George Washington Papers

From George Washington to William Fitzhugh, 22 October 1780

To William Fitzhugh

Hd Qrs Passaic Falls Oct. 22: 1780

Dear Sir,

The Gentn who will have the honor of presenting you with this letter, is Majr Genl Greene, a particular friend of mine, and one who I would beg leave to recommend to your civilities. He is going to take command of the Southern Army, and calls at Annapolis to make some arrangements with the State respecting its supplies which are turned into that direction.1

This Gentleman is so intimately acquainted with our situation & prospects—& can relate them with such accuracy, that I shall Not trouble you with them—My best respects attend Mrs Fitzhugh and the young Officer, whose final exchange is, I hope, not far distant; if the Prisoners we have in this quarter will reach the date of his captivity in the exchange we are about to make. The Comy is Now gone in with powers to effect this purpose.2 I am Dr Sir Yr Obt & Affecte Hble Ser.

Go: Washington

P.S. I hope the Assemblies that are now sitting, or are about to sit, will not rise till they put three things in a fair & proper train.

First, to give full & ample powers to Congress, competent to all the purposes of War.

Secondly, by Loans & Taxes to put our finances upon a more respectable footing than they are at present. and

thirdly, that they will endeavour to establish a permanent force—These things will secure our Independency beyond dispute—but to go on in our present System—Civil as well as military is a useless & vain attempt. Tis idle to suppose that raw and undisciplined Men are fit to oppose regular Troops—and if they were—our present Military System is too expensive for any f⟨und⟩ except that of an Eastern Nabob—and in the Civil line instead of one head and director we have, or soon shall have, thirteen, which is as much a monster in politicks as is it would be in the human form. Our prest distresses, & future prospects of distress, arising from these & similar causes, is great beyond the powers of description & witht a change must end in our ruin.3 I am &ca


ALS, NHi: George and Martha Washington Papers.

1GW wrote Maryland governor Thomas Sim Lee from headquarters at Preakness on 23 Oct.: “Major General Greene, who goes to take command of the Southern Army, will have the honor of presenting this to your Excellency—I have advised him to take the several States in his way, which are immediately concerned in furnishing Men and supplies for the department committed to his direction, that he may gain a more accurate knowledge of the forwardness they are in—a tolerable Idea of what may be his future expectations, and endeavour to settle some plans for the regular support and subsistence of the Army in provisions—Forage and transportation.

“I am well aware of the embarrassments under which the Southern States labor, and of the many difficulties which are to be surmounted. But I have a very full dependance that the most vigorous exertions will be made by them upon the present occasion; and the intire confidence I have in the abilities, fortitude and integrity of General Greene, founded on a long and intimate experience of them, assures me that he will do every thing his means will enable him to do; and I doubt not, candid allowances will be made for the peculiar difficulties he has to encounter.

“I recommend him to your State ⟨as⟩ worthy of its utmost confidence and support, a⟨nd⟩ to your Excellency, personally, as one whom I ra⟨nk⟩ among the number of my Friends” (LS, in Tench Tilghman’s writing, MdAA; Df, dated 22 Oct., DLC:GW; Varick transcript, dated 22 Oct., DLC:GW; mutilated material on the LS is supplied in angle brackets from the draft, which GW’s aide-de-camp Tench Tilghman penned and which also is addressed to Virginia governor Thomas Jefferson and North Carolina governor Abner Nash; the finished letters from GW to Jefferson and Nash have not been found).

GW also wrote Virginia legislator George Mason from Passaic Falls on 22 Oct.: “In consequence of a resolve of Congress directing an enquiry into the conduct of Majr Genl Gates—& authorising me to appoint some other Officer in his place, during this enquiry, I have made choice of Majr Genl Greene who will, I expect, have the honor of presenting you with this letter.

“I shall without scruple introduce this Gentn to you as a Man of abilities—bravery & coolness—He has a comprehensive knowledge of our affairs and is a man of fortitude and resources—I have not the smallest doubt therefore, of his employing all the means which may be put into his hands to the best advantage—nor of his assisting in pointing out the most likely ones to answer the purposes of his command—With this character I take the liberty of recommending him to your civilities & support; for I have no doubt—from the embarrassed situation of Southern affairs—of his standing much in need of the latter from every Gentn of influence in the Assemblies of those States.

“As Genl Greene can give you the most perfect information—in detail—of our present distresses, and future prospects, I shall content my self with the agregate acct of them, and with respect to the first, they are so great, & complicated, that it is scarcely within the powers of description to give an adequate idea of them—with regard to the second, unless there is a material change both in our Civil & Military policy, it will be in vain to contend much longer.

“We are without money—& have been so for a long time—without Provision & forage, except what is taken by Impress—without Cloathing—and shortly shall be (in a manner) without men—In a word, we have lived upon expedients till we can live no longer, and it may truly be said that the history of this war is a history of false hopes, & temporary devices, instead of System—& economy which results from it.

“If we mean to continue our struggles (& it is to be hoped we shall not relinquish our claims) we must do it upon an entire new plan—we must have a permanent force—not a force that is constantly fluctuating, & sliding from under us as a pedestal of Ice would leave a Statue in a summers day—Involving us in expence that baffles all calculation—an expence which no funds are equal to—We must at the same time contrive ways & means to aid our taxes by loans, & put our finances upon a more certain & stable footing than they are at present—Our Civil government must likewise under go a reform—ample powers must be lodged in Congress as the head of the federal union, adequate to all the purposes of War. Unless these things are done, our efforts will be in vain & only serve to accumulate expence—add to our perplexities—& dissatisfy the people without a prospect of obtaining the prize in view—But these Sentiments do not appear well in a hasty letter—without digestion or order—I have not time to give them otherwise—& shall only assure you that they are well meant however crude they may appear—With sincere affection” (ALS, in private hands; ADfS, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW; see also Samuel Huntington to GW, 6 Oct., and n.2 to that document). GW wrote on his draft: “George Masson Esqr: N.B. The same sentimts were also written at the sametime to Archid Cary—Benja. Harrison—Edd Pendleton—and Barthw Dandridge Esqrs. of Virginia.” GW’s letters to Archibald Cary, Benjamin Harrison, Sr., Edmund Pendleton, and Bartholomew Dandridge have not been found.

2See GW to Abraham Skinner, 7 and 14 October. In his reply to GW on 16 Nov., Fitzhugh noted that his son Lt. Peregrine Fitzhugh “is now with Me” (DLC:GW).

3GW expressed the same views in his Circular to the States, 18 October.

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