George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Joseph Reed, 2–5 April 1779

From Joseph Reed

[2–c.5 April 1779]

Dear Sir

I beg you to accept of my Thanks for your Favours of the 28th & 29th Ult. & the Intelligence inclosed. I shall esteem such Communications a particular Mark of your Regard, & if you could occasionally mix your own Sentiments as to the Measures most adviseable it would add to the Favour. My Ideas upon the Subject so perfectly correspond with yours that I shall take every possible Measure to put the Militia in the best Posture of Preparation, tho’ the unhappy Disputes of the State have made Government less vigorous than it would otherwise have been, However I have the Satisfaction to remark that they decline hourly, & of Consequence the Power of Governmt will revive with renew’d Strength. I hear from good Authority that the Inhabitants of the Country are very unanimous in their Opinion against the Measures of Opposition—and as it has not become personal at least on my Part, I shall chearfully overlook the Abuse which has been attempted towards me & make every Advance towards Peace, Harmony, & mutual Civility.1 I beg Leave to mention a Matter which has given some Concern to the Council as well as several Members of the Assembly & in which it is supposed some Persons have not dealt candidly with you. I mean the Appointment of a Capt. Patterson of the back Country to some important Command. Col. Smith of the Council authorizes me to say that his Character is not even doubtful—but well known to be unfriendly to the true Interests of America—and that he is universally regarded in this Light by all the well affected of the back Country. He lays under very strong Suspicions of holding an Intercourse with the Enemy last Winter & his present Appointment will have a very discouraging Effect upon the People of the back Counties. Our very great Respect for every Thing which comes from you will doubtless induce us as well as every other Person under our Influence to acquiesce in any Appointment & to give our fullest Concurrence to the Business in which he is employed but we esteem it our Duty to represent to your Excelly the Consequences & Facts as we are perswaded that some Mistake has happened. I have only to add on the Subject that what Col. Smith said was in Council & confirm’d by another Member (Mr Hambright) who both spoke from personal Knowledge.2

Inclosed I send your Excelly Gen. Potter’s last Letter3—the Accts from Wyoming which Col. Butler has transmitted to you will doubtless bring to your Mind the unhappy Situation of our Frontiers.4 From the Communications you were so good as to make me at Head Quarters I have without descending to particulars encouraged our Settlers in Westmoreland, Bedford, & Northumberland to stand their Ground & have ordered 250 Militia from the inner Counties to march for their immediate Protection & in the mean Time the Assembly has given such farther Encouragement as we hope will give Spirit to the recruitg Service of the 5 Companies proposed. But as your Excelly well knows the Delays that sometimes happen in the Execution of Orders, I hope you will not think me troublesome in requesting they may be repeated if necessary. Expecting that Gen. Hands Detachment would effectually cover Northumberland & that a Draught of Militia to that Quarter would only consume the Provisions I did not order any Militia thither & I fear this late Movement will occasion an Evacuation of that Country unless Gen. Hand has moved a Part or the whole of his Troops thither5—I must also request you would direct the Fragments of Corps attached to Col. Hartly’s Regt to Join as I fear they have not paid due Attention to your former Directions on this Subject.6 I hope we shall have the River in a good Posture—Gen. D. Portail seems very well pleased & all the necessary Orders are given.7

I do not think a little Apprehension will do us any Harm & have therefore made such a Use of your Letter as may awaken tho not Alarm our People to a Sense of their true Situation. A sordid Spirit of Gain a Spirit of Animosity & Selfishness was too prevalent for any Thing but an Idea of Danger—I can only lament that even good Minds are in some Instances too much tainted. call a Thing Trade & let it be ever So seemingly unfair & really prejudicial to the common Interest it will make its Way. Every Arrival depreciates our Currency & I cannot learn that effectual Measures ar⟨e⟩ taken on this Subject or indeed any. Some of our principal People seemed to think all Danger over, & they must recover lost Time & Profits—hence all the Passions of Avarice & Ambition were let loose, & they will scarcely believe that the Day of our Redemption is not at Hand, & all farther Efforts unnecessary. You will see by our Proclamation of this Day that we think very differently & that while we hope, we tremble too.8 We are therefore resolved to pursue vigorously your Advice to be prepared for the worst, and should it be necessary to call forth the Militia of this State, I shall think it my Duty to partake of the Fatigues & Dangers, & yield a chearful & happy Obedience to your Orders—Yesterday Mr Peales Performance was placed with due Respect in the Council Chamber & an elegant one it is. He seems to have profited by his Subject & never did any Thing more to his Honour as an Artist.9

