George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Joseph Jones, 12 March 1783

Newburgh 12th March 1783

Dear Sir,

I have received your letter of he 27th Ulto, & thank you for the information & freedom of your communication. My official letter to Congress of this date will inform you what has happened in this Quarter. In addition to which, it may be necessary it shd be known to you & to such others as you may think proper, that the temper of the Army, tho’ very irritable on acct of their long protracted sufferings, has been apparently extremely quiet while their business was depending before Congress, untill four days past. in the mean time it should seem, reports have been propagated in Philadelphia that dangerous combinations were forming in the Army, & this at a time when there was not a syllable of the kind in agitation in Camp.

It also appears that upon the arrival of a certain Gentleman from Philadelphia, in Camp, whose name I do not at present incline to mention, such sentiments as these were immediately & industriously circulated. That it was universally expected that the Army would not disband untill they had obtained Justice. That the public Creditors looked up to them for Redress of their grievances, would afford them every aid, and even join them in the field, if necessary. That some Members of Congress wished the measure might take effect, in order to compel the public—particularly the delinquent States, to do Justice. with many other suggestions of a similar Nature, from whence and a variety of other considerations it is generally believed the scheme was not only planned, but also digested & matured in Philadelphia: and that some people have been playing a double game—spreading at the Camp, & in Philadelphia, reports, and raising jealousies equally void of foundation, untill called into being by their vile artifices. for as soon as the Minds of the Officers were thought to be prepared for the transaction, an anonymous invitation was circulated requesting a general meeting of the Officers next day—at the same instant, many copies of the Address to the Officers of the Army was circulated in every state line of it.

So soon as I obtained knowledge of these things, I issued the order of the 11th (transmitted to Congress;) in order to rescue the foot that stood wavering on the precipice of despair, from taking those steps which would have led to the abyss of misery, while the passions were all inflamed and the mind tremblingly alive with the recollection of past sufferings, and their present feelings. I did this on the principle that it is easier to divert from a wrong to a right path, than it is to recall the hasty & fatal steps which have been already taken.

It is commonly supposed, if the Officers had met agreeably to the anonymous summons, resolutions might have been formed, the consequences of which may be more easily conceived than expressed. Now, they will have leisure to view the matter more calmly & seriously—It is to be hoped they will be induced to adopt more rational measures, and wait a while longer for the settlement of their Accts; the postponing of which gives more uneasiness in the Army than any other thing. there is no man in it who will not acknowledge that Congress have not the means of paying. but why not say they—one & all—liquidate the accts, & certify our dues? Are we to be disbanded & sent home without this? are we afterwards to make individual applications for such settlements at Philadelphia, or at any Auditing Office in our respective States; to be shifted perhaps from one board to another, & dance attendance at all; & finally be postponed till we lose the substance, in pursuit of the shadow. while they are agitated by these considerations there are not wanting insidious characters who tell them "it is neither the wish nor the intention of the public to settle your accounts but to delay them under one pretext or another ’till peace, which we are upon the verge of, and a seperation of the Army takes place; when it is well known, it will be difficult if not impracticable, a general settlement never can be accomplished; and that individual loss in this instance, will be a public gain."

However derogatory these ideas are to the dignity, honor, & justice of government; yet in a matter so interesting to the Army, & at the sametime so easy to be effected by the public as that of liquidating the accounts is delayed, without any apparent or obvious necessity; they will have their place in a mind that is soured, & has become irritated—Let me entreat you therefore, my good Sir to push this matter to an issue—and if there are Delegates among you, who are really opposed to doing justice to the Army, scruple not to tell them—if matters do come to extremity—that they must be answerable for all the ineffable horrors which may be occasioned there by. With great truth and sincerity I am—Dr Sir Yr Most Obedt & affecte Servt

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