|"To Colonel Benedict Arnold, Commander of the Detachment of the Continental Army destined against Quebec."|
With February commemorating Presidents Day, it seems fitting to feature some of the artifacts in our collection here at Morristown National Historical Park relating to past presidents. With the help of Lloyd W. Smith, MNHP has in its collection artifacts pertaining to the first thirty-two presidents, from George Washington to Franklin Delano Roosevelt. With several hundred items to choose from, it was difficult on deciding which to showcase this month. Naturally, we begin with George Washington, whose 280th birthday is celebrated on the 22nd of this month and officially commemorated on Presidents’ Day on the 21st this month.
Before jumping into this week’s article, let’s take a moment to review a note from our curator, Jude Pfister, D. Litt.:
"As with most prominent individuals of the time, and especially someone of Washington's prominence, he had a small army of copyists and writers who would prepare letters and correspondence for his signature and in some routine matters even sign for him. This was not unusual; in fact, it is even done today. This particular letter in the Morristown collection is an example of one of those letters. Naturally, this practice makes it difficult to determine what is an actual Washington letter. Fortunately, in terms of intrinsic, historical importance, we don't need to worry about whose pen this particular letter came from. The importance of this letter lies in its content."
Pictured above you will see the headline “To Colonel Benedict Arnold Commander of the Detachment of the Continental Army destined against Quebec.” This intriguing document is a contemporary copy of a letter written from General George Washington to Colonel Benedict Arnold on September 14, 1775.
Washington makes note that Arnold’s command is “of the utmost consequence to the interest and liberties of America…” and the entire document is symbolic of the wider goal of attracting other British colonies to the cause of American independence. Washington warns Arnold to observe the strictest discipline and order in the ranks, and to “avoid all disrespect or contempt of the religion of the Country.” With religion a hotbed of tension between the Protestant colonies on the eastern seaboard and the French Catholics in Quebec (and throughout North America), it was clearly pertinent for the army to avoid all conflicts on the issue.