George Washington Papers

To George Washington from John Hancock, 24 November 1776

From John Hancock

Philada Novr 24th 1776.


You will percieve from the enclosed Resolves, the Steps which Congress have thought proper to take in the present critical State of our Affairs.1

In Order to give you all possible Assistance in keeping the Army together at this Juncture, the Congress have appointed a Committee to repair to Head Quarters to co-opperate with you in the Business. They will set out tomorrow Morning; at which Time, the blank Commissions, ordered to be sent by the enclosed Resolve, shall be forwarded.2

You will please to order, from the Northern Department, such of the Troops as were raised in Pennsylvania & New Jersey, to join the Army immediately under your Command. Should there be a Necessity of supplying their Places, the Eastern States are to be applied to for that Purpose.3

The Congress being desirous of exchanging Mr Franklin for General Thompson, you will please to propose the Matter to Genl Howe agreeably to the enclosed Resolve.4 I have the Honour to be, with every Sentiment of Esteem & Respect, Sir, your most obedt and very hble Servt

John Hancock Prest

Your favr of 21st is rec’d & laid before Congress.5

The Comee appointed to devise Measures for reinforcing you, have taken sundry Steps for that End, of which the Comee that sets out tomorrow will inform you, and make you fully acquainted with Particulars.6

The Bearer hereof will proceed immediately to Genl Schuyler with Dispatches, and will convey any Commands from you to the Northern Department.

LS, DLC:GW; LB, DNA:PCC, item 12A. The first paragraph of the postscript of the LS is in Hancock’s writing.

1The enclosed copy of Congress’s resolutions of 22 and 23 Nov. regarding various military matters is in 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 , 6:972–77). For specific resolutions see nn.2–4, and 6.

2This resolution of 22 Nov. reads: “Congress taking into Consideration the present State of the Army, of which some parts have already disbanded & others will probably do so, when the times they engag’d to serve for shall expire, which must soon happen; so that there is danger that the Enemy must be opposed either by unequal numbers, or by Militia, not only a more expensive but a less efficacious Aid than Regular forces, and there being good grounds to hope, that vigorous efforts at this critical conjuncture may bring the war to a speedy as well as happy Conclusion.

“Resolved, That Blank Commissions be Sent to General Washington, and that he be impower’d to insert therein the Names of such Officers as he shall think fit, not Revoking those Appointments which have been made by Commissioners from any of the United States—And the General, Commissioners and Officers are conjured to Recruit by all the means in their power the Regiments now or lately in the Camp; And that a Committee of three be appointed to Repair to head quarters, & consulting with the General Assist in the Accomplishment of this necessary Business.

“The Members Chosen, Mr [William] Paca, Mr John [Witherspoon] & Mr [George] Ross.

“Order’d, That the said Committee make particular inquiry why the Troops are not paid, And that they be directed to inquire into and redress to the utmost in their power the just Grievances of the Soldiers.” Hancock also enclosed a copy of Congress’s resolution of 22 Nov. regarding the securing of hides and tallow (DLC:GW; see also ibid., 972–74).

3Congress’s resolution of 23 Nov. on this subject, which is included on the enclosure, directs “the Commanding Officer in the Northern Department. . . to apply to the Legislatures of the Eastern States to afford him such Assistance as he may stand in need of” (DLC:GW; see also ibid., 977)

4The resolution proposing the exchange of New Jersey’s royal governor, William Franklin, for Gen. William Thompson is dated 23 Nov. (DLC:GW; see also ibid.). For Congress’s resolution of 3 Dec. suspending action on this matter, see Hancock to GW, 4 Dec.; GW to Hancock, 6 Dec.; and 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 , 6:1004.

5Hancock is referring to GW’s letter to him of 19–21 Nov., which was read by Congress on 23 Nov. (see ibid., 975).

6The enclosed resolution of 23 Nov., which is one of several resolutions that Congress passed on that date in response to GW’s letter to Hancock of 19–21 Nov., appoints a committee of five delegates “with full powers to devise and execute Measures for effectually Reinforcing General Washington, and obstructing the Progress of General Howe’s Army,” and it directs the committee “to proceed immediately on this Business.” The members of this committee were James Wilson, James Smith, Samuel Chase, George Clymer, and Richard Stockton (DLC:GW; see also ibid., 975). Hancock also enclosed a copy of Congress’s resolution of the same date directing the Board of War immediately “to order the Battalion on the Eastern Shore of Virgnia [the 9th Virginia Regiment], and Col. McCoys & Col. Cooke’s Battalions [Col. Aeneas Mackay’s 8th Pennsylvania Regiment and Col. William Cooke’s 12th Pennsylvania Regiment] to March with all possible expedition, the former to Philadelphia & the two latter by the directest rout to Brunswick in New Jersey, or to Join General Washington” wherever he might be (DLC:GW; see also ibid., 976).

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