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FROM VARIOUS LETTERS, SPEECHES, AND ADDRESSES
To the Captains of Several Independent Companies in Virginia. Philadelphia, June, 1775
“I am now about to bid adieu to the companies under your respective commands, at least for a time. I have launched into a wide and extensive field, too boundless for my abilities, and far, very far, beyond my experience. I am called by the unanimous voice of the Colonies to the command of the Continental army; an honor I did not aspire to, an honor I was solicitous to avoid, upon a full conviction of my inadequacy to the importance of the service. I have only to beg of you, therefore, before I go, by no means to relax in the discipline of your respective companies.
“I cannot doubt but the asserters of freedom and the right of the Constitution are possessed of your most favorable regards and wishes for success. As descendants of freedom, and heirs with us of the same glorious inheritance, we flatter ourselves that, though divided by our situation, we are firmly united in sentiment. The cause of virtue and liberty is confined to no continent or climate. It comprehends within its capacious limits the wise and good, however dispersed and separated in space and distance.”
To the Inhabitants of the Island of Bermuda
“While we are contending for our own liberty, we should be very cautious not to violate the rights of conscience in others, ever considering that God alone is the judge of the hearts of men, and to Him only they are answerable.”
To Colonel Benedict Arnold, 1775
“The man who means to commit no wrong will never be guilty of enormities; consequently he can never be unwilling to learn what is ascribed to him as foibles. If they are really such, the knowledge of them in a well-disposed mind will go half way towards a reform. If they are not errors he can explain and justify the motives of his actions.”
To Patrick Henry, Valley Forge, 27th March, 1778
“I have ever been happy in supposing that I had a place in your esteem, and the proof you have afforded makes me peculiarly so. The favorable light in which you hold me is truly flattering; but I should feel much regret, if I thought the happiness of America so intimately connected with my personal welfare as you so obligingly seem to consider it. All I can say is, that she has ever had, and I trust she ever will have, my honest exertions to promote her interest. I cannot hope that my services have been the best; but my heart tells me they have been the best that I could render.
“However it may be the practice of the world and those who see objects but partially or through a false medium, to consider that only as meritorious which is attended with success, I have accustomed myself to judge human actions very differently, and to appreciate them by the manner in which they are conducted more than by the event; which it is not in the power of human foresight and prudence to command.