George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Philip Van Rensselaer, 23 December 1780

From Philip Van Rensselaer

Albany 23d December 1780


I do myself the Honor to Inclose your Excellency Copy of a letter No. 1 I have lately received from the Board of War.

Unable to procure a repair of the Arms by Contract, and apprehensive of an injury to the service if they should remain in their present condition, I take the liberty to Inclose for your Excellency’s perusal my Answer No. 2 that you may be fully Advised on the subject.1

John Tillman late Asst Commissary of hides for this Department has Detained a number of dress’d sides of leather by order, and will deliver them on an order from your Excellency,2 which Article I stand in Need of to have Cartridge Boxes Bayonet Scabbards & Belts, &ca made, for want of money I cannot purchase any, for which reason I should be glad for an order on him to deliver the Whole to me and I will be Accountable for the same.3 I have the honor to be with the greatest respects Your Excellencies Most Obedient humble Servant

P. Van Rensselaer Public storekeeper


1Van Rensselaer enclosed a copy of a letter from Richard Peters (for the Board of War) to him dated 18 Nov. with information that the board found “it impossible under present circumstances to support the works at Albany on public Account, but if you think the [2,000] Arms can be repaired on Contract at a Certain sum ⅌ Stand, Compleatly fitted with Bayonets payable in the Money of the New Emission we will get a Warrant on the State of New York.” No action should be taken, however, without an estimate that ensured “no Disappointment.” Additionally, no contract could be made “tending to depreciate the New Money which must be treated as Specie” (DLC:GW; see also Alexander Hamilton to GW, 19 Dec.).

Van Rensselaer also enclosed a copy of his letter to Peters written at Albany on this date: “I am honored with your Letter of the 18 Ult: Since the receipt of it I have Incessantly Attempted a Contract for the repair of the Arms Alluded to. but in vain the persons at the head of the Different Branches are too poor, & have Otherwise too little Consideration, to prosecute Such a Business by way of Contract, especially Without an Advance of Money, nor would it be easy for any person to make an estimate of What should be given to a Contractor as the Necessary repairs are so various & widely Different from each Other, I have therefore, as no person will contract, thought it Needless to make the Attempt on a Supposition that if a Contract had been entered into & that the Board would either have advanced a part of the Money or paid it at Stated periods, & have taken Measures for that purpose, I have Hopes they will be Able to pay at least in part the workmen that have been employed, and Which I shall Continue to employ Untill the Further pleasure of the Board is Signified, Least Disappointed in Making a Contract, their further Views should be frustrated and The Service Materially Injured, as His Excellency the Commander in Chief May possibly have it in his power to Afford an Aid of Armourers from the Army during the Winter, I have conceived it Necessary to Address my self to him on the Subject of your Letter” (DLC:GW).

Van Rennselaer wrote GW on 1 April 1781 with news that the armory had ceased at Albany (DNA: RG 93, manuscript file no. 21439).

2John Tillman, Jr. (c.1725–1792) served as assistant commissary of hides at Albany under his father.

3No reply from GW has been found.

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