George Washington Papers

From George Washington to John Jay, 5 May 1779

To John Jay

Head Quarters Middle Brook May 5th 1779


Inclosed I have the honor to transmit your Excellency three New York papers of the 28th & 29th of April and 1st of May—which I think are interesting.

The last contains extracts from Lord Norths speech at opening the budget which seems to breathe a vigorous prosecution of the war: I have thought appearances for some time past wore this complexion.1 The English papers have frequently announced considerable reinforcements to the army in America and have even specified the particular Corps intended to be sent over.2 Nor can I see any sufficient reason to believe this will not be done—While the Government can procure money, men will not be wanting; and while the Nation is uningaged in a Continental war in Europe and can maintain a ballance of naval power, I do not perceive why it should not be able to spare men to continue the war in this country—At least, the probability that they will be able to do it is great enough to demand very vigorous efforts on our part to put the army upon a much more respectable footing than it now is—It does not really appear to me that adequate exertions are making in the several States to complete their Battalions—I hope this may not proceed in part from the expectation of peace having taken too deep root of late in this country.

I beg leave to submit it to Congress whether a private pointed address on this subject from them to the respective Legislatures may not be productive of a good purpose.3

I imagine it is unnecessary for me to particularize the situation of the army in the present reduced state of the regiments, after we shall have made the large detachment which will be indispensible for the Western expedition—and considering that all the Virginia Levies are of necessity, to be sent to the Southward4—I doubt not they are convinced it is such as to demand the most serious exertions to make it better. With the greatest respect & esteem I have the honor to be Sir, Your most Obet servant

Go: Washington

LS, in Richard Kidder Meade’s writing, DNA:PCC, item 152; Df, DLC:GW; copy, DNA:PCC, item 169; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

2For the promise and delayed arrival of British reinforcements to North America, see GW to William Livingston, 4 May, n.2; see also GW to Benjamin Harrison, this date, n.3.

3Congress read this letter on 8 May and referred it to “the committee appointed to prepare an address to the several states.” That committee immediately produced the following address: “Friends and Fellow Citizens: The great military exertions, and the insidious negotiations carried on by the King of Great Britain against these United States, have hitherto in a great measure been rendered vain, under the favor of Heaven by your United efforts. Our duty to God, to mankind to posterity and to ourselves, calls upon us to continue those efforts to the utmost of our abilities in order that by vigorous exertions we may make such effectual impressions on the enemy as will at length compel them to abandon their iniquitous design of conquest, and to yield to reasonable terms of peace.

“The arduous contest with Great Britain in its commencement was sustained under almost every possible disadvantage, and it has been conducted with such success as manifests to us the peculiar favor of Divine Providence. We have happily formed very powerful alliances, and the war is now in such a situation that the ultimate objects of these United States may speedily be established on foundations so firm as not hereafter to be shaken by the power or policy of our enemies, Provided such exertions shall be made as are in our power, and which the favorable conjuncture demands.

“Wherefore, we your Representatives in Congress do announce to you that the present campaign will afford an opportunity to bring the war to a happy conclusion; but that the most vigorous efforts of these states will be necessary. Such efforts will be called for, according to the nature of the intended operations. And it is hereby in the most earnest manner recommended to the legislatures of the States respectively to invest their respective executive powers with ample authority to call forth and direct their force against the common enemy; to each executive power to make with all possible expedition such arrangements as may effect the most decisive movements, and to our generous fellow citizens to act with the vigor becoming men contending for every thing which can secure the dignity and happiness of themselves and their posterity, and which is necessary for the establishing of the honor and independence of our country” (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends , 14:562–63).

4For the formation of three regiments of Virginia levies to reinforce South Carolina, see GW to Richard Henry Lee, 30 April, n.1.

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