George Washington: A True Christian Spirit


Camp at Cambridge, September 14, 1775

To Colonel BENEDICT ARNOLD, Commander of the Detachment of the Continental Army destined against QUEBECK:

SIR: You are intrusted with a command of the utmost consequence to the interest and liberties of America; upon your conduct and courage, and that of the officers and soldiers detached on this expedition, not only the success of the present enterprise, and your own honour, but the safety and welfare of the whole Continent, may depend. I charge you, therefore, and the officers and soldiers under your command, as you value your own safety and honour, and the favour and esteem of your Country, that you consider yourselves as marching, not through an enemy’ s Country, but that of our friends and brethren — for such the inhabitants of Canada and the Indian Nations have approved themselves in this unhappy contest between Great Britain and America; that you check, by every motive of duty and fear of punishment, every attempt to plunder or insult any of the inhabitants of Canada. Should any American soldier be so base and infamous as to injure any Canadian or Indian, in his person or property, I do most earnestly enjoin you to bring him to such severe and exemplary punishment as the enormity of the crime may require; should it extend to death itself, it will not be disproportioned to its guilt at such a time and in such a cause. But I hope and trust that the brave men who have voluntarily engaged in this expedition will be governed by different views; that order, discipline, and regularity of behaviour, will be as conspicuous as their courage and valour. I also give it in charge to you to avoid all disrespect or contempt of the religion of the Country; and if common prudence, policy, and a true Christian spirit, will lead us to look with compassion upon their errours, without insulting them, while we are contending for our own liberty, we should be very cautious of violating the rules of conscience in others, ever considering that God alone is the judge of the heart of man, and to him only in this case they are answerable.

Upon the whole, Sir, I beg you to inculcate upon the officers and soldiers the necessity of preserving the strictest order during their march through Canada; to represent to them the shame, disgrace, and ruin, to themselves and Country, if they should, by their conduct, turn the heart of our brethren in Canada against us; and, on the other hand, the honours and rewards which await them, if, by their prudence and good behaviour, they conciliate the affections of the Canadians and Indians to the great interests of America, and convert those favourable dispositions they have shown into a lasting union and affection.

Thus wishing you, and the officers and soldiers under your command, honour, safety, and success, I remain, Sir, your most obedient humble servant,


They Were Believers is researched, compiled, and edited (with occasional commentary and explanatory notes) by Steve Farrell, Founder and Editor In Chief of The Moral Liberal. Copyright © 2012-2014 Steve Farrell.

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