George Washington Papers

To George Washington from John Hancock, 17 November 1780

From John Hancock

Boston Novr 17th 1780.


I should very frequently have done myself the honor of Writing to your Excellency since the Close of our Correspondence on my leaving Congress, could I have prevailed upon myself to have drawn your Attention from your weighty Concerns, and am confident my Silence will not be attributed to any other cause.1

I am now called upon by the free Suffrages of my Fellow Citizens to take an active part in a Sphere of public Life quite unexpected to me, which Call upon the principles I first advanced, I could not withstand;2 one Inducement among many others that led to a Chearful Compliance with this Call, was that it would afford me an agreeable Oppertunity of convincing you that no effort of mine should be wanting to promote your Excellencys views with respect to a permanent Army as my particular Station would lead to a Coorrespondence on public Concerns to which I shall always be attentive & shall be happy on every Occasion to be informed of the situation of the Army and all Occurrencies & to Expedite the measures adopted by this Commonwealth for the Accomodation of the Army.3

I am now more particularly led to address you in Consequence of a Resolution of our Assembly, which I have the honor to inclose you, respecting the Arms & Accoutrements retained in Camp by your Order, which belonged to the Soldiers of this Commonwealth, & at the expiration of their Time were Lodged in Camp for the benefit of the United States, & no Compensation made them. These Soldiers are Constantly making their Application to the Assembly for a recompence for the loss of their Arms & accoutrements, alledging they were Ordered to leave them in Camp and the Assembly are at a Loss in what manner to proceed without some further Knowledge of the Circumstances—In order that they may Conduct with propriety (as the United States must be Chargeable with the Amount) they have passed the enclosed Resolve requesting me to make application to your Excellency to order a Return to be made of all the Arms & Accoutrements that have been taken from the men belonging to this Commonwealth, Specifying the Names of the persons from whom such Guns were taken or Detained, & the Regiment, Company & Town to which such men belong, in Order that payment may be made to those who have Benefitted the public by leaving their Arms & Accoutrements & have hitherto rec’d no Compensation.4

I am therefore to request that your Excellency will be pleased to give the Necessary orders for the Returns to be made that the persons Interested may as speedily as possible meet a Compensation.5 I am with every Sentiment that Regard & Esteem can inspire Your Excellencys Most Obedt humle servt

John Hancock

LS, DLC:GW. GW’s aide-de-camp Tench Tilghman wrote “recd 7th January” on the docket (see also n.4 below).

1Hancock’s frequent correspondence with GW as president of Congress ended in fall 1777.

2Hancock had won by a large margin the first election for governor under the new Massachusetts constitution.

3GW had urged state executives to support the army in his Circular to the States, 18 Oct. 1780.

4Hancock enclosed a measure adopted in the Massachusetts legislature on 16 Nov. that requested him to seek from GW “a particular return to be made into the Secretary’s Office of this Commonwealth” (DLC:GW).

5GW expressed an inability to supply the requested return readily when he replied to Hancock on 9 Jan. 1781 (M-Ar).

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