George Washington Papers

To George Washington from a Board of General Officers, 11 September 1778

From a Board of General Officers

[White Plains, c.11 September 1778]

The board of General officers to whom your Excellency was pleased to refer a draught of a number of resolves transmitted to your perusal and observations there on by Congress relative to the appointment of an Inspector General &c.1 have attentively considered the same and view with concern that resolves so dangerous in their consequences to the safety of the united States as some of them are & so derogatory to the officrs of the army in general should ever have been penned and with surprise that they should have been thought to have merited the attention of the Congress and offer the following remarks, & some of the reasons among many which pointed us to them.

Remarks on the first Resolve. That in all future appointments the Inspector General be taken from the line of the army and have such rank as he hold, in that line.

Because many inconveniencies have been experiencd in the army from rank being given to men not in the proper line thereof.

On the 2d Resolve and in lieu thereof. The duty of the Inspector Genl shall be to direct the exercise of the troops in the manual evolutions & manœuvers for the service on guard, detachment camp and garrison duty—That he shall review the troops at such time & place and receive such return of them as the commander in chief shall from time to time direct and shall confine himself at such reviews to the inspection of the men their arms accoutriments clothing and exercise only—And in exercising the troops in the manual evolutions and manœuvres he shall govern him self by no other system of rules and regulations but such as shall be agreed on by himself in conjunction or in council with a board of General officers appointed for that purpose & be approved of by the commander in chief which are to be transmitted to the board of war with all convenient dispatch.

Because that although we have the utmost confidence in the wisdom and integrity of the present commander in chief, yet the time may come when the armies of America may, unhappily, be commanded by a Genl of a very different character.

Because the returns of the army should be in the hands of the commander in chief only or to such as he shall communicate them, as the safety of the army & the liberties of this country may be in danger in certain circumstances should their strength by negligence or other wise be disclosed.

Because a great part of the resolve is unnecessary as officers are already appointed to the several parts of the duty therein pointed out, and who from their perticular connection with the troops must be best quallified for the discharge of it—and because it is depriving the present officers of corps of part of that duty which in all services would devolve upon them and will thereby render them cheap & contemptable as they will be held up, either as unequall to their duty or wanting in attention to the faithfull discharge of it.

On the 3d Resolve. Unnecessary.

Because the senior sub-inspector may do all the duty assigned to the assistant inspector and thereby avoid multiplying offices & rank—And because2 the assistant Inspector General must be the oldest Colonel of the army who may probably be unfit for the office or a young Colonel or a person not in the line must be promoted out of their proper course which would occasion disgust.

On the 4th Resolve. That there be one Lieutenant colonel of cavalry one Lieutenant colonel of Light troops & four lieutenant colonels of infantry appointed as sub inspectors all of whom are to receive their instructions from the Inspector General relative to the exercise of the troops in the manual evolutions & manœuvres for the purpose of regulating the service on guard detachment camp and garrison duty. And that on the death or removal of the inspector general the senior sub inspector shall do the duty of the inspector General untill an other shall be appointed by Congress.

On the 5th Resolve. That Brigade inspectors be appointed from time to time by the commander in chief from the line of their respective Brigades as hath been practised heretofore.

Because annexing the office of Brigade inspectors to that of Majors of Brigade will be depriving the Brigadiers of a necessary officer and at the very time when he hath the most need of his services viz. forming the Brigade speedily for action and changing its position as circumstances may require to which duty an aid taken from the line of subalterns will probably be incompetent and because the Brigade majors have lately been taken from the Captains of the lines.

On the 6th Resolve. Unnecessary—For the above reasons.

On the 7th Resolve. That the Inspector General & sub-Inspectors hold command in the line according to their ranks and appointments therein abstracted from their office of inspectors by which they are to have no comand in the line whatever, that they shall be exempt from all common detached camp and garrison dutis that they may attend more carefully to those of the Inspection.

On the 8th Resolve. The first paragraph unnecessary—The second provided in the 2d Resolve.

On the 9th Resolve. Unnecessary, excepting the last paragraph.

Because to suppose that in the army every officer will not be treated with that respect due to his rank & office is an implied & unmerited reflection and because provision is made for part of this resolve in the second resolve.

On the 10th Resolve. Unnecessary.

Because there is provision therefor in the rules and regulations made for the better government of the army, besides should it be adopted it would convey a reflection and a want of confidence in those in whom those powers are already more propely vested from their acquaintance and immediate connection with the troops, but be fraught with other inconveniences as it will be establishing a kind inquisitional authority totally inconsistant with the good of the service.

On the 11th Resolve. The right of appointment undoubtedly in the Congress.

On the 12th Resolve. Unnecessary.

On the 13th Resolve. That General Washing[ton] be desired to appoint the sub Inspectors before mentioned and that he add to their Number or diminish as future circumstances and his judgment shall derect.

Upon the whole it is painful to the board to observe that if the resolutions in question should be passed into ordinan[c]es it would form a new fangled system of power running through the line of the army uncontrouled and unchecked totally inconsistent with that chain of connection and dependence which is the foundation and support of all military establishment.

But the board observe with pleasure that resolutions containing matters of so great importance have not received the sanction of Congress untill the Commander in chief had been consulted.

Jno. Nixon P: Muhlenberg.
Israel Putnam Saml H. Parsons J. Huntington
Horatio Gates James Clinton
The Baron de Kalb. W. Smallwood
B. Lincoln H. Knox
Alexr McDougall Enoch Poor
Wm Woodford

LS, DLC:GW. GW’s first letter to Henry Laurens of 12 Sept. indicates that he received the resolutions under consideration on 31 Aug. and completed his review of them on 11 September. The board’s report was most likely submitted about the time of GW’s completion of the review.

1For the resolutions, transmitted with Henry Laurens’s second letter to GW of 20 Aug., 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 , 11:819–23.

2The remainder of this paragraph was written just above the signatures on the last page of the letter and marked for inclusion at this point.

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