George Washington Writes to Lord Botetourt, Governor of Virginia

Dateline: Mt. Vernon, Virginia, 5 October 1770: He wants to protect the interest of the soldiers that served in the Seven Years War or French and Indian War (1754-1763). The colonel knew how to write well and present his case. Bonus: his 1754 memorandum on the need for a fort and expansion. Primary sources here!

You can read a 1770 version that has old and odd punctuation, spelling and mechanics at founders online. My transcription modernizes such things for junior and high and college students and general readers.

Many of the soldiers settled in Virginia ceded by the Indians, but the Ohio Company wanted to acquire the disputed lands.

Botetort is the Right Honorable Norbonne, Baron de Botetort, King George III’s Lieutenant and Governor General of the dominion of Virginia.

Col. Washington bows to class hierarchy and calls him “My Lord.”

Modernized transcription begins:

Mount Vernon, Oct. 5, 1770

My Lord,

Being fully convinced of Your Lordship’s inclination to render every just and reasonable service to the people you govern and to any society or body of them that shall ask it and being in a more particular manner encouraged by a letter which I have just received from Mr. Blair (Clerk of the Council) to believe that Your Excellency is desirous of knowing how far the grant of land solicited by Mr. Walpole and others will effect the interest of this country in general or any set of men in particular;

I shall take the liberty (being tolerably) well acquainted with the situation of the frontiers of this Dominion) to inform your Lordship that the bounds of that grant, if obtained upon the extensive plan prayed for, will comprehend at least four-fifths of land for which this Colony has lately voted £2500 sterling to the purchase and survey of and ust destroy the well grounded hopes of those (if no reservation is made in their favour) who have had the strongest assurances which government could give them, of enjoying some of those lands, the securing of which has cost this country much blood and treasure.

By the extracts which your Excellency did me the honour to enclose, I perceive that the Petitioners require to begin on the South side of the Ohio, opposite to the mouth of Scioto, which s at least 70 to 75 miles below the mouth of the Great Kanhawa, the place to which the Ministerial Line (as it is called) from Holston’s River is to run and more than 300 from Pittsburgh and to extend from thence in a Southerly direction through the pass of the Onasioto Mountain, which Evan’s Map the best draughts of that country I have ever seen and all the enquiries I have been able to make from persons who have explored those wilds will bring them near the latitude of North Carolina. From thence they go north-easterly branch thereof; thence easterly to the Allegany Mountains. From thence they go north easterly to the Fork of the Great Kanhawa (made by the junction of Green Briar and New River; on both of which waters we have many settlers on lands actually patented); from hence they proceed up Green Briar to the Head of the North-Easterly branch thereof; thence easterly to the Allegany Mountains; thence along those mountains to the Line of the Lord Fairfax; thence with his line and the line of Maryland and Pennsylvania till the western boundary of the latter shall strike the Ohio; thence with the same to the place of the beginning.

These, my Lord, are the bounds of a grant under consideration, and if obtained, will in my humble opinion give a fatal blow to the interests of this country, but this I have presumed to say as the sum of my thoughts as a member of the community at large.

I shall beg leave now to offer myself to Your Excellency’s notice, as an individual in a more interested point of view and at the same time as a person who considers himself in some degree the representative of the Officers and Soldiers who claim a right to 200,000 acres of this land petitioned for by Mr. Walpole and others under a solemn Act of government adopted at a very alarming and important crisis to His Majesty’s affairs in America. To approach Your Lordship in these characters, it might seem necessary to preface an apology, but I find in support of the equity of our pretentions, which cannot fail of being short, as I have taken the liberty of troubling your Lordship pretty fully on this head before.

The first letter I ever did myself the honour of writing to your Excellency on the subject of these lands and to which I now beg leave to refer contained a kind of historical account of our claim, but as no embellishment is requisite to elucidate a right when simple facts are sufficient to establish the point, I shall beg leave to give your Lordship the trouble of reading the enclosed order of Council of 18 of Feb. 1754 and Governor Dinwiddie’s Proclamation in consequence thereof and then add that these troops not only enlisted agreeable to the terms there stipulated but behaved so much to the satisfaction of the country as to obtain the honour of its public thanks.

