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From George Washington to Esther De Berdt Reed, 14 July 1780

To Esther De Berdt Reed

Head Qrs in Bergen Cty [N.J.] 14th of July 1780.


I have received with much pleasure—but not till last night1—your favor2 of the 4th specifying the amount of the subscriptions already collected for the use of the American Soldiery.

This fresh mark of the patriotism of the Ladies entitles them to the highest applause of their Country. It is impossible for the Army, not to feel a superior gratitude, on such an instance of goodness.

If I am happy in having the concurrence of the Ladies, I would propose the purchasing of course Linnen, to be made into Shirts, with the whole amount of their subscription. A Shirt extraordinary to the Soldier will be of more service, and do more to preserve his health than any other thing that could be procured him; while it is not intended, nor shall exclude him, from the usual supply which he draws from the public.

This appears to me, to be the best mode for its application, and provided it is approved of by the Ladies I am happy to find3 you have been good enough4 to give us a claim on your endeavours to compleat the execution of the design. An example so laudable will certainly be nurtured, & must be productive of a favourable Issue in the bosoms of the fair, in the Sister States.5

Let me congratulate our benefactors on the arrival of the French fleet off the harbor of New-Port on the afternoon of the 10th. It is this moment announced, but without any particulars as an interchange of Signals had only taken place.6

I pray the Ladies of your family to receive with my compliments, my liveliest thanks for the interest they take in my favor.7 With the most perfect respect and esteem I have the honor to be Madam, Yr Obedt & Hble Servt

Go: Washington

ALS, RBrHi; DfS, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

GW again wrote Reed on 20 July from headquarters: “An idea has occurred to me my dear Madam, which if perfectly consistent with the views of the female patriots may perhaps extend the utility of their subscriptions. It is to deposit the amount in the Bank & receive Bank Notes in lieu of it to purchase the articles intended.

“This while serviceable to the Bank and advancing its operations seems to have no inconvenience to the intentions of the Ladies. By uniting the efforts of patriotism they will reciprocally promote each other—& I should imagine the Ladies will have no objection to an union with the Gentlemen.

“But I beg Madam the suggestion I have taken the liberty to make may not have the least attention paid to it, if the Sentiments of all the fair associates do not perfectly coincide” (ALS, RPJCB; Df, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW).

On the same date, GW’s aide-de-camp Alexander Hamilton, referring to GW’s proposal to deposit the subscription money in the bank formed by leading Philadelphia merchants, wrote French legation secretary François de Barbé-Marbois in Philadelphia. The letter reads in part: “I communicated My Dear Sir to the General your ideas of an union between the patriotic males and females; which he relished so well that he has taken the first opportunity to write to the Presidentess recommending it” (Hamilton Papers description begins Harold C. Syrett et al., eds. The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. 27 vols. New York, 1961–87. description ends , 2:359–61; for the bank, see Philip Schuyler to GW, 18 June, and n.4 to that document). For Barbé-Marbois’s proposal, see his letter (in French) to Hamilton of 11 July in Hamilton Papers description begins Harold C. Syrett et al., eds. The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. 27 vols. New York, 1961–87. description ends , 2:354–55.

1On the draft, which is in the writing of GW’s assistant secretary James McHenry, GW interlineated the previous five words.

2GW wrote this word on the draft.

3GW interlineated the previous five words on the draft.

4GW interlineated this word to replace “as” on the draft.

5GW added this sentence at the end of the draft and marked its location in the letter with an asterisk, but instead of the last six words, he wrote: “your Sister fair in the other States.”

7For the ladies in the Reed household, see Joseph Reed to GW, 12 March 1779, n.5.

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