George Washington Papers

To George Washington from John Sullivan, 9 December 1780

From John Sullivan

Philadelphia [December] 9th 1780

Dear General

I was this morning Honored with your Excellency favor of the 25th Instant; I shall be happy to See the Chavalier De Chaltelieux and to pay him every mark of respect & attention in my Power.1

The Confidence your Excellency is pleased to place in me is exceeding flattering and I can with great Truth assure you That no person Desires more to Comply with your wishes relieve you from the Anxiety you Suffer; (from Difficulties which as Commander of the Army you never ought to Experience) or to render your Troops happy in their Situation than myself.

The appointment of General Smallwood was in the old State way. I did not oppose it for Political Reasons but I took that opportunity of Delivering my Sentiments against those irregular and unmilitary promotions and upon various occasions Since and am happy to find that There is now a Large majority of the House of my Sentiments so that I am Convinced There will be no more of those irregular appointments of Course General Clinton & General Knox will not be Superceeded. The Latter if Driven to resign would be an irreperable Loss to the Army.

I have conferred with a number of the most Confidential & most powerful members and have Secured their Interest—so far as to assure me that the Event which your Excellency apprehended can never take Place.

As I have been fortunate Enough, to Disswade a majority of the members from pursueing the old mode I expect Soon to be called upon to point out a new one Liable to no objections and here I confess I shall be at a Loss owing perhaps, to my want of Capacity, or possibly to the Confusion of having one Large Army Camp and of Thirteen Small ones & wish your Excellency would be so oblidging as to give me your Sentiments upon it and what you would wish to be the Rule of Promotion.

To Rise Regimentally to the Rank of Captain, and afterward in the Line of the State to a Colonel (which, I take to be the Rule) admits of no great Difficulty, but the Rule has been Extended to Brigadiers & Even to Major Generals—Now Let us Suppose that Major Generals are to be Created from the Eldest Brigadiers if the former Rule is to Stand good for promotions of Colonels to Brigr is not this a perpetual Bar to promotions of Colonels who belong to States which Supply but one or two Regiments. Colonels of Such States may of Course be compelled to Serve under a Brigadier who a few years before Served under them in Detachments, & as Captains. I See but one way to remedy this Evil which is to Rise from Colonels in the Line of the Army perhaps there may be Consequences attending this which I am not able to Discover I therefore wish to know your Excellencys Sentiments upon it.2

your Excellencys Letter refered to was read in Congress & is Reffered to General Ward General Cornell & myself we Shall Report upon it without Delay & I hope agreable to Justice & Equity which I know is the Extent of your wishes upon this & Every other Matter.3 I have the honor to be with the most Lively Sentiments of Esteem & respect Dear General your most obedt Servt

Jno. Sullivan

ALS, DLC:GW. GW corrected Sullivan’s mistaken “November” in the dateline to “Decr” on the docket.

3See GW to Samuel Huntington, 26 Nov., and the source note to that document.

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