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Washington, George (1732-1799) to Henry Knox

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Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC02437.09401 Author/Creator: Washington, George (1732-1799) Place Written: Rocky Hill, New Jersey Type: Autograph letter signed Date: 23 September 1783 Pagination: 4 p. : docket ; 32.8 x 20.4 cm.

Summary of Content: Expresses gratitude for Knox's praise of Washington in the context of Congress's resolution "That an equestrian statue of General Washington, be erected at the place where the residence of Congress shall be established," passed on 7 August 1783 (and later completed by sculptor Thomas Crawford in the nineteenth century). Informs Knox that he has continued to lobby in support of the Officers' Petition for a large land grant in the Ohio Valley in lieu of back pay, but that the petition is being held up by continued negotiations between Congress and the state of Virginia (in whose territory the lands were located) over Virginia's territorial cession. Argues that the continued dispute between the United States and Virginia only emboldens land jobbers and squatters at the expense of military officers. Notes that Congress recently accepted the Virginia Cession (on 13 September, as Washington notes, with "some exceptions," meaning that Congress would not agree to guarantee Virginia's territorial claims that had not been included within the Cession). Washington correctly anticipates that the Virginia legislature would agree to Congress's terms (as they would on 1 March 1784). In response to Knox's proposal that an office of master general of ordnance be created (with Knox occupying), Washington encourages Knox to hold out for the resignation of Benjamin Lincoln from the position of Secretary at War upon the arrival of the Definitive Treaty (the 1783 Treaty of Paris). Though Lincoln's resignation has not been suggested by any member of Congress, Washington had spoken personally with Lincoln on the topic. Asks Knox, commanding at West Point, if he can learn "by indirect means" which engineers at West Point plan to remain in the army. Asks Knox precisely what is required of the President of the Society of the Cincinnati. Comments on the illnesses of (David) Humphreys and (Benjamin) Walker, two of Washington's aides-de-camp. Sends his and Martha's best wishes to Knox and his family.

Background Information: In the Newburgh Petition, dissatisfied officers requested to receive their pay, in many cases long overdue, in the form of land from the Ohio Country.
Signer of the U.S. ...Constitution.
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Full Transcript: Rocky Hill 23d. Sep. 1783.
My dear Sir,
The favorable Sentiments expressed in your private letter of the 17th. Inst and which you say are felt by the Officers in general ...on the late honor conferred upon me by Congress, cannot fail of adding greatly to my sensibility on the occasion. - It always has, & I trust ever will be, the most pleasing reflection of my life that in a contest so important, so long, & so arduous, - accompanied by such a variety of distressing & perplexing circumstances to all who have been engaged in it but more especially to the Officers of the Army that I have been able, under all these disadvantages, to point my course in such a manner as to have receiv'd many flattering testimonies of regard from the latter, and proofs of general esteem from my Country at large. -
I have left no oppertunity unimproved to bring the Officers Petition to an Issue. - I have not heard an uplifted voice against it since I came to this place; and if I am to form a judgement from what I have seen & heard, Congress is sincerely disposed to serve them. - but there was a difficulty in the way of which I had no knowledge 'till I came here, and it is not absolutely got over yet: -
That District of Country located by the Petitioners is part of the Land claimed by Virginia - Virginia, with certain reservations, and upon condition that the United [2] United States should Guarantee the remainder of her Territory, ceded all the Lands Northwest of the Ohio - To these terms Congress would not agree - thus matters had stood for more than two years - and thus I found them when I came here. - I have laboured since, & I hope not unsuccessfully, to convince the Members of Congress that while the United States and the State of Virginia are disputing about the Right, or the terms of the Cession, Land jobbers and a lawless Banditti who would bid defiance to the authority of either & more than probably involve this Country in an Indian War, would spread themselves over the whole of it, to the great injury [inserted: to the Officers & ca.] of the Army, who are patiently waiting the decision of Congress to settle in [inserted: a] legal manner and under a proper form of Government.
Within these few days, Congress have accepted the Virginia Cession with some exceptions which the Delegates from that State think will be yielded to by the Assembly at its next meeting in October - In the meantime, if it can be done with propriety, I will endeavor to have preparatory arrangements made that no delay may happen when the present difficulties shall be removed.
As I have never heard it suggested by any Member of Congress that General Lincoln either had offered, or proposed to offer his resignation upon the arrival of the Definitive Treaty (tho' I have understood as much from himself) I have no ground, as yet, to work upon; but whenever [3] whenever the occasion shall offer, I will not forget your wishes, nor shall I want inclination to promote them. -
If you can learn by indirect means which of, or whether all the Engineers now at West point - (if you could extend to others thro' that channel so much the better) - are inclined to remain in the American Service upon a Peace Establishment I would thank you for the information.
I shall be obliged to you for pointing out, in precise terms, what is expected from the President of the Cincinati previous to the general Meeting in May next - As I never was present at any of your Meetings, & have never seen the proceedings of the last, I may, for want of information of the part I am to act, neglect some essential duty; which might not only be injurious to the Society, but Mortifying to myself, as it would discover a want of knowledge, or want of attention in the President.
Humphreys & Walker have each had an ill turn since they have come to this place - the latter is getting about, but the other is still in his Bed of a fever that did not till yesterday quit him for 14 or 15 days. - The danger I hope is now past, & he has only his flesh to recover, part of which, or in other words [inserted: of] the weight he brought with him from the Scales at West point he would readily compound for. - Mrs. Washington has also been very unwell as most of my domesticks & Guard have been & indeed now are - Mrs. Washington & myself are very glad to hear that Mrs. Knox & the Children are [4] are well - she joins me very cordially in best wishes for them - & Compliments to General & Mrs. Huntington & all our Acquaintances with you.
I am very truly & affectionably
Yr. Most Obedt & very
Hble Servt
Go: Washington

[docket]
(private)
from his Excellency Genl Washington
23 Septr 1783 -
Original No 24 -
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People: Knox, Henry, 1750-1806
Washington, George, 1732-1799
Lincoln, Benjamin, 1733-1810

Historical Era: The New Nation, 1783-1815

Subjects: PresidentRevolutionary WarRevolutionary War GeneralContinental CongressCongressArt, Music, Theater, and FilmLand TransactionWestward ExpansionNorthwest TerritorySoldier's PayContinental ArmyMilitary HistoryPetitionGovernment and CivicsAmmunitionTreatyPeaceWest Point (US Military Academy)First LadySociety of the CincinnatiFraternal OrganizationHealth and Medical

Sub Era: Creating a New Government

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