George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Job Sumner, 4 April 1783

Cantonment April 4th 1783


I take occasion to address your Excellency on a Subject, which to my knowledge has never as yet been fully decided in the American Army; Viz: The Duty that an officer in my Situation holding a Commission of Superior Grade to the one he may possess in a particular Corps, is bound to do in the Army in general—so far as respects the Regiment to which I belong as Captain, Brigade; or, perhaps even Line, when totally detached from the Army, and Subject to no Officer of the Day &c. but from that particular Line, promotion ranging at present thro the Line of Captains; I conceive myself bound to do every Duty, which such Commission there imposes—but, in the Army it appears equally clear, that I must [roll] with other M[   ] as well in [Facets] of Honor, as those of Service, & the moment I am obliged to do the Duty of Captain and, not of major in the Army, that Instant I degrade, & distroy the very Efficacy of such Commission—Since little has been said on this Subject—no objection is started to my acting agreeably to my eldest Commission in all Cases, provided I have my Company, but, in my humble Opinion the same [   ] will opperate equally in point of Duty, whether I maintain, or, quit it; if taking that Charge, & doing every duty, which respects the regiment &c., as Captain, independent of rolling in common with Gentlemen of my Grade will of right inhibit my acting as Major at large, I shall think the principal exceedingly refined indeed, and, was it Careful to all Instances from other Services, I believe many might be adduced in favor of my doing that Duty—however Sir, I have no Will of my own, I only wish to have the matter clearly decided, and whatever your Excellency may think will be most consonant with Service in general, this, in particular, and will most dignify the Authority by whome this Army exists, whether it may make against my particular Ideas, & Expectations or not, [I] most cheerfully comply with, altho [   ] no kind of doubt in my own mind of the Inherent right of Duty, which my Commission intitles me to—I shall do myself the Honor to dine at Head Quarters to Day [   ] to request and am with perfect Esteem your Excellency’s most devoted humble servt

J. Sumner Major

DLC: Papers of George Washington.

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