George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Steuben, 15 March 1784

To Steuben

Mount Vernon 15th Mar. 1784

My dear Baron

I have perused with attention, the plan which you have formed for establishing a Continental Legion, and for training a certain part of the Arms bearing men of the Union as a Militia, in times of Peace—and with the small alterations which have been suggested & made, I very much approve of it.1

It was no unpleasing and flattering circumstance to me, to find such a coincidence of ideas as appear to run through your plan and the one I had the honor to lay before a Committee of Congress, in May last.2 Mine however, was a hasty production, the consequence of a sudden call, & little time for arrangement—Yours, of mature thought, & better digestion. I, at the sametime that I hinted the propriety of a Continental Militia, glided almost insensibly into what I thought would be, rather than what I conceived ought to be, a proper Peace establishmt for this Country.

A Peace Establishment has always two objects in view—the one, present security of Posts—of Stores—& the public tranquillity. The other to be prepared, if the latter is impracticable, to resist with efficacy the sudden attempts of a foreign or domestic Enemy. If we have no occasion for Troops for the first purposes, and was certain of not wanting any for the second; then all expence, of every nature & kind whatsoever, on this score, would be equally Nugatory and unjustifiable—but while men have a disposition to wrangle & disturb the peace of Society, either from ambitious, political, or interested motives, common prudence & foresight requires such an Establishment as is likely to ensure to us the blessings of Peace, altho’ the undertaking should be attended with difficulty, and expence; and I can think of no plan more likely to answer the purpose, than the one you have suggested; which (the principles being established) may be enlarged, or diminished at pleasure, according to Circumstances.

It therefore meets my approbation, and has my best wishes for its success. I have the honor to be Dr Sir Yr Most Obedt and very Hble Servt

Go: Washington

ALS, DNA: RG 46, entry 7; LB, DLC:GW.

1In the summer of 1784, Steuben printed his “plan” in a pamphlet entitled A Letter on the Subject of an Established Militia, and Military Arrangements, Addressed to the Inhabitants of the United States.

2GW’s “Sentiments on a Peace Establishment,” 1 May 1783, were enclosed in his letter to Alexander Hamilton, 2 May 1783 (DLC:GW).

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