George Washington Papers

To George Washington from John Hancock, 21–22 June 1776

From John Hancock

Philadelphia June 21t[–22] 1776.

Sir,

The Congress having the greatest Reason to believe there has been very gross Misconduct in the Management of our Affairs in Canada, have come to a Resolution to have a general Enquiry made into the Behaviour of the Officers employed on that Expedition. The Honour of the United Colonies, and a Regard for the Public Good, call loudly for such an Enquiry to be set on Foot. I am therefore directed to request, after having made the Enquiry, agreeably to the enclosed Resolve, you will transmit the Result, together with the Proofs to Congress.1

The opinion, that an Officer cannot be tried by a Court Martial after his Resignation, for Offences while he held a Commission—so dangerous to the Service—and particularly destructive in our Army, where the short Enlistment of the Troops might furnish Temptation to Crimes from the Prospect of Impunity, has been this Day reprobated by Congress.2

I have wrote to the Convention of New York on the Subject of the enclosed Resolve respecting another Regiment to be raised in that Colony. The Terms on which the Commissions are to be granted, are extremely well calculated to excite the officers to exert themselves to fill up their Companies.3

I have likewise written to the respective Colonies, and have sent Copies of the enclosed Resolve recommending to them to provide Cloaths for the Troops of their Colonies. These, or such Articles of them as you shall want, the Congress have empowred you to draw for on the Assemblies & Conventions from Time to Time, as you shall judge necessary. I have represented to them that it is totally impossible the American Army should ever be on a respectable Footing, or that they should render such essential Services to their Country as we expect & desire, unless the United Colonies will, on their Part, take Care that they are well appointed & equipped with every Thing necessary for an Army.4

Genl Wooster, it is the Order of Congress, should be permitted to return to his Family.5

I have Deliver’d Mr Vissher his Commissn as Lieut. Coll in the Regimt Commanded by Coll Nicholson, & directed him to wait on you upon his Arrival at New York.6

Apprehending that such of the Resolves of Congress as respect the Conduct of the Army are executed in consequence of orders issued by you, I have omitted Sending to Genl Schuyler such as respect him, concluding that the Directions would go from you, but if it will be any way a Relief to you, I will Continue to forward them. I have the honour to be with much Esteem, Sir Your most Obedt hum. sert

John Hancock Presidt

22d Your Letter of 20th this moment come to hand, shall be laid before Congress on Monday.7

LS, DLC:GW; LB, DNA:PCC, item 12A. The last two paragraphs of the LS and its postscript are in Hancock’s writing.

1In its resolution of 21 June, Congress directed GW to make this inquiry “at such times and places as in his judgment shall be most likely to do justice as well to the public as to the individuals” (DLC:GW, see also 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 , 5:472). Deciding that he did not have sufficient knowledge of the persons and circumstances involved to conduct the inquiry himself, GW gave the task to Schuyler (see GW to Schuyler, 15 July 1776). Meanwhile, on 24 June Congress began its own investigation “into the cause of the miscarriages in Canada,” which continued until October (ibid., 474; see also Notes of Witnesses’ Testimony concerning the Canadian Campaign, 1–27 July 1776, in Boyd, Jefferson Papers description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 40 vols. to date. Princeton, N.J., 1950–. description ends , 1:433–54).

2This action is included in the enclosed resolutions of 21 June (DLC:GW; see also 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 , 5:472).

3Congress stipulated in its resolution of 21 June that the New York provincial congress was to “commission such officers as served the last campaign in Canada and have not been yet provided for,” but no commissions were to be issued until the officers raised “their companies to their full compliment or nearly thereto” (DLC:GW; see also 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 , 5:471, and Hancock to the New York Convention, 21 June, in 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 , 4:283–84).

4Congress resolved on 19 June “that it be recommended to the assemblies & conventions of the united colonies forthwith to cause a suit of cloaths, of which the waistcoat & breeches may be of deer leather if to be had on reasonable terms, a blanket, felt hat, two shirts, two pair of hose and two pair of Shoes to be manufactured or otherwise procured at reasonable rates in their respective colonies for each soldier of the american army, inlisted therein for the present campaign, and that the same be baled, invoiced & stored in suitable places to be delivered to the order of Congress or the commander in chief of the American Army” (DLC:GW; see also 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 , 5:466–67, and Hancock to Certain Colonies, 21 June, in 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 , 4:283).

5This order is included in the enclosed resolutions of 21 June (DLC:GW; see also 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 , 5:470).

6John Visscher (d. 1821) of Albany raised a company in May 1775 to garrison Fort Ticonderoga, and a few weeks later he and his company were incorporated into Col. Goose Van Schaick’s 2d New York Regiment. Visscher was promoted to major in October 1775, and on 8 Mar. 1776 the Continental Congress made him major of Col. Frederick Weissenfels’s 3d New York Regiment (ibid., 4:190). Congress’s appointment of Visscher as lieutenant colonel of Col. John Nicolson’s New York regiment occurred on 21 June (ibid., 5:472). Visscher held that rank until the end of 1779 when he was left out of the new arrangement of the New York forces. He served subsequently as an assistant deputy wagon master general in New York and is said to have been wounded at Johnstown in May 1780 (Morgan Lewis to George Clinton, 19 May 1780, in Hastings, Clinton Papers description begins Hugh Hastings and J. A. Holden, eds. Public Papers of George Clinton, First Governor of New York, 1777–1795, 1801–1804. 10 vols. 1899–1914. Reprint. New York, 1973. description ends , 5:727; Heitman, Historical Register description begins Francis B. Heitman. Historical Register of Officers of the Continental Army during the War of the Revolution, April, 1775, to December, 1783. 1893. Rev. ed. Washington, D.C., 1914. description ends , 561).

7The following Monday was 24 June.

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