George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Henry Knox, 26 July 1784

From Henry Knox

Dorchester [Mass.] July 26th 1784

My dear sir.

A fear of intruding upon your more important concerns has prevented my writing to you since my return. I found here your kind favor of the 2d of June, with its enclosure for General Putnam which I delivered.

The measures taken by Congress respecting the western posts must defeat themselves by their own imbecillity. I cannot say but that I am well satisfied to be excluded from any responsibility in arrangements which it is impossible to execute. The attempt, to employ militia for twelve months in an arduous operation of conveying the Stores & making permanent establishments in that difficult country after the experience we have had of those kind of troops characterizes itself.1

Agreably to the orders of Congress I sent Colonel Hull to General Haldimand to request that he would immediately deliver up the posts on our frontiers. If he should comply and fix a short day, which it is probable for his convenience he would, we should be ridicuously embarrassed not having a man for that purpose.2

I presume that General Lincoln informed you the alterations of the Cincinnati are generally satisfactory in this state. The opposition to it is dead. One or two persons it is said however still grumble—Our State Society on the 4h of July was respectably full, and adopted it unanimous one vote excepted.3

General Lincoln, Mr Partridge, and mys[el]f are going at the request of the Legislature of this State, to examine what encroachments have been made by the british on its eastern boundary. We shall set out on this business in a few days.4 Mrs Knox joins me in presenting our affectionate respects to Mrs Washington I am my dear General Your truly affectionate Humble Servant

H. Knox

ALS, DLC:GW; LB, NNGL: Knox Papers.

1On the day of its adjournment, 3 June, Congress voted to have Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania “furnish forthwith from their militia to serve for 12 months” 700 men, for the purpose of “securing and protecting the northwestern frontiers of the United States, and their Indian friends and allies, and for garrisoning the posts soon to be evacuated by the troops of his britannic Majesty” (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 27:530). All of this was to be done under the management of the secretary at war, to which post Knox was not appointed until March 1785.

2On 24 May Congress approved “the proposition of Major General Knox, to send a field Officer into Canada, for the purpose of ascertaining with precision and expedition the time when the posts within the United States now occupied by the british troops, shall be evacuated; and endeavouring to effect an exchange of the cannon and stores at those posts, agreeably to a resolution of Congress of the 12th of May instant” (ibid., 420). General Knox’s instructions to William Hull, lieutenant colonel of the 3d Massachusetts Regiment, are dated 25 May. Lt. Gen. Frederick Haldimand (1718–1791), commander in chief and governor of Canada since 1778, left his post in America in November 1784. Hull’s mission was unsuccessful. Knox’s letter to Haldimand and the exchange of letters between Hull and Haldimand are in the Haldimand Papers, Michigan Pioneer and Historical Collections, description begins “The Haldimand Papers.” Collections and Researches Made by the Pioneer Society of the State of Michigan, vols. 9:343-658; 10:210-675; 11:319-660; 19:296-675; 20:1-749; 25:682-83. 1886–96. description ends 20:230, 238–39.

4Knox and Benjamin Lincoln did not sail to the Bay of Fundy until late August. The third commissioner appointed by the Massachusetts legislature, George Partridge, did not accompany them. See Knox to GW, 31 Jan. 1785, n.1.

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