George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Brigadier General William Smallwood, 23 January 1778

To Brigadier General William Smallwood

Head Quarters Valley Forge 23d Jany 1778

Dear Sir

As I have not recd any answer to mine of the 13th instant, I am at a loss how to give you further directions respecting the Sale or distribution of the Symetry’s Cargo. My reason for putting a stop to it was upon seeing what was certainly a very inequitable mode, upon several accounts, of conducting the Business as appeared by a plan drawn up by the Feild Officers. In the first place, the Staff were in a great measure excluded from purchasing, and as a credit of four or five Months was to be allowed, the Soldiers and non commissioned Officers must of course have waited till the expiration of the Credit, before they could receive their dividend. Besides, by the Death, Resignation, or dismission of an Officer, if great care was not taken, the debt would be lost. For this reason, whether the Goods are disposed of by open sale, or delivered out at a valuation, the Officer who purchases more than the amount of his share should immediately pay the surplus. If these matters are put upon a proper and equitable footing, I have no objection to the sale or distribution’s going on. I would only desire that the person who acts as Vendue Master may not make a final distribution of the money arising from the Sale, untill the determination of Congress is known respecting the property.

Inclosed you have a letter for Mr Read president of the Delaware State upon the Subject of filling up their Regiment.1 I have desired him to call upon you for an exact Return of their present Strength, that he may know what number of levies are wanting to compleat them. Be pleased to forward the letter to him with the Return,2 and continue to press him on this Subject.

The Enemy made an attempt to surprize Capt. Lee a few days ago, in which they failed, but upon their return they took two Waggons, which were said to be coming from Wilmington. This makes me apprehensive that they might have been those which Colo. Moylan informed me you were sending up with some things for me. I shall be happy to find it otherwise.3

A few days ago I recd a very polite letter, from Docr Boyes of the 15th Regt British, requesting me to return him some valuable medical manuscripts taken in the Brig Symetry. He says they are packed in a neat kind of portable library and consist of Docr Cullens lectures on the institutions of Medicine 18 Volumes. Cullens lectures on the practice of Medicine 39 or 40 Volumes. Monroes anatomical lectures 8 Volumes and Docr Black on Chemistry 9 Volumes. The whole in octavo. If they can be found, I beg that they may be sent up to me, that I may return them to the Doctor. I have no other view in doing this than shewing our Enemies that we do not war against the Sciences.4 I am Dear Sir Yr most obt Servt

Go: Washington

LS, in Tench Tilghman’s writing, CtY: U.S. Presidents Collection; Df, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

2GW inserted the remainder of this sentence on the draft.

3Smallwood reassured GW on 26 Jan. that “The Waggons taken were not those destined for you, yours not yet being sent from hence.”

4Robert Boyes was appointed surgeon of the 15th British Regiment of Foot in March 1777; his letter to GW has not been found. The approximately seventy-five volumes in Boyes’s portable library were probably bound manuscript lecture notes, which sometimes appeared in lieu of printed editions that were generally condensed into no more than a few volumes. William Cullen (1710–1790) was professor of physiology and, since 1773, chair of the practice of physic at the University of Edinburgh Medical School. His Institutions of Medicine: Part I. Physiology was printed in one volume in 1772, and the first edition of his First Lines of the Practice of Physic appeared in four volumes in 1776. Anatomical Lectures, or, The Anatomy of the Human Bones, Nerves, and Lacteal Sac and Duct by Alexander Monro (1697–1767) was printed in one volume in 1775. His son Alexander Monro (1733–1817), like his father a professor of anatomy and surgery at the University of Edinburgh Medical School, delivered lectures on anatomy yearly from 1759 until 1800, and manuscript notes of his lectures of 1774–75 later were deposited in the Royal Medical and Chirurgical Society of London. Joseph Black (1728–1799), since 1766 professor of medicine and chemistry at the University of Edinburgh, was a popular lecturer whose Lectures on the Elements of Chemistry were printed in two volumes in 1803.

GW had some difficulty in securing the return of the books. Dr. Boyes wrote GW about them again in February, and after their discovery the following month, Boyes acceded to Smallwood’s request that they be copied before their return. As of September, however, Boyes still had not recovered his books, prompting GW to write another letter on his behalf (see GW to Nicholas Way, 6 Sept. 1778).

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