George Washington Papers

To George Washington from William Livingston, 11 November 1777

From William Livingston

Princeton [N.J.] 11th Novr 1777


your Excellency’s Favour of yesterday’s date I just now received—It gives me very great Concern Sir that you should think I meant to construe any part of your Letter into any kind of reflection upon the Exertions of this State. If there is any Expression in my Letter (of which I have no Copy) that appears to carry that Idea, I am confident your Excellency’s Candour will ascribe it to the hurry in which I am generally obliged to write, assuring you that such Insinuation was the farthest from my Intention.

General Dickenson, to whose Discretion it was left to take the Command of our Militia now under General Newcomb, or to continue on his present Station as he should conceive most for the Publick Interest; has preferred the latter, on account of a Plan he has formed to make a Descent on Staten Island, which he says is a favorite Scheme of his; and from which he expects to derive considerable Advantage to the Cause. From the frequent Complaints I have had of General Newcomb’s Inactivity and utter want of all Dicipline, I have sent for him to this place to account for his Conduct to General Forman; & hope his friends here will embrace that opportunity to1 persuade him to resign a Post, which most of them seem now convinced he is incapable of discharging either with Honour to himself, or Advantage to the State.2

I heartily thank your Excellency for your kind Congratulation on my Reelection to this Government, which, as it was the more honourable for its being unanimous & undesired, I sincerely wish from Gratitude as well as duty to the People, to discharge with constant Attention to their Emolument; tho’ I am not a little3 discouraged when I consider how much additional weight the Effects4 of War have superinduced into an Office, of itself sufficiently arduous for the compass of my Talents.

Wishing your Excellency every kind of Prosperity, and a compleat Victory over our Enemies. I am with the highest Esteem your Excellency’s Most Obt Servt

Wil: Livingston

P.S. It is strongly suspected Sir, that great Quantities of Flour are carried into New York under Pretence of supplying our Prisoners, that are really destined for the Enemy. I know not the Foundation of those Reports, but think it my Duty to acquaint your Excellency that such there are. you will best know the proper mode of Investigation.5

As I seldom meet with an Opportunity from this Place to Congress I beg Leave to trouble your Excellency with the inclosed to President Laurens, to be transmitted with your Excellency’s Dispatches when you shall have Occasion to send to York Town.6

LS, DLC:GW; ADf, MHi: Livingston Papers. The postscript, which is in Livingston’s writing, is not included on the draft.

1On the draft Livingston wrote and struck out the phrase “will be able to” before inserting the phrase “here will embrace the opportunity to.”

2On the draft Livingston first wrote “public” before striking it out and inserting the word “state.” A joint meeting of the New Jersey council and general assembly accepted Brig. Gen. Silas Newcomb’s resignation on 4 Dec. (see N.J. Proceedings of the Council and General Assembly in Joint-Meeting description begins Minutes and Proceedings of the Council and General Assembly of the State of New-Jersey, in Joint-Meeting, from August 30, 1776, to May, 1780. Trenton, 1780. description ends , 24).

3On the draft Livingston wrote and struck out the word “greatly” before inserting the words “not a little.”

4On the draft Livingston wrote and struck out the word “operation” before inserting the word “Effects.”

5This problem persisted throughout the Revolutionary War. On 7 Nov. 1780, for instance, GW wrote then-president of the Continental Congress Samuel Huntington that “While our Army is experiencing almost daily want, that of the enemy at New York is deriving ample supplies from a trade with the adjacent States of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, which has, by degrees, become so common, that it is hardly thought a Crime” (LS, DNA:PCC, item 152).

6Livingston’s letter to Henry Laurens of 11 Nov. requested “more explicit Directions” about the implementation of Congress’s resolutions regarding raising recruits and apprehending deserters (DNA:PCC, item 68; see also 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 , 2:108–9).

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