George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Edmund Pendleton, 16 February 1781

From Edmund Pendleton

Edmundsbury1 Virga Feby 16th 1781.

Dear Sir

I beg Pardon for having so long delayed to pay you my Annual Acknowledgment of regard & Esteem, as well as that for your very obliging favour of October 22d by General Green, who passed wth such rapidity to the Scene of his Command, as to Miss me, otherwise I should have been happy in shewing him every mark of respect due to his Merit and yr recommendation, as well as in the pleasure of his Company;2 However he was hastening to enjoy a Superior pleasure in contriving to Stop the Rapid Progress of the Enemy in the Country Committed to his care. Upon his great Success in which, I congratulate you, & the Public.3 I have long lamented the want of System & Stability in the Conduct of our Public affairs; the grand Objects of men & money instead of being provided, by foresight, wisdom & Permanent means, have been left to be scrambled up on the Spur of Occasion, & of course by Indigested distructive Measures—Men might have been raised for the War at a moderate bounty, if the Subject had been taken up in time, but this has been now render⟨e⟩d difficult, if not impossible, by the large bounties given to tempt men hastily into the feild, tho’ for a very Short time. For they soon learn to calculate upon that scale, & say if a four Months Service be worth £3000, that for the War deserves a Sum beyond the reach of calculation: The late Invasion has retarded the business of Attempting to fill up our Continental line,4 which will not be done for the War, notwithstanding the high bounty of 12.000 dollars in hand, a Specific Collection of cloathing, & Provisions, & at the End of the War 300 acres land, & a young negroe; I am happy in finding we shall have some however, since the business began only last Monday, in this County, & I was yesterday told by a Majestrate he had sworn five listed for the War: We shall also have some for 3 years,5 but I beleive the Bulk of them will be drafted for 18 Months, who, as Usual, will return as soon as they have learnt their duty.

In the business of Finance it is not to be wonder’d at, that we should blunder, having been unused to that delicate Subject—We had been only small Haberdashers in the Commerce of Paper, & therefore were Alarm’d at every little report of it’s depreciation, when such large quantitys were necessarily emitted—And instead of the radical remedies of taxes & a foreign Loan to support it’s credit, We had recourse to Palliative Expedients of a Speculative kind, wch failed in practical Adoption, & made new ones Necessary; ’til at length they lost even the Power of amusing; and I think it may be pronounced that every Attempt Of Congress, to Support the Credit of the paper, has produced the direct contrary effect. & that if they had continued Emitting as Necessity required, & Used their endeavours to procure a foreign loan; and the States had at the same time Imposed taxes, proportioned in some degree to the quantity of money in circulation, & nothing further had been said or done on the Subject of depreciation, It would have never reach’d one half the Height it has done. However I am drawn Unwarily into finding fault upon this deep Subject & will have done. Upon that of want of System, I have to regret that in my Opinion, to it was to be imputed our disgrace in having Our Metropolis, at 100 miles distance from the Sea Coast, Supprized & taken without resistance, by an handful of Banditti—No regular mode of Intelligence had been fix’d of the Arrival of the Enemy, & yet the Governors expecting an Account of their progress, after he had received that of their Arrival from a private hand, Occasioned him to delay calling the Neighbouring Militia ’til it was too late. I am sure his Intentions are the very best, but he was Incredulous, & not sufficiently attentive on this Occasion It is only to you Sir, that I speak thus freely, who I know, if you can, will make a good Use of any hint, but never a bad one.6

I forbear relating any Occurrences respecting the present State of the War, knowing that your Intelligence is much better than mine—I have only to add my Wishes for yr & good Mrs Washingtons happiness, & that I am with the Warmest & most sincere Affection, Yr Excellys Mo. hble & Obt Servt

Edmd Pendleton

ALS, PHi: Gratz Collection.

1Edmundsbury, Pendleton’s plantation in Caroline County, Va., was located on the banks of Maracossic Creek about thirty-four miles southeast of Fredericksburg.

2GW’s letter to Pendleton of 22 Oct. 1780 has not been found, but for his letters to introduce Maj. Gen. Nathanael Greene, mostly with that date, see GW to William Fitzhugh, 22 Oct., and n.1 to that document.

3Pendleton evidently is referring to the victory at the Battle of Cowpens (see Nathanael Greene to GW, 24 Jan. [first letter], n.3).

4Pendleton refers to the raid up the James River conducted by a corps under the command of British brigadier general Benedict Arnold. After the raid, the corps had fortified a position at Portsmouth, Va. (see Steuben to GW, 1 Feb.).

5The previous Monday was 12 February. For the recruiting measure recently adopted in the Virginia legislature, see Steuben to GW, 17 Dec. 1780, and n.9.

6Pendleton criticizes Virginia governor Thomas Jefferson’s actions during the British raid on Richmond (see Jefferson to GW, 10 Jan. 1781, and n.4 above).

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