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French and Indian War

George Washington to John Robinson, Speaker of the Virginia House of Burgesses, October 25, 1757

extracted from

The Writings of George Washington, Volume II, by Jared Sparks
(Boston: Charles Tappan, 1846), pages 266-268


To John Robinson, Speaker of the House of Burgesses.
Fort Loudoun, 25 October, 1757.

Sir,

I applied to the Governor for permission to go down and settle my accounts before he leaves the country, and to represent the melancholy situation of our distressed frontiers, which no written narrative can so well describe, as a verbal account to a judicious person inclined to hear. In conversation, the questions resulting from one relation beget others, till matters are perfectly understood; whereas the most explicit writing will be found deficient. But his Honor was pleased to deny his leave, thinking my request unreasonable, and that I had some party of pleasure in view.

I have, in a letter to the Governor by this conveyance, endeavoured to set in as clear a light as I am able, the situation of our frontiers, and the disposition of the inhabitants; and I shall aim also, in as succinct a manner as possible, to make you acquainted with the same.

The inhabitants of this fertile, and once populous valley, are now become our most western settlers, save the few families that are forted on the Branch. The enemy have, in a great measure, ceased committing hostilities on the Branch, and fallen upon the people of this valley, and a considerable part of them have already removed. This, by persons unacquainted with the country, and the enemy we have to deal with, may be attributed to the cowardice of the inhanitants, or inactivity of the soldiers, but by others it will be imputed to neither. No troops in the universe can guard against the cunning and wiles of Indians. No one can tell where they will fall, till the mischief is done, and then it is in vain to pursue. The inhabitants see, and are convinced of this, which makes each family afraid of standing in the gap of danger; and by retreating, one behind another, they depopulate the country, and leave it to the enemy, who subsist upon the plunder.

If we pursue a defensive plan next campaign, there will not, by the autumn, be one soul living on this side of the Blue Ridge, except the soldiers in garrison, and such of the inhabitants as may seek shelter therein. This, Sir, I know to be the immovable determination of the people; and, believe me, I have been at great pains, before I could prevail on them to wait the consultations of this winter, and the events of the spring.

I do not know on whom these miserable, undone people are to rely for protection. If the Assembly are to give it to them, it is time that measures were at least concerting, and not when they ought to be going into execution, as has always been the case. If they are to seek it from the Commander-in-chief, it is time their condition was made known to him; for I cannot forbear repeating again, that while we pursue defensive measures we pursue inevitable ruin, the loss of the country being the inevitable and fatal consequence. There will be no end to our troubles, while we follow this plan, and every year will increase our expense. This, my dear Sir, I urge not only as an officer, but as a friend, who has property in the country and is unwilling to lose it. This it is, also, that makes me anxious for doing more than barely to represent these matters, which is all that is expected of an officer commanding.

It is not possible for me to convey a just sense of the posture of our affairs. It would be vain to attempt it. I, therefore, content myself with entreating you to use your influence to prevent such delays, as we have hitherto met with, if you think this affair depends on the Assembly. If you think the Assembly have done all in their power, and that recourse must be had elsewhere, I am determined, as I will spare neither cost nor pains, to apply to Colonel Stanwix (who commands in this quarter, with whom I am acquainted, and from whom I have received several kind and affectionate letters,) for leave to wait on him with an account of our circumstances. Through these means, perhaps, we may be able to draw a little of Lord Loudounís attention to the preservation of these colonies.

Pray let me have your sentiments. I have not time to put my thoughts in a proper dress. The bearer is waiting, and I am in other respects hurried. But the truth of what I have asserted, believe me, is unquestionable; as well as that I am, with the most affectionate regards, your most obedient servant and friend.


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