Office of Finance 4th June 1782
I have received your Excellency’s Letter of the Seventeenth and twenty fifth of May with the Enclosure. I am much obliged by the Attention paid in your circular Letter to the Situation of my Department. I am very sorry to inform you that it is really deplorable. I with difficulty am enabled to perform my Engagements and am absolutely precluded from forming any new ones. I have therefore been under the very disagreeable Necessity of suffering the public Service to stand still in more Lines than one—I have been driven to the greatest Shifts and am at this moment unable to provide for the civil List.
I can easily suppose that military Men should murmer to find the Salaries of the civil List more punctually paid than their own. To enter into Arguments on this Occasion will be unnecessary, for I am perswaded that your Excellency must be of Opinion with me that without the civil List is paid neither civil nor military can exist at all.
I am very sorry to find so many Difficulties made about the Contract. The first which was formed and which the Officers now refer to was as you will remember much opposed and many Difficulties arose in the Execution. The Methods taken to obviate those Difficulties have produced many others and I am perswaded that if attending to the Reasons assigned by the Officers an Alteration should be made, conformably to them their Complaints would thereby be increased. If for Instance on the Principle that they are intitled to the Ration in kind, orders should issue that they draw those Rations or in case of not drawing receive no compensation this would leave them in the Mercy of the Contractor to allow so much as they may think proper for the Rations retained. And yet this would be a literal Performance of the Promise made in 1775.
I shall not enter into the various Causes of Complaint because that I expect the Minister of War will go to Camp for the Purpose of enquiring into them and I shall on my Part do every thing I can to facilitate his Measures—I am nevertheless perswaded that all the Obstacles might be more readily surmounted by a good Understanding between the Officers and Contractors than in any other Mode. As I am told that the old Commissary of Issues is now about to become the Issuing Contractor I expect that his knowledge of the Army will enable him to get over many Difficulties which have formerly existed. If the Officers and Contractors understand each other they may easily square their Mode of doing Business with that which is prescribed for the public Convenience. For altho the Provisions be actually issued during every Day of the weak or Month it will be extremely easy to make a weekly or monthly Settlement and comprise all the Rations in one Order and Return, this by simplifying the Vouchers will facilitate the Adjustment of public Accounts.
I should have sent forward e’er this Moment the Intendant and had applied to General Cornell to accept that office but some Circumstances prevented him from going after he agreed that he would and this which only came to my Knowledge Yesterday has reduced me to the Necessity of seeking another and find it no easy Matter to fix on a proper Person for that important Station.
I pray you will be convinced that I have no Partiality or Prediliction in Favor of Mr Sands or of any other Person. If they are guilty of Fraud or Neglect of Duty I am not only willing but desirious that they should suffer. The Contract for West point of which I presume your Excellency has a copy from the War-Office will point out the Remedy where there is a Deficiency of Quantity or Quality in the Articles of a Ration. Besides this the Contractors all give Bond for the faithful Performance of their Contracts. That they have not laid up the Magazines required at West Point is an Omission for which they are answerable and I trust that General Lincoln will take the proper Measures to compel their Obedience or punish their Neglect.
I am well perswaded of your Excellency’s Desire to promote the Success of those Measures I have taken because I am sure you are convinced that their Tendency and my Intentions are all directed to the public Good Indeed my dear Sir you will hardly be able to form an adequate Idea of the Earnestness with which I desire to relieve you from the Anxieties you must undergo. But when the several Gazetts Shall have announced the Sums received for this Year’s Service, and I am well convinced that the whole did not on the first of June amount to twenty thousand Dollars, when it is recollected that our Expences at the Rate of near eight Millions annually are near twenty thousand Dollars pr day and when it is known that the Estimates on which the Demand was founded do not include many essential Branches among which the marine and foreign Affairs are to be numbered, surely it cannot be a Matter of Surprise that the Army are not paid. Surely the Blame is to fall on those from whose Negligence the Evil originates. But I will not give you the Pain of hearing me repeat Complaints which you know to be but too well founded. I pray you to believe that I am Sir with very great respect Your Excellency’s most Obedient and Humble servant
P.S. I have received yours of the 29th of May. The Notes for Mr Varrick did not go when I expected owing to a Mistake of Mr Swanwick’s They are now sent in a Letter to Colo. Varrick by favor of Colo. Wadsworth.
DLC: Papers of George Washington.