George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Henry Knox, 17 May 1794

From Henry Knox

War department May 17th 1794.


I have not been unmindful of Mr Anderson’s and Doctor Allan Pollocks1 propositions, of the importance of which I am favorably impressed—the utter want of any provision for this subject has rendered an answer nugatory.2 I have conversed with many members of Congress upon the affair: who have been of different opinions respecting the propriety of availing ourselves of the discoveries and the modes of defraying the expences. The result however upon the whole appears to be, that if the subject should receive an impulse from the President it would be highly probable that a resolve might be obtained of the purport of the one herein submitted—If you should be pleased to approve of this mode and of the message also herein submitted the business might be brought before Congress on Monday Morning.3 I have the honor to be with perfect respect Your obedient Servant

H. Knox


1This name appears to have been inserted in a blank left at the first writing of the LS. On 9 Jan. 1794 Allan Pollok of Chislehurst, Kent (who identified himself as "An Old Engineer. And For Many Years Professor of Fortifn And Artillery In The R.M.A. [Royal Military Academy] at Woolwich"), sent to the U.S. minister at London a letter (not found) to be forwarded to GW that contained "Information Relative To The Improvement of National Defence" (Pollok to Thomas Pinckney, 20 Aug. 1793 and 9 Jan. 1794, DLC: Charles Cotesworth Pinckney Family Papers). Pollok had served on the academy faculty from 1766 to 1777 (Frederick Gordon Guggisberg, "The Shop" the Story of the Royal Military Academy [London, 1902], 264).

2Pollok’s proposition has not been identified; for John Anderson’s proposed improvements in artillery, see his letter to GW of 26 Aug. 1793, and enclosure.

In a letter to Thomas Pinckney dated 7 July 1794 but evidently sent somewhat later (see Knox to GW, 9 July), Knox enclosed for forwarding replies (not identified) to these "propositions for improvements in Artillery." He added, "Although I conceive no imputation ought to be made against the writers as we are in peace with great Britain and hope so to remain, yet as it is possible that some suspicions may be excited at the offer to us of the proposed improvements, it may be well to put the letters in a train of being certainly delivered into the hands of the persons to whom they are addressed, without going through the post Office" (DLC: Charles Cotesworth Pinckney Family Papers).

Pollok wrote to Pinckney on 19 Dec. 1794, enclosing a reply to Knox (not identified) "Much More Explicite" than his previous letter to GW and containing "much Important Information And Many Details Now Necessary" (DLC: Charles Cotesworth Pinckney Family Papers). When Pinckney forwarded that reply to Knox on 27 Dec., he reported that he had delivered Knox’s letter to Anderson as well but had not yet received a reply (ScHi: Pinckney Family Papers).

3The next Monday was 19 May. The proposed resolution has not been identified. On 29 May, Edmund Randolph wrote Pinckney that Knox had considered Anderson’s proposal, "and I believe, that he thinks well of it. I suspect, however, that nothing can be done in it during the present session of congress" (DLC: Edmund Randolph Miscellany).

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