George Washington Papers

From Philip John Schuyler to The States, 25 May 1780

Morris Town May 25. 1780


Yesterday we were honord with a dispatch from Congress conveying to us their resolutions of the 19th Inst. together with a Copy of their Circular letter of the same date to the several states from NewHamshire to Virginia inclusive. By one of the former we are appointed to Assist the Commander in Chief in drawing out supplies for the Army; and the line of Conduct we are to pursue; is pointed out in those subsequent—The whole having been transmitted to your state together with the circular letter; It is unnecessary to inclose your honour a Copy. Immediately on receipt of these papers we laid them before the Commander in Chief and intreated him to signify what supplies were immediately necessary to enable him to move the Army; and to put it in a condition to Co-operate vigorously with the shortly expected succour of the great and generous Ally of these states. This request we candidly avow, was made more with a view to preserve form in conducting business, than for want of compleat information on the subject; That having already been fully detaild us, by the General, and others on former conferences, when acting as a Committee of arrangements, he consequently had only to refer us to what had been before delivered us by him and others, and which was in substance as follows. That the Army was five months pay in arrears, that it has Seldom or ever, since it took this cantonement, had more than Six days provision in advance—That at present it is without meat, and has been on half, and on quarter allowance for some days past. That the Commissaries cannot give any assurances of doing more than bearly subsisting the Troops from day to day—That even then they apprehend a want of meat will frequently prevail; That the Army is greatly deficient in Camp Equipage—That it is destitute of forage for the few horses which indespensible necessity has required, should be maintained in Camp—That it will require several Thousand horses to move the Army so as to promise any affectual operation from it—That the Sick in Hospitals have not a sufficiency of those articles necessary for their comfort—That carriages in considerable numbers are wanted—That the Quarter Master General has not a competent number of boats for the use of the Army in case any offensive operation should take place—That he has no materials for constructing new boats and Carriages, nor even repairing the old—That as every department of the Army is without money, and not even the shadow of Credit left, consequently no article however necessary can be procured—That the Transportation even of the inadequate supply of flour, forage, and other articles hitherto furnished by the states is at a stand—That very few of the receipts required by the act of Congress of the 9th of February last have arrived—That from information received there is no prospect that any considerable number will timely engage in the service on Voluntary inlistmt That by the expiration of the terms for which men were engaged, Deaths and Desertions, the Army is so greatly reduced, that it does not afford a probable prospect of its acting with any degree of efficacy in merely defensive operations—That the patience of the soldiery who have endured every degree of conceivable hardship and borne it with fortitude; and perseverence, beyond the expectation of the most sanguine, is on the point of being exhausted—That a spirit of discontent is encouraged by the art of the enemy whose emissaries hold up in printed papers distributed among the soldiery the most flattering prospects and promises to induce them to desert their colours. The evidence given us in support of this detail of facts has been fully corroborated by our own observations and enquiry. And painful as the contemplation of the distresses our country labours under may be; We conceive it would have been inconsistant with our duty to have palliated or disguised them in an address to the constituents of that body under whose authority we act as they ought; in our opinion to be fully informed. For it is to them this committee is directed to apply, and on them every reliance for releif and assistance must rest, in this very critical and important moment. But so far are we from disponding under this variety of embarrassment that we reflect with satisfaction—The result of conviction—That the country is not destitute of the resources necessary to enable its Army to Act with vigor and to second the views of our illustrious Ally, and that the Legislative and executive Powers of your state impressed as they are with a just sence of the magnitude of the object are equally desirous, as capable of drawing them forth.

Congress in their Circular letter has pointed generally at the measures necessary to be adopted by the states—We conceive it incumbent on us in discharge of the trust reposed, to point more minutely at particulars and in some measure to enter into a detail of them—We are encouraged to this under a persuasion that the states will impute to our Zeal and affection for the interest and weal of our Country, the Liberty we take, and not to a spirit of dictating which would be equally improper as presumptious.

In a letter we had the honor to address Congress on the 16th Inst. but which had not reach’d Philadelphia when the Circular letter and resolutions we have alluded to were passed. We stated the little probability (which from the information we had obtaind) there appeared to be of Compleating the Quotes of men called for by the act of Congress of the 9th of February last, by Voluntary inlistment, and we conceived it requisite to propose a set of resolutions calculated to draw forth the intended complement of men for the Army together with a state of the defeciency’s—Copy of which we have the honor to inclose—persuaded that the states can with more facillity and much less expence make drafts to serve during the Campaign than to engage men to serve during the War, and convinced from repeated experience that no reliance is to be made on gaining a sufficient number by Voluntary inlistment—should the mode we have proposed be as agreable to the sentiments of the Legislature of your state as it is to those of the Commander in Chief, we cannot entertain a doubt but that the measures will be adopted with alacrity and executed with energy. From the state we have made of the distressed condition of the Army in point of provision—We are persuaded that every argument to induce the utmost asertions to fill the magazines which the Commander in Chief has directed to be formed would be needless as a matter of such importance will certainly claim the most immediate attention of the Legislative and executive powers of the states.

