George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Joseph Reed, 30 August 1780

From Joseph Reed

Trenton August 30th 1780

Dear Sir

I take the earliest Oppy to acknowledge your Excellys Favour of the 26th Inst. & shall immediately comply with your Desires in every particular. I have already stoppd the distant Militia & shall discharge those here as soon as they are mustered which we are now about.1 All Stores will be duly collected & reserved so that in Case there should be any future Occasion we may not lessen the Continental Stock. I have been happy enough to preserve a perfect good Order so that even the Corn Fields & Gardens adjoining the Camp are untouchd & I have not had but one Complaint & that of a trivial Nature. I had made an Arrangement in Bucks County for our Subsistence but it was necessary to support it with some Force—Upon the whole I can assure your Excelly that our Collections & Exertions will leave this Post in a better Condition than we found it—I have directed the Agents of Bucks County to go on & forward to the Continental Officer every Supply that they can procure—the Contractors of this State represent great Difficulties for Want of Money so that I fear they will not be able to make the desired Exertions even to support this Post.

We made an Experiment in Bucks County to get the Aid of the Militia to impress a Number of Horses collected at a Race in Opposition to the Laws of the State2—but they declined the Service this with other Circumstances confirms my Opinion on this Point that a Force will be necessary, unless we could get Money which we cannot, the old Debts soaking up every new Supply. We have some Militia Horse that might be of Use to your Excelly at Camp & make the Detachmt of Continental Horse easier if it was thought proper. For we find that it does not answer to send Militia Horse to impress from their Friends & Neighbours.

I am ready at any personal Risque to execute any Measures for the Relief of the Army that may be thought proper & tho I know that Advantage will be taken of every Step to lessen me in the Opinion of the People or the Army I shall not hesitate to do what will best conduce to the publick Interests3—I am with the most sincere Respect & Regard Your Excelly most Obed. & devoted Hbble Serv.

Jos: Reed

ALS, DLC:GW. Reed wrote “Fav. by Colo. Sherborne” on the cover.

Reed wrote GW from Bloomsbury, N.J., on 2 Sept.: “I beg Leave to introduce to you Mr Sheill a Gentleman whose Enthusiasm in the American Cause has led him to this Country with a very considerable Fortune. Being disappointed in his Expectations of visiting the Camp in a military Capacity he wishes for an Oppy to pay his Respects to your Excellency as a private Gentleman.

“Having dismiss’d the Militia collected the Military Stores & transferr’d to the Qr Master and Commissary all that remained of our Forage & Provisions I shall set out immediately for Philad. where your Excelly may depend on every Exertion in my Power for the general Benefit. I have the Satisfaction of leaving this Post better supplied than I found it having drawn from Bucks County a very considerable Proportion of Forage & Provisions which we have left here.

“The deranged State of our publick Affairs is indeed much to be lamented & apprehended but I shall ever think they are to be ascribed to the Errors of the Year 1779—when the Prospect of a Winter Peace was evidently the Basis of all the Measures of Congress: & a few landed Men apprehensive of the Taxes on their Estates pour’d out the publick Money with such Profusion as to force the publick Bankruptcy—While they frustrated any Measure for restoring publick Credit either by a foreign Loan or a vigorous internal Exertion.

“In calling out the Militia of the State on this Occasion I have endeavoured to conform to your Excellency’s Orders both in Letter & Spirit, they only regret that Circumstances have not permitted them to give you farther Proof of their Affection & Confidence. And on any future Occasion I trust they will be equally ready to obey your Commands. For my own Part on every Account both publick & private I shall be happy to give every possible Proof of [my] sincere Attachment & Respect” (ALS, DLC:GW).

Maj. Gen. Nathanael Greene wrote Reed from camp in Bergen County on 19 Sept. that Hugh Shiell “informs me that the Enemies to Government with you, propagate a report that your calling out the Militia in the manner you did was a wanton display of power; and without the request of the Commander in Chief. I am in hopes the General has written you on the subject; and put it in your power to contradict the reports and bring shame and confusion upon your Enemies” (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 , 6:296–97; see also GW to Reed, 28 May, n.12).

2The Pennsylvania legislature attempted to prevent “horse racing” on Sundays, among other “such evil practices which tend greatly to debauch the minds and corrupt the morals of the subjects of this commonwealth,” by adopting “An Act for the Suppression of Vice and Immorality” on 30 March 1779 (Pa. Statutes description begins The Statutes at Large of Pennsylvania from 1682 to 1801. 18 vols. Harrisburg, Pa., 1896-1915. description ends , 9:333–38).

3Esther De Berdt Reed wrote her husband on 22 Aug.: “I am very anxious to know if you have heard from the General since the Committee left Camp. I can’t help thinking you will find an alteration when they leave him to his opinion. I confess I felt very sensibly his doubting your zeal or exertions in the cause of your country; neither of these nor your friendship for him, I think, can at this day be called in question; but his ears have been open to insinuations, perhaps of designing men, or at least ignorant ones. … But I hope you will suspend any decided judgment on the General’s conduct until you see him; he may probably explain it to your satisfaction; and remember, my friend, no one is entirely proof against the arts of misrepresentation, or can always act right when those in whom they place confidence make it a point to deceive us, or are themselves deceived” (Reed, Joseph Reed description begins William B. Reed. Life and Correspondence of Joseph Reed, Military Secretary of Washington, at Cambridge; Adjutant-General of the Continental Army; Member of the Congress of the United States; and President of the Executive Council of the State of Pennsylvania. 2 vols. Philadelphia, 1847. description ends , 2:267–68). For the Committee at Headquarters, see GW to Samuel Huntington, 3 April, source note.

Reed replied to his wife from Bloomsbury on 26 Aug.: “On the 23d inst. I received a long letter from the General, in answer to the one I wrote from this on my arrival here. He laments the situation of his army in point of provision, and desires we would not proceed till further orders. … As to going to Head-Quarters, I shall not do it unless something particular should make it necessary. I should not care to leave the troops, in the first place; and, as matters are circumstanced, I should not be fond of going to Head-Quarters uninvited. … Human nature is not equal to the task of watching and repelling such incessant and implacable malice, but I am grown very callous on these points. I shall do my duty to the best of my ability, and if, after all, prejudices arising from envy, and real, though causeless malignity, prevail, I trust it can only be for a season. … It is not unlikely the General has caught the infection in part, for mischief is ever industrious, but he has a good heart, and I believe slow in listening to evil reports. He may have more professing and adulating friends, but he has not a more sincere one in America. He is not in all respects lucky as to those about him, but, being honest himself, he will not readily suspect the virtue of others” (Reed, Joseph Reed description begins William B. Reed. Life and Correspondence of Joseph Reed, Military Secretary of Washington, at Cambridge; Adjutant-General of the Continental Army; Member of the Congress of the United States; and President of the Executive Council of the State of Pennsylvania. 2 vols. Philadelphia, 1847. description ends , 2:246–48; see also GW to Reed, 20 Aug.).

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