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To George Washington from Philip Schuyler, 5 April 1780

From Philip Schuyler

Philadelphia April 5th 1780

My Dear Sir

On the 3d Instant I was favored with Your Excellency’s letter of the 30th ult.1

I have for ten days Successively deferred writing In hopes that I should have been able At last to have advised you that public business was closely attended to In this quarter, and that we had adopted Measures to disencumber us from that Variety of embarrasment we experience, but alas! we have made little or no advances.

Mifflin Pickering Jones and General Sherman have furnished the first part of a Voluminous system for the Quarter Master department.2 the Second part is to direct the Commissary General of Issues in the discharge of his Duty, and the third will point at the regulations for the Hospital—I do not mention the purchasing Department, because that is to be abolished the States are to do all; As General Sherman roundly asserts this System will strike off four thousand Officers from the Civil departments, as It is replete with absurdity and pettiness It will pass into a law, unless It Should be thought proper to Confer with the Commander In Chief on the subject3—There has been some wicked work respecting a Certain appointment which Gen: Greene will advise you of Verbally.4

The Gentleman I have last mentiond adressed Congress in a letter of the 3d Inst: wishing for their Sense on his Genral Conduct in the Q. Master department,5 a Resolution was proposed, That Congress had full Confidence In his Integrety And Ability, and requesting his future exertions—this brought on much debate Amendments were moved, and the house got Into heats, and an adjournment was deemed necessary to give the Members time to Cool6—A member more zealous for the Generals reputation than prudent, Observed that he was an officer In whom the Commander in Chief had the highest Confidence That he was the first of All the Subordinate Generals In point of Military knowledge & ability, that In case of an Accident happening to Gen: Washington he would be the properest person to Command the Army, And that General Washington thought so to[o] another Observed that he had a very high Opinion of G. Greens Military Abilities, that he believed the General had too, but that he believed no person on Earth was Authorized to say as much as the words above Scored, Implyed—I mention this that your Ex. may guard against any Misapprehensions which this may Occassion with Your Officers—Gen: Greene will Inform you who delivered the Imprudent Speech.7

Yesterday Your Letter of the 2d was read, there appeared a disposition in Many to leave the whole business which was the Subject of It, to Your discretion. Great part of the Morning was Spent on the Subject before the resolution took place which will be transmitted by the President.8

Some days Since I moved for a Committee to prepare a letter to the States to Call on them for Exertions more Competent to the Great Object we have In view. after some Altercation a Committee was appointed. Elsworth Muhlenberg9 & Schuyler composed It They prepared the letter and reported—but some Gentlemen were averse at the ⟨illegible⟩ plainess with which we Intended Congress Should adress the States whilst others Contended that we should speak Still more pointedly, after a whole days Debate the letter was recommitted.10

I have Intreated Gen: Greene to remain a day or two longer In town, that I may be able to advise with him on the Measures necessary to be pursued to prevent the Ill Consequences of his being driven to the necessity of a resignation which I conceive would at any time be an Event to be much lamented but In the present Conjuncture ruinous.11

Pray Intreat Mrs Washington to Accept of my respects and the Gentlemen of the Family those wishes which my Esteem for them Induce I am Dr Sir with perfect Esteem & the Sincerest Affection Your Excellencys Obedient servt

Ph. Schuyler

ALS, DLC:GW. For the likelihood that Schuyler completed this letter on 6 April, see n.8 below.

1Schuyler is referring to GW’s letter to him dated 31 March.

2For this plan to reform the Continental army staff departments, see Nathanael Greene to GW, 28 March, and n.5 to that document; see also Schuyler to GW, 22 March.

3Congress eventually determined to appoint a “Committee at Headquarters” to consult with GW on staff department operations and reforms (see GW to Samuel Huntington, 3 April, and the source note to that document). Schuyler served on this committee.

4The appointment that engendered “wicked work” has not been identified.

5Schuyler is alluding to Maj. Gen. Nathanael Greene’s letter to Samuel Huntington, president of Congress, dated 3 April (see Greene to GW, 22 March, n.5).

6For corroboration of Schuyler’s account of congressional deliberations concerning Greene on 28 March, see 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 , 16:312, and Charles Pettit to Greene, 18–19 April, in Greene Papers description begins Richard K. Showman et al., eds. The Papers of General Nathanael Greene. 13 vols. Chapel Hill, N.C., 1976–2005. description ends , 5:528–30.

7Nothing has been identified to corroborate or further illuminate Schuyler’s rendition of the congressional exchange on GW’s potential successor as commander-in-chief.

8Congress confirmed GW’s decision to send reinforcements southward (see GW to Huntington, 2 April, and Huntington to GW, 6 April).

Schuyler apparently completed this letter on 6 April, because Congress read GW’s letter to Huntington on 5 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 , 16:329).

9Born in Pennsylvania, Frederick Augustus Conrad Muhlenberg (1750–1801) received a college education in Germany and returned to his birthplace to become a Lutheran minister like his prominent father. Muhlenberg’s interests switched from religion to politics over the course of the Revolutionary War, and he won unsolicited election to Congress as a delegate from Pennsylvania in early 1779 (see Wallace, Muhlenbergs description begins Paul A. W. Wallace. The Muhlenbergs of Pennsylvania. Philadelphia, 1950. description ends , 176–78). He remained an important figure in state politics for the rest of his life and notably served as the first Speaker of the House after the formation of the federal government under the Constitution.

10Schuyler presented a resolution on 28 March to appoint “a committee of three … to prepare and report a letter to the executive powers of the several states, stating the necessity of procuring and forwarding immediate supplies of provisions, &c. for the army” (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 , 16:312–13). Congress read a draft of the committee’s letter on 4 April and then assigned another committee to the task, which persisted through additional drafts, another committee, and debate until the adoption of a letter on 24 April (see 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 , 16:326–28, 337, 345–48, 379, 384–87).

11Greene seriously pondered resignation as quartermaster general (see his letter to GW, 22 March, and n.2 to that document).

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