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General Washington to the Speaker of the General Assembly of Massachusetts-Bay



Camp at Cambridge, July 31, 1775.

SIR: I have considered the application made to me yesterday from the General Court, with all the attention due to the situation of the people in whose behalf it is made, and the respect due to such a recommendation. Upon referring to my instructions, and consulting with those members of Congress who are present, as well as the General Officers, they all agree, that it would not be consistent with my duty to detach any part of the Army now here on any particular Provincial service. It has been debated in Congress and settled, that the Militia, or other internal strength of each Province, is to be applied for defence against those small and particular depredations which were to be expected, and to which they were supposed to be competent. This will appear the more proper, when it is considered, that every town, and indeed every part of our sea-coast which is exposed to these depredations, would have an equal claim upon this Army.

It is the misfortune of our situation, which exposes us to these ravages, and against which, in my judgment, no such temporary relief could possibly secure us. The great advantage the enemy have of transporting troops by being masters of the sea, will enable them to harass by diversions of this kind; and should we be tempted to pursue them upon every alarm, the Army must either be so weakened as to expose it to destruction, or a great part of the coast be still left unprotected. Nor, indeed, does it appear to me, that such a pursuit would be attended with the least effect. The first notice of such an excursion would be its actual execution; and long before any troops could reach the scene of action, the enemy would have an opportunity to accomplish their purpose, and retire. It would give me great pleasure to have it in my power to extend protection and safety to every individual; but the wisdom of the General Court will anticipate me in the necessity of conducting our operations on a general and impartial scale, so as to exclude any just cause of complaint and jealousy.

I beg, Sir, you will do me the honour to communicate these sentiments to the General Court, and to apologize for my involuntary delay, as we were alarmed this morning by the enemy, and my time was taken up in giving the necessary directions.

I shall be happy in every opportunity of showing my very great respect and regard for the General Court of Massachusetts-Bay; and am, Sir, &c.