From the firmest persuasion of mind that you will receive this note with the same cordiality that it is dictated, permit me my dear dear friend to felicitate you on the return of your birth day…
According to the Julian calendar in use at the time, George Washington was born in Virginia on February 11, 1731. In 1752, however, Britain and all its colonies adopted the Gregorian calendar, which moved the calendar ahead 11 days and made January the first month of the year instead of March. The new calendar placed Washington’s birth on February 22, 1732.
Benjamin Franklin, January 17, 1706* - April 17, 1790
Benjamin Franklin. Copy of painting by Joseph Duplessis, circa 1794-1802
You can search Benjamin Franklin’s writings & correspondence (and those of other Founding Fathers) at the Founders Online—a tool for seamless searching across the Papers of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and Alexander Hamilton. A partnership between the University of Virginia Press and the National Archives’ National Historical Publications and Records Commission, you can read more about this project at Prologue: The Papers of the Founding Fathers Are Now Online.
(*Franklin’s birthday would have been January 6, 1705 according to the Old Style calendar in use when he was born.)
The Dye is cast: The People have passed the River and cutt away the Bridge: last Night Three Cargoes of Tea, were emptied into the Harbour. This is the grandest, Event, which has ever yet happened Since, the Controversy, with Britain, opened!
Mr Burr’s respectful Compliments. He requests Dr. Hosack to inform him of the present state of Genl. H. and of the hopes which are entertained of his recovery.
Mr. Burr begs to know at what hours of the [day] the Dr. may most probably be found at home, that he may repeat his inquiries. He would take it very kind if the Dr. would take the trouble of calling on him as he returns from Mr. Bayard’s.
Aaron Burrs inquires about Alexander Hamilton’s condition following their duel the previous day. Hamilton had been mortally wounded by Burr’s shot, and would succumb to his injuries on July 12.
This letter, my very dear Eliza, will not be delivered to you, unless I shall first have terminated my earthly career; to begin, as I humbly hope from redeeming grace and divine mercy, a happy immortality.
If it had been possible for me to have avoided the interview, my love for you and my precious children would have been alone a decisive motive. But it was not possible, without sacrifices which would have rendered me unworthy of your esteem. I need not tell you of the pangs I feel, from the idea of quitting you and exposing you to the anguish which I know you would feel. Nor could I dwell on the topic lest it should unman me.
The consolations of Religion, my beloved, can alone support you; and these you have a right to enjoy. Fly to the bosom of your God and be comforted. With my last idea; I shall cherish the sweet hope of meeting you in a better world.
Adieu best of wives and best of Women. Embrace all my darling Children for me.
July 4. 1804
On July 11, 1804 Alexander Hamilton was mortally wounded in duel with Aaron Burr, and would succumb to his wound the following day. This letter to his wife was written in the days prior, during which he noted his other reflections on the upcoming “interview.”
On my expected interview with Col Burr, I think it proper to make some remarks explanatory of my conduct, motives and views.
I am certainly desirous of avoiding this interview, for the most cogent reasons.
1 My religious and moral principles are strongly opposed to the practice of Duelling, and it would even give me pain to be obliged to shed the blood of a fellow creature in a private combat forbidden by the laws.
2 My wife and Children are extremely dear to me, and my life is of the utmost importance to them, in various views.
3 I feel a sense of obligation towards my creditors; who in case of accident to me, by the forced sale of my property, may be in some degree sufferers. I did not think my self at liberty, as a man of probity, lightly to expose them to this hazard.
4 I am conscious of no ill-will to Col Burr, distinct from political opposition, which, as I trust, has proceeded from pure and upright motives.
Lastly, I shall hazard much, and can possibly gain nothing by the issue of the interview.
But it was, as I conceive, impossible for me to avoid it. There were intrinsick difficulties in the thing, and artificial embarrassments, from the manner of proceeding on the part of Col Burr.
Intrinsick—because it is not to be denied, that my animadversions on the political principles character and views of Col Burr have been extremely severe, and on different occasions, I, in common with many others, have made very unfavourable criticisms on particular instances of the private conduct of this Gentleman.
In proportion as these impressions were entertained with sincerity and uttered with motives and for purposes, which might appear to me commendable, would be the difficulty (until they could be removed by evidence of their being erroneous), of explanation or apology. The disavowal required of me by Col Burr, in a general and indefinite form, was out of my power, if it had really been proper for me to submit to be so questionned; but I was sincerely of opinion, that this could not be, and in this opinion, I was confirmed by that of a very moderate and judicious friend whom I consulted. Besides that Col Burr appeared to me to assume, in the first instance, a tone unnecessarily peremptory and menacing, and in the second, positively offensive. Yet I wished, as far as might be practicable, to leave a door open to accommodation. This, I think, will be inferred from the written communications made by me and by my direction, and would be confirmed by the conversations between Mr van Ness and myself, which arose out of the subject.
I am not sure, whether under all the circumstances I did not go further in the attempt to accommodate, than a pun[c]tilious delicacy will justify. If so, I hope the motives I have stated will excuse me.
