George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Josiah Quincy, 27 November 1780

From Josiah Quincy

Braintree [Mass.] Novr 27th 1780.

I am happy to hear, by my worthy Friend Doctr Crosby, that my last Letter to your Excellency, with the Papers enclosed, were not only favorably receiv’d, but reviv’d the Remembrance of One, whom you are so good as to rank among the Number of your Friends.1 Would to God! my Abilities were equal to my Inclinations; for then, I wou’d endeavor to render my Self worthy of that Honor, by some eminent public Services in Defence of my injured Country. But, Alas! three score years and ten, are, past with me:2 All therefore, that remains in my Power, is, to pray for the Continuance of that divine Protection which has hitherto so remarkably preserv’d your invaluable Life, from the secret Machinations of perfidious Friends, and the open Violence of declar’d Enemies, ’till the Harvest of your indefatigable Labors, shall ultimately issue, to your immortal Honor, in the Salvation of your Country.

Our new form’d Supreme Legislative, has postpon’d all other Business, to filling up our Quota of Troops, during the Continuance of the War. It is devoutly to be wish’d, that the Ways and Means to be devis’d for this Purpose, may be effectual; and equal to the Importance of the Object! But, for my own Part; I am utterly unable to discover where they may be found.3

Our new Paper money issued by Recommendation of Congress no sooner began to circulate, than two Dollars of it were given, for a hard One.4 To restore the Credit of Paper, by making it a lawful Tender, by regulating Acts, or by Taxes, are political Manœuvres that, have already prov’d abortive; and for this obvious Reason, that, in the same Proportion as ideal Money is forced into Currency, it must, from the Nature of every Thing fraudulent be forced out of Credit. I have said from the Nature of every thing fraudulent, because, I am firmly of the Opinion, and think it intirely defensible, that there never was, a Paper-pound, a Paper-dollar, or a Paper-promise of any kind, that ever yet obtained, a general Currency, but by Force or Fraud; generally by both.

That this Army has been grossly cheated, that Creditors have been infamously defrauded, that the Widdow and Fatherless have been oppressively wrong’d and beggar’d, that the grey Hairs of the Aged and the Innocent, for Want of their just Dues have gone down with Sorrow to their Graves, in Consequence of our disgraceful depreciated Paper-currency, may now be affirm’d, without Hazard of Refutation; and I wish it cou’d be said with Truth, that the War has not, thereby, been protracted: May it not therefore, be safely concluded, that no kind of Paper-currency is adiquate, to the Purpose of collecting, and combining the Forces of these united States, for their common Defence?

That our Resources are equal to the Exigences of the Whole I have not the least Doubt; but we have wandered so far out of the right Road, that I fear it is become extremely difficult to find it again. To speak without a Figure. Fictitious-wealth, that represents nothing but Taxes, to be made a Medium of Trade, or Measure of Commerce; an adequate Reward for public Services, and an equivalent for Specie borrow’d, either on public or private Contract, before ever such fictitious-Wealth had an Existence, is, certainly going out of the Road of Truth and Justice; by Consequence, the further we go, the more difficult it will be to return; but, return we must, and that speedily, to the Exercise of both, otherwise, it requires no great Sagacity to foresee, that our Ruin is inevitable.

Should your Excellency ask how it’s to be done? My Answer is short and easy, by reversing our public Conduct, in almost every Instance, since The War began. Permit me to mention One: Insted of a C——s become despicable for Want of Power sufficient to do Right; or odious, by exercising an assum’d Power beyond Right,5 had both the civil and military Department, been united in one and the same Person, during the War, and under the Limitation, as well as Sanction of Law; had this Measure, I say, been adopted at first, it is more than probable, our Alliance with France would not only have commenced sooner, but it would have been ⟨much⟩ sooner ratified and confirm’d, than the War would have been ended.6 Other Instances might be given, tho perhaps not of equal Importance; but, I find, whilst I am reprehending my Superiors, for going out of the right Road, I am insensibly led out of it my Self. Be so good, therefore, as to excuse my intemperate ⟨ze⟩al, and believe me to be, with unalterable Esteem and Grat⟨itude⟩ Your Excellency’s obliged and faithful Servant

Josa: Quincy

ALS, DLC:GW. Quincy wrote “Favd ⅌ Doctr Crosby” on the cover.

1Quincy had sent GW an oration with favorable allusions to his generalship (see Quincy to GW, 15 April).

2Quincy refers to his age, which was past seventy.

3A new constitution had been adopted and implemented in Massachusetts (see James Bowdoin to GW, 6 April, and William Gordon to GW, 26 Oct., n.2). The new arrangement of the Continental army emphasized enlistments for the war (see General Orders, 1 Nov.; see also Benjamin Lincoln to GW, 25 Nov.).

4For this congressional currency reform, see Philip Schuyler to GW, 12 March, and notes 3 and 4 to that document.

5Quincy criticizes Congress.

6The French signed a treaty of alliance with the United States in February 1778. Congressional ratification occurred that May (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 , 11:457–58; see also the first letter from Henry Laurens to GW, 3 May 1778).

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