Our Collection

At the Institute’s core is the Gilder Lehrman Collection, one of the great archives in American history. More than 70,000 items cover five hundred years of American history, from Columbus’s 1493 letter describing the New World to soldiers’ letters from World War II and Vietnam. Explore primary sources, visit exhibitions in person or online, or bring your class on a field trip.

Knox, Henry (1750-1806) to William Knox

High-resolution images are available to schools and libraries via subscription to American History, 1493-1943. Check to see if your school or library already has a subscription. Or click here for more information. You may also order a pdf of the image from us here.

Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC02437.00697 Author/Creator: Knox, Henry (1750-1806) Place Written: Valley Forge, Pennsylvania Type: Autograph letter signed Date: 21 April 1778 Pagination: 3 p. : address : docket ; 33.5 x 21.3 cm.

Summary of Content: Location from docket. Asks his brother William, in Boston, why he has not recently written. Declares, "My God this War will go near to ruin me, they are making their Fortunes & I am losing one, however a good intention and a good Conclusion will I hope support & comfort me." Wishes he had a chaise instead of a phaeton (Knox had previously corresponded with his brother regarding the sale of his wife Lucy's phaeton). Reports that Great Britain intends to offer terms of conciliation "to place us where we were in the Year 1763." Mentions a speech by Lord North, Prime Minister of Great Britain, in which North "proposed peace as preferable to any other method ... he said he had been deceived he never thought the natural force of America to be so great ... " Has sent drafts of two bills to General Hancock (possibly General Ebenezer Hancock, brother of John Hancock). Could not obtain a copy of an unspecified speech.

Full Transcript: [draft]
Camp 21s April 1778 -
My dear Brother
I have not received a single Line from you since I left Boston - what can be the reason[?] I fully expected ...it by the post last evening but not a word. I beg you would mend in this respect and let those hear from you who love you. how goes the matter - badly I am afraid - I wish it had been in my power to have put ten thousand Pounds into your hands then I shall have had some hopes at present I have none. My God this War will go near to ruin me. others are making their Fortunes & I am losing one. however a good intention and a good Conscience will I hope support & comfort me - have you yet presented the petition and have you seen Hichborn about the matters of the debt - push them both my dear friend for much will depend on their succeeding. Lucy will I suppose set out about the tenth of May. I wish it was possible to get [2] a post Chaise instead of the Phaeton - I suppose our friend Harry will be here in a few days by whom I shall hear much news -
Great Britain intend to offer terms of Concilliation to place us where we were in the Year 1763. Commissioners are coming out for that purpose with ample powers to treat with Congress or any body of men representing the people[.] Lord north for the 16th February made a most extraordinary Speech, in which he declar'd, he proposed peace as preferable to any other method. - he said there were only three steps to be taken - 1st to raise new levies and prosecute the War still more vigorously. 2d To withdraw the troops and Navy from America - [3] Treat with the Americans.
The first was almost too expensive and the event uncertain - The Second was to [illegible] acknowledge the Independence of America - the Third he thought was most eligible. - he said he had been deceived he never thought the natural Force of America to be so great ___ experience here taught him - That he was fully convinced that the British force was equal if not superior in number to the Americans
That he thought the [3] last Campaign would have been decisive, but the event show'd the contrary.
he thought after that General Howe had taken possession of Philadelphia that he would have brought the Americans to a General Action and total ruin there but he was [deceived] he would prefer peace now, altho' he was sure by continuing the War three years more to entirely Subjugate America - and much more - I have sent to General Hancock the Draughts of two Bills[.] I suppose they will be publish'd. I cou'd not procure the Speech, there was only one Copy came out and the Genl intends to send that to [illegible] Congress - I hope america will have the wisdom and spirit enough to treat with dignity which cannot be done but with a supreme [illegible]
I have written to Lucy to [illegible] halt the [illegible] with her it will do much better here than both with you
Write me often and give my Love to all who are deserving of it
I am Dear Billy Your affectionate
HKnox
[address leaf]
Mr William Knox
Boston.
[docket]
Genl. Knox
Valley Forge 21st
April 1778.
See More

People: Knox, William, 1756-1795
Knox, Henry, 1750-1806
North, Frederick, Lord, 1732-1792
Hancock, Ebenezer, 1741-1819

Historical Era: American Revolution, 1763-1783

Subjects: Valley ForgeRevolutionary WarRevolutionary War GeneralMilitary HistoryEconomicsFinanceSoldier's PayTransportationGlobal History and US Foreign PolicyGlobal History and US Foreign PolicyDiplomacyFinance

Sub Era: The War for Independence

Order a Copy Citation Guidelines for Online Resources