Historical Footnote: George Washington, July 17th 1776

Washington_ValleyForge On Thursday, July 17 1776, a very young Continental Congress learned the power of words when General George Washington refused to accept a dispatch from British General William Howe and his brother, Admiral Richard Viscount Howe, opening peace negotiations, because it failed to use the title “general.” The Howe brothers, representing the British Crown, had the authority to put down the colonial rebellion, or to readmit the colonies to the British Empire. So they wrote to Washington inviting him to enter into negotiations with them as representatives of the crown. However, they could not use Washington’s title, “general,” as to do so would have given legitimacy to the rebel army the British denied had the right to exist. Washington would neither excuse the affront nor open the letter. When the British began informal negotiations with members of Congress, the Patriots withdrew from the talks when the British refused to recognize their independence.