George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General Benjamin Lincoln, 28 November 1780

From Major General Benjamin Lincoln

Boston Novr 28th 1780

My dear General

The committee on ways and means have now before them the resolves of Congress of the 4th instant in which part of the necessary supplies for the next campaign are apportioned on the several States—as also their circular letter calling in the most rational and energetic terms for a speedy and punctual compliance.1

It is with pleasure, I can assure your Excellency, that this State convinced of the necessity, fitness and importance of the requisition are determined to enter seriously into the matter; and that this and raising the men to fill up our battalions will claim their constant deliberations untill compleated;2 and as far as I can learn the sentiment of the people they will warmly second their views and give the most promenent support & speedy execution to all their resolves.

In the same resolve of Congress, it is provided that the articles shall be delivered by the respective States at the several periods therein pointed out; and at such place or places as the commander in chief shall direct. Your Excellency’s early determination on this matter will greatly facilitate the business, save much of the expence and prevent many of the evils, which have been too often felt by delays (some times unavoidable) of land transportation. For the trouble of transporting the salt and driving the cattle on foot bears little proportion with that of transporting the whole after salted—If your Excellency can now determine to what point or points the supplies might finally be drawn, different Magazines may be immediately fixed on in this State to the case of the inhabitants & equally safe and beneficial for the common interest.

We are now under the former requisition of Congress for a monthly supply of beef.3 Whether their last demand is to supercsede that or not, or whether it is to come in aid thereto is no where by them fully ascertained. If it is expected that the monthly supply be continued the earliest notice of it should be given to prevent that deficiency in supplies, which an omission of them would necessarily create.

The beef on foot is to be delivered at such times and places as the Commissary shall direct—As this supply will be necessary and must be thrown in at different periods, and as provision for the whole which will be demanded prior to the first of May or June must now or soon be made, no step would be more likely to insure a perfect & a regular delivery than a speedy information at what times, places and in what numbers they will be needed and must be had.

As the commissary General I know cannot give a full and satisfactory answer without your Excellencys perticular instructions, and as it is a matter of some importance to a regular supply of the army on which depends the success of our Arms; and a deficiency in which may render abortive the best concerted plans—I rest assured that your Excellency will excuse my rehearsing this matter to you though Congress in their resolves seem to have placed the direction of it in an other person.4

As all our success under God depends on a regular ample & constant supply of the Army every measure adopted which in its consequences may in the smallest degree tend to render this supply doubtful and uncertain may with decency be pointed out, however dignified and respectable the body in which such a measure had its origin. Whether the following resolve of Congress has that tendency or not your Excellency will judge:

“Resolved that if it shall appear on adjustment of the quotas of the several States, that any State has supplied more than its due proportions in value every such State shall be paid the value of the surplus at the rates aforesaid in specie with interest at six percent per annum from the time such surplus shall have been deposited as above directed and every State which shall have failed to supply its due proportion shall be charged with the deficiency at the rates aforesaid and the like interest thereon from the time the same ought to have been deposited.”

By this resolve if we can suppose it possible that any State should think her perticular interest could be promoted seperately from the general good and be so lost to a sense of her sacred obligations plighted in the consideration she might greatly avail herself. For the several articles do really cost double the money they stand rated at by Congress: hence the deficient State saves all her trouble of collecting & half of her expences at least, while that people who are making every exertion necessary for the support & speedy termination of the war are not only disappointed in their views, from the neglect of others but are saddled with double expence. Your Excellency will not think I am arrogating to this State when I claim for her the merit of throwing in more than her proportion of the scanty supplies of the last campaign, merit it must be called, for she knew at the time she did it, that she should receive for the ballance in her favor only one half of what the articles cost her in new money, which she was obliged5 to emit at Eighty ⅌Cent discount; this also was done at a time when she might have had for those articles an ample price by supplying our allies in conjunction with others—This matter has been passed over hitherto without many animadversions or much difficulty: but I apprehend if this order is continued without any amendment we shall feel, through the whole of the next campaign the ill consequences of it—Policy and justice will ever call civil societies6 to encourage and reward the virtuous and leave the delinquent to feel all the evils & ill consequences of his own neglect.7

I hope Your Excellency will not suppose, that any partialty for this State has drawn these observations from me—Was I not convinced that the well being & happiness, if not the very being of the Army ma⟨y⟩ in some measure depend on an alteration of the present system I should have left the ill consequences, which may attend it, to have been pointed out & represented by the civil guardians of the people.8 I have the honor to be My dear General with every of sentiment of regard & esteem Your Excellency most Obedt & most humble servant

B. Lincoln


1Lincoln may refer to a circular letter from Samuel Huntington, president of Congress, dated 26 Oct. that urged state officials to fulfill provision requisitions to relieve “the present Wants & Distresses of the Army” (Smith, Letters of Delegates description begins Paul H. Smith et al., eds. Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774–1789. 26 vols. Washington, D.C., 1976–2000. description ends , 16:263–64). For the congressional resolutions adopted on 4 Nov., see Huntington to GW, 12 Nov., n.1; see also Lincoln to GW, 25 Nov., and n.3 to that document.

2The new establishment of the Continental army called for ten infantry regiments and one artillery regiment from Massachusetts (see General Orders, 1 Nov.).

3See Ephraim Blaine to GW, 10 Nov., and n.4 to that document.

4Many difficulties confronted Ephraim Blaine, commissary general of purchases (see his letter to GW referenced at n.3 above).

5Lincoln wrote “oblige” for this word.

6Lincoln wrote “socities” for this word.

7Lincoln comments on the congressional resolutions referenced at n.1 above.

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