George Washington Papers

From George Washington to George Mason, 22 October 1780

Hd Qrs Passaic Falls Oct. 22d 1780.

Dear Sir,

In consequence of a resolve of Congress directing an enquiry into the conduct of Majr Genl Gates, & authorising me to appoint some other Officer in his place, during this enquiry, I have made choice of Majr Genl Greene who will, I expect, have the honor of presenting you with this letter.

I shall without scruple introduce this Gentn to you as a Man of abilities, bravery & coolness—He has a comprehensive knowledge of our affairs, and is a man of fortitude and Resources—I have not the smallest doubt therefore, of his employing all the means which may be put into his hands to the best advantage—nor of his assisting in pointing out the most likely ones to answer the purposes of his command—With this character I take the liberty of recommending him to your civilities & support; for I have no doubt, from the embarrassed situation of Southern affairs, of his standing much in need of the latter from every Gentln of influence in the Assemblies of those States.

As Genl Greene can give you the most perfect information, in detail, of our present distresses, and future prospects, I shall content myself with giving the aggregate acct of them, and with respect to the first, they are so great & complicated, that it is scarcely within the powers of description to give an adequate idea of them—with regard to the second, unless there is a material change both in our Civil & Military policy, it will be in vain to contend much longer.

We are without money, & have been so for a long time, without Provision & forage, except what is taken by Impress—without Cloathing—and shortly shall be (in a manner) without men—In a word, we have lived upon expedients ’till we can live no longer, and it may truly be said that the history of this war is a history of false hopes, & temporary devices, instead of System— & œconomy which results from it.

If we mean to continue our struggles (& it is to be hoped we shall not relinquish our claims) we must do it upon an entire new plan—we must have a permanent force—not a force that is constantly fluctuating, & sliding from under us as a pedestal of Ice would leave a Statue in a summers day, Involving us in expence that baffles all calculation—an expence which no funds are equal to—We must at the same time contrive ways & means to aid our taxes by loans, & put our finance upon a more certain & stable footing than they are at present—Our Civil government must likewise undergo a reform, ample powers must be lodged in Congress as the head of the federal union, adequate to all the purposes of War. Unless these things are done, our efforts will be in vain & only serve to accumulate expence—add to our perlexities—& dissatisfy the people without a prospect of obtaining the prize in view—But these sentiments do not appear well in a hasty letter, without digestion or order. I have not time to give them otherwise, & shall only assure you that they are well meant however crude they may appear—With sincere Affection I am, Dr Sir Yr most Obedt Servt

Go: Washington.

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