George Washington Papers
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From George Washington to John Hancock, 3 August 1777

To John Hancock

Philadelphia 3d August 1777

Sir

Your Favor of this date with its inclosures is now before me.

At the same time that I express my thanks for the high mark of confidence which Congress have been pleased to repose in me by their Resolve authorizing me to send an Officer to command the northern Army, I should wish to be excused from making the appointment. For this, many Reasons might be mentioned, and which, I am persuaded will occur to Congress upon reflection. The Northern department in a great measure has been considered as separate, and more peculiarly under their direction, and the Officers commanding there always of their nomination. I have never interfered further than merely to advise and to give such aids as were in my power, on the requisitions of those Officers.

The present Situation of that department is delicate and critical, and the Choice of an Officer to the command may involve very interesting and important Consequences.1

It is certainly necessary that a Body of Militia should be immediately called out to reinforce the northern Army. In the conference, which your Committee honored me with Yesterday Evening, I mentioned the number which I thought sufficient. But my opinion on this point and the apportioning them to the different States, I wish to submit to Congress, who can best determine the Quotas that should come from each. I would only observe, that Connecticut and New York are already and may be called on again to afford succours to the Army at Peekskill.2 I have the honor to be Sir Yr most obt Servt

Go: Washington

LS, in Tench Tilghman’s writing, DNA:PCC, item 152; Df, DLC:GW; copy, DNA:PCC, item 169; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. A docket on the LS reads in part “read 4 [Aug.] Ordred to be taken into consideration 1 oClock.” After considering this letter Congress referred it to the committee on the northern department (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends , 8:601, 603–4).

1On the draft this paragraph appears as the final paragraph. The Continental Congress on 4 Aug. elected Horatio Gates to the command of the northern department (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends , 8:604).

2Congress referred the subject of militia reinforcements for the northern department to a committee on the northern department on 4 Aug., and on the following day, after hearing the committee’s report, Congress resolved to direct the commanding officer in the northern department to apply to the executive powers of the states of New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania for militia reinforcements, to serve, with continental pay and rations, to the end of November (ibid., 614).

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