George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Samuel Huntington, 5–6 May 1780

To Samuel Huntington

Head Qrs Morris Town May 5th[–6] 1780


On the 28th Ulto I received the honor of Your Excellency’s several Letters of the 18th 20th & 22d with their Inclosures.

The Act of the 10th containing assurances for making up the depreciation of pay to the Army has been published in general Orders—and will no doubt give great satisfaction.1

I am much obliged by the communications in Your Excellency’s Letter of the 20th. The arrival of the reinforcement at Martinique is a pleasing circumstance—and I would willingly hope that Our Allies will have a decided superiority in their Naval force in that as well as in every Other Quarter. It is infinitely interesting to us that it should be the case.

With respect to the plan which it is said by the intercepted Letter—the Enemy mean to pursue—it is possible they may adopt it so far as it goes to the establishing of posts. If they do however, it will be impracticable for them to make Detachments to the West Indies unless they are reinforced. And if they pursue the first part of the plan—it must be from an impression of our embarrasments—and from an opinion that we shall not be able to act again with any vigor; as it must occasion a great division of their forces, and such as at Another time might be dangerous.

It is certainly interesting to the prisoners on both sides and to the general purposes of humanity—that there should be a person to act for each as an Agent. The Enemy hitherto have refused to acknowledge Mr Pintard in a public character, but have still permitted him to reside in New York—and to do duties in some degree incident to such an appointment.2 It is probable they will do no more now.

I beg leave to inform Congress that it will be an agreable circumstance—if the state of the Treasury will admit of a supply of Money, being sent to the Military chest. There is now Four month’s pay due the Army—and there are frequent applications for it. The state of our provision which unhappily has been but too distressing for a long time, renders their having money however little valuable it may be, more essential than ever, to assist them in procuring necessaries. I wish our prospects of relief with respect to supplies were more promising than they are.3 My apprehensions are constantly up on this head—and it has often happened that there was little or no probability of our holding out for more than a few days at farthest. I was much alarmed yesterday on account of our stock of meat, but happily a few Cattle came in from Connecticut, which will assist us for the present moment.4 I have the Honor to be with the highest respect & esteem Your Excellency’s Most Obedt Sert

Go: Washington

P.S. I inclose Your Excellency Three New York papers. By the last You will find that the Enemy have received very late advices from Europe; but nothing has transpired as yet.5

I am just now informed that the Enemy believe Paul Jones is on the Coast with a small Squadron—consisting of a 44 Gun Ship—Two pretty large Frigates and Two other Vessels of lesser size. The account is circumstantially related and as if they relied on it—and says that the Galatea had been chased into the Hook by them—and in consequence the Russel of 74 Guns and the Frigates at New York were preparing to go out in quest of them.6

6th [May] 9 oClock A.M.

I have this minute received a Line from the Marquiss Fayette dated the 27 Ulto announcing his arrival at the entrance of Boston Harbour. I hope to have the pleasure of seeing him in Two or three days.7

LS, in Robert Hanson Harrison’s writing, DNA:PCC, item 152; Df, DLC:GW; copy, DNA:PCC, item 169; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. Congress read GW’s letter on 8 May and referred “so much thereof as relates to money” to the Board of Treasury (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 , 17:415).

1See the general orders for 30 April.

2Harrison, who also prepared the draft, wrote and then struck out at this place on that manuscript: “and from which our prisoners have derived great advantages.”

4Q.M. Gen. Nathanael Greene expressed the same view in more ominous language when he wrote Jeremiah Wadsworth from Morristown on 8 May. Greene’s letter in part reads: “The Army is ready to disband this moment for want of proper provision. The Soldiery are neither fed or paid; and are getting sour amazingly fast. Such a temper never appeard in our Army before. God knows how it will end.

“The business of the great departments of the Army is at a stand. The Agents are without money or credit; and pretty generally disgusted. They are involved in heavy debts and little or no prospect of paying them. In this situation the Treasury Board are insulting their feelings by saying they have been guilty of abusive expenditure of public money. How are we to get forward in this State of things? It is true there is a Committee of Congress, for new arranging the great Departments; but it is only to accomodate it to that milk and water plan, of support’g the Army by drawing out supplies in specifick articles, from the different States. The Committee appear to be liberal good men, and fully sensible of our approaching ruin, in spight of all they can do, unless there is a total new plan for mending the heart instead of repairing the extreames of the Animal. The Congress are a Chapter of expedients, and a body of little things; and without they mend thier manners, and change their policy, they will soon have the honor of entailing slavery upon us” (Greene Papers description begins Richard K. Showman et al., eds. The Papers of General Nathanael Greene. 13 vols. Chapel Hill, N.C., 1976–2005. description ends , 5:550–52). The same tone characterizes Greene’s letter to Joseph Reed, president of the Pennsylvania Supreme Executive Council, written at Morristown on 10 May: “Time wont permit me to enter into the field of difficulties that lies before us, nor to give you a full history of our present distress. Let it suffice to say, that the Army has not four Days provision of meat in the World; neither have the State or Continental Agents any in prospect, unless it can be had from the State of Pennsylvania. … We cannot hold together many days, in the present temper of the Army, should there be a want of provision. I beg you therefore, to make every possible exertion to forward us some Cattle and salted provision. …

“The great man is confounded at his situation; but appears to be reserved and pretty silent” (Greene Papers description begins Richard K. Showman et al., eds. The Papers of General Nathanael Greene. 13 vols. Chapel Hill, N.C., 1976–2005. description ends , 5:553–54).

5The enclosed New York newspapers have not been identified, but New York City printer Hugh Gaine wrote in his journal entry for 2 May: “A Frigate called the Venus in 6 weeks from London with an account that a large French Fleet was sailed for the West Indies and that another was supposed to be fitting out in France also for New York” (Ford, Journals of Hugh Gaine description begins Paul Leicester Ford, ed. The Journals of Hugh Gaine, Printer. 1902. Reprint. [New York] 1970. description ends , 2:86). Gaine may have mistaken the frigate’s name; William Smith, royal chief justice of New York, wrote in his memoirs for 4 May that “the Pearl Frigate” had “arrived the Night before last” with a warning “to be on our Guard against a Fleet from Brest with Troops” (Sabine, Smith’s Historical Memoirs description begins William H. W. Sabine, ed. Historical Memoirs . . . of William Smith, Historian of the Province of New York. 2 vols. New York, 1956–58. description ends [1971], 260).

6Capt. John Paul Jones was then in France, and nothing factual supported this report.

In his letter to Connecticut governor Jonathan Trumbull, Sr., written at Philadelphia on 9 May, Connecticut delegate Oliver Ellsworth commented: “There are very circumstantial accounts from New York, transmitted to General Washington, that Paul Jones in on this Coast with a small squadron of five Ships, & had lately chased some vessels into the Hook, & that a 74 Gun Ship & some Frigats were preparing at New York to go in quest of him. This may be true, it is unknown to Congress where he is” (Smith, Letters of Delegates description begins Paul H. Smith et al., eds. Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774–1789. 26 vols. Washington, D.C., 1976–2000. description ends , 15:101–3).

7Major General Lafayette reached Morristown on 10 May (see GW to Lafayette, 8 May, and n.2 to that document).

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