George Washington Papers

To George Washington from George Clinton, 21 January 1781

Poukeepsie 21st Jany 1781.

Dear Sir

I am this Moment favoured with your Excellency’s Letter of equal Date inclosing the Copy of one from Mr DesTouche respecting a supposed seizure of Wheat Purchased for the Use of the French Fleet—on the 12th Instant I received a Letter from M. Destouche on the same Subject & the inclosed addressed to him which I take the Liberty of requesting your Excellency to forward in my Answer—I can assure you Sir that in every Instance even in the late very critical Situation of our Army for want of Bread my Impress Warrants have been accompanied with Directions not to seize any Wheat or Flour that appeared to have been purchased for the Use of the Wheat or Army of our Allies, and the enclosed Report of Colo. Hay on the Subject of his Contract with the Agents of Mr Carter (a Copy of which also accompanies my Letter to Mr Destouche) will I trust convince your Excellency that my Instructions have been duly attended to.

You may venture Sir to assure M. Destouche that I am cordially disposed to encourage & facillitate the Supply of the French Fleet & Army by every Means in my Power. It is most certainly the Interest of the State exclusive of every other Motive to give them all the Bread we have to Spare. I am with the most perfect Respect & Esteem your Excellencys Most Obedt Servt

Geo. Clinton

DLC: Papers of George Washington.


Poughkeepsie 15. January 1781.


Agreeable to your Excellencys desire, I enclosed Transmit you No. 1 the Contract I entered into with Mr Parker for an Exchange of Wheat for Salt; a Contract, Sir, which, not only from Inclination to serve the Fleet and Army of our Ally, I interested myself diligently and carefully to perform; but which, in point of Duty, I thought myself under an obligation to pay particular Attention to, from the earnest desire I saw, both in the Legislature and your Excellency, to give the most unequivocal proofs of your Determination to grant them every Aid, the distressed Situation of the State, and the large Supplies expected and Demanded for our Army, could possibly admit, and I now call upon Mr Parker to declare, whether in the first place, I ever hinted to him, a wish or expectation of receiving any benefit or emolument from that Contract and in the second Place whether I did not give him full & undemanded [blunt] assurances, I should be happy in rendering him every Service, in my Power, in the prosecution of any part of his Business, relative thereto; and as a proof of my Assurances not being merely Complimentary, if I did not write very strongly and pointedly to some of the Gentlemen I was connected with in the State Business, to grant him every Aid in their Powers.

Your Excellency will undoubtedly remember that the only objection made, by any part of the Legislature, to Mr Parker’s having full Liberty to purchase within the State, any Quantity, which he would give proper Security should be Transported to the French Fleet, or Army, was, that by admitting sundry Purchases, while the Embargo Act continued, the Price would undoubtedly be raised and both ourselves and Allies, either worse Supplied, or be obliged to pay much higher.

Having thus set out on my side, at least on the firm Basis of disinterested Friendship; permit me to mention to your Excellency a few Circumstances, which I am ready to prove, past a possibility of Contradiction, and which will serve to evince that owing principally, either to a Neglect or design in Mr Parker’s Agent, or such as pretended to be so; I was not only prevented from delivering part of the Wheat, at the Time I ought; but was at last, by the Duty I owed the State obliged to desist from Delivering any at all. Mr Smith a Gentleman who was to furnish two Thousand five Hundred Bushels of the Wheat, after having got a very considerable part thereof ready, was requested, by the Millers not to send it to their Mills, as Mr Parkers Agents had no Casks to put the Flour; and they could not possibly receive it, till the Casks were ready. This occasioned a very considerable delay on my side, and when some Salt (the Quantity very Trifling) was sent on to Mr Smith, part thereof only was merchantable, which disgusted the Inhabitants, and of Consequence served to Embarass me, and all the other Salt which was forwarded by Mr Parker, within the State, as far as I could learn, even as late as the twenty first of November refused to be delivered to my Order, nay was positively affirmed to have been [sent] for another purpose, as will appear by the Copy of the enclosed affidavit of Mr [Chandonst] No. 2 notwithstanding I had received the Letter from Colonel Livingston the same Gentleman alluded to in the Affidavit, of which No. 3 is a Copy: No. 4 in Answer thereto—Finding myself in this very disagreeable Situation, I went to Mr Kinman, who Mr Parker had Informed me was his principal Agent, and complained loudly of the Treatment I met with; he assured me Colonel   Livingston had not, to his knowledge any Directions to keep back the Salt, and was certain would deliver it, informing me at same Time there was a Quantity at a Mr Smith’s, Burlington, which would Immediately be sent to my Assistant Colo.   [   ][Van Ness], if not already forwarded, which he supposed I would find as the Case; I went to Mr Smith’s who refused forwarding a single Case unless he had a special Order for the purpose, and sent again to Colonel   Livingston who said he did not believe there was any salt there, designed for me, as to this last declaration of Colonel Livingston I beg leave to Inform I have only the Verbal assertion of Captain   [ Houlbiom] sent for the purpose of making the Demand, but have not a doubt he will readily give his affidavit thereto. As such [accusations], such ungentlemanlike Treatment, can it be wondered Sir that I refused delivering any more Wheat, especially when you consider that a farther delay of the Salt rendered it of no consequence to the Inhabitants, for whose benefit it was designed, and that Mr Parker was made fully acquainted at the Time the Contract was entered into, that the far greater part of the Wheat was expected to be purchased with the Identical Salt he was to furnish—And permit me to add, that [while] I do Mr Parker the Justice to declare I have no Reason to believe his Mode of Conduct was pursued either by his Order or advice, I think it a Duty incumbent on him to come here and see that as much reparation as possible is made, either by me or his Agents for the Injuries the one or the other has occasioned, both [to] the Army of our Ally and the Inhabitants of this State.

The representation your Excellency mentions Mr Carter has given the French Genl respecting the Seizure of a Thousand Bushels of Wheat purchased for the Use of the French Troops within this State, I am fully convinced that Gentleman has founded upon misinformation, for from the necessity you urged in your Instructions, given with the Impress Warrants, of guarding against Seizing any part of the Supplies, which it should appear, by proper proof, were purchased and designed for their Use I was extremely Cautious, and by the Returns or other Information yet Received from my Different Assistants, have no Reason to Suppose there has been a single Bushel of Wheat or Barrel of Flour taken, which appeared designed for them—I imagine Mr Carter must have been led into the Mistake, by some Wheat which was at the Mills designed for Mr Parker, and which, In consequence of the Treatment above recited, I ordered to be withheld. I am, with the utmost Respect, Your Excellency’s Most Obedt & very Humble Servant

Udny Hay

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