George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Mary Butler, 6 January 1792

To Mary Butler

Philadelphia, Jany 6th 1792


I received duly your letter of the 22nd ultimo.⟩1

Permit me to assure you that in a public view, I consider the recent misfortune greatly enhanced by the loss of the truly gallant General Butler, and that I deeply participate in the grief which afflicts you on this distressing event.

A small detachment of troops had been ordered to be stationed at Pittsburgh previously to the receipt of your letter; these will be reinforced by a more considerable detachment now on their march to that place.

I sincerely hope, that you will under the present pressure of your affliction experience all the powerful consolation of Religion and Philosophy.2 I am Madam, Your most Obedt & Hble Servt

[George Washington]

AL[S], PU-Cur; LB, DLC:GW. The top of the receiver’s copy is torn, and the signature is clipped. The missing text is supplied within angle brackets from the letter-book copy.

1Mary (Maria) Smith Butler, the widow and executrix of the late Richard Butler, who had been killed at St. Clair’s defeat on 4 Nov. 1791, wrote GW from Pittsburgh on 22 Dec.: “I Should address you with diffidence if I did not know from your great Philanthropy, that you can even enter into the feelings of Individuals—I am the unhappy relick of Genl Butler (official Accounts will have Informd you of the particulers). Constitutionaly Delicate I am Almost worn out by A Succession of Melancoly Events—I am Distinguished now for Sorrow. With the Little exertion I can make and the great Anxiety I feel, for mine and my Children Situation as thier are not one White Inhabitant between my Hous and the Spot where his Body Lies in the Wilderness—I am compelt by my Miserable feelings, to request you if it is not Inconsistant with the Policy of the United States, to have A few regular Troops Garrisond at this Place, as the Inhabitants can witness how much Publick property has been resqud from time to time for want of gaurds. A Committee from the four Countys Westmorland Fayet Washington and Allegany has met in this place—Praying some Immediate relief from the Governor and Legislature of this State—as I feel confidant they will not Succd—the consequence I Suppose will be the Militia orderd out on the Frentier—Which if any thing can be concievd, Less or moore then nothing they are—They cannot give the People Confidance to Sit Still—And at present the Inhabitants only wants the example of one or two Families to Move from fear to Drain the Place of Its Strength—It is my Ardent desire to be protected on the Land that was so Dear to my Friend And to Live in the Country that his Blood has been Shed for—I hope youll be Indulgent to this Imp⟨ortuneate⟩ causd by the unhappy and Miserable State of Maria Butler[.] May the Supreme director Long Spare you to be A Father to the People and to me. Who has Lost in one year Father Husband and Brother” (NNGL: Henry Knox Papers). At this time her surviving children consisted of nine-year-old William, seven-year-old Mary, and three-year-old James Richard. GW referred this letter to the secretary of war upon receipt, and Knox, who temporarily misplaced it, drafted a reply for the president (now lost), which he submitted for consideration this day (Knox to Lear, 6 Jan. 1792, DLC:GW).

2Butler responded on 27 Jan. 1792 from Carlisle, Pa.: “Permit me to Assure you, that I have not felt so much pleasure since the Melancaly Action as Yours of the 6. has Afforded—as it Sympathizes with my feelings—And as it seems the conduct of my Decea[se]d Friend has met with your Approbation. Together with the prospect of being protected of living on the Lands that I feel Dear—When I shall Sit me down to watch my Lambs, basking in the Sunshine of your Administration. Thier is nothing more painful at present than Genl St Clairs Strs—Time I am confidant will Write A differrent one—and Convince the Governor of his Latest Fedility and Honour” (DLC:GW). For St. Clair’s strictures on Richard Butler, see Knox to Tobias Lear, 31 Jan., n.1.

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