George Washington Papers

To George Washington from George Clinton, 1 November 1778

From George Clinton

Pokeepsie [N.Y.] November 1st 1778

Dear Sir,

I do myself the Honor to forward to your Excellency by Express an Act of the Legislature passed Yesterday the more effectually to provide Supplies of Flour, Meal and Wheat for the Army that the Commissary may take the earliest Opportunity of availing himself of the Advantages intended by it.1 I beg Leave to suggest that if the Commissary was to order into the State and deposit with his respective Deputies at least 4 or 5000 Bushels of Salt to be exchanged for Grain and Flour it would facilitate the Operation of the present Law and render it less exceptionable to the Farmer who may otherwise consider it a Hardship not to be able to dispose of the Produce of his Farm in such Manner as he may think proper for an Article so essentially necessary for his Use and not to be obtained but through some of the Neighbouring States who are unwilling to part with it without Flour in Return.

I also inclose your Excellency a Copy of the Proceedings of the Senate in my Message to them of the 2[8]th2 Ult: accompanying your Excellency’s Letter and a Letter from Colo: Udney Hay Dy Qur Mr General on the Subject of Supplies for the Army3 and in Pursuance of their Request, recommend to your Excellency to order an Inquiry into the Conduct of the Purchasing Commissaries in this State to the Practices of some of whom they impute the present Difficulty of obtaining Supplies of Flour for the Army. I repose great Confidence in the Gentleman at the Head of that Department and I am persuaded the Legislature entertain a high Opinion of his Integrity but at the same Time I agree with them that there is Reason to believe, that some of those who have been employed under him have acted in such Manner as to render an Inquiry necessary and probably to merit severe Punishment. I am Sir, with the highest Esteem & Respect Your Excellency’s most obedt servt

Geo: Clinton

P.S: I should be happy to know whether the accounts you may have lately received continue to indicate a speedy Evacuation of Newyork by the Enemy.


LS, DLC:GW; ADf, PWacD: Sol Feinstone Collection, on deposit at PPAmP. Clinton wrote the draft at the end of GW’s letter to him of 21 October.

GW’s assistant secretary, James McHenry, wrote to the assistant commissary of purchases, Royal Flint, on 2 November: “I inclose you by his Excellencys order an act for the better supplying the army with flour meal and wheat, which after having copied you will be pleased to return. you will also receive an extract of a letter from Governor Clinton to his Excellency suggesting the idea of an exchange of a certain proportion of salt for the articles mentioned in the law—in order the more effectually to facilitate its operation and render it more easy and agreeable to the farmer. you will consider this proposition, and give your sentiments on its expediency” (DLC:GW).

Flint replied to McHenry from Fredericksburg, N.Y., on the same date: “I can promise myself very considerable advantages from the act of legislature you inclosed for my perusal. It is not necessary for me to take a copy; as I expect a number of printed copies will be brought me this evening These shall be immediatly dispersed among the purchasers.

“The idea suggested with respect to the exchange of a certain proportion of salt for grain has been some time adopted. I have ordered a large quantity of salt to be distributed for the purpose—I will repeat the order & increase the demand” (DLC:GW).

1The enclosed copy of “An Act more effectually to provide Supplies of Flour Meal and Wheat for the Army,” passed on 31 Oct. and signed by “Abrm B. Bancker Dy Secry,” reads: “WHEREAS on Suggestion of Congress and other due Information it Appears that by the wicked Acts of Speculators, Forestallers and Engrossers in this and others of the United States, it is rendered difficult to obtain timely and Sufficient Supplies for the Operations of the Army and Navy unless the most Vigorous Measures are without delay Adopted to restrain practices so destructive to the public Weal. Therefore

“BE IT ENACTED by the People of the State of New York represented in Senate and Assembly, and it is hereby enacted by the Authority of the same, that all Flour Meal or Wheat purchased, or which may be purchased with Intent to be sold again or to be Exchanged or bartered for any goods wares or Merchandize, or to be exported out of this State shall be Subject to be Siezed and taken by the Commissary General of Purchases for the American Army, or any of his Deputies or Agents, to and for the use of the said Army, the Person Siezing and taking the same paying for such Flour Meal and Wheat, at and after the rate following to wit, For Wheat at the rate of five Dollars per Bushel For Flour at the rate of Fifteen Dollars per hundred weight and a proportional price for Meal.

