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To George Washington from Gouverneur Morris, 18 April 1778

From Gouverneur Morris

York Town [Pa.] 18th April 1778

Dear Sir

I expected before this to have written to you “Provision is made for the American Officers” but that Thief of Time Procrastination hath kept it off from Time to Time. The Question is now an Order of the Day and as such takes Place of every other Business When it will be determined I know not but this I know that it shall be finished one Way or the other before any Thing else Let what will happen.1 I am confident it will go right if something very extraordinary does not happen In the Interim Nothing is done. I feel as severely on this Occasion as you can do but it is impossible to make Men of Business out of—All will yet go well. We have determined to send Gates to Hudson’s river where he is to command very largely. But he is to receive Instructions which shall be proper.2 You are directed to call a Council of Major Generals in which the Chief Engineer is officially to be a Member and to which by a subsequent Resolution Genls Gates & Mifflin were ordered to repair.3 As these Gentlemen ought not to receive Orders immediately from Congress they are as you will see permitted to leave the Board of War upon your Order This Amendment was for that Reason acquiesced in nem. con.4 Colo. Harrison will I beleive be again appointed a Member of the Board of War. This I mention by the bye I add my Wish that your Business and his Inclinations may be so ordered as to accept of it.5 For this I have many Reasons. Every Man of Business knows that Words are of great Weight and we receive Reports from the Board of War every Day. I need say no more except that it is not always possible to weigh Sentences with that Accuracy in a public Assembly which is practicable in the Closet. It is astonishing that Congress who certainly are not without sufficient Apprehension should at so critical a Moment as the present be so supine but this is human Nature and we must bear it. I have a Remedy in Contemplation but that as to present Exigencies will be after Meat Mustard. If you were an unconcerned Spectator it would divert you to see that altho a Majority of our House have been agreed in a certain Point ever since Mr Dana arrived here yet Nothing is done.6 A propos of your Council of War. Should you determine on any Thing which considering the Course of human Affairs is I confess rather improbable Let Congress know Nothing about it. A Secret should never be trusted to many Bosoms. I will forfeit any Thing except Reputation that it will not be well kept even by those necessarily confided in. I know your many Avocations and therefore I insist that you do not answer any Letter from me. Should you have Reason to write a Letter it is another Affair. Remember me to Mrs Washington. I am respectfully Sir your humble Servant

Gouvr Morris

Sunday Evening.7

ALS, DLC:GW. The cover indicates that the letter was carried “By Monsr Francois,” perhaps Jean-Baptiste-Lazare Théveneau de Francy.

1The effort in Congress to secure a half-pay establishment for army officers after the war and pensions for their widows had commenced as early as 5 Jan. with the report of the committee that had visited GW’s camp in December 1777. GW had urged action on the proposals in his letter of 29 Jan. 1778 to the new camp committee, which included Morris among its members, and on 26 Mar. two members of the committee had introduced motions in Congress to implement the proposals. The motions were discussed on 27, 28, and 31 Mar. and 1 April, when Congress agreed on procedures for amendment and debate and then postponed further consideration. On 16 and 17 April the motions were again taken up, but Henry Laurens wrote William Livingston on 19 April that “all our labour has not yet matured one single Clause nor even determined the great leading questions to be, or not to be.” Although Laurens noted that “The Combatants have agreed to meet to morrow vis a vis & ... put an end to the Contest,” Morris’s confident expectation of rapid action was not realized. The motions were debated and amended on 21, 25, 26, and 27 April, then put aside until 8 May. Finally after further consideration on 9, 12, and 13 May, revised motions on the subject were passed on 15 May (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends , 10:18–20, 285–86, 289–93, 295, 300–302, 357–60, 362–63, 372–74, 391–98, 482–83, 485, 491, 495–96, 502–3; Prince, Livingston Papers description begins Carl E. Prince et al., eds. The Papers of William Livingston. 5 vols. Trenton and New Brunswick, N.J., 1979–88. description ends , 2:295; see also Connecticut Delegates to Jonathan Trumbull, Sr., 18 May, Smith, Letters of Delegates description begins Paul H. Smith et al., eds. Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774–1789. 26 vols. Washington, D.C., 1976–2000. description ends , 9:707–8).

2For the resolution of 15 April assigning Maj. Gen. Horatio Gates command of the forces defending the Hudson River, see Henry Laurens to GW, 17 April, and note 2. Morris was on the committee assigned to draft Gates’s instructions, which were approved by Congress on 20 April (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends , 10:355, 368–69).

4Nemine contradicente means with no votes in the negative.

5GW’s secretary Robert Hanson Harrison was elected to the Board of War on 7 Nov. 1777 but turned down the appointment on 12 Nov. (see Laurens to GW, 7 Nov. 1777, and note 4 to that document). Harrison was again elected to the board on 31 Oct. 1778, but he declined that election as well (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends , 12:1086, 1147).

6Francis Dana returned to Congress from camp on 23 Mar. and was one of those who laid the motions for a half-pay and pensionary establishment before Congress on 26 Mar. (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends , 10:285–86; Smith, Letters of Delegates description begins Paul H. Smith et al., eds. Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774–1789. 26 vols. Washington, D.C., 1976–2000. description ends , 9:324).

7April 18 fell on a Saturday, not Sunday.

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