Letter from George Washington to Timothy Pickering (March 3, 1797)


In this letter, dated March 3, 1797, George Washington writes to Secretary of State Timothy Pickering about the publication of several forged letters from his time as commander in chief of the Continental army during the American Revolution (1775–1783).


Philadelphia 3d March 1797.

Dr Sir,

At the conclusion of my public employments, I have thought it expedient to notice the publication of certain forged letters which first appeared in the year 1777, and were obtruded upon the public as mine. They are said by the editor to have been found in a small portmanteau that I had left in the care of my Mulatto servant named Billy, who, it is pretended, was taken prisioner at Fort Lee, in 1776. The period when these letters were first printed will be recollected, and what were the impressions they were intended to produce on the public mind. It was then supposed to be of some consequence to strike at the integrity of the motives of the American Commander in Chief, and to paint his inclinations as at variance with his professions and his duty. Another crisis in the affairs of America having occurred, the same weapon has been resorted to, to wound my character and deceive the people.

The letters in question have the dates, addresses, and signatures here following.

“New–York, June 12. 1776. To Mr Lund Washington, at Mount Vernon, Fairfax County, Virginia. “G.W.”

“To John Parke Custis, Esqr. at the Hon. Benedict Calver’t, Esqr., Mount Airy, Maryland.” “June 18. 1776.” “Geo. Washington.”

“New-York, July 8, 1776, To Mr Lund Washington, at Mount–Vernon, Fairfax County, Virginia.” “G.W.”

“New-York, July 16, 1776. To Mr Lund Washington, &c.” “G.W.”

“New–York, July 15, 1776. To Mr Lund Washington, &c.” “G.W.”

“New-York, July 22, 1776. To Mr Lund Washington, &c. “G.W.”

“June 24, 1776. To Mrs Washington.” “G.W.”

At the time when these letters first appeared, it was notorious to the army immediately under my command, and particularly to the gentlemen attached to my person, that my Mulatto Man Billy had never been one moment in the power of the enemy. It is also a fact that no part of my baggage, or any of my attendants were captured during the whole course of the war. These well-known facts made it unnecessary, during the war, to call the public attention to the forgery, by any express declaration of mine: and a firm reliance on my fellow-citizens, and the abundant proofs they gave of their confidence in me, rendered it alike unnecessary to take any formal notice of the revival of the imposition, during my civil administration. But as I cannot know how soon a more serious event may succeed to that which will this day take place, I have thought it a duty that I owed to Myself, to my Country and to Truth, now to detail the circumstances above recited; and to add my solemn declaration, that the letters herein described, are a base forgery, and that I never saw or heard of them until they appeared in print.

The present letter I commit to your care, and desire it may be deposited in the office of the department of state, as a testimony of the truth to the present generation and to posterity. Accept, I pray you, the sincere esteem & Affectionate regard of Dr Sir Your Obedt

G. Washington

APA Citation:
Washington, George. Letter from George Washington to Timothy Pickering (March 3, 1797). (2020, December 07). In Encyclopedia Virginia.
MLA Citation:
Washington, George. "Letter from George Washington to Timothy Pickering (March 3, 1797)" Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Humanities, (07 Dec. 2020). Web. 20 May. 2024
Last updated: 2020, December 07
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