George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Thomas Wharton, Jr., 10 April 1778

To Thomas Wharton, Jr.

Head Quarters Valley Forge 10th April 1778


I have the honor of yours of the 6th inclosing a passport for the Waggons with Stores for the prisoners at Winchester, which I immediately forwarded to Mrs Pemberton.

I beg leave to introduce Major General Greene to you, who is lately appointed Qr Mr General. Upon looking over the late law of this State for regulating the manner of providing Waggons for the Service, he has found out some parts which he conceives might be amended so as more fully to answer the valuable purposes intended. He will lay the wished amendments before you and the Council for your consideration, and if you think with him that the Service will be benefitted by them, I have no doubt but you will recommend them to the Assembly at the opening of the next Session.1

There is a Grievance complained of by many persons, inhabitants of this State, who attend the Army in continental employ as Qr Masters, Waggon Masters, Teamsters &ca. They are called upon to do duty in the Militia, and if they do not appear, are fined to the Amount of their substitute money. This they conceive to be very hard upon them, as they are in the service of the States and ought to be as much exempted as Officers or Soldiers.

General Greene will represent this matter fully to you and point out an equitable mode of redress.2 He is interested in the matter as the persons who complain generally belong to his department. I have the honor to be Sir Your most obt Servt

Go: Washington

LS, in Tench Tilghman’s writing, PHi: Gratz Collection; Df, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. GW signed the cover of the LS.

1For the “late law,” see GW to George Gibson, 7 Mar., and note 1. Nathanael Greene explained in a letter of 9 April to Col. Clement Biddle, “I have communicated to the General our plan for an amendment of the Waggon Law of this State, the General thinks the alteration necessary; but is apprehensive there will be great difficulties arise from the Jealosies that subsist between the Army and the State: to obviate which he recommends my awaiting upon the Governor and Council, as a Letter however full will not fully explain all our wishes” (NNGL). Greene met with the Pennsylvania supreme executive council on 13 April and “represented to the Council, that there may probably be, cases of great & immediate necessity for Waggons for the use of the Army, which cannot be supplied by the mode pointed out by the Waggon Law, so as to answer such emergency; & he expressing an earnest desire of acting in the discharge of his duty as Quarter Master Gen’l in perfect harmony with this State & of conforming to the Laws of it, proposed, that some further authority be given by Law to him & his deputies, in extra cases.” The council considered Greene’s proposals and recorded its opinion in the minutes for 18 April: “That whenever a sudden & extraordinary emergency shall make the impressing of Waggons by a Military force absolutely necessary, that necessity must, from the nature of things, justify the impressing by force of Arms, but that it would be improper to trust such powers in the Military by Law” (PHarH: Records of Pennsylvania’s Revolutionary Governments, 1775–1790; see also Pa. Col. Records description begins Colonial Records of Pennsylvania. 16 vols. Harrisburg, 1840–53. description ends , 11:467). For a more detailed explication of the council’s position, see Wharton to GW, 13 April.

2On 13 April, Greene “represented to Council That great difficulties had arisen in the procuring of Waggon Masters & Teamsters, in consequence of the demands made on them for their service in the Militia, or for Payment of Substitution Money in lieu of such Service.” In response the Pennsylvania council recorded an opinion in the minutes for 18 April, “That Waggon Masters & Waggon drivers, actually enlisted in the Continental service for a reasonable time, are not liable to serve in the Militia during the time of their continuing in such service, nor subject to the Payment of Substitution Money: And that an enlistment in either of these services for Six Months, or longer time, ought to be considered by the Lieutenants & Sub-Lieutenants of the respective Counties of this State, as a good and sufficient cause to forbear levying the Substitution Money in such cases” (ibid.).

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