Congress in their Act of the 25th Feby last have not call’d on the states for the Transportation of any of the articles of supply innumerated in that Act, beyond the limits of the state furnishing the same—If the Officers whose business it is to direct the Transportation were or could be furnished in time with money for that service it would probably superceed the necessity of any intervention of the states—As they are not, nor is it probable they can be even with the best exertions of the states. We humbly recommend that authority be given by your Legislature to the executive authority or to such other persons as they may think proper to furnish such carriage to the Officers acting under the Authority of Congress or their Committee, as may be needfull, to convey those supplies, or any other for the public use, to the Army, or to such posts and places where they may be required—and that untill the public Officers shall have Cash in hand to pay for the same—We intreat the Legislature of your state to give assurances to its Citizens, that speedy and effectual measures will be taken to make payment of the Debts which may be thus incurred, and remain unpaid, with an interest of six per Cent per Annum—as stated in the resolutions of Congress of the 19th Instant

It is more than probable Necessity will require that some states should be called upon for additional supplies to those apportioned to them on the Act of Congress of the 25th Feby last. Both because our Army and that of our Ally, may take such a position, as that supplies from remote states cannot be brought, and because some states are so exhausted that they cannot even furnish the Quotas assign’d them.

It therefore becomes essential, that similar powers to those stated in the preceeding paragraph, should be lodged in the Executive authority, or other persons for furnishing such extra supplies, on the application of this Committee or Officers appointed for that purpose—And to this matter we also intreat permission to draw the attention of your Legislature—As it would be hazarding too much to depend on the precarious supply of Horses & Carriages which might be furnished by the inhabitants occasionally to move the Artillery, Baggage, and stores immediately attach’d to the Army, And as the aid of the states to procure the horses and Carriages in the present exhausted state of the public Treasury is evidently necessary, we are also constrained to entreat the attention of your Legislature to this Capital object, and to request that the executive authority, or other persons, may be impowred to comply with the requisition of this Committee or persons by them authorized for that purpose, on the condition mention’d in the paragraph next preceeding the Last.

Having Sir, Stated the most material articles of the many which are wanted, we beg leave to urge the indespensible Necessity of investing your executive authority, or such other persons as your Legislature may judge proper to construct, with ample power, to comply with the requisitions of the Committee, or other persons by them appointed, for that variaty of articles necessary for an Army and its appendages, and of which no perfect ennumeration can be made—And to rely for reimbursement out of the monies call’d for from the States—Had it been practicable to have stated the particular extra supplies which necessity will induce us to call for, from each state, for the support of the Army and its operations, it would have been our duty to have done so.

As it was not, we wish your Legislature to beleive that the Committee will pay every possible attention in making requisitions for supplies so as to render the burden, as equal in proportion to the ability of each State, as their situation, and the nature of the service will by any means admit.

It is possible Sir, that should even the defeciency’s to compleat the Quotas of troops apportioned to the states in Feby last, Join their Causes as early as the exigency of affairs certainly require, Aid of Militia may nevertheless be call’d for by the Commander in Chief and as so much depends on dispatch in offensive operations, we beg leave most earnestly to recommend, that such measures may be adopted as will, effectually draw forth this invaluable resource with as little delay as possible.

Having stated what appears, to the Committee, absolutely requisite to be adopted and pursued by the state. Permit us Sir to add, we are authorized to communicate, that the Naval & Land force alluded to by Congress in their Circular Letter, was to have saild so early from france that they may be daily expected to arrive on this coast—That the orders given by the Court of Versailles for the Line of Conduct to be observed by their officers in combining their force with ours to operate against the Common Enemy, clearly evince the most unbounded confidence, and the most unequivocal determination. That it should be directed by American Councils, and rendered subservient to the interest of these states—This generosity on the part of our illustreous Ally strongly points at the necessity of taking every precaution in our power that his views may not be frustrated, nor his Arms disgraced—Indeed we should be left without the shadow of an excuse, should we through inattention, or indecision, neglect to avail ourselves of the advantages to which such a capital succour is capable of being improved. We should degrade our Character, disgrace our Arms, and evince to all the world that we were either destitute of resources, wanted exertion to draw them forth, or wisdom to apply them—and either would tend to discredit our Cause, & stamp these states with indeliable stains of infamy. But Americans are incapable of such folly—They will see the necessity of risking possible evils, nay even suffering certain, but Temporary ones with fortitude. And of Sacrificing a portion of property, if such sacrifice is necessary, rather, than by witholding it, involve themselves and their posterity in misery too painfull to be contemplated without the deepest anxiety.

You Sir, and the Legislature of your state, we are fully convinced will on this occasion display with additional Lustre—that Virtue and wisdom which have hitherto so emminently distinquished your Councils, and by taking the lead in exertion, will stimulate your Citizens to such laudable acts, as will amply entitle them to the invaluable Blessings of that Liberty, peace & Independance for which they have fought and bled.

The Committee have only to add their wishes that you Sir, will be pleased to convene the Legislature of the state with as much dispatch as possible, and to lay these our applications before them. We have the honor to be with the greatest Respect Your Excellency’s Most Obt & Hble servts


P. Schuyler

J. Mathews

N. Peabody

Circular No. 2

In Committe of Congress Morristown May 25 1780


Since we had the honor to address our letter of this day, His Excellency the Commander in Chief has favourd us with one Copy whereof is Inclosed.

Had the necessity of Compleating the Regiments to the Complement he states, appeared to us as Indispensible before, as it hath done since the receipt of his Letter, we should not have hesitated a moment in recommending the measure, being perfectly persuaded of its propriety. We have the honor to be With Respect & Esteem Your Excellency’s Most Obt Hum. servt.


P. Schuyler

J. Mathews

N. Peabody

DLC: Papers of George Washington.

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