Since I wrote the above a joint Committee of Council & Assembly met a Committee of Congress on the Affairs of this State & with a View of removing Jealousies & Misunderstandings which have too much prevailed of late. I have the Pleasure of informing you that there is an Appearance of perfect Harmony being restored notwithstanding the utmost Efforts of some Gentlemen in Congress to prevent it.10 It is really melancholy to see with what unceasing Perseverance some Gentlemen endeavour to promote a Breach between this State & Congress. A Transaction this Morning seems to confirm Suspicions taken up formerly. Mr Clymer who is full in Opposition here & of the Party with the commercial Gentlemen of Congress introduced a Sett of Resolves to some Gentlemen of the Assembly expressing the Sense of the State that the Delegates should agree to any Terms of Peace securing Independence & consistent with Treaties with foreign Powers, by no Means insisting upon Acquisitions of Territory or any splendid Advantages11—It appeared to me that our Enemies would take so much Encouragement from Overtures of this Kind as tending to shew the Sense of one State & our Weariness of the Hour as might have fatal Effects. I have therefore used my Influence against it. My Opinion clearly is that Congress ought to have the sole Power of settling this Business & that it will be dangerous for any State to interpose its particular Decision. But alas—we thirst after Trade & Luxury—& many wish to see their banished Friends return in Triumph. I beg Pardon for this tedious Scrawl & am with the greatest Respect Dear Sir Your very Obed. & Aff. Hble Serv.

J. Reed.

ALS, DLC:GW. GW replied to this letter on 8 April (RPJCB).

Reed failed to date this letter, and an unidentified person wrote a general date range at the top of the first manuscript page, which reads: “(Between the 29th of March and the 7th April 1779.)” The context of the letter, however, makes it possible to narrow that date range to 2–c.5 April. Reed’s reference in the third paragraph to the Pennsylvania Supreme Executive Council’s proclamation of 2 April indicates that he wrote the first three paragraphs on that date (see n.8). His reference in the fourth and last paragraph to the agreement between the Pennsylvania and congressional conference committees indicates that he wrote that paragraph between 3 April, the date that the agreement was reported to Congress, and 5 April, the date that it was reported to the Pennsylvania assembly (see n.10).

1The inability of contending parties in Pennsylvania to agree on a constitutional convention to replace the constitution adopted in 1776 roiled virtually all aspects of state politics (see Roche, Reed description begins John F. Roche. Joseph Reed: A Moderate in the American Revolution. New York, 1957. description ends , 163–65).

2For GW’s assignment of William Patterson to gather intelligence along the Pennsylvania and New York frontiers and the controversy that Patterson provoked, see GW to Zebulon Butler, Barnet Eichelberger, and the Commanding Officer at Fort Wallis, Pa., 1 March; GW to William Patterson, 2 March; and Patterson to GW, 3 April. Matthew Smith, who commanded a Lancaster County rifle company in 1775 and later served as major of the 9th Pennsylvania Regiment, took his oath as one of Lancaster County’s members on the Pennsylvania council on 9 Nov. 1778. He resigned from the council on 6 Jan. 1780, because he intended to move to Northumberland County. The council named Smith prothonotary of that county on 4 Feb. 1780, but complaints against him led to his dismissal on 24 Sept. 1783. John Hambright (1717–1782), who served as a captain of Pennsylvania provincial troops in the French and Indian War, subsequently operated a brewery in Lancaster, Pa., and speculated in land. He became a Lancaster County representative on the Pennsylvania council in late 1778 and served until 6 Oct. 1780. Apparently named barrack master at Lancaster soon afterwards, he died on 7 July 1782 after being thrown from his horse (see Pennsylvania Packet or the General Advertiser [Philadelphia], 16 July 1782). Patterson, like Hambright and Smith, resided in Lancaster County.

3Reed may be referring to Brig. Gen. James Potter’s letter to him of 13 March, which has not been identified but which apparently included an appeal that land be given as a bounty to secure recruits (see Potter to GW, 6 April, and n.1 to that document).