“And to the end that such Siezures may be Conducted with the greater Order and to prevent abuses in the same

“BE IT FURTHER ENACTED by the Authority aforesaid that no Person either as Deputy or Agent to the said Commissary General, shall be Authorized to Sieze or take any such Flour Meal or Wheat unless he shall be properly appointed by writing under the hand of the said Commissary General or under the hand of the Commander in Chief of the said Army for the time being or under the hand of a Commandant of a Department being a General Officer, or under the hand of a Deputy Commissary General of Purchases in a Department and which said Appointment shall be confirmed by the Person Administring the Government of this State for the time being—That where any Deputy or Agent so Appointed as aforesaid, Shall suspect that any Flour Meal or Wheat purchased with such Intent as aforesaid is in the Possession of any Person or Persons, he shall thereupon Apply to a Justice of the Peace of the County where such Flour Meal or Wheat shall be who is hereby upon such Application Authorized and required forthwith to make enquiry respecting the same, by examining any Witness or Witnesses on Oath touching the said Flour Meal or Wheat Whether the same was purchased, and if purchased, whether it was purchased with such intent as aforesaid And if upon such enquiry and Examination it shall either from the Quantity purchased by any Individual or from other Circumstances in Evidence appear probable to the said Justice that the said Flour Meal or Wheat was purchased with such intent as aforesaid, he shall thereupon by writing under his Hand Authorize the said Deputy or Agent to Sieze the said Flour Meal or Wheat specifying the Quantity as near as can be discovered, for the use aforesaid the said Deputy or Agent paying for the same at the rate aforesaid. But if on such Enquiry as aforesaid such intent as aforesaid shall remain doubtful and if any Person or Persons in whose possession such Flour Meal or Wheat shall be, shall not upon being summoned to appear before the said Justice to be examined on Oath as aforesaid appear upon such summons and due proof made of the Service of such summons by leaving a copy thereof at the usual place of his her or their abode, and no sufficient excuse appearing to the said Justice for such non Appearance or appearing shall refuse to Answer to Interrogatories upon Oath as aforesaid, or on such Oath shall not declare himself ignorant of the intent for which the said Flour Meal or Wheat was purchased, or shall declare that the same was purchased with such intent as aforesaid, the said Justice shall in either of the Cases above mentioned Adjudge the said Flour Meal or Wheat to be purchased with such intent as aforesaid and the same shall be subject to be siezed in like manner, as it would have been, had the person in whose Possession the same shall be, appeared before the said Justice and confessed that the same was purchased with such intent as aforesaid.

“AND WHEREAS many Farmers within this State with various intentions injurious to the common cause of America, have withheld their Wheat of the Crops of the last and preceeding years. To the end therefore that such Farmers may be compelled to part with such Wheat for the Use of the Army—BE IT FURTHER ENACTED by the Authority aforesaid that where any Person or Persons shall be possessed of any Wheat of their own raising either threshed or in Straw of the crop of the year One thousand seven hundred and seventy seven or any preceeding year such Wheat shall be and is hereby made Subject to Siezure by Virtue of this Act, in like manner as Wheat purchased with such intent as aforesaid, And the same powers and Authorities are hereby granted to the Commissary General his Deputy or Agent with respect to such Wheat, and the same proceedings, shall be had respecting the same, as in cases of Wheat purchased with intent to be Sold, bartered exchanged or exported as aforesaid. Provided always that in every such Case a sufficient Quantity of Wheat shall be left for the necessary support of the Family of every such Farmer. AND BE IT FURTHER ENACTED by the Authority aforesaid, that if any Person shall Attempt to Remove any Flour Meal or Wheat, suspected to be purchased with such intent as aforesaid, the Justice shall upon such Application as aforesaid, cause such Flour Meal or Wheat to be Siezed and detained untill such Enquiry as aforesaid respecting the same can be made—AND BE IT FURTHER ENACTED by the Authority aforesaid that when any Wheat hereby made Subject to Siezure shall be unmerchantable, that the Justice shall in such case cause the same to be appraised by three Freeholders upon Oath, who shall have regard in such Appraisment, to the price hereby fixed for good and Merchantable Wheat, and the person Siezing such unmerchantable Wheat, shall pay for the same only such price as the same shall be appraised at by any two of the three Freeholders anything herein contained notwithstanding, and where any Wheat Subject to Siezure by virtue of this Act shall be in the Straw, that the person Siezing the same shall be permitted to retain out of the price hereby allowed for the same the Expence of threshing and cleaning the same, and may enter into the Barn of the Person possessing such Wheat and use the same together with the Flails and other Implements for the purpose of threshing and cleaning such Wheat—AND BE IT FURTHER ENACTED by the Authority aforesaid that if any Justice of the Peace upon such Application as aforesaid shall refuse to perform the Duties required of him by this Act, he shall for every Offence forfeit the Sum of fifty pounds, to be recovered in an Action of Debt with Costs by any Person who will Sue for the same, and every Justice shall for his Services in making such Enquiry in each distinct case be intitled to demand and receive from the person requiring such Enquiry to be made the Sum of Three Dollars per day for every day he shall be actually employed therein and every Constable serving a Summons or Subpœne in the Execution of this Act, shall be allowed and paid by the person requesting such service Mileage at the Rate of one shilling per Mile going and the like for returning.

