George Washington Papers

To George Washington from James Warren and Joseph Hawley, 4 July 1775

From James Warren and Joseph Hawley

Watertown [Mass.] July 4: 1775

Sir

As Pomroy is now Absent and at the distance of an hundred miles from the Army, if it can be Consistent with your Excellencys Trust & the Service to retain his Commission untill you shall recieve Advice from the Continental Congress and we shall be Able to prevail with Heath to make a Concession Honourable to himself, and Advantageous to the publick. We humbly Concieve the way would be open to do Justice to Thomas.1 We have the Honour to be Your Excellencys Most Obedient Humbe Servts

Jas Warren


Joseph Hawley

LS, in James Warren’s writing, DLC:GW.

James Warren (1726–1808) was president of the Massachusetts provincial congress, and Joseph Hawley (1723–1788) was vice president. Both men were radical Patriots who had long been active in the political affairs of the colony and their respective localities. Warren, a merchant and gentleman farmer from Plymouth, represented his town in various legislative bodies from 1766 to 1778 and served on many local revolutionary committees. He was elected president of the provincial congress on 19 June 1775 and became speaker of the new house of representatives on 19 July 1775. His close friends John and Samuel Adams tried without success to have him appointed a Continental brigadier general, but on 27 July 1775 Warren was made Continental paymaster general, which office he held until the following April. Warren also served on the navy board for the eastern department from 1776 to 1781 and was a major general in the Massachusetts militia from 1776 to 1777. Hawley, a lawyer from Northampton, was one of the leading political figures in western Massachusetts, and like Warren, he represented his town in the colony’s assemblies for many years. Hawley served as a chaplain at the siege of Louisburg in 1745, and as major of Hampshire County during the French and Indian War, he was involved in raising and supplying troops. In 1774 Hawley was elected to the First Continental Congress, but he declined to attend, probably because of poor health. A mental breakdown in the fall of 1776 forced him to retire permanently from all public affairs.

1The arrangement of the eight brigadier generals appointed by the Continental Congress on 22 June occasioned great consternation in Massachusetts. John Thomas (1724–1776) of Kingston, a much-respected officer who had commanded a provincial regiment during the French and Indian War, was designated the sixth brigadier, while William Heath (1737–1814) of Roxbury, an inexperienced soldier whom Thomas outranked in the Massachusetts service, was named the fourth brigadier (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 , 2:103). Both Thomas and Heath were appointed generals in the Massachusetts army by the colony’s provincial congress on 8 Dec. 1774 (Mass. Prov. Congress Journals description begins William Lincoln, ed. The Journals of Each Provincial Congress of Massachusetts in 1774 and 1775, and of the Committee of Safety. Boston, 1838. (Microfilm Collection of Early State Records). description ends , 65), but when the siege of Boston began in April 1775, Thomas quickly emerged as a leading figure in the American army, taking command of the camp at Roxbury. “His Merits in the military way have surprised us all,” James Warren wrote of Thomas in a letter to John Adams on 27 June. “I cant describe to you the Odds between the two Camps. While one [Cambridge] has been Spiritless, sluggish, Confused, and dirty . . . The other [Roxbury] has been Spirited, Active regular, and clean. He has Appeared with the dignity and Abilities of a General” (Taylor, Papers of John Adams description begins Robert J. Taylor et al., eds. Papers of John Adams. 17 vols. to date. Cambridge, Mass., and London, 1977—. description ends , 3:51–53). Thomas was commissioned a lieutenant general by the provincial congress on 19 May (Mass. Hist. Soc., Proceedings description begins Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society. Boston, 1859—. description ends , 2d ser., 18 [1903–4], 423), and Heath was appointed to the lesser provincial rank of major general on 21 June (Mass. Prov. Congress Journals description begins William Lincoln, ed. The Journals of Each Provincial Congress of Massachusetts in 1774 and 1775, and of the Committee of Safety. Boston, 1838. (Microfilm Collection of Early State Records). description ends , 363, 367). Unacquainted with any of the New England generals before his arrival at Cambridge, GW was cautious in forming his opinions of them, but he soon agreed that Thomas deserved better treatment than he had received from the Continental Congress. “The General,” James Warren informed John Adams in a letter of 7 July 1775, “was very Sorry and somewhat Embarrassed with the Neglect of Thomas” (Taylor, Papers of John Adams description begins Robert J. Taylor et al., eds. Papers of John Adams. 17 vols. to date. Cambridge, Mass., and London, 1977—. description ends , 3:68–70). See also GW to John Hancock, 10–11 July 1775.

Fortunately, a solution to the problem seemed to be at hand. Seth Pomeroy (1706–1777) of Northampton, a veteran of two colonial wars whom the Continental Congress appointed first brigadier general, was expected to decline his commission because of his advanced age. If he did, Thomas could be put in his place. Heath promptly agreed to this change, and GW delayed his reorganization of the army until Pomeroy made known his decision. No word, however, was forthcoming from Pomeroy, who had gone home to Northampton after the Battle of Bunker Hill. Unable to wait any longer, GW announced the new arrangement for the army on 22 July, and Thomas indicated that he would quit the army rather than accept a position below Heath. GW wrote to Thomas on 23 July, urging him to remain until a verdict on his commission arrived from the Continental Congress. The delegates in Philadelphia, in fact, resolved on 19 July to appoint Thomas first brigadier general “in the room of Gen [Seth] Pomeroy, who never acted under the Commission sent to him” (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 , 2:191). Thomas’s new commission reached Cambridge by 4 Aug., and he accepted it (Hancock to GW, 24 July 1775; GW to Hancock, 4–5 Aug. 1775).

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