4Reed wrote Col. Zebulon Butler on 2 April about the perilous situation along the Pennsylvania frontier, saying that he recently had visited GW’s camp “to confer with the Commander in Chief on this important Subject, & have the Pleasure of assuring you that he is fully impressed with a like sense of your Danger & Merit, & that the most effectual Measures are in Train, not merely to protect & defend, but to make the Savages & the more Savage Christians among them, feel the Weight of the American Arms” (Pa. Archives description begins Samuel Hazard et al., eds. Pennsylvania Archives. 9 ser., 138 vols. Philadelphia and Harrisburg, 1852–1949. description ends , 1st ser., 7:283; see also Reed to GW, 12 March, and n.4 to that document, and Butler to GW, 23 March).

5In a letter of 27 March, Reed, representing the Pennsylvania council, wrote to the militia lieutenants of Bedford, Westmoreland, and Northumberland counties, and others, saying that he had conferred with GW at his camp “very much to his & our Satisfaction. The General expressed his full Sense of the Importance, Necessity & Duty of taking the most vigorous & speedy Measures for the Support & Protection of the Frontiers. Such Parts of the Plan as are not necessarily kept secret in order to be more effectually executed we cheerfully communicate to you, & hope it will prove a most powerful Encouragement to our distressed & apprehensive Friends to stand their Ground. A very respectable Force, which has been stationed for some Time at Schohary, in the State of New York, under Gen. Hand, is ordered to the Frontiers of Northampton & Northumberland, and will, as far as any stationary Force can do, afford ample Protection to those two Counties. It is also concluded to raise 5 Companies of Rangers, making 380 Men in the whole, to whom such Encouragement will be given as we hope will raise the Men without Difficulty. The Commander in Chief has also ordered Col. Rawlins’s Regt now at Frederick Town, in Maryland, guarding the British Prisoners, to march to Fort Pitt, & to be stationed at Kittanny or other suitable Place to cover the Frontiers of Westmoreland & Bedford.... We would wish you to make the Contents of this Letter as generally known by sending Copies or otherwise as you can, & use your utmost Influence to prevail upon the Inhabitants not to abandon their Habitations when there is such a Prospect of Support” (Pa. Archives description begins Samuel Hazard et al., eds. Pennsylvania Archives. 9 ser., 138 vols. Philadelphia and Harrisburg, 1852–1949. description ends , 1st ser., 7:267–68). For the ordering of militia from York, Cumberland, and Lancaster counties to assist the frontier inhabitants, see Reed to the lieutenants of those counties, 30 March (Pa. Archives description begins Samuel Hazard et al., eds. Pennsylvania Archives. 9 ser., 138 vols. Philadelphia and Harrisburg, 1852–1949. description ends , 1st ser., 7:275–76).

The Pennsylvania general assembly resolved on 29 March that the five companies required by Congress to be raised in Pennsylvania for frontier defense should be furnished “with shoes, or paid six pounds ten shillings in lieu thereof; one hunting shirt, or four pounds ten shillings in lieu thereof; one pair of leggins, or four pounds ten shillings in lieu thereof; and that every person, inlisted in any of the said five companies, who shall find his own blanket, shall be paid for the use of the same, the sum of one pound ten shillings; and every one of the said soldiers who shall furnish himself with arms and accoutrements shall be paid two pounds ten shillings for the use of the same; and shall be paid the value thereof, if lost in actual service agreeable to the Resolutions of Congress of the 29th of January 1776, the said value to be ascertained, as the Supreme Executive Council shall direct” (Pa. Gen. Assembly Minutes, Oct. 1778–Oct.1779 sess., 100; see also GW to Reed, 3 March, and n.3 to that document, 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 , 4:99–100).

7For the dispute between the Pennsylvania council and Brigadier General Duportail that had delayed his taking surveys of Philadelphia and the Delaware River to assist the construction of fortifications, see Reed to GW, 29 March, and n.3 to that document; GW to Duportail, 29 March; and Duportail to GW, 6 April.

8After considering GW’s letters to Reed of 28 and 29 March, the Pennsylvania council issued a proclamation on 2 April meant to reinvigorate both obedience to militia laws and patriotic zeal. It reads: “Whereas, there is just cause to believe that our cruel & inveterate Enemies, despairing of the Conquest of America by open & manly force, are about to adopt the mean and savage Policy of distress & depredation; And as a vigourous, firm, & united resistance can alone (under Providence) enable us to disappoint & defeat their barbarous design, We do hereby most earnestly exhort the good people of this State to prepare themselves for such events.

