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George Mason to General Washington



Gunston-Hall, Virginia, October 14, 1775.

DEAR SIR: I wrote you in July, a little before my being ordered to the Convention, congratulating you upon an appointment which gives so much satisfaction to all America, and afterwards, in August, from Richmond; since


which I have to acknowledge your favour of the 20th of August, which nothing but want of health should have prevented my doing sooner, as I shall always think myself honoured by your correspondence and friendship. I hinted to you, in my last, the parties and factions which prevailed at Richmond. I never was in so disagreeable a situation, and almost despaired of a cause which I saw so ill conducted. Mere vexation and disgust threw me into such an ill state of health, that before the Convention rose, I was sometimes near fainting in the House. Since my return home, I have had a severe fit of sickness; from which I am now recovering, but am still very weak and low.

During the first part of the Convention, parties run so high that we had frequently no other way of preventing improper measures, but by procrastination, urging the previous question, and giving men time to reflect. However, after some weeks, the babblers were pretty well silenced, a few weighty members began to take the lead, several wholesome regulations were made, and if the Convention had continued to sit a few days longer, I think the publick safety would have been as well provided for as our present circumstances permit. The Convention, not thinking this a time to rely upon resolves and recommendations only, and to give obligatory force to their proceedings, adopted the style and form of legislation, changing the word enact into ordain; their ordinances were all introduced in the form of bills, were regularly referred to a Committee of the Whole House, and underwent three readings before they were passed. I enclose you the ordinance for raising an armed force for the defence and protection of this Colony; it is a little defaced by being handled at our District Committee, but it is the only copy I had at present by me. You will find some little inaccuracies in it, but, upon the whole, I hope it will merit your approbation. The minute plan, I think, is a wise one, and will, in a short time, furnish eight thousand good troops, ready for action, and composed of men in whose hands the sword may be safely trusted. To defray the expense of the provisions made by this ordinance, and to pay the charge of the last year' s Indian war, we are now emitting the sum of three hundred and fifty thousand Pounds, in paper currency. I have great apprehensions that the large sums in bills of credit now issuing all over the Continent may have fatal effects in depreciating the value, and therefore opposed any suspension of taxation, and urged the necessity of immediately laying such taxes as the people could bear, to sink the sum emitted as soon as possible; but was able only to reduce the proposed suspension from three years to one. The land and poll tax (the collection of which is to commence in June, 1777) will sink fifty thousand Pounds per year; and instead of the usual commissions for emitting and receiving, the Treasurer is allowed an annual salary of six hundred and twenty-five Pounds. Our friend, the Treasurer, was the warmest man in the Convention for immediately raising a standing army of not less than four thousand men, upon constant pay. They stood a considerable time at three thousand, exclusive of the troops upon the western frontiers; but at the last reading (as you will see by the ordinance) were reduced one thousand and twenty rank and file. In my opinion, a well judged reduction, not only from our inability to furnish at present such a number with arms and ammunition, but I think it extremely imprudent to exhaust ourselves before we know when we are to be attacked. The part we have to act at present seems to require our laying in good magazines, training our people, and having a good number of them ready for action. An ordinance is passed for regulating an annual election of members to the Convention and County Committees; for encouraging the making saltpetre, sulphur, and gunpowder; for establishing a manufactory of arms, under the direction of commissioners; and for appointing a Committee of Safety, consisting of eleven members, for carrying the ordinances of the Convention into execution, directing the stations of the troops, and calling the Minute Battalions and draughts from the Militia into service, if necessary, &c.

There is also an ordinance establishing articles for the government of the troops, principally taken from those drawn up by the Congress, except that about martial law upon life and death is more cautiously constituted, and brought nearer to the principles of the common law.


Many of the principal families are removing from Norfolk, Hampton, York, and Williamsburgh, occasioned by the behaviour of Lord Dummore and the commanders of the King' s ships and tenders upon this station.

Whenever your leisure will permit, it will always give me the greatest pleasure to be informed of your welfare, and to hear what is doing on the great American theatre.

I most sincerely wish you health and success equal to the justice of our cause; and am, with great respect, dear Sir, your affectionate and obedient servant,


His Excellency General Washington.

P˙ S. I beg the favour of you to remember me kindly to General Lee, and present him my respectful compliments.