George Washington Papers

Address from the Virginia Militia, 6 October 1798

Address from the Virginia Militia

Bedford County, State of Virginia [6 October 1798]

At a full meeting of the Officers of the 10th & 91st Regiments of the Virginia Militia, convened at Bedford Court-House on 6th day of October 1798 for the purpose of being trained &c. it was unanimously agreed that Colo. Thomas Leftwich, Colo. John Trigg, Majr David Saunders, Majr Thomas Hubbard, Majr Samuel Handcock, Majr William Burton, Capt. Joel Leftwich & Capt. Isaac Okey be appointed a Committee to prepare an address to our beloved fellow Citizen George Washington on his acceptance of the late appointment of Lieutenant General & Commander in Chief of the American forces, & expressive of the high sense they entertain, of his abilities to discharge the duties of that important office.

The Committee having convened it was agreed that Thomas Leftwich be appointed Chairman & William Leftwich Junr Secretary, & having prepared the following address which was unanimously agreed to, It was Ordered that a Copy thereof be forthwith transmitted to his Excellency George Washington.

To George Washington Lieutenant General & Commander in Chief of the American forces


The Officers of the 10th & 91st Regiments of the Virginia Militia, recognise with heartfelt pleasure your acceptance of the Commission of Lieutenant General & Commander in Chief of the american forces & while we deprecate the cause which has disturbed your Calm repose we behold with wonder, the unparellelled example, of a person who had retired from power when in full & legitimate possession of it! (which shews at once in a confirmed view the superiority of your virtues) thus Coming forward & giving additional proof, & energy to that firm & vigilent zeal for the public liberty & happiness, those exemplary virtues & ⟨exacted⟩ talents which have given unrivalled lustre & utility to the whole tenor of your life! A number of us having been eye witnesses to that heroism which has so conspicuously marked your Conduct in leading the american Armies thro the bloody contest of the late revolutionary war! we should be unfaithful to the duties of Our Station as Officers, & regardless of the Conviction of Our minds, if we did not declare the warm emotions of respect & gratitude, which services precious as yours have been, excite in every breast; we trust therefore, that your acceptance of the Commission above mentioned, will operate to strengthen sentiments favorable to the union & Safety of these states, to banish local prejudices & Suspicions, cherish love & concord, check the destructive contests of party spirit, & finally to unite in One Common Cause all its Citizens in maintaining its liberty and independence, the foundations of which have been so auspiciously laid under your Control! & in defending of which, be assured Sir that Our best exertions shall never be witheld.

To this permit us to add our fervent supplications to Heaven, that you may long live to enjoy those blessings whch you have been so instrumental in procuring to your Country, and in that repose which you have always sacrificed in obedience to the will of the nation. Sign’d, by Order of the Committee1

Thomas Leftwich Chm.

William Leftwich Jr Secry


1The Leftwiches were a prominent Bedford County family. Col. Thomas Leftwich (1740–1816) served as a captain of militia in the Revolutionary War and later became colonel of the 10th Regiment of Virginia militia. His brother Joel (1760–1846), an ensign during the Revolution, served in the Virginia legislature from 1792 to 1793 and rose to the rank of brigadier general in the state militia during the War of 1812. The Rev. William Leftwich, Jr. (1768–1848), was a Baptist minister and nephew of Thomas and Joel.

GW responded on 24 Oct.: “Gentlemen, While I thank you for your kind and very flattering Address, and the pleasure which I received from your approbation of my acceptance of the Commission which may once more bring me into public life, I am sure you will do justice to the motives which have operated to draw me from that peaceful retirement, which, I fondly hoped, would never again have been interrupted.

“When injuries and Insults have been heaped upon us, and when the Sovereignty and Independence of our Country are threatned, it is, in my opinion, no longer in the option of a good Citizen to withold his Services from the Public. Let his situation be what it may, he forfeits all claim to the rights of one, if, in such a critical moment, he should not use every means in his power to aid in repelling the unprovoked and indignant aggression.

“Upon this ground have I accepted my Commission; and upon this ground I trust that every true American will be prepared to defend his Country against foreign encroachments; and to perpetuate the blessings which he enjoys under his own Government.

“That there may be no occasion to gird on the Sword, none more ardently prays than I do; and no one, with more truth could add, that, if unfortunately, in defence of our rights we shall be compelled to unsheath it ⟨I⟩ hope, after the object is attained, would return it to its scabbard with more heart-felt satisfaction. But to avert the evil, or to meet it like men, it is necessary under the present aspect of our Affairs to hold it in our hands, and be united in one band. Your prayers, and kind wishes in my behalf, I reciprocate with great Cordiality. Go: Washington” (letterpress copy, DLC:GW).

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