“And we do particularly enjoin & require the General Officers, Lieutenants, Sub-Lieutenants, Field & other Officers of Militia, diligently to exert themselves in arraying, training & disciplining the Militia of the State, as by Law directed, Enforcing the said Law against all delinquents, & encouraging & animating by their presence & example, those brave & faithful Subjects who chearfully stand forth in defence of the liberties of their Country. We do also exhort & enjoin all Officers, both civil & military, to make diligent search after the public Arms & accoutrements which have been disposed & lost through the Country, & to recommend & endeavour to have all the Fire Arms in their respective districts & Counties put in the best repair, so as to be ready on the shortest notice. And as the designs of the Enemy, so far as they may regard this State, must in their immediate effects (unless frustrated) desolate those parts exposed to the Sea on one side & the frontiers on the other, we do in a special manner recommend a spirit of Union, harmony and mutual Affection, as the most effectual weapon of defence, laying aside all animosities, dissentions & uncharitableness, & then we need not doubt, but (with the blessings of God) we may as we have heretofore done, repel our invaders, with shame, disgrace & disappointment, & in a short time enjoy the blessings of peace on free & honorable terms.” The council ordered that 600 copies of this proclamation be printed and distributed by state legislators throughout the several counties (Pa. Col. Records description begins Colonial Records of Pennsylvania. 16 vols. Harrisburg, 1840–53. description ends , 11:733–34).

9For Charles Willson Peale’s portrait of GW, executed earlier in 1779, see GW to the Pennsylvania General Assembly, 20 Jan., and notes 1 and 2 to that document. Charles Willson Peale (1741–1827), a native of Maryland who initially had been trained as a saddler, studied art in London between 1767 and 1769 and then returned to America, where he secured a large portrait business. He first painted GW in 1772 (see GW to Jonathan Boucher, 21 May 1772, Papers, Colonial Series description begins W. W. Abbot et al., eds. The Papers of George Washington, Colonial Series. 10 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1983–95. description ends , 9:49–50). Although Peale served as a lieutenant and captain in the Pennsylvania militia between 1776 and 1777, he concentrated on artistic endeavors that became his primary career. Following a visit to Peale at his Philadelphia studio, John Adams wrote to his wife, Abigail, on 21 Aug. 1776 describing him as “ingenious. He has Vanity—loves Finery—Wears a sword—gold Lace—speaks French—is capable of Friendship, and strong Family Attachments and natural Affections” (Adams Family Correspondence description begins Lyman H. Butterfield et al., eds. Adams Family Correspondence. 13 vols. to date. Cambridge, Mass., 1963–. description ends , 2:103–4).

10The Pennsylvania assembly had resolved on 25 March that a joint committee of the council and assembly confer with a committee from Congress so “that the true Interests of the State of Pennsylvania, its Importance and Services in the Common Cause should be better known and understood by that Honorable Body than they hitherto seem to have been, as a happy means of removing all discontents and promoting a perfect restoration of that Union and Harmony so essential to the Interests and Happiness of all” (Pa. Gen. Assembly Minutes, Oct. 1778–Oct.1779 sess., 93–94). After much debate, Congress on 29 March appointed William Paca, Henry Laurens, Samuel Adams, Richard Henry Lee, and Jesse Root a committee to meet with the Pennsylvanians (see 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 , 12:374–78, 389–90, and Henry Laurens, Notes of Debates, 26 and 29 March, 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 , 12:249–53, 260–61). Over the next few days the conferees agreed on two sets of resolutions promoting the desired unity and harmony, one set to be reported to Congress and the other set to be reported to the Pennsylvania council and assembly. Congress adopted its resolutions on 3 April and the Pennsylvania assembly approved its set on 5 April. The first resolution in each set was nearly identical in wording: “That unanimity and harmony between the representatives of the United States in Congress assembled and each State individually, has been, under God, the happy means of our past success, and the only sure foundation whereon to rest our future hopes of terminating the contest with Great Britain with honor and advantage.” In addition, Congress passed three resolutions expressing respect for the state of Pennsylvania and its authorities, and the Pennsylvania assembly passed a resolution attesting equal respect for Congress (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 , 13:409, 412–13, and Pa. Gen. Assembly Minutes, Oct. 1778–Oct. 1779 sess., 114–15; see also Pa. Col. Records description begins Colonial Records of Pennsylvania. 16 vols. Harrisburg, 1840–53. description ends , 11:737–38). Congress’s resolutions were not sent to Reed until 13 April (see John Jay to Reed, that date, 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 , 12:329–30).

11These resolutions, proposed by Pennsylvania assemblyman George Clymer, have not been identified.

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