George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Henry Babcock, 5 December 1780

From Henry Babcock

Stonington [Conn.] 5th Decr 1780


Tho early in Life I had the Honor of receiving Answers to my Letters from Sir Wm Johnson, Lord Loudon; Governors Hopkins, Pitkin, & Franklin; Genls Abercrombie, Lord Howe, & Lord Amherst (the present Commander in Chief of the Troops of G. Britain)—The great Dr Franklin, who (I ever tho’t) took Rank of the whole of the above Gentlemen, (tho some of them)—and indeed all of them respectable Characters.1 Yet my Vanity never was more flatterd than in the Letter I was honoured with Yesterday from your Excellencys Head Quarters, Passaic Falls, dated the 7th Ulto for I have been a Twelve month upon the Subject Matter therein contained, & sent my Plan to the Press at Boston; but it has never been published—have orderd it back, a Month ago, but have receved no Answer to my Letter. One of my Sons is now copying it for the Press;2 when printed, will do myself the Honor of transmitting to your Excellency one of them, & shall at the same Time send one to the President;3 and, if your Excellency will give me leave, send a Copy of your Letter in Answer to mine, wrote from Hartford, together with a Copy of that, wrote by Me to You upon the Subject of coining the Plate4—The only Reason why I have not mentioned it earlier to your Excellency has been, that I had wrote you several Letters since I quitted the Army, also Mr Harrison yr Secretary, (I think in my Letter Book there are Six Copies of Letters) previous to the one wrote from Hartford;5 tho 4 Years nearest ago I wrote a Piece published in Greens Paper signed “Agricoala Americanus,” recommending to Congress creating your Excellency Dictator, raising the Army for 3 Years or during the War, which had not been printed 6 Weeks before they adopted it6—Now sir, If I can find a Way of paying the Army, I think my Country will be under some Obligations to Me, The Flower of my Life having been devoted to the publick Service. I have the Honor to be, with greatest Esteem & profoundest Respect, Yr Excellency’s most obedient & most humble Servant

Henry Babcock

ALS, DLC:GW. Babcock addressed the letter to GW at Passaic Falls.

1Babcock had named his eldest son Benjamin Franklin Babcock (see Samuel Fayerweather to Benjamin Franklin, 5 Dec. 1768, and n.7, in Franklin Papers description begins William B. Willcox et al., eds. The Papers of Benjamin Franklin. 42 vols. to date. New Haven, 1959–. description ends , 15:283–85). Babcock’s other correspondents were Sir William Johnson, former British superintendent of Indian Affairs; John Campbell, fourth earl of Loudoun (1705–1782), who commanded British forces in North America during the French and Indian War; Stephen Hopkins, former governor of Rhode Island; William Pitkin (1694–1769), governor of Connecticut from 1766 until his death; William Franklin, former governor of New Jersey; James Abercromby (1706–1781), second in command to Loudoun during the French and Indian War; British admiral Richard Howe; and Jeffery Amherst.

2Babcock fathered six sons.

3Babcock presumably means Samuel Huntington, president of Congress.

4See GW to Babcock, 7 Nov., found at Babcock to GW, 24 Oct., n.4.

5Babcock had been dismissed from the Continental army for insanity. Two of his subsequent letters to GW have been found (see Babcock to GW, dated only 1777, and 20 Nov. 1779). No letters from Babcock to GW’s secretary Robert Hanson Harrison have been identified.

6Congress had augmented GW’s power in late 1776 (see John Hancock to GW, 27 Dec. 1776, and n.1 to that document). Babcock’s essay with the pseudonym “AGRICOLA AMERICANUS” dated 24 Dec. 1776 appeared in Timothy Green’s Connecticut Gazette; and the Universal Intelligencer (New London) for 10 Jan. 1777. He praised Congress for showing wisdom “in the choice of their Commander in Chief, but I cannot say so much when they ty’d his Hands and fetter’d his Opperations with clog’d Councils of War. … In War there are ten Thousand Thousand Instances that shew the absolute Necessity of there being one Chief, with unlimited Authority over the Army, subject to the Controul of none but the Sovereign Council of the State.—But the Congress are apprehensive or rather fearful if they should invest General Washington with supreme Power, he might, after defeating the King’s Troops assume to himself, like Oliver Cromwell, despotick Power; which would entirely counteract our now arming against the Despotism of George the 3d.” Babcock urged “that a Dictator pro Tempore should be instantly created, or Gen. Washington invested with as much Authority over the American Army, as Gen. Howe has over the British Army, otherwise he fights him upon very unequal Ground, and of Course to great Disadvantage.”

Timothy Green (c.1737–1796) published the Connecticut Gazette (New London) during the Revolutionary War.

Index Entries