George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Robert Carter Nicholas, 8 September 1775

From Robert Carter Nicholas

Williamsburg 8th Septr 1775.

Dear Sir.

Were I not apprehensive that I should appear rather late in doing it, I am sure none of your Countrymen could with greater Sincerity congratulate you on your Promotion to the very important & honourable Post you now fill.

You will no doubt have heard the distressful Situation this unhappy Country is now in. We have too much Reason to apprehend that our Enemies will exert every Effort to annoy us. A few Troops arrived some time ago & we hear that a Regiment is daily expected from the West Indies. If general Gage should remove his Troops from Boston, tho. we are told N. Yk will be the object of their Destination, I can’t help suspecting that this Declaration is intended to amuse & lull us into a State of greater Security, being persuaded from Comparison of different Accounts, that his Visit is intended for Virginia. If Ld D—re1 can get him here, I am confident he will. It might be of singular Service to us to receive the earliest Intelligence of any Movement this Way.

The young Gentleman, who waits upon you with this, goes recommended from our Convention to your Patronage & Friendship. It rests with me to furnish his Pay from time to time, but I really do not know how to do it, at so great a Distance, without your kind Assistance. If you could by any means contrive to have him supplyed, I will honor your Drafts at Sight.2

That you may, my dear Sir, be shielded by the Lord of Hosts & protected from all our Enemies; & that you may long live to enjoy every Felicity this Life can afford is the ardent wish of yr very affte & mo. obt Servt

Ro. C. Nicholas

I shall be more certain of giving due honor to yr Drafts by Bills on London; if these can be made to suit, Specie grows very scarce here.


As treasurer of the colony of Virginia from 1766 to 1776, Robert Carter Nicholas (1728–1780) frequently dealt with GW on business matters and on several occasions entertained him in his Williamsburg house. A conservative Patriot, Nicholas opposed the declaring of independence but strongly defended colonial rights. He participated in all five Virginia conventions and the new house of delegates as a representative of James City County, and in 1778 he became a judge on the state court of chancery.

1Nicholas is referring to Lord Dunmore.

2The bearer was Francis Otway Byrd (1756–1800), a son of William Byrd III of Westover. On 26 Aug. 1775 the third Virginia convention resolved: “It appearing . . . that ⟨Francis⟩ Otway Byrd, esq; had, on account of his attachment to American liberty, resigned his provision and prospects in the British navy, and may be destitute of employment, . . . that the said Otway Byrd, esq; be strongly recommended to his excellency general ⟨George⟩ Washington, and the Conventions of our sister colonies to the eastward, for promotion in the army in that neighbourhood; and that until such promotion shall take place, or it be otherwise ordered by this Convention, that he be allowed ten shillings per day to support him as a cadet in the continental army, to commence the day he joins the said army, and that he be also allowed the sum of 50 l. to be paid immediately” (Van Schreeven, Revolutionary Virginia description begins William J. Van Schreeven et al., eds. Revolutionary Virginia: The Road to Independence. A Documentary Record. 7 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1973–83. description ends , 3 : 503). In quitting the Royal Navy, Otway Byrd sacrificed the monetary inheritance provided for him in his father’s will contingent on his remaining in the navy until his mother’s death. Byrd reached Cambridge about 2 Oct., and on 25 Oct. GW appointed him an aide-de-camp to Maj. Gen. Charles Lee (General Orders, that date). At the siege of Charleston in the spring of 1776, Byrd greatly impressed Lee with his courage and competence (Lee to GW, 1 July 1776). On 1 Jan. 1777 Byrd became lieutenant colonel of the 3d Continental Dragoons. He resigned his commission in July 1778.

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