George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Ephraim Blaine, 21 May 1780

From Ephraim Blaine

Philada 21st May 1780


The Executive and Legis[la]tive authority of this state are dissatisfied with my representation to your Excellency, and insist that the State cannot produce any beef of consequence, I have assured them it can and pointed out the places where1—upon which they have permited me to purchase from those Persons in the best manner I can, and given me Orders upon the County Treasurers for money to pay the same2—I shall be able to send off a drove of about fifty Cattle next tuesday Morning from the Meadows, and hope in a few days to make up One or two more3—I have fallen upon a plan last night—which will produce three Hundred and odd barrels of salt Provisions, this I shall be able to forward by Wedensday next4—One Hundred Barrels of Pork was forwarded yesterday for Trenton, and I expect One Hundred more from Maspillion Landing in a day or two.5

The assembly have repealed the Law for which all State Officers were to receive their saleries in wheat, and have made another to receive their pay in the new Money, and to take it in pay for taxes, the Merchants have had a meeting and have agreed to take it as gold and Silver, this Act of the assembly and the Agrement of the Merchants will certainly give it a Currency,6 and enable the State Contracters to procure Considerable Quantities of Provisions—your Excellency may be assured of my utmost Exertions to feed the army and Studying every means to procure supplies.7 I have the honor to be verry respectfully Your Excellencies Most Obdt and Most Hble Servt

Eph: Blaine C.G.P.


1Blaine had written Joseph Reed, president of the Pennsylvania Supreme Executive Council, from Philadelphia on 20 May: “I left Head Quarters late on the evening of the eighteenth, and find it will be impossible to feed the Army without the Aid of the Legislative authority impowering their Commissioners to purchase or to take Cattle wherever they can find them fit for use.

“The want of Money last fall deprived the Agents from securing any large quantities of Salt Provisions, and the severity of the winter has deprived many of the Connecticut Farmers from feeding Cattle, on whom our principal dependance was for Beef; those circumstances, and our Salt Provisions being exhausted, has reduced the Army to half allowance of Meat; indeed on this day there is not a single pound in Camp.

“This State is capable of furnishing a considerable number of Stock Cattle, which will make good Beef if proper means are adopted to collect them. I would beg leave to point out to your Excellency the proper places:—the County of Chester and the Meadows on Delaware, Lancaster, Bucks & York Counties; indeed, a few may be provided in each County. The States of Jersey and New York have been so drain’d we can expect very little Assistance from them; therefore, without your speedy Aid in giving a Supply of Meat, the Army must undoubtedly disband for want of that necessary Article. Would beg your Excellency to give immediate Orders to the County Contractors to enter upon the Execution of their respective Purchases with all possible dispatch, as a very few Days will reduce me to want every necessary for the Army, and oblige me to call on the Contractors for the Supplies required from this State” (Pa. Archives description begins Samuel Hazard et al., eds. Pennsylvania Archives. 9 ser., 138 vols. Philadelphia and Harrisburg, 1852–1949. description ends , 1st ser., 8:260).

2At a 20 May meeting the Pennsylvania Supreme Executive Council recommended that the state treasurer “draw on the County Treasurer in favour of Colonel Blaine, or his order, for a sum sufficient to purchase two hundred and eighty Cattle” (Pa. Col. Records description begins Colonial Records of Pennsylvania. 16 vols. Harrisburg, 1840–53. description ends , 12:359).

3The following Tuesday was 23 May. On 26 May, Charles Stewart, commissary general of issues, expected the delivery of about fifty cattle to camp (see GW to Henry Champion, Sr., that date, n.2). Blaine wrote the Committee at Headquarters on 25 May that he intended to set out the next day for Lancaster and Tulpehocken, Pa., where he hoped “to make up a Drove of one hundred phaps more” (DLC: Ephraim Blaine Letterbook).

4Philadelphia merchants promised about 600 barrels of salt provision by 25 May, with 200 given Blaine on 22 May (see Board of War to GW, that date, and n.2 to that document; see also Reed to Nathanael Greene, 23 May, in 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 , 5:578–79).

5A supply of pork from Trenton and cattle from Connecticut arrived at headquarters by 27 May (see GW to Samuel Huntington, 27–28 May).

Mispillion (Mispening, Maspillion) Creek in Delaware, a small stream, flowed into Delaware Bay about fourteen miles northwest of Lewes and formed part of the boundary between Kent and Sussex counties.

6The Pennsylvania legislature had passed a law “for the Better Support of Certain Officers” on 27 Nov. 1779 that declared that fees for officers “shall be estimated and paid according to the price of good merchantable wheat” (Pa. Statutes description begins The Statutes at Large of Pennsylvania from 1682 to 1801. 18 vols. Harrisburg, Pa., 1896-1915. description ends , 10:39–42). This act was not repealed until 21 June 1781 (see Pa. Statutes description begins The Statutes at Large of Pennsylvania from 1682 to 1801. 18 vols. Harrisburg, Pa., 1896-1915. description ends , 10:342). On 17 May 1780, “a Committee of Merchants” conferred with the Pennsylvania Supreme Executive Council “on several difficulties arising on the currency proposed to be given to the State money now issuing.” They retired after reaching “mutual satisfaction” (Pa. Col. Records description begins Colonial Records of Pennsylvania. 16 vols. Harrisburg, 1840–53. description ends , 12:353–54; see also GW to James Duane, 13 May, n.6).

7GW replied to Blaine from Morristown on 27 May: “I duly received Your Letter of the 21st Instant. I have only to entreat your every possible exertion to procure & forward on all the Cattle You can with the greatest expedition. The Troops have been greatly distressed for want of supplies—which at length has been attended with some very disagreable consequences” (Df, in Robert Hanson Harrison’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW; see also GW to the Board of War, 27 May). For the “disagreable consequences”—the mutiny of two Connecticut regiments—see Return Jonathan Meigs to GW, 26 May.

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