George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Jonathan Trumbull, Sr., 2 December 1777

From Jonathan Trumbull, Sr.

Lebanon [Conn.] 2d Decr 1777


I was Honor’d with your Favour of the 26th Octor Ulto some time last month; for which I return my Thanks.

I have recd several of your Applications through M: Genl Putnam, which have been executed in the best Manner our Circumstances would admit.1

On the last request from the M: Genl—in addition to Col. Enos’s Regiment and others with him before, I order’d Col. Ely’s Batn (nearly full) from New London, March’d 22d Novr ulto—and also Two Hundred Men, from each of the three nighest Brigades, Silliman’s—Olr Wollcott’s, & Ward’s—making 600 Men to Joyn the Continental Army, near N. York, and our Arm’d Schooners Spy & Schuyler to go up Sound, as far as best, to be under direction of Genl Putnam or the General Officer there.2

The Expedition to Newport, hath unhappily fail’d. An Enquiry hath been made into the reasons, Genl Spencer exculpated, a Brigadier Palmer, faild in his Duty. The Enemy were meditating an Attack on Bedford, and had actually embark’d Troops—which were prevented by this.

I have enclos’d a Copy of my Letter to the Honble Congress, which takes up various Matters, which I think proper to Communicate to you; and I cannot do it better than by enclosing this:3 The Article of Cloathing is of the utmost Importance and shall attend to And prosecute it with Vigour. I believe considerable Quantities for the Troops from the several Towns in this State, are coming, & will be on for them very soon.

Mr Brown, the Express who carries this, goes on to Congress, and will return by your Head Quarters. Your Communications will be gratefully accepted. I am Wth great Esteem and Regard Sir! Your most Obedt Hble servant

Jonth; Trumbull

P:S: You will be so good as to admit Brigdr Genl Huntington to see the enclos’d, on his application to your Excellency.

LS, DLC:GW; LB, Ct: Trumbull Papers.

2For these orders, which Trumbull and the council of war issued to the Connecticut troops on 18 Nov., see Hinman, Historical Collection description begins Royal R. Hinman, comp. A Historical Collection, from Official Records, Files &c., of the Part Sustained by Connecticut, during the War of the Revolution. Hartford, 1842. description ends , 501. For the outfitting and service of the Connecticut navy schooner Spy and the armed Continental navy sloop Schuyler, formerly in the service of the Connecticut navy, see the Journal of the Connecticut Council of Safety, 15 Oct., Nathaniel Shaw, Jr.’s Account against the Continental Navy Sloop Schuyler, 19 Nov., Thomas Shaw to Trumbull, 21 Nov., Nathaniel Shaw, Jr., to John Kerr, 23 Nov., Inventory of Continental Navy Sloop Schuyler, 23 Nov., and Nathaniel Shaw, Jr., to the Continental Marine Committee, 24 Nov., all in Naval Documents description begins William Bell Clark et al., eds. Naval Documents of the American Revolution. 11 vols. to date. Washington, D.C., 1964–. description ends , 10:171–72, 541, 557, 576–79, 590–91.

3The enclosed copy of Trumbull’s letter to Henry Laurens of 1 Dec., which Congress received and referred to the Board of Treasury on 12 Dec. (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 , 9: 1021–22), reads: “The Dispatches of Congress of the 4th & 22d Octr with that of the 3d Novr have been Recd.

“Any Assistance that the Depy Comy General of Purchases or any other Officer of the Army may find Occasion to ask, shall meet our Attention, and receive every necessary Order; Mr Peter Colt hath undertaken to be Dy Comy Genl of Purchases in this Department. He came to us last Fryday. We readily gave him our best Advice. He hath been out on the Business, and is with us this Day going Eastward—He is disappointed of Cash from the N: York Loan Office. wch will embarrass him, ’Tis not in our Power to Afford him any Assistance, but We hope some way will speedily be devised for the relief of this want. Mr Colt will do his utmost, but I fear it will not be in his power or that of any other Man, to procure the necessary Quantities of Beef and Pork to be Salted. The Alterations in the Commissary’s Department, at a Time when every thing was going on in a good train—The consequent Resignations and new Appointments, with other unhappy Difficulties hath cast that Department into a Distress’d Situation. Among other things, the Prices of Grain and other Articles, induced the Farmers to turn out their Cattle & Hogs, and neglect fatning them. No Purchasers appear’d to make offers for a Market of Beef and Pork, adequate to the Advantages they can otherwise gain, in Consequence there is not the Quantity fatned in this State, as hath been usual. Mr Burgoyne’s Army, with the Wants of the People in neighbouring States, carries off much of what is made, Sinsible of these apparent Difficulties, I sent an Express to your Honble Body, the 20th Octor last, among other things informing of these, to prevent the Blame of future Miscarriages falling on us; I believe the late Comy Genl notified Congress and those concerned, thereof, much earlier than it was in my Power to do.

