George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Henry Babcock, 24 October 1780

From Henry Babcock

Hartford 24th Octor 1780


I have had the Honor of proposing to the Genl Assembly of Connecticut a Method of pay’g the Army, with solid Coin, and furnishing Magazines of Provisions, with the same Currency; & not compel your Excellency, to distress the Inhabitants of the Jersys; who have repeatedly sustained great Injurys, both from the Enemy, as well as our Army. Your Letters upon that Subject laid before the Assembly by Govr Trumble, gave Pain to every humane benevolent Breast to hear, them read.1 Partly owing to the repeated Alterations made by Congress, in their unstable Mode of Supply’s and in their injudicious A[l]terations of the Qr Mastr Genls Department;2 and what is of more Consequence the want of Cash—The Paper Medium is up.

I have therfore proposed that the whole Plate of the Continent be surrenderd up, by it’s Inhabitants, & Coined for the Publick Use; and to compel those who have not Virtue enough to make such a Sacrafize voluntarily; to tax their Plate at one Third of the Value anually, in three Years, we have the whole Gratis.

Those who lend their Plate to be paid at the Close of the War, with Interest; and that full Confidence, may be given to the publick Faith, a Collateral Security to be pledged of the forfeited Estates, for the faithful Discharge & Payment of the same. We by our Census have 38,472½ oz of Plate, By our having no Capital, in Connecticut have less than any other State of equal Numbers, One third most likely left out—Luxury has not crept in here as in the other States—Besides it will have a wonderful Effect upon our Enemy’s, by finding that we are not only willing to part with our Luxurys; but by spirited manly Exertions in the Field, establish our Independence.

And they will be compelled to make overtures of Peace. simillar to what happened in the Reign of Lewis the 14th, Who your Execellency is sensible observed upon his Finances being exhausted to his Nobles “In the early Part of my Reign I faught for Glory, in the latter from Necessity” The Nobles sent their Plate to the Mint, the Ladies of Quality sold their Jewels. An Army of 400,000 Troops was levied, and an honorable Peace without firing a Gun was the Consequence. This upon my Honor, I believe would be our Case, was a simmillar Mode to be adopted.

There is to be a Convention of the New England States together with N. York, to meet at this Place; before whom this Matter is to be laid, by them to Congress, By Congress to the whole Cont.3 Those who are desirous of keeping some Family Plate, by lending us many oz ready coined, may be indulged. If it should meet with your Excellencys Approbation, I dare say it might iasily be obtained.

You are fully sensible that the Enemy flatter themselves; that the Rags with which our Army are paid, will prove our Ruin; for You have convinced the World that the Continental Army are second to no Troops upon Earth, Witness Prince Town, Trenton, Monmouth Saratoga Stony Point, Cambden &c. &c. &c.4 I have the Honor to be with Sentiments of the highest Respect & profoundes Esteem—Yr Excellencys most obedt & most humble Servant

Henry Babcock


1Babcock recently had begun serving as a delegate in the Connecticut legislature.

3This truncation presumably stands for continent. The New York legislature determined on 26 Sept. that three commissioners should “meet Commissioners from other States, in a Convention proposed to be held at Hartford” on 8 Nov. (N.Y. Senate Proc., 7 Sept.–10 Oct. 1780 description begins Votes and Proceedings of the Senate [of the State of New-York], &c. At the first Meeting of the Fourth Session. [Poughkeepsie, N.Y., 1783]. description ends , p. 19). The legislature then resolved unanimously on 10 Oct. that New York’s delegates “declare in Congress, that it is the earnest Wish of this State, that Congress should, during the War, or until a perpetual Confederation shall be completed, exercise every Power which they may deem necessary for an effectual Prosecution of the War; and that whenever it shall appear to them, that any State is deficient in furnishing the Quota of Men, Money, Provisions or other Supplies, required of such State, that Congress direct the Commander in Chief, without Delay, to march the Army or such Part of it as may be requisite, into such State, and by a military Force, compel it to furnish it’s Deficiency” (N.Y. Senate Proc., 7 Sept.–10 Oct. 1780 description begins Votes and Proceedings of the Senate [of the State of New-York], &c. At the first Meeting of the Fourth Session. [Poughkeepsie, N.Y., 1783]. description ends , p. 33; see also Alexander McDougall to GW, 30 Oct., DLC:GW).

4GW replied to Babcock from Passaic Falls on 7 Nov.: “I have received your favor of the 24th of October and have to observe on the Subject that the plan suggested for paying & supplying the Army, and prosecuting the War with vigor, would undoubtedly be eligible—if practicable—how far this is, or is not the case, I cannot take upon myself to determine.

“Should the scheme in contemplation be carried into execution: Whether it would be most advantageous to have the Plate coined & thrown into circulation—Or made the basis of a Bank to support our Credit, might be made a question. But that this Aid (if well disposed of) with other vigorous and decisive measures for drawing out the resources of the Country, would have a powerful influence, in retreiving our affairs, disconcerting those of the Enemy, and inducing them to wish for a peace does not admit of a single doubt.

“the adoption of the plan spoken of by you might give a credit to the public virtue of this Country at Foreign Courts that would be attended with important advantages to us” (Df, in David Humphreys’s writing, DLC:GW; copy, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW; GW added the final paragraph of the draft in his own writing). Babcock replied to GW on 5 Dec. (DLC:GW).

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