impost Act arrived in a very critical Minute for it got there just at the Moment they were going to damn the Act, but upon receiving that Letter they concluded to keep the Bill alive until the next Session which as soon it seems to meet & where it will (they say) certainly pass—indeed it would have been enacted then had not the House been on the Instant of rising & had not the Eagerness of the Members to get Home rendered it impossible to detain them. I am Sir with the truest Respect & Esteem Your Excellency’s most obedient Humbl. Servant

Robt Howe

DLC: Papers of George Washington.


Trenton 2nd July 1783.


Having been ordered by his Excellency the General to march with a detachment of Troops to the State of Pennsylvania there to be under the order of Congress, and having by them been ordered to proceed to Philadelphia, I think it my duty, and feel it my inclination, to give your Excellency notice thereof; and to assure you that to pay implicit submission to the Laws of the state, to hold the rights of Citizens inviolate, and to treat with the utmost respect, deference, and attention the Legislative and Executive authorities, shall be the rule of my own conduct and that of those under my command. I have the honor to be &c.

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