Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS
Rediscovering George Washington
Washington: Father of His Country The Washington Collection
Washington in the Classroom About the Program
Timeline: George Washington's Life Milestones
Multimedia Room Search the Site
Gilder Lehrman Collection Documents
Gilder Lehrman Collection Images
Other Documents
Gilder Lehrman Collection Documents
Letter to Apollos Morris, January 29, 1777


George Washington.  Letter signed: Morris Town, to Apollos Morris, 1777 January 29. 2 p. + doc., address leaf, & overleaf with draft of Morris’s reply.


Morris Town 29th: January 1777




I have your favr. of the 28th: with Copy of a Letter, addressed to Genl. Howe, inclosed.


Your wish, to be the instrument of restoring peace, to a much oppressed and more injured People, is certainly most laudable, but you must very well know, that this is not to be effected by the interposition of any person in a private Character, and Lord and General Howe have refused to negotiate with the only great representative Body of this Continent.


If therefore, your letter had gone in to General Howe, it must have been, merley as one to satisfy yourself in regard to the powers that were intrusted to the Commissioners; as to myself, I am fully satisfyed, that they never exceeded the express words of the Act of Parliament, for if they did, they are answerable for the Blood that has been spilled, perhaps in consequence; of their not making them known to the only Body, that could receive them.


If I had never been made aquainted with the Substance of your letter, I should not have had the least objection to its going in, but as you have submitted it to my inspection, my permitting it to pass, may be construed into an Approbation of its Contents.


I am therefore under the Necessity of objecting to [2] it, least I should be thought to delegate that power to others, which I do not possess myself. I mean, that of Negotiation, in this great dispute.


I should not have detained your Express so long, but I was from home when he arrived.


I am Sir

Your most obt. Servt.

Go: Washington


Apollos Morris Esqr.



Mr Washington’s Letter

To Major Morris

29 Janry 1777

No 3



To Apollos Morris Esqr.



[3] I wish not to [struck: divert; inserted: emlpoy] your time [struck: so much; inserted: which has so many objects] better employ’d; but think it incumbunt on me to assure you that I understood when at Morris town - you mean’d to judge of the propriety of my letter otherwise I must have chose to have sent it seald. To [struck: have knowing] Genl Howes dispositions [inserted: it] could have done no hurt. I am sorry my Caution to say nothing underhand has not had the effect. I came to this country [struck: ready; inserted: resolv’d] to devote my person & little fortune to its just rights. I never can devote my opinions, I asserted in print my wishes for a reconciliation & that the Americans did not mean Independence. There was no way of getting the better of this, [struck: & tho it is my interest & my wish] Especially [inserted: everything here <?> my intentions contrary to what I assert’d] when I saw the decision here [struck: was for nothing less][strike-out] by shewing from the ourselves that no scheme of dependence consistent with the rights of the Colony’s was offerd. If what is asserted be true that he has no Powers he must have justify.d me & I was decided not to look back. I confess the Presumption of [struck: an; inserted: a unauthorized] Individual meddling with public affairs & expected [struck: has told of it by; inserted: rebuke from] Genl: Howe on that head [struck: from Genl:] that I took from him as far as possible every other pretence of refusing an answer. I have not vanity to think [strike-out; inserted: my] services [struck: I can do] worth the sacrifice of any propriety therefore return to Philadelphia where I shall remain with the highest esteem [4] I wish not to take off your attention from so many better objects but think it incumbant on me to assure you that I when I left Morris I understood you meand to judge of the propriety of my letter otherwise I must have Chosen to have sent it seald. To have shewn Genl Hows disposition or my peace overture could have been as disadvantage – My Intention was that you might or might not be supposd to know anything of it at your option. I came to this country Intending to Devote my person &little fortune to the support of its rights & of Independence if this were refusd . but I cannot devote my opinions. I asserted in Print the same wishes to Reconciliation & that America did not mean independence. When on my arrival I found no terms short of it would be listened to on this side, the only way I had [strike-out] Reconcile my conduct to my assertions was to seek justification from the measures of the other side & to convince myself from unquestionable curiosity that no scheme of Independence consistent with the rights of the Colonys could be agreed to If as it asserted the Commissrs have no powers Genl Howes letter or his silence must have given me the Justification I sought & I was decided never to look back


I confess the presumption of an unauthori<loss [ed]> <loss [indivi]>dual as I am meddling with public affairs & <loss> much expected a rebuke from Genl How <loss> that I took from him as far as possible every other pretence for refusing an answer


I have not the vanity to suppose my services worth the sacrifice of any propriety & my presence in a Camp where I cannot be usefull must be an incumbrance. I shall therefore by tomorrow noon when I hope to be pretty free from my cold return to Philadelphia.



Notes:  *Two drafts of Morris’s reply to Washington on overleaves.  Published in Fitzpatrick, John C.  The Writings of George Washington.  v. 7, pp77-8.  Published in Twohig, Dorothy et al.  The Papers of George Washington.  v. 13, p. 181.