Washington’s Commission as Commander-in-Chief

Washington’s Commission at the Library of Congress

QUICK FACTS
  • General Washington resigns his commission to Congress in Baltimore on 23-Dec-1783.
  • He returns the original parchment (received 19-Jun-1775) appointing him Commander-in-Chief.
LINKS

In Congress

The delegates of the United Colonies of New Hampshire, Massachusetts bay, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, the Counties of New-Castle, Kent, and Sussex, on Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, & South Carolina

To George Washington Esquire

     We, reposing special trust and confidence in your patriotism, valor, conduct, and fidelity   Do by these presents, constitute and appoint you to be General and Commander in chief of the army of the United Colonies and of all the forces now raised[,] or to be raised by them[,] and of all others who shall voluntarily offer their service and join the said Army for the defence of American liberty and for repelling every hostile invasion thereof   And you are hereby vested with full power and authority to act as you shall think for the good and welfare of the service.

     And we do hereby strictly charge and require all Officers and Soldiers under your command to be obedient to your orders and diligent in the exercise of their several duties.

     And we do also enjoin and require you to be careful in executing the great trust reposed in you[,] by causing strict discipline and order to be observed in the army[,] and that the soldiers be duly exercised and provided with all convenient necessaries.

     And you are to regulate your conduct in every respect by the rules and discipline of war (as herewith given you) and punctually to observe and follow such orders and directions[,] from time to time[,] as you shall receive from this[,] or a future Congress of these United Colonies[,] or committee of Congress.

     This commission to continue in force until revoked by this or a future Congress.

By Order of the Congress           John Hancock   President
Dated Philadelphia June 19, 1775.            Attest. Cha[rles] Thomson, Sec[retar]y

What ultimately convinced Americans that they must revolt in 1776 was not that they were naturally and inevitably republican, for if that were truly the case evolution, not revolution, would have been the eventual solution. Rather it was the pervasive fear that they were not predestined to be a virtuous and egalitarian people that in the last analysis drove them into revolution in 1776. It was this fear and not their confidence in the peculiarity of their character that made them so readily and so remarkably responsive to Thomas Paine’s warning that the time for independence was at hand and that delay would be disastrous. By 1776 it had become increasingly evident that if they were to remain the kind of people they wanted to be they must become free of Britain.

Gordon S. Wood
The Creation of the American Republic, 1776—1787 (1969)