George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Philip Schuyler, 25 February 1781

From Philip Schuyler

Albany February 25h 1781

Dear Sir.

Your Excellency’s favor of the 20th Instant evinces another instance of that friendship And attention which whilst I feel it flattering to me, affords me a satisfaction, which a heart impressed with affection and esteem can only truly experience but of which a description would be equally improper as impossible.1

The accession of Maryland to the confederation, and the cession of Virginia of its claim to the territory west of the Ohio, will in all probability be productive of the good consequences you mention. I could wish Congress to embrace the favorable opportunity which is offered by the present apparant disposition of the states, to propose additional articles of confederation calculated to prosecute the war with a vigor proportionate to the great Object, the full emancipation of this country from the power, and the tyranny, of great britain, for certainly the present one is incompetent for the purpose.

It is much to be lamented that Congress had not at an earlier period of the contest established ministers (Instead of boards) for the departments your Excellency mentions. I believe our affairs would not have run into such an extensive derangment and Confusion as we at present find them involved in, but close attention and manly exertion on the part of the Officers, If men of Ability, prudence and resource, and who are divested of partial or interested views, can be obtained to serve, will however, If not relieve us, from all our embarrassments, obviate many, and render others more supportable, and less dangerous, Your Excellency draws too favorable a conclusion when you suppose me competent to the business of the war department, but Altho I feel myself far from able to conduct the charge in the manner it ought to be I would venture to accept relying that assiduity & perseverance would carry me thro, and with the less reluctance as I should have it in my power to ease you in some degree of that load of business, which with whatever facility you discharge it, cannot but be embarrassing and disagreable as well as prejudicial to the public; but I cannot suppose, altho some may mention me for the office, that congress will be so imprudent with respect to themselves, or indelicate in regard to me, as to offer it, since I have explicitely on another Occassion, and in writing too, declared my intention never to hold any office under them, unless accompanied with a restoration of my Military Rank,2 And candidly pointed at the inconveniences which would result t[o] themselves, from such a restoration, as It must necessarily give umbrage to many Officers.

I am perfectly in sentiment with you My Dear Sir that every good Citizen ought to evince his affection for his country in this awful Crisis by contributing his aid. I am incapable of withholding mine w⟨h⟩en it can be given without a Sacrifice of honor, but to accept an office after what I have stated to congress, and which you did not know, would render me compleatly contemptable.

We are exceedingly sorry that our hopes of a speedy visit from Mrs Washington are diminished we cannot however give up the expectation of that pleasure.

Mrs Schuyler was delivered of a daughter on the 20th instant, She enjoys a share of health much beyond what is usual in such a situation, Had it been a boy I should have taken the liberty to have honored him with Your name—permit me that of requesting you & your Lady to be entered as sponsors for the Girl.3

The best wishes and most respectful regards of this family attend Mrs Washington, Yourself and family.4 I am Dr Sir with sincere affection & Esteem Your Excellency⟨’s⟩ Mo⟨st⟩ ⟨mutilated

Ph: Schuyler


2Congress had accepted Schuyler’s resignation as major general on 19 April 1779 (see John Jay to GW, 20 April 1779).

3In the parish register of the Reformed Dutch Church in Albany, GW and Martha Washington are listed as witnesses at Catherine Van Rensselaer Schuyler’s baptism on 4 March 1781 (see Katharine Schuyler Baxter, A Godchild of Washington: A Picture of the Past [London and New York, 1897], frontis pages). Although listed as witnesses, the Washingtons did not attend the baptism. On 4 March, GW was traveling to Newport, and GW only accepted the offer in his reply to Schuyler. Martha Washington visited Albany later in March (see GW to Catharine Littlefield Greene, 22 March, DLC:GW).

4GW replied to Schuyler on 23 March (DLC:GW).

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