Historical Highlights

George Washington Wrote the Continental Congress About Conditions in Boston

March 24, 1776
George Washington Wrote the Continental Congress About Conditions in Boston Image courtesy of Library of Congress This c. 1876 print, published by Currier & Ives, features George Washington accepting his commission from the Continental Congress.
On this date, General George Washington wrote a letter to the Continental Congress about conditions in the city of Boston, which British troops had evacuated after a one-year occupation. Washington wrote, “As soon as the Town was abandoned by the Enemy, I judged It advisable to secure the several heights les[t] they shou’d attempt to return.” Washington also directed the construction of “a large & strong work” to “greatly annoy any Fleet the Enemy may send against the Town.” Washington requested instructions about the disposal of munitions and contraband vessels, several of which were owned by private citizens. “I wish Congress wou’d direct a mode of proceeding…,” Washington wrote, “…are they now to be considered as belonging to [the private owners], or to the publick?” He also asked for instructions about diplomatic protocols for British peace commissioners who planned to visit the colonies: should they be “considered as Ambassadors & to have a pass or permit for repairing thro the Country…or whether they are to be restrained in any & what manner.” The Continental Congress received Washington’s letter on April 3 and referred it to a committee. Weeks later Congress authorized Washington to return the captured vessels to their former owners unless they had been offered to help the British. Congress also ceded the captured munitions to the colony of Massachusetts. One week later, Congress advised Washington that if the commissioners “are…to be sent…to [discuss a treaty] of peace, that the practice usual in such cases will be observed…Congress will then direct the proper measures for the reception of such commissioners.”

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