<br /> Lee Letter: n73

Washington and Lee University

Sender: George Washington
Recipient: Meriwether Smith,
Recipient: Richard Henry Lee,
Recipient: Cyrus Griffin,
Recipient: William Fleming


I have been honoured with Your favor of the 6th Inst., inclosing
a Letter of the 29th Ulto. and a Copy of a Memorial from Colo.
Spotswood to Congress, and requesting my advice upon the subject of
introducing him into the Army again and appointing him a Brigadier.

As you have been pleased to ask my Opinion upon the occasion, I shall give
it with freedom and candor. I cannot advise the measure. I am certain
it would be considered as an Act of injustice by the Army at large and
particularly so by the Virginia line. The least injurious effects that
I can possibly conceive would follow, would be the Resignations of
sundry Officers in the latter; but there is every reason to believe,
tho’ these of themselves would be very distressing, that the mischiefs
would be infinitely more extensive. The Officers in general suppose
that they have been but too often affected by irregular appointments,
and they are not in a temper now to acquiesce in what they would view
as an injury to their essential rights. Colo. Spotswood a day or two
after the Action of German Town made an actual surrender of his
Commission to me, according to the then prevailing mode of resignation.
This was accepted and sundry arrangements and promotions took place in
consequence. No reasoning after this would satisfy the Officers, if he
were to be reintroduced, and therefore a minute examination of the
grounds which led to his resignation is unnecessary. However I cannot
but observe, that the case to which he alludes as having been decided
against him, was determined by a board of General Officers upon a full
hearing, and as far as I could judge, agreeable to equity and the
principle which had generally if not universally governed in similar
cases. Nor can the expedient of employing him as a Brigadier with the
Virginia Levies, destined for southern service, better the case. The
injury to the Officers would originate in his appointment, and would
not depend, or be redressed either by a temporary or local command. But
if it were possible that either of these circumstances could palliate
the injury to the Officers here, and quiet them for a moment; yet his
going to the Southward would not be easily submitted to if submitted to
at all, by the Officers detached on that service, or by the Officers of
the Southern Army, because the injury to them would be immediate. We
have been distracted and almost torn to pieces by irregular promotions
and disputes about rank from time to time, and I trust there will be no
fresh causes of disgust added. The com plaints on these heads which yet
remain are but too many for the public interest. Besides these several
reasons, it might be added that the state of the Virginia Troops,
supposing the full number of Levies to be made up, an event however by
no means to be expected, would not require a Brigadier in addition to
their present number, and the proposed command would leave the other
Virginia Brigadiers but little more than mere Cyphers. These matters I
have thought it my duty to mention from a regard to the rights of the
Officers in general, to the tranquillity of the Army, and the
consequent promotion of the public service. And, abstracted from these
considerations, from the friendship I have for Colo. Spotswood and the
opinion I entertain of him as a Soldier, I should be happy to see him
again in the Military line.

I have the Honor &c.

P.S. I return the papers you were pleased to send


1 Virginia Delegates to the Continental Congress.

2 The draft is in the writing of Robert Hanson Harrison.