George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Joseph Trumbull, 27 June 1776

From Joseph Trumbull

27th June 1776

I have Directed The Commissary General to give me information of the Value of Rations as he Issues them—& am told as heretofore that by the nearest & best computation he can make, a Ration from the 1st July to 1st Decr next will, be worth from 8d. to 8½d. each, Currency of New York1—I am likewise told that Mr Wharton’s proposal for Supplying, the Troops to be Collected & fixed in New Jersey, is for 8½d. Currency of Pensilvania—& that on the Computation of the Ods of the two Currency’s, only, & 12,000 men, Mr Wharton must make more than £10,000, by the Bargain, when you give the Commissary Genll but £540 per annum Wages for Supplying those Troops, the Troops here, & in New England & in Canada—by the Same way of Computation if he had Mr W.’s Profit he must make about 60,000 per anum the difference is Immense—If any Person is to be favd with a Lucrative Contract, I think the Commissary Genll ought to have the first offer—or Mr Livingston ought to be reinstated in his Contract—But beside the Sum above mentioned to be made by the Bargain, it will Introduce, all the Confusion, imaginable, which I heretofore pointed out in the Case of Mr Livingston’s Supplying part of the Army & the Commissary General the rest2—it is more than probable the Army here & in Jersey must Join, or Party’s at least from each—those partly, Suppli’d partly by one & partly by another must Introduce, double Supplys in many, & Confusion of Accts in every Instance for Heavens Sake Supply the Army wholly in one way or the other, & by the foregoing representation, I can’t think you can be at a loss in the Matter3—Beside, I am told by the Comry Genll that he has already made Provision in New Jersey to supply the Troops to be fixed there, & the proper persons of that Colony Employed to do every part of the Business under him.

Sir The foregoing is a representation of the matter of Rations, as you requested me to make it. I am your Excellency’s Most Obedient Humble servt

Jos. Trumbull

ADfS, PWacD: Feinstone Collection, on deposit in PPAmP. The first paragraph of this document, written by Trumbull in GW’s voice, is a proposed answer to the portion of Hancock’s letter to GW of 25 June requesting information about the cost of a ration. GW did not use this draft in his reply, however. See GW to Hancock, 28 June.

1For Trumbull’s previous estimate of the cost of a ration at New York, see Trumbull to GW, 19 April 1776.

2For GW’s earlier views on the confusion caused by Abraham Livingston’s contract to supply troops in New York City, see GW to Hancock, 22 April 1776, and note 9. For Livingston’s voluntary relinquishment of his contract, see General Orders, 24 May 1776, n.2. Joseph Trumbull had complained previously about his compensation as commissary general in his letter to Hancock of 9 June, which is quoted in GW to Hancock, 10 June, n.1.

Carpenter Wharton (1747–1780), a merchant in Philadelphia, contracted with the Continental Congress in December 1775 to furnish the Pennsylvania troops with provisions at seven shillings Pennsylvania currency per ration, and in April 1776 he offered to supply all of the Continental troops in the middle department, which included New York, at that same rate (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 , 3:419; James Duane to the New York Provincial Congress, 21 Mar. 1776, in 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 , 3:423). That offer was not then accepted because of the New York provincial congress’s previous contract with Abraham Livingston. About 20 June Wharton apparently presented to Congress the proposal for supplying the Flying Camp in New Jersey to which Trumbull refers in this document, and it was apparently that proposal which prompted Congress on 25 June to request of GW the information on “the cost of a ration as furnished by the commissary general” (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 , 5:468, 477). After receiving GW’s letter to Hancock of 28 June, Congress took no further action on Wharton’s proposal, but in December 1776 Trumbull appointed Wharton his sole deputy commissary with the army (Trumbull to GW, 13 Dec. 1776, DLC:GW). Wharton proved to be an unfortunate choice for that position, for not long after he undertook his new duties, GW and Congress began receiving complaints that Wharton was inadequately supplying the army while paying extravagant prices for many commodities so as to increase the commissions and profits of himself and his friends (Hancock to Joseph Trumbull, 30 Jan., and Roger Sherman to Trumbull, 2 April 1777, in 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 , 6:165, 529–31; see also GW to Trumbull, 18 Feb. 1777, Ct: Trumbull Papers). Trumbull dismissed Wharton from the commissary department by 13 May 1777, and on 26 June 1777 Congress ordered Wharton to settle his accounts immediately with the Continental auditors in Philadelphia (Roger Sherman to Oliver Wolcott, 13 May 1777, in 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 , 7:80–81; 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 , 8:499–501).

3The manuscript reads “you’ll can be at a loss in the Matter,” because Trumbull inadvertently forgot to delete “’ll” when revising the document.

Index Entries