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OFFICIAL LET TERS
RELATING TO THE FRENCH WAR,
BEFORE THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION.
TO THE FIRST PART.
In the method, which has been adopted for the present publication, the First Part consists of letters and papers written before the American Revolution. They relate chiefly to the French War, in which Washington was actively engaged for five years. During a large portion of that time he was commander-in-chief of the Virginia forces, and his correspondence in that capacity, both as furnishing historical materials and manifesting the characteristics and resources of his own mind, is curious and valuable. The importance attached to this correspondence by himself may be understood from the fact, that, many years after the letters were written, he revised the first drafts, and caused them to be carefully recorded in volumes. They have been preserved in this condition. Several of the originals still exist in his own handwriting. The same letter-books also contain military orders and reports of courts-martial, with connecting and explanatory remarks, which appear to have been added at a later date. These records form a complete narrative of the events in which Washington was concerned, from the time he joined General Braddock till he retired from the army.
At Braddock's defeat, Washington, in common with the commander-in-chief and the other officers, lost all his papers, which were taken by the French, sent first to Canada, and thence to France. Among these were contained his official correspondence of the preceding year, and a private journal of the campaign, important as developing the particulars of his military movements, of the death of Jumonville, and of the affair at the Great Meadows. Fortunately this loss has been in a good measure repaired from other sources. By the courtesy and favor of the British Ministry, I was allowed free access to the archives of the public offices in London, where I found, particularly among the manuscripts in the office of the Board of Trade, several valuable documents illustrative of these events. Through the politeness of Mr. Lockhart, I was also made acquainted with the existence of Governor Dinwiddie's letter-books, and a collection of Washington's early letters, in the possession of Mr. Hamilton of London, who very obligingly permitted them to be copied for my use. The file of Washington's letters contained the originals written to Governor Dinwiddie, describing all his military transactions previous to Braddock's defeat, and of course filled up the chasm occasioned by the loss of his papers in that disastrous battle.
In the library of the War Department at Paris I had, moreover, the good fortune to find some original papers respecting the operations of the French, on the frontiers of Virginia, during the time of Washington's first campaigns, copies of which were freely granted to me. .
Many particulars, in addition to these materials, have been derived from the military and other letters, official and private, which were received by Washington in the time of the war, and were preserved at Mount Vernon. These have served to shed much light upon his own writings, by contributing matter for brief notes, and more full explanations in the Appendix. For this object I have likewise consulted such other manuscript authorities as could be obtained, relating to the period in question, and the best printed records and documents, such as the journals of assemblies, statutes at large, proclamations, governors' messages, and the correspondence of officers high in rank, both military and civil, English and French. It has in all cases been my endeavour to establish facts, as far as possible, by original testimony, and to take nothing at second hand where the means existed of ascending to a more authentic source. As this aim has been pursued with a scrupulous care and persevering diligence, it is believed, that as much accuracy has been attained, as the nature of such inquiries will admit, and that nothing has been passed over, which would serve to illustrate the character of Washington, or explain the transactions in which he took an important part.
After he resigned his commission in the army, and retired to his plantation at Mount Vernon, he devoted himself for fifteen years almost exclusively to his private affairs. He was usually a member of the Virginia House of Burgesses, but few traces remain of his public acts in that body. A list of the voters at his several elections, denoting the persons for whom they voted, has been preserved, from which it appears, that he was uniformly chosen by a large majority over all his competitors.
Two manuscript volumes contain the copies of letters, which were written between the time of his leaving the army and the beginning of the revolution. They are copied out with peculiar neatness in his own handwriting. As these letters were directed chiefly to his mercantile agents in London, employed to sell his tobacco and the other produce of his plantations, and to purchase such