George Washington Papers

From George Washington to James Bowdoin, 28 August 1780

To James Bowdoin

Liberty pole in Bergen County Augt 28th 1780

I am much obliged to you My dear Sir for your letter of the 17th and for the interesting intelligence you do me the favor to communicate.

The Blockade of the Port of Brest by delaying the Sailing of the second division makes a material change in our prospects. I fear it will put it out of our power to operate against New York. but if we are not unfortunate in Europe and if vigorous measures are taken to give us Magazines, we may still hope for some important operation; but it will probably be in a different quarter. I think however as I have mentioned in my official letter to you that we ought not to discontinue raising Men for the Continental Battalions,1 as there is a possibility that we may still operate here, from the Movements of the Cadiz fleet, or by a reinforcement from the Islands2—Or if an operation here should not be practicable the increasing our force will enable us the better to detach to the Southward.

I should be happy to comply with the wishes of the Council respecting the Arms; but our present deficiencies and the casualties that dayly arise will make us stand in need of all that has arrived in the Alliance—We expect a further supply shortly and the State may depend that as soon as possible its loan shall be replaced3—I entreat your influence to have all the Arms powder Cannon & Cloathing ready made forwarded without delay to Springfield; for the Officers in the Service of the Continent have not the necessary means of transportation.

I am informed of a set of resolutions lately entered into by a convention of delegates from the four Eastern States, which if rightly represented to me, & carried into execution will be the most likely means that could be adopted to rescue our affairs from the complicated & dreadful embarrassments under which they labour, & will do infinite honor to those with whom they originate—I sincerely wish they may meet with no opposition or delay in their progress.4 Our situation is truly delicate, and demds all our Wisdom, all our Virtue, all our energy. Great Britain No doubt encounters many Serious perplexities and dangers; But there will be no miracle in her surmounting them.

In Europe by the last advices there was a critical moment where the chances were too equally ballanced—On this Continent the affairs of the enemy are rather too prosperous—In the West Indies at this Season, the Elements may fight against our Allies; but here is our best hope.

As to domestic dissentions though they will no doubt embarrass, I confess I have no great confidence in them5—We have every motive to be in earnest and to exert ourselves to the utmost to take care of ourselves.6 With the truest esteem I have the honor to be Dr Sir Yr Most Obedt Servt

Go: Washington

ALS, MeB; Df, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

1See n.6 below.

2A combined French and Spanish fleet did not lift the British blockade at Brest, France (see Bowdoin to GW, 17 Aug., n.4). GW desired the blockaded French second division so his army and the French at Rhode Island could attack the British at New York City (see GW to the Massachusetts Council, 12 Sept.). No French reinforcements came from the West Indies in 1780, and the second division never arrived from France (see William Heath to GW, 6 Sept., n.3).

5GW likely refers to riots at London in June.

6Bowdoin replied to GW on 7 Sept. in his official capacity as Massachusetts Council president (see GW to the Massachusetts Council, this date, n.4).

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