George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Thomas Wharton, Jr., 17 April 1778

To Thomas Wharton, Jr.

Head Quarters Valley Forge 17th April [1778]


I have long been convinced that one great cause of the backwardness of the people to supply us with Articles in the Qr Masters and Commissary’s departments, has been owing to the imprudent choice of deputies in those departments, who have not only personally abused the inhabitants, but have defrauded them of great part of their dues.

So glaring an instance, of one of these improper appointments, has lately presented itself to me, that I thought it my duty to take the deputation away from the person to prevent his doing mischief, and as he was empowered to act by Mr Thomas Edwards the Commissioner of Lancaster County, I thought it highly expedient to give you information of it, with the character of Patrick Maguire, the person named in the inclosed extensive Commission1—He was hired to act, about twelve months ago, as Steward in my family, in which station he continued untill a few weeks past, when I was obliged to dismiss him.2 He is given to liquor, and where he dares takes the liberty, very insolent. He is totally unacquainted with the Country, or with the quality or value of the Articles wanted, and yet, you will please to observe, by his powers, that he is unlimited as to quantity quality or price. He must have been a stranger to Mr Edwards as he had but lately come from Ireland when I hired him.

I hope you will attribute this representation of facts to the true motive, which is my desire of delivering the people from the oppression which they have too long laboured under; by being harrassed and abused by persons of Mr Maguires stamp. I have the Honor to be Sir Your most obt Servt

Go: Washington

P.S. I have recd yours of the 13th instant.

LS, in Tench Tilghman’s writing, DLC:GW; Df, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. The draft and the Varick transcript were both dated 15 April. GW signed the cover of the LS, which is docketed in part “recd April 20th.”

1The enclosed commission has not been identified. Thomas Edwards (1735–1794), one of the Pennsylvania commissioners for the purchase of provisions, had been voted $18,000 for that purpose on 20 February. He had probably employed Patrick Maguire under the authority granted in a circular letter of 24 Feb.: “You are . . . strictly charged and enjoined to exert every power you possess to procure supplies as fast as possible. You are not to regard any orders that may be given to you by any persons whatsoever contrary hereto—And you are to forward to Camp with all possible expedition all the neat Cattle, swine, Beef, Pork & forage you can procure—You are also hereby empowered to hire such assistants as you may find necessary for this purpose as the present occasion is extremely urgent” (PHarH: Records of Pennsylvania’s Revolutionary Governments, 1775–1790; see also Pa. Col. Records description begins Colonial Records of Pennsylvania. 16 vols. Harrisburg, 1840–53. description ends , 11:423, and Pa. Archives description begins Samuel Hazard et al., eds. Pennsylvania Archives. 9 ser., 138 vols. Philadelphia and Harrisburg, 1852–1949. description ends , 1st ser., 6:294). Edwards had been major of the 1st Regiment of Lancaster County militia at the flying camp from July to December 1776. He was appointed lieutenant colonel commanding the 2d Regiment of Lancaster County militia in 1780 and remained in command of that regiment at least to 1783. He also served as county sheriff, 1782–86.

2On 6 Mar. 1778 Maguire received £16.6.5 in Pennsylvania currency from Capt. Caleb Gibbs, “in full for wages as Steward to His Excellency the Commander in Chief” (DLC:GW, ser. 5, vol. 29; see also DLC:GW, ser. 5, vol. 28). On the draft Tilghman inserted “when I was obliged to dismiss him,” probably intending it to replace the following text, which was not crossed out but does not appear in the LS: “and I have the greatest Reason to believe, that during the whole time of his employ, he took every opportunity of defrauding me.”

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