George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General William Heath, 9 February 1781

From Major General William Heath

Westpoint Feb. 9. 1781.

Dear General,

I have been honored with your’s of the 5. instant, respecting the staff Department.1 Am happy to find the measures I had adopted, have in so many instances received your approbation, as expressed in your sentiments—Am sorry, that in one instance, I should be so unfortunate as to be thought erroneous by your Excellency. And as it is not only a laudable wish, but an incumbent duty to vindicate our conduct and intentions when they are thought reprehensible, in a proper manner, I pray you will be pleased to allow me to observe, that my order of the 13th January was not issued upon any diffidence of the integrity or veracity of the staff Department, nor was it my design to deprive them of any powers granted them, of drawing orders on their own returns, neither did I delegate to Colonel Hazen a power to alter, or refuse countersigning any order they presented: My motive was nearly tantamount to the idea expressed in the last paragraph of your letter, in case, upon investigation, the power of giving orders for provisions, &c. should appear too much diffused; and as Colonel Hazen’s quarters were situated in the midst of several departments, and he had signified that he had no objection to the trouble that would naturally be occasioned thereby. My order was issued solely with a view to regularity; that if there should be a scantiness of provisions or stores on hand, as was at that time unfortunately the case, there might be an equal issue to the several departments and troops at the Post, which would not probably be the case if the power of drawing was vested in many. as he who first heard of the arrival of provisions might send and draw a greater proportion than the quantity in store would afford to others, though not more than intitled to; which might be represented if the draughts passed through one hand. My only motive has been to seek the public good; and I pray you will be assured, that such it will still be; and in the present case, as nearly conformable to your pleasure signified in your letter, as I can pursue it. I have the honor to be With the greatest respect Your Excellency’s Most obedient servant

W. Heath

LS, DLC:GW; ADfS, MHi: Heath Papers. Heath dated the draft 8 February. GW acknowledged this letter when he wrote Heath on 11 Feb., postscript.

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