George Washington Papers

Circular to the States, 26 August 1779

Circular to the States

West point August the 26th 1779


In a letter which I had the Honor of addressing You on the 22d of May—I took the liberty to mention the inconveniences which had prevailed for want of system in the Cloathing department, and the necessity there was for an early appointment of State or Sub Cloathiers, agreable to the Ordinance, established by Congress, by their Act of the 23d of March,1 with which I presumed you had been made acquainted. I am now under the necessity of troubling you with a farther address, upon the subject of Cloathing itself. From the best information I have been able to obtain, both from Returns and particular inquiries; I fear there is but too much reason to apprehend, that unless the Respective States interpose with their exertions, our supplies of this essential Article will be very deficient; and that the Troops may again experience on this account, a part of those distresses, which were so severely and injuriously felt in past stages of the war; and which a regard to the interests of the States as well as to the duties of humanity should prevent, if it be practicable. I do not know exactly how matters may turn out with respect to Woollen Cloathing, I should hope tolerably well, but if the attention of the State should even go to this, there will be little probability of our having an oversupply: But the Articles to which I would take the liberty to solicit Your more particular attention—are Blankets, Shirts, Shoes & Hats (more especially the two first) as our prospect of these is by no means pleasing and such indeed as decides, that the supply from the Continental Cloathiers and Agents will fall far short, or at least stand upon too critical and precarious a footing. The importance and advantages of good supplies of Cloathing are evident—and they have been most remarkably and happily demonstrated in the health of the Troops, since they have been pretty comfortably provided for in this instance. A circumstance of all others the most interesting.

While I am on the subject of cloathing—I would also beg leave to add, that the condition of the Officers in this respect, appears to me, to require the attention of their States. It is really in many instances painfully distressing. The want of necessaries and of the means of procuring them at the present exorbitant2 prices,3 has compelled a great many Officers of good reputation and merit, to resign their Commissions; and, if they are not relieved, it must be the case with many Others, as they will have no alternative. I have the Honor to be with the greatest esteem & respect Sir Yr Most Obedt servant

Go: Washington

LS, in Robert Hanson Harrison’s writing, addressed to Massachusetts Council president Jeremiah Dummer Powell, M-Ar; LS, in Harrison’s writing, addressed to Maryland governor Thomas Johnson, MdAA; LS, in Robert Hanson Harrison’s writing, addressed to New Jersey governor William Livingston, Nj; LS, in Richard Kidder Meade’s writing, addressed to Connecticut governor Jonathan Trumbull, Sr., Ct: Trumbull Papers; LS, in James McHenry’s writing, addressed to New Hampshire Council president Meshech Weare, Nh-Ar: Weare Papers; transcript, addressed to Pennsylvania Council president Joseph Reed, MH: Sparks transcripts; Df, in Harrison’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC: GW. There are several minor textual variations in the different copies of this circular. No copies of the circulars sent to Gov. William Greene of Rhode Island, Gov. George Clinton of New York, and Gov. Caesar Rodney of Delaware have been found. A cover signed by GW and addressed to Rodney—and probably mistakenly associated with GW’s second circular to Rodney of this date—was offered for sale by Remember When Auctions, Inc., on 18 July 1998 (auction catalog number 44); it is docketed in part “Solicting cloathing” and “To be answered.” No reply from Rodney has been found.

The letter addressed to Virginia governor Thomas Jefferson did not include the first seventy-two words; instead, GW substituted the following: “Your Excellency I make no doubt has been made fully acquainted with the Ordinance established by Congress by their Act of the 23d of March for regulating the Cloathing department—and recommending the Respective States to appoint State or Sub Cloathiers. I addressed the Other States on this subject on the 22d of May—but deemed the measure unnecessary with respect to Virginia—as a Gentleman had been already appointed to act as such.

“I have filled up Two of the Commissions transmitted by Your Excellency for John Allison—Gentn as Lieut. Colo. of the 1st State Regiment to rank as such from 1 January 1779 vice Brent promoted & for Thos Meriwether as Major of the same—to rank from same date vice Allison promoted” (Df, in Harrison’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW). The remainder of the letter is the same as that sent to the other governors.

1See 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 13:353–360.

2On the draft manuscript, which is in the writing of GW’s secretary Robert Hanson Harrison, the word “outrageous” is crossed out before this word.

3At this point on the draft manuscript, Harrison wrote and then marked out the following words: “even if the service could have admitted of their going in pursuit of them.”

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