Bowes Reed Cares For Washington's Chest

Bowes Reed Cares For Washington's Chest

Bowes Reed may not have had the same impact on the United States as his younger brother, but he did participate in several small events which furthered the Patriot Cause.

Most notable of these was when Reed was tasked with transporting some of General Washington’s personal papers for safekeeping.

Reed’s most prominent role was as Secretary of State for New Jersey.

Bowes Reed

Bowes Reed, a New Jersey merchant, is often overshadowed in the history books by his younger brother, Joseph, who signed the Articles of Confederation and spent three years as President of Pennsylvania.

Bowes, for his part, began his career as a Revolutionary by receiving an appointment as Clerk of the New Jersey Supreme Court.

Reed was also commissioned as a Colonel in the State Militia and raised a battalion which he led.

Guarding Franklin

Reed’s first mission as Colonel was to guard deposed Governor William Franklin.

William (the son of Benjamin Franklin) had been removed by the rebels as Governor of New Jersey due to his hard Loyalist stance. Bowes was given the responsibility of holding the prisoner until his fate was determined.

Reed relinquished custody of Franklin when it was determined he should be transferred to Connecticut.

Washington’s Chest

The following summer, Bowes Reed was given a special task by General Washington.

While preparing to fight the British in New York (what would become the Battle of Brooklyn), Washington needed to secure the bulk of his correspondence to make sure it did not fall into the enemy’s hands. The items were collected and sealed into a bearskin covered box.

Reed was given the responsibility of caring for the General’s crate. He transported this cargo to Philadelphia, giving it to John Hancock who, as President of the Continental Congress, was charged with maintaining these goods.

Secretary of State of New Jersey

Reed resigned his commission in the military after being chosen as New Jersey Secretary of State, holding this position for the next sixteen years.

During his time as Secretary of State, Bowes oversaw several drastic changes in his position. He helped move New Jersey from a State in rebellion to a sturdy Government.

Most Founders saw their State as an independent nation immediately following the Revolutionary War, and Reed was expected to treat his neighbors as such. He worked together with the other States to maintain friendly and economically beneficial relationships.

Bowes Reed’s last lasting contribution was to help New Jersey transfer its foreign policy responsibilities to the United States under the Constitution. At the same time, he changed the objectives of the State Secretary of State to take care of more internal tasks, similar to what is expected of that position today.

If you’d like to read about other Founders who were given special assignments by George Washington, check out my articles on Tench Tilghman and Caleb Gibbs.

Since there is no biography available of Bowes Reed, I’ll recommend a book about another person discussed today: William Franklin. ‘The Loyal Son’ gives and interesting look into the personal life of one of our most popular Founders in Ben Franklin. Pick up a copy from our affiliate Amazon through the link below.

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