Would it not be hard, my Lord, to deprive men under these circumstances (or their successors) of the just reward of their toils? Could this act of Governor and Council offered to and accepted by the soldiery be considered in any other light than as an absolute compact? And though the exigency of our affairs rendered it impracticable for us to settle this country for some years after the date of proclamation, and the policy of government forbid it for a few years longer, yet the causes being now removed and the land given to some as a recompense for their losses and fought after by others for private emolument, have we not a title to be regarded among the first? We fain [rather] would hope so.

We flatter ourselves that in this point of view Your Excellency will also consider us and by your kind interposition and favourable representation of our case His Majesty will be graciously pleased to confirm the 200,000 acres of land to us, agreeable to the terms of the Proclamation.

Or if it should be judged necessary to be more particular in the location of it and your Lordship will be pleased to cause the same to be signified to me, I will point our immediately thereupon the particular spots on which  would beg to have our surveys made; as part of the land prayed for in our petition of the 15th December last, to wit, that on Sandy Creek will not be comprehended within the ling running from Holston’s River to the mouth of the Great Kanhawa.

Such an act of goodness as this, my Lord, would be conferring a singular favour on men who do not know who else to apply to.

On men the most of whom either in their persons or fortunes have suffered in the cause of their country and cannot fail of meeting with such acknowledgements as result from grateful minds impressed with the due sense of obligation.

None will offer them with more sincere respect then

Your Lordship’s most obedient and most

Humble Servt. [Servant]


Transcription ends.

The following memorandum says America needs a fort, and the soldiers conducted themselves well.

Modern transcription begins:


At a Council held 18 February 1754.

The Governor was pleased to signify to the Board that as it was determined a fort should be immediately built on the River Ohio at the fork of Monongahela for the security and protection of His Majesty’s subjects in this colony and that a sufficient force should be raised to erect and support the same, he judged necessary to give a reward of 200,000 acres of land on the east side of the River Ohio within this Dominion (clear rights and free from payment of Quit Rents for the term of fifteen years; 100,000 acres whereof to be contiguous to the said fort and the other 100,000 acres to be on or near the River Ohio) over and above their pay to all who shall voluntarily enter into the said service, to be divided amongst them after the performance of the said service in a proportion due to their respective merit;

The Council on due consideration of the great advantage which will accrue to His Majesty from the taking immediate possession of those land; & being satisfied that there are other land sufficient to answer the quantity granted to the Ohio Company, advised His Honour to notify and publish the said encouragement by Proclamation.

[A Proclamation did accordingly issue on 19 Feb. in the 27th year of the reign of His Late Majesty, precisely to the above effect which Col. Washington has transcribed in his own letter and a copy of which is lately delivered to His Honour the President.]

It may not be amiss to add by way of remark that the complement of men judged necessary [sufficient] for this service (though the event proved them otherwise) were actually raised in consequence of this Proclamation;

That they marched over the Alleghany Mountains through almost inaccessible passes and built a fort on the waters of Monongahela which they were obliged afterwards to surrender to the superior force of the French and their Indian Allies;

That they conducted themselves in that enterprise in such a manner as to receive the honour of their country’s thanks, as may appear by the Journals of the House of burgesses in the session following;

And that many of them continued in the service till the total demolition of Fort Duquesne and establishment of an English garrison in its place.

G. W.

Transcription ends.

The enclosed document describes the soldiers’ mission that was carried out successfully—eventually. Col. Washington knew how to write well.


George Washington’s Wills, Investments, and Landholding

Interesting Facts and Stories about George Washington

Washington Families of Virginia

Washington’s Royal Lineage

Washington Direct Lineage in Virginia

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