Washington's contemporaries--and most historians since--have praised his unerring judgment concerning the relationship of the military and civilian authority. In a period in which most Americans feared tyranny and the power of standing armies to support such tyranny, his was no small accomplishment. What fears are implied by the letter from the New York Legislature to Washington? How does Washington try to placate these fears?
[New York Legislature to Washington]
May it please Your Excellency --
At a time when the most loyal of his Majesties Subjects, from a Regard to the Laws and Constitution by which he sits on the Throne, feel themselves reduced to the unhappy Necessity of taking up Arms to defend their dearest Rights and Priviledges; While we deplore the Calamities of this divided Empire, We rejoice in the Appointment of a Gentlemen from whose Abilities and Virtue we are taught to expect both Security and Peace.
Confiding in you Sir, and in the worthy Generals immediately under your Command, We have the most flattering Hopes of Success in the glorious Struggle for American Liberty; and the fullest Assurances that whenever this important Contest shall be decided, by that fondest Wish of each American Soul; an Accommodation with our Mother Country; You will cheerfully resign the important Deposit committed unto Your Hands, and reassume the Character of our worthiest Citizen.
June 26, 1775
By Order -- C.V.B. Livingston, President
June 26, 1775.
Gentlemen: At the same time that with you I deplore the unhappy necessity of such an Appointment, as that with which I am now honoured, I cannot but feel sentiments of the highest gratitude for this affecting Instance of distinction and Regard.
May your every wish be realized in the success of America, at this important and interesting Period; and be assured that the every exertion of my worthy Colleagues and myself will be equally extended to the re-establishment of Peace and Harmony between the Mother Country and the Colonies, as to the fatal, but necessary, operations of War. When we assumed the Soldier, we did not lay aside the Citizen; and we shall most sincerely rejoice with you in that happy hour when the establishment of American Liberty, upon the most firm and solid foundations, shall enable us to return to our Private Stations in the bosom of a free, peaceful and happy Country. I am etc.