George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Benjamin Harrison, Sr., 4 March 1783

Newburgh 4th March 1783

Dear Sir,

Your favor of the 31st of Jany came to my hands the Post before last, & the acct from Genl Lavalette by the last Post. Upon the receipt of the latter, your Letter & Lavalettes acct was sent to Sir Guy Carleton with a request to remit the money to Colo. Smith at Dobbs’s Ferry; who is desired to forward it to the Chevr de la Luzerne at Philadelphia.

You ask what my expectations of Peace are? I answer, I am scarcely able to form any ideas on the subject, since I have seen (what is called, for we have no authentic acct of its being so) the Kings Speech; & the variety of contradictory reports respecting the Negociations for it. The Enemy in New York are as impatient, and as much in the dark as we are on this occasion; not having received a Packet for more than two Months. Although I cannot give you a decided opinion, under present appearances, I will transcribe the answer I gave about the first of Jany to a question similar to yours, from a Gentleman of my acquaintance in Maryland, or rather the decision, if any, unannounced, I see no occasion to depart from.

"My opinion of the matter, ever since the death of the Marqs of Rockingham and the cecession of Mr Fox, Burke &ca has been uniformly the same; and no late European Accts that I have met with has given me cause to alter it. it is, that no Peace would take place before the meeting of the British Parliament; and that then it would depend upon the influence of the Crown, & strength of the contending Parties. that previous to the Session, the British Negociators would be employed at Intrigue—In an investigation of Powers—hearing propositions—& probing the intentions of the Belligerent powers to the bottom—the latter being accomplished, the Minister (Lord Shelburne) if he found himself upon slippery ground, or that the voice of the People was loud for Peace, would inform the Parliament that after many Months in Negociation such are the best terms he can obtain. and as they involve consequences of the greatest national concern, & have been the Subject of Seven years war & debate—it now rests with Parliament to accept them—or provide vigorously for the prosecution of the War—this places the matter upon the broadest Basis—removes responsibility from his door. & blunts the edge of opposition, which otherwise I am perswaded would be very keen.

"The King having by his Letters Patent (copy of which I have seen) authorized Mr Oswald to treat with any Commissioner or Commissioners from the United States of America, is certainly a great point gained; but it was unavoidable on the part of England; as our Commissioners would not enter upon business with Mr Oswald without—and the Minister dared not to meet the Parliamt without having attempted something under the Peace Bill which passed the Session before—upon the whole I am of opinion that the terms of Peace were agreed on before the Adjournment for the Christmas Hollidays, or that we shall have at least another Campaign—How well the States are provided for the continuance of the War let their Acts & policy answer. The Army as usual is without pay—and a great part of the Soldiery without shirts. and though the patience of them is equally thread bare, the States seem perfectly indifferent to their cries. in a word, if one was to hazard for them an opinion upon this subject, it would be that the Army had contracted such a habit of encountering difficulties & distress—and of living without money, that it would be impolitic & injurious to introduce other customs in to it."

What, my dear Sir, could induce the State of Virginia to rescind its assent to the Impost Law? How are the numerous Creditors of the public in Civil life & the Army to be paid if no regular and certain funds are established to discharge the Interest of Monies borrowed for these purposes? and what Tax can be more just or better calculated to answer the end than an Impost? The alarm Bell, which has been rung with such a tremendous sound by the State of Rhode Island, to shew the danger of entrusting Congress with Money, is too selfish & feutile to require a serious answer. Congress are in fact, the People—they return to them at certain short periods—are amenable at all times for their conduct—and subject to a recall at any moment—What interest therefore can a man have, under these circumstances distinct from his Constituents—can it be supposed, that with design, he would form a junto, or pernicious Aristocracy that would operate agt himself; in less than a month perhaps, after it was established? I cannot conceive it. but from the observations I have made in the course of this War (and my intercourse with the States in their United as well as seperate capacities has afforded ample oppertunities of Judging) I am decided in my opinion, that if the powers of Congress are not enlarged, & made competent to all general purposes, that the Blood which has been spilt—the expence that has been incurred—& the distresses which have been felt, will avail nothing and that the band, already too weak, wch holds us together, will soon be broken; when anarchy & confusion will prevail.

I shall make no apology for the freedom of these Sentiments. they proceed from an honest heart, altho’ they may be the result of erroneous thinking. they will at least prove the sincerity of my friendship, as they are altogether undisguised. With the greatest esteem & regard I am—Dr Sir Yr most Obed. & Affectt. Hble Servt

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PHi: Gratz Collection.

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