George Washington Papers

Circular to the Chief Executives of Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, 19 February 1778

Circular to the Chief Executives of Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Virginia

Valley forge February the 19th, 1778


For reasons that will be obvious to you, it is thought the publication of the inclosed address may answer valuable ends; and I beg leave to submit to you, whether it may not serve to increase its effect, if it were ushered into the papers of your State with a recommendatory line from yourself. If you should suppose there will be any impropriety in this, you will be pleased notwithstanding to commit the address itself to the printer.1 I have the Honor to be with great respect Sir Your Most Obedt servant

Go: Washington

LS, addressed to Thomas Johnson, in Robert Hanson Harrison’s writing, MdAA; LS, addressed to Thomas Wharton, Jr., PHi: Gratz Collection; LS, MdHi; Df, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. Robert Hanson Harrison indicated on the draft that copies of this letter were sent to Patrick Henry, Thomas Johnson, George Read, Thomas Wharton, Jr., and William Livingston. Harrison added on another sheet a copy of this additional paragraph that was included in GW’s letter to Wharton: “I was duly honored with your Letter of the 13th Instant. I shall give every attention in my power that the five Regiments may be supplied out of the Cloathing which first comes to hand, as you wish, and if it proves insufficient will try to keep them easy till a further provision can be made.” The letter to Wharton also included this brief postscript: “Address in Letter to Mr Dunlap.” The letter to George Read was dated 18 Feb.; see Read’s reply of 2 March.

1Each circular letter covered a copy of GW’s Proclamation on Cattle of 18 February. Delaware vice-president George Read replied on 2 Mar. that he had “ordered Copies of your inclosed Address to be made and circulated throughout the State, as we have no News-Paper printed within it.”

Maryland governor Thomas Johnson presented this letter to the Maryland senate on 14 Mar. and to the house of delegates three days later (Md. Senate Votes and Proceedings description begins Votes and Proceedings of the Senate of the State of Maryland. October Session, 1777. Being the First Session of this Assembly. [Annapolis, 1778]. description ends , 13 Mar.—22 April 1778 sess., 34; Md. House of Delegates Votes and Proceedings description begins Votes and Proceedings of the House of Delegates of the State of Maryland. February Session, 1777. Being the First Session of this Assembly. [Annapolis, 1777]. description ends , 17 Mar.—22 April 1778 sess., 70). The Maryland Journal, and Baltimore Advertiser printed it on 17 Mar., without any accompanying declaration from Johnson. For legislation passed by Maryland for the supply of provisions to GW’s army, see GW to Johnson, 16 Feb., n.3.

The New-Jersey Gazette printed GW’s proclamation on 25 Feb. (Burlington) and 4 Mar. (Trenton), the second time accompanied by a proclamation of 25 Feb. from New Jersey governor William Livingston to the inhabitants of his state. Livingston’s proclamation is in Prince, Livingston Papers description begins Carl E. Prince et al., eds. The Papers of William Livingston. 5 vols. Trenton and New Brunswick, N.J., 1979–88. description ends , 2:238–39.

On 26 Feb., Thomas Wharton, Jr., president of the Pennsylvania supreme executive council, placed GW’s proclamation before the council, which ordered it to be printed with an accompanying proclamation (Pa. Col. Records description begins Colonial Records of Pennsylvania. 16 vols. Harrisburg, 1840–53. description ends , 11:428–30; see also Wharton to GW, 2 March). The Pennsylvania Packet (Lancaster) printed both proclamations on 4 March.

In a letter dated 1 April that has not been found, Virginia governor Patrick Henry apparently informed GW of the measures he had taken in response to the proclamation on cattle. Henry had laid it before the Virginia council, which resolved on 20 Mar. to “advise his Excellency the Governor to order the said address to be inserted in the Virginia Gazettes with a recommendatory Line from him to those Inhabitants who can possibly spare Cattle that may be fit for use by may June & July to give Information thereof to the County Lieutenant of their County, & to desire the said County Lieutenants to acquaint his Excellency with the Number of Cattle which may be procured from each County respectively” (Journals of the Council of the State of Virginia description begins H. R. McIlwaine et al., eds. Journals of the Council of the State of Virginia. 5 vols. Richmond, 1931–82. description ends , 2:107). GW’s proclamation appeared in Purdie’s Virginia Gazette (Williamsburg) on the same date, with a notice from Henry along the lines suggested by the council and including the following words: “IT is hoped that the inhabitants of Virginia, of all ranks, have too much virtue to slight what is recommended to them by our worthy Generalissimo. The principles of humanity unite with the publick safety in forbidding that the army should suffer through want of provisions. It will suffer, and by that means the most dreadful consequences ensue, unless due attention is paid to what is here asked for.” For other measures adopted by the Virginia council in response to GW’s letter, see GW to Henry, 19 April.

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