George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Samuel Huntington, 8 September 1780

To Samuel Huntington

Head Qrs near Hackensack New-bridge [N.J.]
Sepr 8th 1780.


Since the letter which I did myself the honor to write Congress the 20th Ulto,1 I have been more attentively considering the import of the resolution of the 5th of August, and am at a loss to satisfy myself as to the precise extent—whether it be meant to authorise me to extend my views beyond the present Campaign and even to apply to the Ministers of France & Spain in Europe—or only to concert plans for the present fall & Winter with the Ministers & Officers of those powers on the Continent or in the West Indies.2

The latter appeared to me the most natural construction and was the one I had adopted, but intimations have been given me by particular Gentlemen that Congress understood the resolve in the first sense. If, I have been mistaken in my interpretation I request to have the resolve explained in a full and explicit manner. If I am right, no explanation will be necessary.3

I also take the liberty to request to be informed whether Congress in two or three Months from the present period can rely on being able to furnish Specie—or Bills on Europe for the Maintenance of a body of four or five thousand Men in4 a Country where the paper of these States will not serve as a Currency.

I should also be glad if Congress will have the goodness to assist me with some lights how far the States of South and North Carolina have ability to contribute to the support of an Army in the Articles of Bread—Meat—Forage—Horses & Waggons.5 I suppose an Army to be there sufficient to secure to us the full command of them.

I entreat as speedy an answer as possible to these points, which are of the greatest consequence in determining our future plans—particularly I wish for immediate information on the subject of the money.

But the basis of every plan we can form is an Army and the means of subsistance—without immediate measures to supply the places of the Men who leave us, by the first of January we shall scarcely have any thing that deserves the name of one—Our whole efficient force in this quarter will then probably be less than Six thousand Men.6 In proposing plans of co-operation, I must engage that something specific shall be performed on our part—Congress will be sensible that I cannot do this, as to any plan of future execution, when I know that our Army will be reduced one half in less than four Months; and when so far from being certain that we shall have it in our power to replace the Men in time, I do not even know what measures will be attempted for the purpose, nor when they will be undertaken. The honor of Congress & the States as well as my own reputation, forbid me to enter into engagements, which I have no assurance of our being able to fulfil.7 I have the honor to be with every Sentiment of respect & Esteem Sir Yr Most Obedt & Hble Servt

Go: Washington

ALS, DNA:PCC, item 152; Df, DLC:GW; copy, DNA:PCC, item 169; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. Congress read this letter on 12 Sept. and referred it to the committee considering GW’s letter to Huntington dated 20 Aug. (see 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 , 18:819).

1See the source note above.

2See 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 , 17:698–99; see also Huntington to GW, 5 August.

3Huntington presumably confirmed GW’s construction when he acknowledged this letter without comment (see Huntington to GW, 12 Sept.; see also GW to Guichen, same date).

4“Canada” is struck out at this point in the draft, which GW’s aide-de-camp Alexander Hamilton penned.

5An undated congressional document that GW does not appear to have received indicated that North and South Carolina had little capacity to furnish wagon teams and provisions, especially flour (DNA:PCC, item 152).

7GW had scheduled a strategy meeting with the French (see The Hartford Conference, 20–22 Sept., editorial note).

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