George Washington Papers

To George Washington from George Clinton, 21 January 1781

From George Clinton

Poukeepsie [N.Y.] 21st Jany 1781.

Dear Sir

I am this Moment favoured with your Excellency’s Letter of equal Date inclosing the Copy of one from Mr DesTouche respecting a supposed seizure of Wheat purchased for the Use of the French Fleet1—On the 12th Instant I received a Letter from M. Destouche on the same Subject & the enclosed addressed to him which I take the Liberty of requesting your Excellency to forward is my Answer.2 I can assure you Sir that in every Instance even in the late very critical Situation of our Army for want of Bread my Impress Warrants have been accompanied with Directions not to seize any Wheat or Flour that appeared to have been purchased for the Use of the [fleet]3 or Army of our Allies, and the enclosed Report of Colo. Hay on the Subject of his Contract with the Agents of Mr Carter (a Copy of which also accompanies my Letter to Mr Destouche) will I trust convince your Excellency that my Instructions have been duly attended to.4

You may venture Sir to assure M. Destouche that I am cordially disposed to encourage & facillitate the Supply of the French Fleet & Army by every Means in my Power It is most certainly the Interest of the State exclusive of every other Motive to give them All the Bread we have to spare.5 I am with the most perfect Respect & Esteem your Excellencys Most Obedt Servt

Geo. Clinton

ALS, DLC:GW. Clinton wrote “By Express” on the cover. John O’Keefe, assistant quartermaster at Fishkill, N.Y., also wrote on the cover on 23 Jan., 2:00 P.M.: “Mr Fisher is requested to forward this immediately.”

2Neither Captain Destouches’s letter to Clinton nor Clinton’s letter to Destouches have been identified.

3Clinton inadvertently wrote “Wheat.”

4The enclosed report from Lt. Col. Udny Hay to Clinton, dated 15 Jan., reads: “Agreeable to your Excellencys desire, I enclosed Transmit you No. 1 the Contract I entered into with Mr Parker for an Exchange of Wheat for Salt; a Contract, Sir, which, not only from Inclination to serve the Fleet and Army of our Ally, I interested my self diligently and carefully to perform, but which, in point of Duty, I thought myself under an obligation to pay particular Attention to, from the earnest desire I saw, both in the Legislature and your Excellency, to give the most unequivocal proofs of your Determination to grant them every Aid, the distressed Situation of the State, and the large Supplies expected and Demanded for our Army, could possibly admit.” After a lengthy explanation of difficulties securing supplies, Hay concluded: “The representation your Excellency mentions Mr Carter has given the French Genl respecting the Seizure of a Thousand Bushel’s of Wheat, purchased, for the Use of the French Troops, within this State, I am fully convinced that Gentleman has founded upon misinformation, for from the Necessity you urged in your Instructions, given with the Impress Warrants, of guarding against Seizing any part of the Supplies, which it should appear, by proper proof, were purchased and designed for their Use, I was extremely Cautious, and by the Returns or other Information yet received from my Different Assistants, have no reason to suppose there has been a single Bushel of Wheat or Barrel of Flour taken, which appeared designed for them—I imagine Mr Carter must have been led into the Mistake, by some Wheat which was at the Mills designed for Mr Parker, and which, In consequence of the Treatment above recited, I ordered to be withheld” (DLC:GW).

5See GW to Destouches, 24 Jan., found at GW to Clinton, this date, n.2.

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