George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Robert R. Livingston, 31 January 1781

To Robert R. Livingston

New Windsor Jany 31st 1781

Dear Sir,

The disagreeable events which have taken place in the Pensyla and Jersey lines—the general discontent of the Army for want of pay, cloathing & Provisions—added to the usual course of business (which increases with our perplexities) will, I am perswaded, be admitted as a sufficient apology for my not acknowledging the receipt of your confidential, and obliging letter of the 8th, till now.1

To learn from so good authority as your information, that the distresses of the Citizens of this State are maturing into complaints which are likely to produce serious consequences, is a circumstance as necessary to be known, as it is unpleasing to hear—and I thank you for the communication. The Committees now forming, are at this crisis, disagreeable things; & if they cannot be counteracted, or diverted from their original purposes, may out run the views of the well meaning members of them, and plunge this Country into deeper distress and confusion than it has hitherto experienced; though I have no doubt, but that the same bountiful Providence which has relieved us in a variety of difficulties heretofore will enable us to emerge from them ultimately—and crown our struggles with success.

To trace these evils to their sources, is by no means difficult—and errors once discovered are more than half corrected—This I hope is our case at present—But there can be no radical cure, till Congress is vested by the several States with full and ampl⟨e⟩ Powers to enact Laws for general purposes—and till the Executive business is placed in the hands of able Men, & responsable characters. Requisitions then, will be supported by Law—Jealousies, and those ruinous delays, and illtimed compliances—arising from distrust, & the fear of doing more than a Sister state, will cease—Business will be properly arranged—System and order will take place—and œconomy must follow—but not till we have corrected the fundamental errors, enumerated above.

It would be no difficult matter to prove, that less than half the present expenditures (including certificates) is more than sufficient—if we had money, and these alterations2 were adopted—to answer all our purposes—Taxes of course would be lessened—the burthen would be equal & light—and Men sharing a common Lot, would neither murmur nor despond.

The picture you have drawn of the distresses of the People of this state I am perswaded is true; and I have taken the liberty in a late letter, and in as delicate terms as I could express my sentiments, to hint to Congress the propriety of the policy of leaving the resources of this State, and Jersey, as a kind of reserve3—further than this, might bring on me the charge of an intermeddler—till I could speak decisively of my own knowledge.

At all times—and under all circumstances—you will please & honor me by a free communication of your sentiments, as I can with much truth assure you that with the greatest esteem & affection, I am—Dr Sir Yr Most Obedt and Obliged Servant,

Go: Washington

ALS, NHi: Robert R. Livingston Papers; ADfS, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

1See Livingston to GW, 8 January. For the mutinies in the Pennsylvania and New Jersey lines, see Anthony Wayne to GW, 2 Jan., and Israel Shreve to GW, 20 Jan., and the source notes to both documents.

2On his draft, GW wrote “in our political movements” after this word.

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