George Washington Papers

To George Washington from John Sullivan, 6 March 1781

From John Sullivan

Philadelphia March 6th 1781

Dear General

I was Duly honored with your Excellencys favor of the 4th of Feby & omitted writing Since upon a Supposition that you had gone to Rhode Island.1 I am happy to find your Excellencey Entertains the Same Sentiments of the virtues and abilities of Colo. Hamilton, as I have Ever Done myself—After I wrote your Excellency2 I found The Eyes of Congress Turned on Robert Morris of this City as Financier. I did not therefore nominate Colo. Hamilton as I foresaw that it would be but a vain Attempt—I Shall this Day nominate him as Secretary of Foreign Affairs in which I think I Shall meet the Approbation of most of the States3—The Choice of a Minister of war is postponed to the first of October This was a Maneuvre of Saml Adams & others from the North, fearing that as I was in nomination, the Choice would fall on me who having apostatized from the True new England Faith by Sometimes voting with the Southern states am not Eligible They were not however Acquainted with all the Circumstances—I was nominated against my will & if Chosen Should not have Accepted.4

General McDougle is appointed minister of marine5 The Plan of Finance & all other matters go on So Slowly that I Tremble at the Consequences—I am mortified at the useless harangues which, Consume our Time to no purpose I am now Endeavoring to obtain an Adjournment of Congress & for Leaving a Committee to Transact the Business as the only way of having the Publick Business Done with propriety and Dispatch,6 I fully agree with your Excellencey That Congress ought to have more power but I also think that the old members Should be in Heaven or at Home before this Takes place.

The Traffic carried on with the Enemy is alarming as it not only Serves to furnish them with Necessaries but Tends to reconcile our Citizens to the Idea of renewing their Connections with Great Britain and of Course Disaffects them to our Government.

Since General Greens Letter of the 15th February7 we have received Advices from Governor Jefferson & Divers others that Cornwallis is retreating that General Greene Crossed the River in pursuit of him the 21st & that the Militia had Collected all round him: I hope it is not a manoeuvre to bring General Green to an Action.

I have been Settling my accounts with the Treasury Board & find I Stand Charged with money received at Cambridge to pay the Bounty to the New Hampshire recruits in 1776—all my papers were Lost at new york & I can remember Little of the matter,8 This I am Sure of, That I never received any publick money but what I immediately applied to the use Intended perhaps Colo. Harrison has Some papers which will Settle the matter.9 I also am Charged with the money paid for the Troops Engaged at Trenton in December 177610 I remember the whole of this was Settled at morristown about two months after & I received a receipt in full which is in new Hampshire perhaps your papers may Save me the Trouble of Sending for it.11 I have the Honor to be with the High⟨est⟩ Esteem Dear General yr most obedt Ser⟨vant⟩

Jno. Sullivan

ALS, DLC:GW. Sullivan wrote “(private)” on the cover, which he addressed to GW at headquarters, presumably New Windsor.

1GW had delayed his departure for Newport until 2 March (see his letter to Rochambeau, that date).

3No record of Lt. Col. Alexander Hamilton’s nomination to fill the office of secretary of foreign affairs appears in JCC.

4For other perspectives on the postponement of the selection of a minister of war, see Philip Schuyler to GW, 3 April, and James Mitchell Varnum to GW, 20 Aug. (both DLC:GW). GW favored Philip Schuyler for the post, and the delay in a choice caused dismay (see GW to Schuyler, 20 Feb., and Schuyler to GW, 25 Feb.; see also GW to Schuyler, 23 March, DLC:GW, and to Joseph Jones, 24 March, CSmH).

5New York delegate Alexander McDougall’s election occurred on 27 Feb. (see JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends , 19:203). McDougall never held the position because Congress refused his conditions that he retain his rank and pay as major general (see McDougall to Samuel Huntington, 9 March, in Smith, Letters of Delegates description begins Paul H. Smith et al., eds. Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774–1789. 26 vols. Washington, D.C., 1976–2000. description ends , 17:44–45, and JCC, 19:332–34).

6See Sullivan’s and James M. Varnum’s Memorial to Congress, 28 Feb., in Smith, Letters of Delegates description begins Paul H. Smith et al., eds. Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774–1789. 26 vols. Washington, D.C., 1976–2000. description ends , 16:756.

7Maj. Gen. Nathanael Greene’s letter to Samuel Huntington of 15 Feb. simply enclosed Greene’s letter to GW of the same date, unsealed (see Huntington to GW, 5 March, and n.1 to that document).

8Sullivan had commanded troops and was taken prisoner during the campaign that resulted in the British capture of New York City in fall 1776.

9Sullivan refers to GW’s secretary Robert Hanson Harrison.

10Sullivan commanded the right wing of GW’s army at the Battle of Trenton on 26 Dec. 1776 (see General Orders, 25 Dec. 1776, and GW to John Hancock, 27 Dec. 1776, n.6).

11GW apparently replied to Sullivan on 24 March 1781, but that letter has not been found (see Sullivan to GW, 5 April, DLC:GW).

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