“None can doubt my Attention and vigorous Exertions in Defence of our Common Cause, and I fondly believe my three Sons have faithfully perform’d their respective Duties in the Army; suffer me then to Ask, Why one of them was superceeded? another refusd a Commission dated according to the time of his Appointment, is it most humbly to be ask’d of Congress as a Favour, to be admitted to maintain his Rank, and to Help Defend his Country’s Cause? and last of all, when the late Commissary Genl had almost worn himself out in the service of the Continent, to the good Acceptance of the Officers of the Army, and his Country, Why should he be Oblig’d to refuse a part in the new Arrangements by putting it out of his Power, to do the Service? And why are illiberal Reflections cast on him, by some near or with you, as meditating to do Injustice as well as to embarrass the Business of the Department.

“I am inform’d that Congress on the 14th Octor Ulto pass’d the 9th Article of Confederation, To wit—‘That the Proportion of the public Expence incurr’d by the United-States for their common Defence and general Welfare to be paid by each State into the Treasury, be ascertaind by the Value of all Lands within each State granted to, or survey’d for every Person, and such Land, with the Buildings and Improvements thereon, shall be estimated: according to such Mode as Congress shall, from time to Time Direct and Appoint.’ With an earnest Desire to have the Articles of Confederation, and our Union establish’d and obvious Objections remov’d, I take this Opportunity to enquire whether this is practicable in any tolerable Degree of Equality? Is it best to leave a Matter of this Magnitude to Congress from time to Time to ‘Direct and Appoint,’ which may occasion frequent Altercations? Is it not to be wish’d to Circumscribe the Powers and Authorities of Congress as far as may be Consistent with the Public Safety? Is not the 9th Article as it stands in the printed Papers pass’d by a Comtee of the whole House a more just and Equal Rule of Proportion, and freer from many & Various [word omitted].

“Is it not most certain, that the Riches of a Nation consist in the Number of its Inhabitants, when those Inhabitants are properly employ’d? if the Negroes when young or Old are like Drones in a Hive, will it not be remedied by Numbering them from a certain Age, when they become usefull, to that Age, when they are unserviceable? will not this be more satisfactory when such Addition and Alteration is made, than the Valuation of Lands &c.

“In Pursuance of several Resolves of Congress relative to cloathing for the Army, Orders have been given to the several Towns, each to provide for the Soldiers belonging to the Same, 1 pr Shoes, 1 or 2 pr Stockings 1 pr Breeches or Overhalls, 1 or 2 Shirts or Hunting Frocks, for each Soldier, and such as have Friends or Sons they desir’d particularly to provide for, have Liberty to put up to be deliver’d such Soldier, and sent forward as soon as possible—all at an Appraisement to be Approv’d by the Assembly. This is done by many Towns and others are doing it; The General Assembly have resolv’d, that there be imported, as soon as possible, Blankets, and other coarse Woollens into this State, for supplying the Continental Army, to the Value of twenty thousand Pounds st[irlin]g, from France or elsewhere. In Consequence, Orders are sent by Captn [Robert] Niles to the West Indies for the Value of £5,000 stg in Blankets, coarse Linens and Woollens &c.—and this day Colo. Jos: Trumbull the late Commissary, is order’d to Boston and the Eastward to purchase of these Articles to the Amount of five Thousand Pounds, and enquire what further can be purchased, that way, and report to us by Express what can be had, more, and the Terms—and also how he can purchase Bills of Exchange on France or Holland, to be us’d for accomplishing the Order of our Assembly, so soon as known shall be in want of Cash for the purpose. This Article of Cloathing calls for the closest Attention, & the Time is near when every Man expects a new Suit, as yet the Stipulation for the last Year is not made good. It is reported large Quantities are arriv’d at Boston and the Eastward. Is it not absolutely necessary that every Nerve should be strain’d that all that can, may be purchas’d—and the Country make one grand Effort. Our Army works fast, while Recruits cannot be rais’d for Money because it ceases to be a Consideration—Something is to be done to prevent the Depreciation of our Currency. Establishing Confederation, Apportioning each State’s Part of our Debt, and deep Taxation, appear absolutely necessary.

“I heretofore mention’d that I feard also the Necessity of ascertaining Prices of Articles in every State, This is now much more Delicate and Difficult than it was, yet I believe the N: England States would try it again.

“The inferior Officers say they cannot abide in the service much longer, High Prices and the Necessities of their Families forbid it.

“I am by this Time probably tho’t a trespasser, shall only add my best Wishes, and, that altho’ Clouds & thick Darkness surround us, yet on view of the bright Side, and the marvellous Appearance of God for us, my Faith and Hope are unshaken, that Providence designs our Establishment in Independant Freedom Peace and Prosperity—No Nation ever secur’d and enjoy’d these great Blessings, without severe Conflicts and steady perseverance” (DLC:GW). For Congress’s resolutions relative to the commissary department of 4 and 11 Oct. and 3 Nov., 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 , 9: 766–69, 793–96, 856, 858–59.

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