George Washington Papers

To George Washington from James Duane, 10 October 1780

From James Duane

Philadelphia 10th October 1780

My dear General

Yesterday I had the Honour of your Excellency’s very friendly Letter of the 4th Instant for which be pleased to accept my warmest Thanks.1

Before this reaches your Hands you will have received the new Arrangement of the Army: submitted, as it is, to your Opinion it is only to be considered as an Essay open to such Alterations as you may suggest.2 The Idea of a Majority of Congress was clear that it woud be too hazardous to risk the Defence of America on the practicability of drawing an Army for the War into the Field by the first of January: the Alternative therefore, as you will find it guarded, was thought necessary tho’ All admitted a permanent Force ⟨to⟩ be most desireable. I saw and explained the danger of an Alternative however cautiously expressed. The States may think they do enough if they comply with either of the Injunctions; and, while Men who make Arms a profession, have a prospect of being annually retained, for high premiums, they will hardly tie themselves at once for the War.

In the original proposition there was another Alternative—for the war, or for three years, besides that which gives your Excellency so much and such Just Apprehension: This last was rejected by a Majority: perhaps unfortunately as in the opinion of many it strengthend the Reasons for the annual Supply By drafts. I do not think it ⟨is⟩ too late to correct this Error if pointed out with the Force that every thing falls from your Pen.

The manner of Reduction is I am confident liable to great Objection, and I have no doubt but you will suggest a Rule or principle as Seniority or any thing you may think better, which will avoid the difficulty you suggest and meet with Approbation. for I do not conceive that a single Member will be tenacious of the provision on this Article—Indeed I am perswaded that your Excellency’s Representations on this and every Subject will have as much Influence as you can wish, and that on this particular Occasion nothing but a Clear Conviction of Impracticability will induce Congress to overrule your Opinion.

A false Estimate of the power and Perseverance of our Enemies was friendly to the present Revolution: and inspired that Confidence of Success, in all Ranks of people, which was necessary to unite them in so arduous a Cause. You cannot forget the Opinions which were Current on this Floor at the first and second Congresses and how firmly they established this Error. We seem to part with it with Reluctance; it still hangs heavy upon us; and has produced the Indecision the Expedients and the Debility of which you complain. I hope Misfortunes and distresses will at length rouse us to Just Sentiments and vigorous Exertions; and with your Excellency I pray God That the fatal Delusion which has marked our Conduct may end here.

When the Enemy turn their Eyes to the Southward they see too much Imbecility not to be encour[a]ged to attempt to extend their Conquest and improve Advantages which they have derived in no small Degree from our own Temerity and Misconduct: I believe we shall not want Men to oppose them, Virginia having made Efforts the Expansiveness of which is incr⟨ed⟩ible; and North Carolina being equally disposed to act vigorously tho’ not so capable to raise their Quota for a fixed and certain period.3 I wish we may have it in our power to provide the necessary Supplies: your Excellency too well knows and feels our difficulties and Embarrasments, and that they are only to be surmounted by great Exertions: I flatter myself that you do me no more than Justice in believing that Duty and Inclination equally demand my Assiduous Endeavours to correct our past Errors and draw forth our Resources.

I am much obliged to your Excellency for your Account of the Interview at Hartford; and beg you to believe that no Man can be with greater Affection and personal Estatchment, than I am—My dear General Your Most Obedient and very humble Servant

Jas Duane

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