AND BE IT FURTHER ENACTED by the Authority aforesaid That all Flour Meal or Wheat which shall after the Twentieth day of November next be purchased with intent <to> be Sold again, bartered or exchanged as aforesaid, such intent to be inquired into and Adj<ud>ged in manner as aforesaid, shall be taken and Siezed by Virtue of such Authority as aforesaid the Person so taking and Siezing the same, applying the same to the use of the Army and paying to such Justice Authorizing the Seizure for the same at and after the Price above fixed. And the said Justice is hereby required to pay the Monies thence arising into the Treasury of and for the Use of this State.

“AND BE IT FURTHER ENACTED by the Authority aforesaid that it shall be Lawful for the Commissary General and his Deputies or Agents, and every person who shall be aiding them therein, to break and enter any House Mill Barn Store or other place where any Flour Meal or Wheat so adjudged liable to Siezure, shall be deposited, in order to Sieze and take the same, And it shall in like manner be Lawfull for any Justice of the Peace to break and enter into any place where any such Flour Meal or Wheat subject to Siezure by Virtue of this Act shall be suggested to be in Order to View or Assertain the Quantity of the same” (DLC:GW; see also N.Y. Assembly Proc., Oct. 1778-March 1779 sess. description begins The Votes and Proceedings of the Assembly of the State of New-York, At their second Session, begun and holden in the Assembly Chamber, at Poughkeepsie, in Dutchess County, on Thursday, the first Day of October, 1778. Poughkeepsie, N.Y., 1779. description ends , 34).

2Clinton inadvertently wrote “20th”; the date of his message to the state senate was 28 Oct. (N.Y. Senate Proc., 9 Sept. 1777–17 March 1779 description begins Votes and Proceedings of the Senate of the State of New-York; at their First Session, held at Kingston, in Ulster County; commencing, September 9, 1777. Fishkill, N.Y., 1777. description ends , 142; see also GW to Clinton, 21 October).

3The enclosed copy by clerk Robert Benson of the proceedings of the New York Senate on 30 Oct. read: “Mr [Zephaniah] Platt from the Committee to whom were referred his Excellency’s Message of the 28th Instant, with the Letters of his Excellency General Washington and Colo. Hay Deputy Quarter Master General, delivered in the Report of the said Committee; which was read and is in the Words following vizt

“‘That whereas there has been an Embargo Law prohibiting the exportation of Flour Meal and Grain for near twelve Months past and another Law for impressing of Forage was passed the last session and a Law has passed both Houses of the Legislature this Session and is now depending before the Council of Revision, for seizing all Wheat Flour and Meal in the hands of Engrossers and others; Your Committee are of Opinion that all the Aid that can be expected from this State has been given for supplying the Army; and that the Difficulties complained of arise from some other Quarter; which if not properly enquired into and remedied, no Laws whatever can be passed by the Legislature of this State adequate to supplying the Army. Besides to take an Estimate of all the Grain and Forage in this State would be a Task of great Labor and consequently take much Time; but if the Senate chuse to go into a Measure of that kind your Committee have prepared a Bill for that purpose, and to authorize the erecting of public Buildings on private Lands and securing a Remedy to the Owners of such Lands for any Waste or Damages that may accrue in consequence thereof.

“Your Committee beg leave further to Report that it has been suggested to them that the purchasing Commissaries have made a Practice of selling Flour and Wheat which had been purchased for public Use; Your Committee therfore are of Opinion that the want of sufficient Supplies for the Army has arose from this Source; and it is clear that large Magazines can never be laid up while such iniquitous Practices are suffered to pass with Impunity; And your Committee are the more inclined to think the above Suggestions ought to be enquired into, as they have been told that in June last 20,000 barrels of Flour had been purchased for the Use of the Army in Dutchess County alone (and the Mills and Farmers Granaries yet full) which if not applied to that Use must have been carried out of the State in a Way of private Traffic, in breach of the Embargo Law and the public Trust reposed in the Commissaries. Your Committee further Report, That his Excellency the Governor be requested to recommend to his Excellency General Washington to set on foot such Enquiry by sending some Gentlemen of strict Probity, to the different Mills and Store Houses and by all such other Ways and Means as he shall judge Prudent, within this County, to discover what Wheat and Flour has been purchased by the Commissaries and how the same has been applied.’

“Resolved that this Senate do agree with their Committee in the said Report.

“Ordered that Mr Platt and Mr [William] Floyd wait on his Excellency the Governor with a Copy of the said Report and Resolution thereon” (DLC:GW).

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