George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Friedrich Wilhelm Ludolf Gerhard Augustin, Baron [von] Steuben, 12 April 1782

Newburgh Apl 12th 82

Dear Sir,

The propositions of Count Beniowsky which you put into my hands for consideration—I have read—and beg leave to observe thereupon, that the utility of his plan for introducing a Legionary Corps of Germans into the Service of the United States of America, depends, in my opinion, upon the Political state of Affairs in Europe—the probability of Wars continuing—and the mode of conducting it. As also, on the time which will be required to bring this Corps into Action.

Of the first I have not the means of judging, but I think the second is not so problematical as to induce Congress to reject a contract, which with some alterations, and a surety of receiving the men in twelve months from this date, may be attended with considerable advantages.

Political considerations must, no doubt, have their influence in determining upon a plan of this nature, and magnitude—and there may be an impropriety in my hazarding an opinion, too pointedly, on the policy of it. but, at your request, and the desire of His Excellency the Minister of France, I shall offer my sentiments on the several articles in the order they stand, in the plan before me.

The expence of 578,000 Livres for raising—cloathing—arming—equiping—& transporting to America a Corps of 3488 men is moderate indeed—but the—

First Article—Is too indefinite, as there is no knowing what may be comprehended under it. and the—

Secd Arte—May, ultimately, make this Corps exceedingly expensive, and I do not think it can, or ought to be agreed to, so far at least as respects the non commissiond Officers & private Soldiers.

3d & 4th Articles I think reasonable & proper. so is the

5th Article, if I comprehend the true import of it—viz.—that no pay shall be drawn except for those who are actually in service, and shall appear on the Inspection or Muster Rolls; but to effect this, there must be an assignment of pay to the different grades of Officers, & to the privates, as the 8th Art. requires a lumping sum for the pay & Subsistance of the whole Legion—and the 9th a further Sum for the Staff there of.

Art. 6th—If confined to the recruits which may be necessary to compleat the Corps from time to time (after it is established & in the actual Service of the United States) would be reasonable, & it may be necessary to advance the three months half pay for the purpose mentioned—but, if it is intended as a fund for defraying the expence of the passage of the Legion in the first instance, I do not believe that the present finances of the United States could afford such an advance—or, that Congress would make it, unless the men could absolutely be insured.

Art: 7th—If Count Beniowsky should be required to keep his Legion compleat, and the recruits intended for that purpose should be taken on their passage, he ought, I think, to be allowed full pay for those which are actually taken Provided a sufft convoy is obtaind for them; without which the hazard would be too great, as there can be no doubt of an attempt on the part of G.B. to intercept them. and six months to replace them is as short a time as can well be asked.

Art. 8th & 9th—Are, in my opinion, inadmissible—because it would be giving a certain quantum of pay & subsistance pr month to a Corps which may by Deaths—desertions—and other casualties—be rendered very incompleat—it is, besides, repugnant to the ideas I had conceived of the equity of the 5th Article—and would have a tendency to place the interest of Count Beniowsky & that of the United States in opposite Scales; which policy forbids, tho’ I am perswaded no improper motives cd influence the conduct of the Count.

Art: 10th—It would undoubtedly be proper, that the Horses which may be wanted for the Cavalry & Artillery should be provided at the cost of the United States—But I shall add, in my observations on this article—that if the Enemy have in contemplations to change their mode of conducting the War, and mean by establishing strong Posts to commence a defensive one by Land, we shall have but little occasion for Cavalry—consequently the number of Squadrons (which are designed to compose the Legion) ought to be reduced—or, which may be still better—an express stipulation made with the Dragoons that they shall act as Infantry, or Cavalry, not only temporarily but permanently, as circumstances may require.

Art. 11th—I think 24 Livres would be a moderate demand for each recruit. but where is the propriety of allowing 50 livres for every man that is killed? rather than both should be established as a recruiting fund, would it not be better to encrease the former? To compleat the Legion every Six months is as often as could be expected—more I fear than would be accomplished.

Arts. 12, 13, & 14th are quite reasonable & proper.

Art. 15th—How far this may interfere with the expectations of Colo. Armand ought to be considered, as he is not a little tenacious of the rights of the Corps he commands.

Taking the Oaths of fidelity & allegiance will be the natural consequence of Commissions & employments.

A pressure of other matters would not allow me to be more explicit—the sentiments I have offered are candid and free, tho’ they may be a little indigested. with much esteem and regard I am Dr Baron Yr most Obedt. Serv.

G. Washington

DLC: Papers of George Washington.

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