George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Richard Corbin, February–March 1754

To Richard Corbin

[February–March 1754]

Dear Sir:

In a conversation at Green Spring1 you gave me some room to hope for a commission above that of a Major, and to be ranked among the chief officers of this expedition. The command of the whole forces is what I neither look for, expect, nor desire; for I must be impartial enough to confess, it is a charge too great for my youth and inexperience to be intrusted with. Knowing this, I have too sincere a love for my country, to undertake that which may tend to the prejudice of it. But if I could entertain hopes that you thought me worthy of the post of Lieutenant-colonel, and would favour me so far as to mention it at the appointment of officers, I could not but entertain a true sense of the kindness.

I flatter myself that under a skilful commander, or man of sense, (which I most sincerely wish to serve under,) with my own application and diligent study of my duty, I shall be able to conduct my steps without censure, and in time, render myself worthy of the promotion that I shall be favoured with now.

Marshall, Washington description begins John Marshall. The Life of George Washington, Commander in Chief of the American Forces, during the War which established the Independence of His Country, and First President of the United States. 5 vols. 1804–7. Reprint. 2 vols. Philadelphia, 1850. description ends , 1:3–4. Richard Corbin (1708–1790) of King and Queen County had been a member of the council since 1750. He was receiver general of the colony from 1754 to 1776. The text of this letter was taken from the second and revised edition of John Marshall’s Life of Washington, which he had printed in 1834. It is not included in the first edition. In the footnote containing the text of the letter Marshall reported that “the following letter . . . to Colonel Richard Corbin, a member of the Council, with whom his [GW’s] family was connected by ties of friendship and of affinity, was placed in the hands of the author by Mr. Francis Corbin, a son of that gentleman.” In that same year (1834), the Corbin letter appeared in Jared Sparks’s Writings of Washington, with no source given and with only minor differences from the Marshall version. In their editions of Washington’s writings, Worthington C. Ford and John Fitzpatrick both took their texts from Sparks. Marshall gave no date for the letter; the date of Mar. 1754 first appeared in Sparks’s edition and subsequently in Ford’s and Fitzpatrick’s. From present evidence the most that can be said is that GW wrote his letter to Corbin sometime after his visit to Williamsburg in mid-Feb. 1754 and before acknowledging receipt of his lieutenant colonel’s commission from Dinwiddie on 20 Mar. 1754. John Marshall printed at the end of GW’s letter to Corbin the following communication from Corbin: “Dear George,—I inclose you your commission. God prosper you with it. Your friend, Richard Corbin.” Marshall provides no date or source for Corbin’s note. If the note was in fact addressed to GW, Corbin must have been referring to a commission for GW as regimental major (which became effective 24 Feb. 1754), for Governor Dinwiddie himself sent GW his lieutenant colonel’s commission on 15 Mar. This raises the possibility that GW wrote this letter to Corbin upon receiving his commission as major forwarded to him by Corbin.

1Green Spring, built by Gov. William Berkeley about 5 miles west of Williamsburg, was the home of Philip Ludwell (1716–1767), who along with Corbin was one of the most active councilors in the colony’s Indian and frontier affairs.

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