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The American Revolution
Creating a Continental Army
George Washington Accepts Appointment as Commander of Continental Army

On June 15, 1775, the Continental Congress "elected" George Washington as commander of the yet-to-be-created Continental Army: "Resolved, That a General be appointed to command all the continental forces, raised, or to be raised, for the defence of American liberty. That five hundred dollars, per month, be allowed for his pay and expences. The Congress then proceeded to the choice of a general, by ballot, when George Washington, Esq. was unanimously elected." In the following brief speech George Washington made to the Congress, how does Washington respond to the appointment? How would you describe the tone of Washington's acceptance? Why did Washington decline to be paid for his service?

View the original document from the Journals of the Continental Congress in A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation. Use your browser's Back Button to return to this point.


FRIDAY, JUNE 16, 1775

The congress met according to adjournment.

The president from the chair informed Geo. Washington Esqr. that he had the order of the Congress to acq[ain]t him, that the Congress had by a unanimous vote made choice of him to be general and com[mander] in chief to take the supreme command of the forces raised and to be raised, in defence of American Liberty, and desired his acceptance of it. Whereupon Colonel Washington, standing in his place, spoke as follows:

"Mr. President, Tho' I am truly sensible of the high Honour done me, in this Appointment, yet I feel great distress, from a consciousness that my abilities and military experience may not be equal to the extensive and important Trust: However, as the Congress desire it, I will enter upon the momentous duty, and exert every power I possess in their service, and for support of the glorious cause. I beg they will accept my most cordial thanks for this distinguished testimony of their approbation.

"But, lest some unlucky event should happen, unfavourable to my reputation, I beg it may be remembered, by every Gentleman in the room, that I, this day, declare with the utmost sincerity, I do not think myself equal to the Command I am honored with.

"As to pay, Sir, I beg leave to assure the Congress, that, as no pecuniary consideration could have tempted me to have accepted this arduous employment, at the expence of my domestic ease and happiness, I do not wish to make any proffit from it. I will keep an exact Account of my expences. Those, I doubt not, they will discharge, and that is all I desire."
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View the original document from the Journals of the Continental Congress in A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation. Use your browser's Back Button to return to this point.