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To George Washington from Joseph Jones, 22 January 1778

From Joseph Jones

Wmsburg [Va.] 22d January 1778

Dr Sr

On my return to Congress I found the speakers Letter informing me my resignation was accepted by the House of Delegates and that I might as soon as I pleased return home1 which I did after staying abt a week to put the Business we had been sent upon to Camp in a proper train—the Issue of which I had then every reason to expect wod be according to the wishes of the Army but what the event has been I have not yet been informed2—many reasons pressed me to retire from Congress and if I felt a concern it was only that in case I continued I might possibly be of some use in obstructing or endeavouring at least to prevent the mischevous consequences of those base Acts and machinations that are but too prevalent among some people, and which it is the Duty of every good Man to resent and suppress—I knew not so much of these matters before I went to Camp as I discovered there, and after my return; for it was on my return only that I had the first intimation given me of the conduct and language of a certain popular pensylvanian lately appointed to the New Board of War—of the disposition and Temper of another Gentleman of that Board whose Name the fortunate events of last fall, hath greatly exalted, I had before heard3—But whatever may be the design of these Men, and however artfully conducted I have no doubt but in the end it will redound to their own disgrace—You stand too high in the public opinion to be easily reached by their attempts and the same equal and disinterested Conduct, the same labour and attention, which you have manifested in the public Service from the first of the Contest, will shield and protect you from the shafts of Envy and malevolence—There may be instances, and these your good sense will point out to you, which require your Notice and the public welfare may be injured if passed over in silence, but in all other respects such petty Larceny attacks as these may be called deserve, as they will ever meet with, your Contempt. Two thousand men are ordered to be drafted to fill up our Battalions, and five thousand Volunteers raised to join you, and serve for six months, also a state Battalion in the room of Mathews’s taken by the Enemy, and the Counties whose draughts were deficient the last fall are ordered to make them good besides their proportion of the new levy.4 Col. Braxton has a Letter of the 17th last month from Capt. Chamberlaine in one of the French Islands informing him that 6000 French Troops were there in the pay of Spain, that abt the like number were daily expected—that the Spaniards had at Hispaniola abt 10,000 men & 12 Ships of the line, and it was imagined by some they meditated an attack upon Jamaica—Mr Chamberlaine maybe as I suspect he is equally sanguine with Mr Bingham.5 Every exertion is made use of to get a supply of provisions for the Army.6 We are this day to choose a Deligate to Congress to serve from 10th of May to 11th Augt as R. H. Lee was chosen only to that time, and as some thin[k]7 he ought not to be longer continued as he will then have served three years, it is uncertain wh. he will be chosen. Mr Mercer is the other Gentleman proposed.8 I am sorry to hear it is probable the Enemy have got possession of Mr Pleasants portmantue as there were Letters of Col. Harrisons to you and myself in it, and containing some things I shod wish them not to know.9

Having left my chair with Greentree in the City to be sold, and not having been able yet to provide myself with such a one as wod suit me, I am obliged to make use of your Carriage untill I do—I shall send it to Mt Vernon as soon after I am provided as lies in my power.10 As I am pretty confident I could rely on Col. Bannister and Mr Harvie respecting the conduct and Secrecy of any Business I shod mention to them, it may perhaps be in my power to be usefull to my Country by Communications to them of any matter you may think necessary and which you may Conceive to have been neglected or not duly attended to11—In this, or any other matters wherein I may possibly be usefull pray exercise your pleasure with freedom, with Compliments to your worthy Family I am Dr Sr Yr aff. hum. Servt

Jos: Jones

P.S. The Letters you delivered the Com: were called for by Congress—being in my possession they were by order of Congress delivered—how the Members got informed the Letters were in our custody I know not unless from Mr G——y as he and myself were the only persons of the Com: in Town and I never mentd them to any person—but he as a Member of the Com. wanted them to be referred to in the Report & of course produced.12

ALS, DLC:GW.

1On 2 Dec. 1777 it was announced in the Virginia house of delegates that Jones “hath desired permission to resign his seat [in Congress], on account of his ill state of health,” and on 9 Dec. 1777 the Virginia house and senate elected Thomas Adams to replace him (see Va. House of Delegates Journal description begins Journal of the House of Delegates of the Commonwealth of Virginia; Begun and Held at the Capitol, in the City of Williamsburg, on Monday, the Twentieth Day of October, in the Year of Our Lord One Thousand Seven Hundred and Seventy-Seven. Richmond, 1827. description ends , Oct. 1777–Jan. 1778 sess., 53, 56, 64, 71). The letter from Speaker George Wythe to Jones accepting his resignation has not been identified.

2On 28 Nov. 1777 Congress appointed Jones, Robert Morris, and Elbridge Gerry members of a committee to confer with GW on “the best and most practicable means for carrying on a winter’s campaign with vigour and success.” Jones wrote the committee’s report, which was read in Congress on 16 Dec. 1777 (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 , 9:972, 1029–31; see also a Continental Congress Camp Committee to GW, 10 Dec. 1777).

3Jones is referring to Thomas Mifflin and Horatio Gates.

4These provisions were contained in “An Act for speedily recruiting the Virginia Regiments on the continental establishment, and for raising additional troops of Volunteers” (see GW to James Innes, 2 Jan., n.1).

