George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Philip John Schuyler, 20 February 1781

New Windsor Feby 20th 1781

Dear Sir

The perplexed State of our Military Affairs—generally—and the embarrassments with which I am (or more properly speaking, have been, for they are not so great now as they were) surrounded in this quarter, must appologize for my not acknowledging the receipt of your obliging favor of the 21st Ulto Sooner.

It is with peculiar pleasure I hear that Maryland has acceded to the Confederation, & that Virginia has yielded her claim to the Country West of Ohio—Great good, I hope, will result from these measures—The first will, undoubtedly, enable Congress to speak with more decision in their requisitions of the respective States—with out which it is physically impossible to prosecute the war with success, great as our expences are. The other will smooth the way—& aid taxation by reconciling jarring interests—removing jealousies—and establishing a fund.

There are other measures lately adopted in Congress with which I am highly pleased—the establishing of Ministers (in place of Boards) for the departments of War—Finance—and foreign Affairs—Proper Powers to, and a judicious choice of men to fill these departments, will soon lead us to system, order & œconomy—without which our Affairs, already on the brink of Ruin, would soon have been passed redemption—I enjoy by anticipation the benefit of these resolves—I hear with infinite pleasure (though no nomination has yet taken place) that you are generally spoken of for the department of War. at the same time I learn with pain from Colo. Hamilton that your acceptance of it is doubtful if the choice should fall on you.

I am perfectly aware of all your objections—I feel their force—but they ought not to prevail—Our Affairs are brought to an awful Crisis—Nothing will recover them but the vigorous exertions of Men of abilities who know our wants, & the best means of supplying them—these Sir without a compliment I think you possess—why then, the department being necessary, should you shrink from the duty of it. The greater the chaos, the greater will be your merit in bringing forth order—and to expect to tread the different walks of public life without envy and its concomitants, is more than has yet fallen to the lot of human kind.

To express my wishes on the subject, under the prospect of your election, is the cause of my giving you the trouble of a letter at this moment as I should be exceedingly concerned at your refusal to become the Minister of War if the choice should fall on you.

I hope the motion you made or was about to make, to request the Eastern States to join in a Convention for the purposes therein expressed was readily agreed to. the objects were important—the ends valuable if they can be obtained.

On the 15th I was, in appearance & expectation, on the eve of a journey to Rhode Island, as Mrs Hamilton & Mrs Washington were on a propos’d one to Albany. Some important dispatches prevented my setting off next morning & an intervention of occurrences since has not only render’d the time of, but the journey itself, somewhat uncertain. We all join in best wishes—& respectful regards for Mrs Schuyler, yourself & family With much truth & sincere Affecte I am Dr Sir Yr most Obedt Sert

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DLC: Papers of George Washington.

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