George Washington Papers

From George Washington to John Cadwalader, 5 October 1780

To John Cadwalader

Head Qrs Tappan Octr 5th 80

Dear Sir,

I have to acknowledge an⟨d⟩ thank you for your obliging & friendly letter of the 20th Ulto. It came to this place in my absence from the Army, and during my necessary detention at West point on a very interesting but disgraceful incident in our Military occurrences.1

Altho’ I have but little leizure fo⟨r⟩ the gratification of private corrispondencies, I beg you to be assured, that from a warmth of friendship, any letters of yours will be gratefully accepted. and it is with much pleasure I receive fresh assurances of you⟨r⟩ regard & attachment to me.2

We are now drawing an inactive Campaign to a close. The beginning of which appeared pregnant with events of a favourable complexion. I hoped, but hoped in vain—that a prospect was displaying which would enable me to fix a period to my Military pursuits, and restore me to domestic life.

The favourable disposition of Spain—The promised succour from Fran⟨ce⟩3—The combined force in the West Indies4—The declaration of Russia (acceded to by other powers of Europe—humiliating to the naval pride & power of Great Britain)5—The superiority of France & Spain by Sea in Europe—The Irish claims—and British disturbances,6 formed in the agregate an opinion in my breast—which is not very susceptable of peaceful dreams—that the hour of deliverance was not far distant, for that however unwilling Great Britain might be to yield the point, it would not be in her power to continue the contest. But alas! these prospects, flattering as they were, have proved delusory, and I see nothing before us but accumulating distress. We have been half our time without provision & are like to continue so. We have no Magazines, nor money to form them. And in a little time we shall have no men, if we had money to pay them. We have lived upon expedients till we can live no longer—In a word the history of the War is a history of false hopes and temporary devices, instead of system & œconomy.

It is in vain however to look back—nor is it our business to do so—Our case is not desperate if virtue exists in the people, and there is wisdom among our rulers; but to suppose that this great revolution can be accomplished by a temporary Army—that this Army will be subsisted by State supplies—and that taxation alone is adequate to our wants, is, in my opinion absurd, and as unreasonable as to expect an Inversion in the order of nature to accomodate things to our views.

If it was necessary, it coul⟨d⟩ easily be proved to any person of a moderate share of understanding, that an annual Army—or an Army raised on the spur of the occasion—besides being unqualified for the end designed, is, in various ways which could be enumerated, ten times more expensive than a permanent body of men under good organization and military discipline; which never was, nor never will be the case of new Troops—A thousand arguments resulting from experience & the nature of things might also be adduced to prove, that the Army, if it is to depend upon State supplies, must disband or starv⟨e⟩; and that taxation alone (especially at this late hour) cannot furnish the mean to carry on the War—Is it not time then to retract from error, and benefit by experience? or do we want further proof of the ruinous system we have pertinaciously adhered to⟨?⟩

You seem to regret not havi⟨ng⟩ accepted the appointment of Congre⟨ss⟩ to a command in the Army—It is a circumstance that ever was sincerely regretted by me—and it is the more to be lamented as we find an Officer high in Rank and military reputation, capable of turning apostate and attempting to sell his Country;7 Men of independent spirit and firmness of Mind, must step forth to rescue our affairs from the embarrassment they have fallen into, or they will suffer in the general wreck—I do not mean to apply this more to the Military than civil line—We want the best and ablest men in both.

To tell you, if any event shd ever bring you to the Army, and you have no command in it equal to your merit, nor place more agreeable than being a member of my family, that I should be happy in seeing you there—would only be repeating what I have often said before, and you want no proof of.

My best respects attend Mrs Cadwalader; and compliments of congratulation await you both on the Increase of your family.8 With sentiments of the most sincere regard & affection, I am—Dr Sir Yr most Obedt Servt

Go: Washington

ALS, PHi: Cadwalader Collection; ADfS, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. Obscured material on the ALS is supplied in angle brackets from the draft.

3Anticipated reinforcements from France never arrived (see GW to James Bowdoin, 28 Aug., n.1).

4For these French and Spanish forces, see Samuel Huntington to GW, 7 Aug., n.1.

5Empress Catherine II of Russia had acted to protect neutral trading rights (see GW to Huntington, 6 July, n.6).

6For recent intelligence on Spanish policies and unrest in London, see William Gordon to GW, 21 August. An independence movement had gained strength in Ireland (see General Orders, 16 March, and n.1 to that document).

7GW struck out “for the sake of lucre” at this place in his draft.

8Williamina Bond Cadwalader (1753–1837) became Cadwalader’s second wife on 30 Jan. 1779. Her father, Phineas Bond, Sr., was among the founders of the University of Pennsylvania and the American Philosopical Society. A son, Thomas, was born to the Cadwaladers on 29 Oct. 1779.

John Cadwalader again wrote GW on 5 June 1781 (DLC:GW).

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