George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Major General Nathanael Greene, 5 May 1778

To Major General Nathanael Greene

Head Quarters [Valley Forge] May 5th 1778


In answer to your favour of the 3d I give it clearly as my opinion, that no change has happened in our affairs, which will justify the least relaxation in our military preparations and consequently that the provisions you have been, and are, making, in your department, ought to be continued in their fullest vigor and extent.1

Whether any, or what change may happen, in the local situation of the army, for the ensuing campaign, or what dispositions in your department, may be necessary, in consequence—are matters, which for particular reasons, I cannot yet determine. A council will soon be held, in which will be decided a general plan of operations for the army.2 When this is done, you shall receive your instructions accordingly; in the meantime, you will proceed in the plan already on foot. with great Esteem I am Sir Yr hume ser.

Df, in Alexander Hamilton’s writing, DLC:GW; Df, DLC: Alexander Hamilton Papers; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

1The draft in the Hamilton Papers contains four additional paragraphs between the two paragraphs of this version of the letter. The additional paragraphs read: “The intelligence from abroad is extremely favourable and affords us an earnest of success with proper management; but there is nothing in it, that can make it prudent to depart in the smallest degree from the exertions we should otherwise have made. There may still be business enough to call for our most strenuous efforts—Britain is a country full of resources—Her interest and connexions in Euro⟨pe⟩ are great—An union within, under a popular administration, which a principle of common dang⟨er⟩ may produce, would render her capable of great internal exertions—The storm which now seems to be rising in Europe may subside, and a compromise ensue, between the contending powers, from which a change in the system may result very advantageous to the views of our ennemies—All those are events which may happen, and which, if there were no other considerations, would make it unwise to suffer ourselves to be lulled into security, or to remit any endeavours, that may serve to put our military affairs upon the most respectable footing possible.

“But it is also to be remembered, that the British army in America is still very considerable, and if collected, would be formidable to all the force we should be able to oppose to it. In all probability, it will either be withdrawn, or assembled at one point for some vigorous and enterprising push, if it were only to make the way for a negotiation. The former is more to be wished than expected—British pride would never submit to it, but in the last extremity, and perhaps we should flatter ourselves too much to suppose that extremity exists. If the latter should be the case, remissness in our present preparations might be fatal, or at any rate could not fail to have a very injurious influence. The enemy might obtain successes, which would have a most unhappy operation upon the current of our sentiments at home, and upon the progress of our negotiations and growing friendships abroad.

“If we had nothing to fear from any offensive operations of the enemy, policy may require very extensive, and important offensive operations on our part, which will make it necessary we should be prepared, in the amplest manner, at all points.

“In a word; in what manner soever, the remainder of the contest is to be prosecuted, whether it is to depend upon fighting or negotiation—a powerful army well furnished with every apparatus of war will put it in our power to meet all contingencies with confidence and advantage; and to persue the true interests of these States through any combination of circumstances, that shall present itself, with firmness and decision.”

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