FishKill 7th August 1780
Being able to gett no definitive answer yesterday respecting my Department, when I had the honour of mentioning its situation to your Excellency, the only member present of the Committee of Cooperation, and General Greene, in justification of my Character I thought it my duty this day officially to write the latter, by the bearer of this Captn Copp, with orders to deliver to your Excellency & the honourable member of the Committee this letter, enclosing a Copy of that sent to General Greene, hoping thereby to obtain such orders from you and the honourable member (should General Greene decline giving them himself) as will soon relieve me from a State of anxiety which I find myself no longer able to bear, and will place the Department I have now had the honour of managing for near two years and a half past upon a permanent and solid foundation.
Should it be thought improper to grant me an answer, the bearer Capt. Copp has a letter for his Excellency the President of Congress on the subject, from whom a definitive answer will undoubtedly be obtained. I have the honour to be with every sentiment of respect, Your Excellency’s most obedient and very humble Ser
DLC: Papers of George Washington.
Fishkill Augt 7th 1780
I have carefully perus’d the proposals you make for a continuation of your Services and thinking myself justifiable by General Greenes Letter of yesterday agree to every part thereof except the Two Rations of Provisions to one of which I can only consent till the pleasure of his Excellency the Commander in Chief is known on the subject. You will please observe my agreement is only binding ’till Congress either Confirms or Recedes from the late Plan for the regulation of the Department or I receive some particular instructions on the Head from the Commander in chief the Committee of Congress at Head Quarters or the Q.M. Genl or till I am reliev’d by an officer who I soon expect to take charge of the Dept.
I both hope and expect you will now return to the Duty of Your different Stations and act therein shoud you continue but for one Day with as much Zeal and Assiduity as if you did not expect to quit till the end of the War. I am with Esteem Gentn Your Mo. Obedt Servt
FishKill 7th August 1780.
I yesterday waited on his Excellency the Commander in Chief, the Honorable Committee of Congress and the Quarter Master General, the Whole of whom seem disposed to do you every Justice in their Power— please therefore acquaint me upon what Terms you are willing to continue your Services, that they may be immediately informed thereof. In the mean Time let me request you will return to your Duty, at least ’till I can obtain an answer respecting myself, which I shall write for in the most pressing Manner, beginning with the Quarter Master General and ending with Congress, if I can get no decisive Answer otherwise. Remember, Gentlemen, I request this not only as the Public Officer, but the private Friend. My Public Character is not only at Stake, but infallibly ruined if you quit me thus abruptly, you will therefore not deny me the Favor of remaining at least till there is Time for my Senior Officer being called down to take Charge of the Post. Your immediate Answer Gentlemen will oblige, Your most obedient and very humble Servant
Fish Kill 7th Augt 1780
It is now upwards of Nine Months since a settled discontent amongst my Assistants first took place, since which time they have frequently wrote me on the subject of their pay and I have as frequently transmitted their Letters to you requesting you wou’d use your influence with Congress to have justice done them in that respect still continuing to drag them along in service by repeated promises that Congress wou’d certainly do them justice, and at last engag’d my Honour that after the first of August, unless seasonable satisfaction was promis’d them for past Services. I wou’d ask their continuance no longer. The first of August arriv’d, nothing done, the business of the Post equally if not more Consequential at that moment and any delay in the execution thereof more dangerous than it ever had been at any other Period since the commencement of the War. thus situated I broke thro’ every tie of private Honour requested and obtain’d their continuance a few days longer, deputing in the mean time one of them to you on purpose to have matters acommodated. he came back without any decisive answer. The consequence of which was none of them wou’d put Pen to Paper on any Public business. I Then Sir waited on you myself yesterday, but though you manifested the strongest inclination to do them justice at same time to promote the Public good by preventing the business of this Department from falling into a total Stagnation, yet such was your own situation that nothing decisive could be done, nothwithstanding the application you made in person both to the Commander in chief and the only member of the Committee of Congress then present.
I see by a late resolution of Congress that there is to be only one Dy Quartermaster in each State. I have therefore to request Sir you will immediately order Colonel Lewis who is my Senior Officer to take charge of the State in that Dept. his long experience in office, his abilities in general, the undoubted influence he must by his extensive connections have amongst the people at large will I hope enable him to surmount those difficulties I feel myself totally inadequate to an encounter with and I now again assure you that I will with pleasure not only give him every necessary information respecting this part of the State but that he shall have every assistance during this Campaign which the State business you know I am engag’d in will permit my giving.
My situation, Sir, is truly pitiable almost every assistant I have very considerably in my debt who tell me when my promise of Congress doing them justice is fulfill’d, they will pay me, but are totally without either inclination or Abilities to do it ’till then. Thus Sir without the special intervention of Congress after a series of Five Years most fatigueing and I hope not altogether unprofitable Services I am at one Stroke nearly, perhaps altogether ruin’d by having made a promise (with no other view but that of promoting the public Service) which I did not imagine there was a man on the Continent hardy enough to presume saying woud not be literally fulfill’d, especially after Congress passd a resolve for appointing a Committee to take into consideration what ought to be esteemd an adequate Compensation for the past Services of the Civil Staff, for if I mistake not much such a resolve did pass; and all the Assistants ever ask’d at least all I am sure I ever gave them reason to think woud be granted was to have their original pay made good to them in some future day in the same way with the Line of the Army or in such other way as Congress might think proper to direct.
