George Washington Papers

Commission from the Continental Congress, 19 June 1775

Commission from the Continental Congress

[Philadelphia, 19 June 1775]

In Congress

The delegates of the United Colonies of New-hampshire, Massachusetts bay, Rhode-island, Connecticut, New-York, New-Jersey, Pennsylvania, New Castle Kent & Sussex on Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina & South Carolina1

To George Washington Esquire

We reposing especial trust and confidence in your patriotism, conduct and fidelity2 Do by these presents constitute and appoint you to be General and Commander in chief of the army of the United Colonies and of all the forces raised3 or to be raised by them and of all others who shall voluntarily offer their service and join the said army for the defence of American Liberty and for repelling every hostile invasion thereof And you are hereby vested with full power and authority to act as you shall think for the good and Welfare of the service.

And we do hereby strictly charge and require all officers and soldiers under your command to be obedient to your orders & diligent in the exercise of their several dut⟨ies.⟩ And we do also enjoin and require you to be careful in executing the great trust reposed in you, by causing strict discipline and order to be observed in th⟨e⟩ army and that the soldiers are duly exercised an⟨d⟩ provided with all convenient necessaries.

And you are to regulate your conduct in every respect by the rules and discipline of war (as herewith given you) and punctually to observe and foll⟨ow⟩ such orders and directions from time to time as you shall receive from this or a future Congress of the said United Colonies or a committee of Congress for that purpose appointed.4

This Commission to continue inforce until revoked by this or a future Congress.

By order of the Congress
John Hancock President

Dated Philadelphia June 19th 1775.

Attest Chas Thomson secy5

DS, DLC:GW; copy, DNA:PCC, item 1. The text of the commission in DLC:GW is in the writing of Timothy Matlack, clerk to the secretary of Congress, Charles Thomson. It is signed by Hancock and Thomson. The PCC copy is in the rough journal of the Continental Congress in Thomson’s writing. It is dated 17 June 1775, the day that Congress approved the commission. Significant variations in this copy are noted below. The journal version was printed in Dunlap’s Pennsylvania Packet, or, the General Advertiser (Philadelphia), 11 Dec. 1775.

GW’s commission was drafted by a committee of three delegates, Richard Henry Lee, Edward Rutledge, and John Adams, who were appointed for that purpose on 16 June immediately after GW’s speech accepting the command of the Continental forces. They reported to Congress the next day, at which time the commission, “being read by paragraphs and debated, was agreed to.” Congress then ordered it to “be fairly transcribed, to be signed by the president, and attested by the secretary, and delivered to the General” (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 , 2:93, 96–97). On 18 June, Hancock wrote to Joseph Warren: “The Congress have Appointed George Washington Esqr. General & Commander in Chief of the Continental Army, his Commission is made out, & I shall Sign it tomorrow” (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 , 1:507–8). When Hancock signed the commission, he apparently changed the date by writing “19” over the “17” written by Matlack.

1The copy in the rough journal of the Continental Congress reads “The Counties of Newcastle, Kent & Sussex on Delaware.” The words “in congress assembled” appear after “South Carolina.”

2In the rough journal this phrase reads “your patriotism, valour, conduct & fidelity.”

3The rough journal reads “now raised.”

4The articles of war were adopted by Congress on 30 June, a week after GW left Philadelphia, and on 5 July Hancock forwarded them to Cambridge. See Richard Henry Lee to GW, 29 June 1775, n.3, and Hancock to GW, 5 July 1775. GW received a set of instructions from Congress on 22 June, which he carried with him.

5Charles Thomson (1729–1824) of Philadelphia was elected secretary of the First Continental Congress on 5 Sept. 1774 and the Second Continental Congress on 10 May 1775. He held the latter position until Congress ceased to exist in 1789. Thomson officially notified GW of his election as president in April 1789.

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