George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Samuel Huntington, 16 January 1781

From Samuel Huntington

Philadelphia January 16. 1781


I have the Honor to transmit your Excellency the enclosed Copy of a Circular Letter to the several States from Pennsylvania to New Hampshire inclusive, which will give you the needful Information of the present Measures Congress have adopted to procure the Pay of the Army &c.1

Hope that your Excellency’s Letter to the Eastern States, on the same Subject (Copy of which I have been honored with) may have a good Effect;2 yet to me it seems absolutely necessary that more certain & permanent Funds should be obtained to defray the Expence of the War than hath been hitherto devised, and which ought to be the principal Object of Congress, and will, I trust, claim their continued Attention until accomplished in the best possible Measure our Circumstances will admit.

By various Accounts it seems pretty certain the late Embarkation of the Enemy from New York have been in James river, landed in Virginia & proceeded as far as Richmond, done some Mischief there and retreated. The various Accounts are vague & without Precision, and what seems rather unaccountable to me, we have received no official Intelligence respecting the Enemy since they entered the Chesapeake.3 I have the Honor to be with the highest respect your Excellency’s most obedient & most humble Servant

Sam. Huntington President

LS, DLC:GW; LB, DNA:PCC, item 15. GW replied to Huntington on 23 January.

1The enclosed circular letter to the states, dated 15 Jan., reads: “A circular Address to the respective States of the 9th Day of November last communicated a requisition of Congress for the Service of the current Year. This Act and the System of the 18th of March respecting Finnances include the principal Means which their present Powers have enabled Congress to adopt for prosecuting the War. Measures so deeply interesting not only demand the unremitted Attention and vigorous Support of the Legislatures, but Congress ought to be informed of their Progress with the utmost Precision: both are necessary to the public Credit, to the Success of our military Operations, to the very Existence of our Armies. By our Act of the 21st of October the State Agents are directed to transmit to the Commander in Chief and to the Commissary General respectively monthly returns of all Supplies which shall be drawn into their Hands, specifying the Articles and the Magazines where they shall be deposited; it is equally incumbent on the State Treasurers to make similar Returns to the Board of Treasury of all the Taxes which shall be brought into their respective Offices, and of the Issues of the new Emissions. These are regulations which cannot be dispensed with, and it is recommended to the Legislatures to enjoin them under such Penalties as will enforce a prompt & punctual Obedience.

“Besides these Supplies for the current Year which cannot be anticipated without the utmost Danger, the Pay in Arrear to the Army demands your most serious Consideration. The Honor of Government and military Order & Discipline depend on its regular Discharge; nor was a Fund sufficient for this & other Purposes neglected, for had the requisition for Taxes prior to the Act of the 18th of March been productive, had the Warrants on the State Treasurers for the Balances of those Taxes drawn so long ago as the first of July been satisfied, a Complaint of this Nature could not have existed.

“We are not unapprized of the Embarrassments attending the Collection of Taxes from the Credit given on the Commissaries & Quarter Masters Certificates for the Support of the Army: but it is manifest that Congress could not provide a remedy. It was found expedient to discontinue the Emission of Paper Money & from various Causes the public Necessities were not relieved by Loans, at the same Time that the Measure was embraced of extinguishing those Certificates in the Taxes. Hence the Treasury has been destitute of Supply, almost every resource being cut off almost at the same Instant. In vain have we endeavoured to obtain a Knowledge of the Amount of those Certificates or how far they have been reduced, and they continue to obstruct every Plan which hath been divised for restoring public Credit & supporting the War. This is a Subject to which the Authority of the Legislatures alone is competent and it will become their Wisdom and their Zeal for the public Service to give it the fullest Investigation.

“In the mean time an immediate Provision for the Pay of the Army is indispensably necessary. We need not dwell on the Injustice or the probable Effects of a Delay. They are obvious & alarming: and we earnestly call upon the several States to devise prompt & efficient Means for remitting to the Pay Master General, on Warrants to be issued in his Favour, the respective Quotas assigned to them by the enclosed Estimate.

“The Necessity of great & spirited Exertions becomes every Day more evident. While the cruel Policy of our Enemies raises universal Indignation & Abhorrence, it admonishes us that no Time is to be lost, in rescuing our bleeding Country from Desolation and establishing its Independance on the Basis of an honorable & permanent Peace. However great may be the Burthens which we are called upon to sustain, let us remember that they are the Price of Liberty; and that they have been common to every People who have dared to struggle for social Happiness against Violence & Oppression. Let us reflect on our solemn Engagements to devote our Lives & Fortunes to the best of Causes, and we shall find that we cannot be destitute of resources. Let us review the past Miseries of a lingering War and the Danger of its further Protraction, and we shall seize the golden Opportunity of cooperating with our generous Ally by every possible Effort to render the approaching Campaign glorious & decisive. If we are unable at this Stage of the Conflict to defend ourselves by annual Taxes: can we hesitate to interpose our responsibility or to contribute a Portion of our Capitals? Will a People whose Fortitude & Patriotism have excited the Admiration of Europe languish at the bright Dawn of Triumph and endan[g]er the public Happiness by Selfish Parsimony. While Congress entertain just Sentiments of their Constituents there can be no Place for such humiliating Apprehensions. On the contrary we shall look with Confidence for a liberal Compliance with every requisition which the public Exigencies dictate. Experience has pointed out the Dangers to which we have been exposed by a Want of Punctuality in former Supplies and we are perswaded that those Dangers will for the future be carefully prevented.

“For our own Part we have left nothing unessayed to render the Operations of the War more vigorous & successful. We have applied for naval Succours from a broad, if we no longer continu unfortunate in the Importation we shall not want a competent Supply of Cloathing, Arms & Ammunition. We are once more attempting a foreign Loan of Specie; we have pointed out & required the Aids of Men, Provisions & Money which in every Event must be produced from our own internal resources. We have strennuously urged upon the States a punctual Compliance on their Part with those requisitions: With the States who alone have Authority to execute[,] with an enlightened People who know how to estimate the Blessings for which we contend; it remains to give the Measures which we have recommended their full & seasonable Effects” (DLC:GW; see also 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 , 19:58–61, and Huntington to GW, 12 Nov. 1780, and n.1). The estimate of the sums needed from the states for the “immediate Pay of the Army,” totaling $879,342, were apportioned by Congress as: New Hampshire, $51,726; Massachussetts, $284,493; Rhode Island, $25,863; Connecticut, $155,178; New York, $77,589; New Jersey, $51,726; and Pennsylvania, $232,767. The calculations were based “on six Months Pay in Specie Value; one half of which to be advanced without the least Delay, and the remainder by the first of April” (DLC:GW; see also 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 , 19:61).

3For reports on this British expedition to Virginia and the raid on Richmond, see Steuben to GW, 8 and 11 Jan.; see also Thomas Jefferson to GW, 10 January.

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