Many preparations are necessary to be made, Sir, against Winter some of which ought to have been begun before now. the very unstable situation in which the Dept. has been for considerable time past added to the Total want of Money has prevented me from attempting many things I saw necessary to be executed. The longer we remain in this fluctuating Situation, the greater danger we shall be in of suffering severely next winter must therefore urge your calling my successor immediately into office. I shall write him this day on the subject and beg him to get ready.
Army assistants must remain till their accompts are settled, pray how is provisions to be obtaind for them during that time, and what is their pay to be for they all seem determin’d? rather (as some of them Express it) to die in a dungeon than even to settle their accompts on the pay they formerly received I must likewise beg to know by what means the very heavy Debt I have on public account saddled myself with is to be settled? and how I am to extricate myself from the difficulties with which I must be surrounded by the numberless tho’ just claims that will be constantly pourd in against me? what pay am I to be allow’d during the time I am necessarily employ’d in settling these accompts? for from the original you know I have ever declar’d I wou’d not think of serving was I in consequence of the Commission granted on my expenditures, oblidg’d to settle my accompts without any further allowance and my having put every Shilling of those Commissions except what I necessarily expended in the Family into my own hand as a public officer, they are so decreas’d in Value that they wou’d not now maintain me two months: I only mention this, Sir, to shew how necessary the last Question was, not by way of earning any Credit therefrom, for had I foreseen what I now know I shoud certainly have acted very differently.
I must request you will acquaint the bearer of this Capt. Copp whether you give me a possitive answer to this Letter, as if you do not he has orders to Deliver one to the Commander in Chief and Committee of Congress with a Copy of yours enclos’d and if they give no decisive answer to Proceed to the Honorable the President of Congress whom I have wrote on the occasion likewise.
From the experience I have at this Dept. I will venture to say if the greatest care is not taken to make the necessary provision against winter the Troops station’d in this Quarter will suffer very severely, on this accompt I am extremely anxious to have Colonel Lewis immediately sent for and will if you cannot order that you woud at least recommend his coming down as soon as possible, certain that he cannot enter to soon upon the business which he will find considerably extensive.
I have been interrupted at least a hundred times whille writing this. if this Part appears to you of considerable consequence to the Army, let me again request that it may be put on a Solid and permanent footing for the way in which it is manag’d at present causes a great unnecessary waste of public treasure and must prove ruinous to the character of whoever has the charge of it. I am with great respect Sir Your Mo. Obedt & very Humble Servt
P.S. I transmit you herewith the Copy of a Letter I this Morning wrote my Assistants, with their answer which I did not receive ’till late this afternoon. their Demands very nearly correspond with the Intention of Congress as to the Sum, the Mode only is different, and you certainly know that at such a Post as this it is Impossible they should either find themselves Forage or Provisions; I know them both capable and willing to serve the Public, and have therefore made a point of their remaining in Service after Colonel Lewis comes here, should he chuse to employ them in Rations not inferior to these they now fill, most of them have agreed to this.
I think the two Rations are reasonable, if they can be spared; we live in a Place where nothing can be bought, and you know every Qr Master is exposed to more or less Expense in that Way
Fish Kill august 7th 1780.
Nothing but that sincere Attachment to the good of our Country, which will ever actuate our Conduct, even to our Disadvantage, & the Happiness we feel in making every Thing in our Power agreeable to you, could induce us again to assist you; when we view the slender Probability we have of a Redress of Grievances. To your Request of this Morning, we will strictly conform, for the short Space of Time you mention, as far as we think it consistent with Honor and the Steps we have already taken.
Sixty Dollars per Month in Specie, or Currency equivalent thereto & two Rations per Day, we by no means think will be an unreasonable Compensation for our Services.
We are desirous of having no more Horses, at the Expense of the Public, than the Head of the Department may deem absolutely necessary for conducting the Business of it, unless Congress may adopt a more eligible Mode of supplying us with them, and we also think that every officer furnishing his own Horse and Forage should be paid whatever is reasonable for the Use of, and keeping the same, should it be judged necessary for him to keep a Horse, and that our Travelling Expenses in the Service of, should be paid by the Public.
A Compensation for our past Services we are far from thinking either unreasonable or unjust. The Justness of our Pretentions to it, we will, with Pleasure, submit to the Determination of a Board of General Officers, particularly acquainted with the Merits of our past Services; and should they, after comparing them with the Services of the Officers in the Army, be of Opinion that we are intitled, even to no Compensation at all, we promise to acquiesce in their Determination.
If this should not appear & equitable to the Board We have to propose that our Pay may use in Proportion as the Pay of the Artificer rose hitherto, attending to the Importance of the Services rendered, and the Respectability and Responsability the Offices we may hold. With due Respect, We are, Sir, Your most Obedient humble Servant
Wm M. Betts
George Tayl[ ]
P.S. We are by no means desirous that Arrearages for past Services should be immediately made good to us; but whenever the Public Finances will admit of it, we wish to be considered: All we at present desire, is to be enabled to discharge the Debts we respectively owe the Public, with a part of them.