George Washington Papers
Documents filtered by: Recipient="Hancock, John" AND Correspondent="Washington, George"
sorted by: author

From George Washington to John Hancock, 12 May 1777

To John Hancock

Morristown May 12th 1777.

Sir

This will be delivered you by General Arnold, who arrived here to day in his way to Philadelphia. He seems to be1 anxious to settle his public Accounts, which are of considerable amount, and waits on Congress, hoping they will appoint a Committee of their Body, or of such Gentlemen, as they shall judge proper, to take the matter into consideration. This he considers,2 the more necessary, as he has heard some Reports have been propagated, injurious to his character,3 as a man of integrity. If any such aspersions lie against him, it is but reasonable, that he should have an Opportunity of vindicating himself and evincing his innocence.4

I find, he does not consider the Promotion, Congress have been pleased to confer upon him, sufficient, to obviate the neglect arising from their having omitted him in their late Appointments of Major Generals. He observes, It does not give him the rank, he had a claim to, from seniority in the line of Brigadiers; And that he is subject to be commanded by those, who had been inferior to him. He further adds,5 that Congress in their last Resolve respecting him, have acknowledged him competent to the Station of Major General, and therefore have done away every objection implied by their former Omission. These considerations are not without their weight, though I pretend not to judge what motives may have influenced the conduct of Congress upon this occasion.6 It is needless to say any thing of this Gentleman’s Military character. It is universally known, that he has always distinguished himself, as a judicious—brave Officer—of great activity—enterprize & perseverance. I have the Honor to be with great respect Sir Your Most Obedt Servant

Go: Washington

LS, in Robert Hanson Harrison’s writing, DNA:PCC, item 152; Df, DLC:GW; copy, DNA:PCC, item 169; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. Congress read this letter on 16 May and referred it to the Board of War (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 , 7:365).

1At this place in the draft, Harrison wrote the word “extremely” and then struck it out.

2At this place in the draft, Harrison first wrote “seems to consider.” He then changed the text to read: “considers.”

3At this place in the draft, Harrison wrote the phrase “as a Gentleman & a Soldier” and then struck it out.

4Arnold arrived at Philadelphia by 16 May, and on 20 May he wrote Hancock asking Congress, in addition to naming a committee to examine his accounts, “to point out some mode by which my Conduct, & that of my accusers, particularly Lieut. Colo. Jno. Brown’s may be inquired into.” Arnold’s letter and an enclosed “hand bill, dated Pittsfield [Mass.], April 12, 1777, and subscribed John Brown,” which impugned Arnold’s character, were referred to the Board of War (DNA:PCC, item 162; see also 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 , 7:371–73). The Board of War on 23 May reported to Congress that its investigation of the matter had given it “entire satisfaction . . . concerning the general’s character and conduct, so cruelly and groundlessly aspersed in the publication,” and Congress confirmed that report (ibid., 8:382; see also Richard Henry Lee to Thomas Jefferson, 20 May, in 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 , 7:94–95, John Adams to Abigail Adams, 22 May, ibid., 103–4, and Van Doren, Secret History description begins Carl Van Doren. Secret History of the American Revolution: An Account of the Conspiracies of Benedict Arnold and Numerous Others drawn from the Secret Service Papers of the British Headquarters in North America now for the first time examined and made public. New York, 1941. description ends , 154–60).

5At this place in the draft, Harrison first wrote “observes.” He then struck out that word and wrote “adds” above the line.

6Arnold was not included in Congress’s election of five new major generals on 19 Feb. 1777, and he was not promoted to that rank until 2 May (see 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 , 7:133, 323). “With respect to General Arnold,” Massachusetts delegate Elbridge Gerry wrote Joseph Trumbull on 26 Mar. 1777, “he is considered by Congress as a brave & deserving officer, & had it been possible to have proceeded in the Line of Succession in appointing officers would undoubtedly have been promoted. This cannot be done without giving great dissatisfaction to the States that had no officers in the army in the beginning of the War; who claim a right to their proportion, agreable to the Number of Men which they furnish for the Service, of Major & Brig. Generals. The principles of appointmt. are therefore reduced to three Heads, & a Regard will be had to each of these, ‘the present rank of the Officers, their Merit, & the proportion already mentioned,’ & upon the two first I think General Arnold will meet a timely promotion” (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 , 6:493–95). Arnold’s effort to persuade Congress to adjust his date of rank as a major general was unsuccessful (see James Lovell to William Whipple, 8, 11 Aug. 1777, ibid., 7:443, 458–59, Henry Laurens to Robert Howe, 9 Aug. 1777, ibid., 446–48, Laurens to John Rutledge, 12 Aug. 1777, ibid., 466–72, and 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 , 8:623–24).

Index Entries