It is not my design, by what I have said to affix any odium on the conduct of Col Burr, in this case. He doubtless has heared of animadversions of mine which bore very hard upon him; and it is probable that as usual they were accompanied with some falshoods. He may have supposed himself under a necessity of acting as he has done. I hope the grounds of his proceeding have been such as ought to satisfy his own conscience.
I trust, at the same time, that the world will do me the Justice to believe, that I have not censured him on light grounds, or from unworthy inducements. I certainly have had strong reasons for what I may have said, though it is possible that in some particulars, I may have been influenced by misconstruction or misinformation. It is also my ardent wish that I may have been more mistaken than I think I have been, and that he by his future conduct may shew himself worthy of all confidence and esteem, and prove an ornament and blessing to his Country.
As well because it is possible that I may have injured Col Burr, however convinced myself that my opinions and declarations have been well founded, as from my general principles and temper in relation to similar affairs—I have resolved, if our interview is conducted in the usual manner, and it pleases God to give me the opportunity, to reserve and throw away my first fire, and I have thoughts even of reserving my second fire—and thus giving a double opportunity to Col Burr to pause and to reflect.
It is not however my intention to enter into any explanations on the ground. Apology, from principle I hope, rather than Pride, is out of the question.
To those, who with me abhorring the practice of Duelling may think that I ought on no account to have added to the number of bad examples—I answer that my relative situation, as well in public as private aspects, enforcing all the considerations which constitute what men of the world denominate honor, impressed on me (as I thought) a peculiar necessity not to decline the call. The ability to be in future useful, whether in resisting mischief or effecting good, in those crises of our public affairs, which seem likely to happen, would probably be inseparable from a conformity with public prejudice in this particular.
On July 11, 1804, Alexander Hamilton was mortally wounded in his duel (“interview”) with Aaron Burr. In this entry, he states his intention to deliberately miss:
"…I have resolved…to reserve and throw away my first fire, and I have thoughts even of reserving my second fire—and thus giving a double opportunity to Col Burr to pause and to reflect.”
…The Honorable the Continental Congress, impelled by the dictates of duty, policy and necessity, having been pleased to dissolve the Connection which subsisted between this Country, and Great Britain, and to declare the United Colonies of North America, free and independent STATES: The several brigades are to be drawn up this evening on their respective Parades, at six OClock, when the declaration of Congress, shewing the grounds & reasons of this measure, is to be read with an audible voice.
The General hopes this important Event will serve as a fresh incentive to every officer, and soldier, to act with Fidelity and Courage, as knowing that now the peace and safety of his Country depends (under God) solely on the success of our arms: And that he is now in the service of a State, possessed of sufficient power to reward his merit, and advance him to the highest Honors of a free Country.…
To George Bryan
Head Qrs [Valley Forge]
½ after 11 A.M. June 18th 1778
I have the pleasure to inform you, that I was this minute advised by Mr Roberts’s, that the Enemy evacuated the City early this morning. He was down at the Middle ferry on this side, where he received the intelligence from a number of Citizens, who were on the opposite shore. The destruction of the Bridge prevented him passing. I have not yet had any Official accounts on the subject, but there are many in corroboration of Mr Roberts’s. I congratulate you very heartily on this interesting event and have the Honor to be in haste Sir Yr Most Obedt servt
The city of Philadelphia was abandoned by the British Army 235 years ago on June 18, 1778, as relayed in this letter from George Washington.
Find more references to the evacuation of Philadelphia and other events on June 18, 1778 in the Founders Online!
But on Saturday last, the 17th, the Regulars attacked us upon one of the Charlestown Hills, where we had begun to entrench, and obliged us to retreat, by means of their Ships and Floating Batterys, we having no large Cannon to match theirs; the Cannon we cou’d have had, if we had had Gunpowder enough to Spare, but we had not more than sufficient for the Field Pieces and Musquetry; however, the Enemy have not much to boast; for tho’ they kept the Field, and took from us 4 or 5 pieces, 3 Pounders, yet they lost, by the best accounts we can yet obtain, about 500 kill’d and wounded, and among the former are, as we have reason to believe, several officers of distinction: our loss in numbers is not great, by the best accounts we yet have, about 60 or 70 kill’d and missing;4 but —— among these is —— what Shall I say! how Shall I write the name of our worthy Friend, the great and good Dr. W——. You will hear by others who will write tomorrow, such particulars as I am not possessed of: Soon after the Regulars landed, they Set Fire to the Town of Charlestown, and that day, yesterday and this Day they have consumed most of the Houses as far as Penny-Ferry;5 and they have possession of all that part of Charlestown, and are encamped upon Bunker’s Hill; and we are encamped upon Prospect Hill, Winters Hill, and at the Bridge leading to Inman’s, Phips’s &c. Yesterday and this day, they have Cannonnaded us, but to no purpose; and our people, by Small Parties have picked off some of their out Guards: We expect another action very soon. Do send us Powder, and then we Shall, by the blessing of Heaven, soon destroy this Hornets Nest.
An account of the Battle of Bunker Hill (June 17, 1775) via the Founders Online—a new tool for seamless searching across the Papers of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and Alexander Hamilton. A partnership between the University of Virginia Press and the National Archives’ National Historical Publications and Records Commission, you can read more about this massive undertaking at Prologue: The Papers of the Founding Fathers Are Now Online