George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Udny Hay, 23 November 1780

Poughkeepsie 23rd Novr 1780.


[The still distressed situation the Garrison at West Point is in, for want of Provisions, especially Flour, which it has become my Province to furnish, alarms me greatly; nor can I rest Satisfied ’till I relate to your Excellency, some of the many Causes, which I may venture to Affirm has prevented me from Collecting before this Time, the greatest part of the Quota of that Article, Demanded from this State; and to propose, at same Time, the only remedy, which to me, now appears to Remain.

As to the Causes, the want of Money to pay Contingent Expenses (though the Legislature has taken large Strides to procure me some) has not been one of the Smallest. It is unnecessary to trouble your Excellency with a Detail, of the many Disadvantages which arose from the Disappointments I met with in that way, I shall only beg leave to assure you, that Two Thousand Dollars of the New Emission is all the Money I have yet been furnished with; nor did I receive even that, ‘till about three Weeks ago: The excessive scarcity of Money in the State is another Cause; for as we Purchase totally upon Certificates, it will be safely believed that those who have for Years past had nothing else for all the Services they have performed for the Public, without being able to receive any Value for them will not Voluntarily part with more of their property on the Same Terms; especially when they want some of the necessary Articles of Life, which, by being shut out from all their own Parts, they must obtain by the medium of Cash or Barter, from other States; But what gave the fatal Stab, to all my hopes, was the Law passed last Session for taking off the Embargo; ever since which Time, there have been a Swarm of Speculators, from the Eastern States, purchasing with hard Money, or exchanging for Articles the People of this State were excessively in want of.

Previous to the Embargo being taken off, I took the Liberty of Memorialing the Legislature on the Subject; Imagining I foresaw the evil Consequences that would arise therefrom, but the Clamours of the People, that they were not only Hem’d in, by the Enemy, from the whole of the outward Trade, they formerly enjoyed; but restricted, to a Degree totally unknown to the other States, in the Sale of the very Articles they raised themselves, were so great, that they prevailed.

I can now, Sir see only one way by which the impending Evil can possibly be Evaded, which is by obtaining a General Impress Warrant from his Excellency the Governor of this State for all the Wheat and Flour bought therin with an Intent to Sell again, ’till Six thousand Barrels, including what shall be ready of the Quota of the State & not consumed, is procured, and I flatter myself if your Excellency makes a requisition of this nature, it will be Complied with; If something Similar to this is not done, before the Water Communication is shut up, or a Supply of Flour does not come from the Southward; I dread the Consequences that must arise.] Should your Excellency think such a Mode proper to be adopted, I must further request, that about two hundred Men, well Officered, be sent in Boats up the River, leaving Fifty of them at Fishkill Landing to take Directions from Major Wyckoff, one of my Assistants; the remaining hundred and Fifty, to come to this Place and Receive Directions from me: It is not for fear of any Tumult “amongst the People,” this number is necessary only to Guard the Wheat, or Flour, after it is Impressed, and to assist in collecting Teams for the Transportation Thereof, to the different Landings—The Measure, itself, will rather be popular as the Traders will be the Chief sufferers thereby.

I hope your Excellency will excuse the Liberty I have taken and believe it is occasioned only from the Sincere desire I have to serve my Country, and the Army who Supports the Cause it is engaged in.

The Commissary General expects a large Quantity of Beef will be Salted, under my Direction. I proposed, both for the sake of saving Salt, and for the better preservation of the Beef, to take out all the sticking Pieces, and put up, in Barrels, by themselves: Genl Heath, I am Informed, disapproves of this Method, and Thinks your Excellency ought to be Consulted, before it is put in Execution; shall therefore be happy in receiving your Orders. I have the Honor to be with the utmost Respect, Your Excellencys most Obedient Hble Servant

Udny Hay

P.S. The Season is so far advanced that if the utmost possible Expedition, is not used, in prosecuting the Measure I have proposed: should your Excellency adopt it, I am afraid the River will be in such a State as to prevent the Transportation, of what we get, by Water.

parts within Brackets transmitted to Genl Clinton 27 Novem. 1780

DLC: Papers of George Washington.

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