These two statements crystallize Washington’s philosophy in dealing with the governors. Such an attitude, which I view as diplomacy, was a vital but often overlooked aspect of his generalship. He needed the states to man and supply his army.
The 18th-century British navy ruled the waves, and George Washington’s Continental forces could not have hoped to win the Revolutionary War against such a power without the help of the French navy. Overshadowed in this narrative are Continental efforts to develop a fleet.
Treason is a central theme in volume 28 of The Washington Papers’ Revolutionary War Series. In a letter dated Sept. 26, 1780, George Washington informed Lieutenant General Rochambeau, who led the French forces at Rhode Island that “General Arnold, who has sullied his former glory by the blackest treason, has escaped to the enemy. Washington expected to add the renowned Vermont militia commander Ethan Allen to that catalog, however, when he told Gov. George Clinton of New York in early November “that I have given discretionary powers to seize and secure a certain person, should it appear upon further investigation necessary.”
In the fall of 1789, George Washington was inundated with information regarding the storming of the Bastille. He received five letters about a revolution occurring in France; most of these letters enclosed articles from international papers. He also received official intelligence through the U.S. minister to France, Thomas Jefferson. And American newspapers began publishing information about the event as early as Sept. 25.1 By early October, Washington likely knew a good deal about the outbreak of the French Revolution.
Thousands of miles away sat George Washington, only a month and a half into his presidency. He would not learn of the storming of the Bastille until September, and he would not acknowledge them until October 13/14. When he finally did, Washington only briefly discussed the revolutionary activity. His first responses are limited to five letters, three of which recycle the same uninterested reaction.
In a guest blog post for The Selected Papers of John Jay, one of our Senior Editors, David Hoth, outlines GW’s relationship with John Jay throughout the preparation and negotiation of the treaty. Read the article on the Selected Papers of John Jay website.
By Neal Millikan February 23, 2015 Neal is an Assistant Editor for The Papers of George Washington. She is currently editing volumes for the Presidential Series. On 19 September 1796 Claypoole’s American Daily Advertiser in Philadelphia published the document that became known as George Washington’s Farewell Address. The work that […]
By Kate Brown January 19, 2015 Kate is a Research Assistant for the Revolutionary War series, a Mount Vernon fellow, and a Ph.D. candidate in the history department at the University of Virginia. Her dissertation is called “Alexander Hamilton and the Development of American Law.” When George Washington swore the oath […]