The True George Washington: Friends: Colonial Congress

Updated February 28, 2017 | Infoplease Staff

Colonial Congress

Even before public service had made him known, Washington was a friend and guest of many of the leading Virginians. Between 1747 and 1754 he visited the Carters of Shirley, Nomony, and Sabine Hall, the Lewises of Warner Hall, the Lees of Stratford, and the Byrds of Westover, and there was acquaintance at least with the Spotswoods, Fauntleroys, Corbins, Randolphs, Harrisons, Robinsons, Nicholases, and other prominent families. In fact, one friend wrote him, "your health and good fortune are the toast of every table," and another that "the Council and Burgesses are mostly your friends," and those two bodies included every Virginian of real influence. It was Richard Corbin who enclosed him his first commission, in a brief note, beginning "Dear George" and ending "your friend," but in time relations became more or less strained, and Washington suspected him "of representing my character ... with ungentlemanly freedom." With John Robinson, "Speaker" and Treasurer of Virginia, who wrote Washington in 1756, "our hopes, dear George, are all fixed on you," a close correspondence was maintained, and when Washington complained of the governor's course towards him Robinson replied, "I beg dear friend, that you will bear, so far as a man of honor ought, the discouragements and slights you have too often met with." The son, Beverly Robinson, was a fellow-soldier, and, as already mentioned, was Washington's host on his visit to New York in 1756. The Revolution interrupted the friendship, but it is alleged that Robinson (who was deep in the Arnold plot) made an appeal to the old-time relation in an endeavor to save Andr. The appeal was in vain, but auld lang syne had its influence, for the sons of Beverly, British officers taken prisoners in 1779, were promptly exchanged, so one of them asserted, "in consequence of the embers of friendship that still remained unextinguished in the breasts of my father and General Washington."

Outside of his own colony, too, Washington made friends of many prominent families, with whom there was more or less interchange of hospitality. Before the Revolution there had been visiting or breaking of bread with the Galloways, Dulaneys, Carrolls, Calverts, Jenifers, Edens, Ringgolds, and Tilghmans of Maryland, the Penns, Cadwaladers, Morrises, Shippens, Aliens, Dickinsons, Chews, and Willings of Pennsylvania, and the De Lanceys and Bayards of New York.

Election to the Continental Congress strengthened some friendships and added new ones. With Benjamin Harrison he was already on terms of intimacy, and as long as the latter was in Congress he was the member most in the confidence of the General. Later they differed in politics, but Washington assured Harrison that "my friendship is not in the least lessened by the difference, which has taken place in our political sentiments, nor is my regard for you diminished by the part you have acted." Joseph Jones and Patrick Henry both took his part against the Cabal, and the latter did him especial service in forwarding to him the famous anonymous letter, an act for which Washington felt "most grateful obligations." Henry and Washington differed later in politics, and it was reported that the latter spoke disparagingly of the former, but this Washington denied, and not long after offered Henry the Secretaryship of State. Still later he made a personal appeal to him to come forward and combat the Virginia resolutions of 1798, an appeal to which Henry responded. The intimacy with Robert Morris was close, and, as already noted, Washington and his family were several times inmates of his home. Gouverneur Morris was one of his most trusted advisers, and, it is claimed, gave the casting vote which saved Washington from being arrested in 1778, when the Cabal was fiercest. While President, Washington sent him on a most important mission to Great Britain, and on its completion made him Minister to France. From that post the President was, at the request of France, compelled to recall him; but in doing so Washington wrote him a private letter assuring Morris that he "held the same place in my estimation" as ever, and signed himself "yours affectionately." Charles Carroll of Carrollton was a partisan of the General, and very much disgusted a member of the Cabal by telling him "almost literally that anybody who displeased or did not admire the Commander-in-chief, ought not to be kept in the army." And to Edward Rutledge Washington wrote, "I can but love and thank you, and I do it sincerely for your polite and friendly letter.... The sentiments contained in it are such as have uniformly flowed from your pen, and they are not the less flattering than pleasing to me."

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