5For other rumors of a Spanish force gathering in Hispaniola to prepare an attack on the British possession of Jamaica, see Smith, Letters of Delegates description begins Paul H. Smith et al., eds. Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774–1789. 26 vols. Washington, D.C., 1976–2000. description ends , 8:460.

6For a review of some of the efforts being made at this time to secure provisions in Virginia for GW’s army, see Patrick Henry’s letter of 20 Jan. to the Virginia delegates in Congress, in McIlwaine, Letters of the Governors description begins H. R. McIlwaine, ed. Official Letters of the Governors of the State of Virginia. 3 vols. Richmond, 1926–29. description ends , 1:231–33.

7Jones inadvertently wrote “thing” on the manuscript.

8On 23 Jan., Richard Henry Lee outpolled James Mercer in a vote of the general assembly and was “appointed a delegate to represent this State in General Congress, from the 10th day of May to the 11th day of August next” (see Va. House of Delegates Journal description begins Journal of the House of Delegates of the Commonwealth of Virginia; Begun and Held at the Capitol, in the City of Williamsburg, on Monday, the Twentieth Day of October, in the Year of Our Lord One Thousand Seven Hundred and Seventy-Seven. Richmond, 1827. description ends , Oct. 1777–Jan. 1778 sess., 131).

9The following notice, dated 13 Dec. 1777 at Reading, Pa., appeared in the Pennsylvania Packet (Lancaster) on 17 Dec.: “Fifty Dollars Reward. Stolen last night, from Mrs. Washington’s house in this town, a small Portmanteau, containing the following articles, viz. a new silver grey Bath coating surtout; a new black broadcloth coat and waistcoat, faced with the same, without lining, and the pockets of blue shalloon, with a plain death head button; two pair of black prunella breeches, without lining; one pair of linen drawers; eight shirts, five of which, if marked, have the letters T P, and three marked E E; five stocks, marked on the button hole side T. Pleasants; two purple ground printed handkerchiefs; two light ground ditto; two check linen ditto; one pair of country made mixed black and white yarn stockings; four pair of light blue worsted ditto; one pair of neat country made mixed black silk and white cotton ditto; on pair of white cotton ditto; one pair of shoes; one pair of small open work oval silver buckles; one pair of square fashionable ditto; two servants shirts, oznabrigs and white linen; one pair ditto of blue thickset breeches; two pair ditto of stockings; a curry comb and brush, buckle-brush, cloaths-brush, a bed blanket, and three bundles of letters for officers at head quarters and gentlemen in Philadelphia, one of which contained a quantity of old Pennsylvania paper currency. Whoever will detect the thief and recover the said articles, shall have the above Reward, or in proportion to the articles received, on application to Mr. John Jordan, Inn holder, in Lancaster, or Mr. Richard Humphreys, in Reading. N.B. The Portmanteau has been found without any of the articles which it had contained.” The owner of the portmanteau may have been Thomas Pleasants, Jr. (d. 1804), a merchant and planter of Henrico County, Va., or a relative of the Philadelphia Quaker Samuel Pleasants, with whom GW had dined in September 1774 and June 1775. Samuel Pleasants had been arrested in September 1777 with other Quakers by order of the Pennsylvania supreme executive council and on the recommendation of Congress, and he was taken by way of Reading to captivity in Winchester, Va., where he stayed until GW gave him leave to return to Philadelphia in April 1778 (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 , 8:694; see also Pa. Archives description begins Samuel Hazard et al., eds. Pennsylvania Archives. 9 ser., 138 vols. Philadelphia and Harrisburg, 1852–1949. description ends , 1st ser., 6:111–15, 524; GW to Thomas Wharton, Jr., 6 April 1778).

10“Greentree in the City” may be Isaac Greentree, who in the summer of 1777 was operating the Sign of the Conestoga Wagon Tavern on Market Street in Philadelphia.

11John Banister (1734–1788), a planter and lawyer whose estate Battersea was near Petersburg in Dinwiddie County, Va., had served in the Virginia house of burgesses from 1765 to 1775 and in the house of delegates from 1776 to 1777. On 19 Nov. 1777 the Virginia general assembly elected him a delegate to the Continental Congress, but he did not take his seat until 16 Mar. 1778, and after a leave of absence granted in September, he resigned his seat in December of that year (see Va. House of Delegates Journal description begins Journal of the House of Delegates of the Commonwealth of Virginia; Begun and Held at the Capitol, in the City of Williamsburg, on Monday, the Twentieth Day of October, in the Year of Our Lord One Thousand Seven Hundred and Seventy-Seven. Richmond, 1827. description ends , Oct. 1777–Jan. 1778 sess., 34–35; 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 , 10:258, 12:948, 14:527). In 1779–82 Banister served as colonel of the Dinwiddie County militia.

12On 19 Dec. 1777 Congress ordered the committee of three that had conferred with GW at camp early that month to allow delegates to peruse letters from general officers that GW had lent the committee. See Circular to the General Officers of the Continental Army, 3 Dec. 1777, source note 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 , 9:1035. “Mr G—y” is Elbridge Gerry.

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