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My dear General,
I was, in the evening of the 23d, honored with your Excellency's favor of the 11th. No measure has been left untried to save the question for filling up our battalions for the war; but every attempt of its abettors for that purpose (and many there were in the Assembly) proved abortive. The following short anecdote will point your Excellency to some, and, I think, the principal reasons on which the question was lost. A venerable gray-headed old gentleman, who has lost two sons in the war, rose in the Assembly, and observed that the army must be filled up, and by our own children, who were afraid of becoming slaves, which they supposed might be the case if they engaged for the war. "We have," continued the old gentleman, " sons now grown up, who will readily engage for three years, and, by the time their services shall expire, others, now young, will be ready to take their places." These ideas so fully possessed the minds of the country members, that they supposed every attempt to fill up the army for the war would be ineffectual, serve only to waste the time, and probably prevent its being done, even for three years.
Though I am myself convinced that the measure is wrong, and that we had better have tried to have raised part of the number in the first place, and those for the war, yet I have the pleasing satisfaction to be fully convinced that those who were of a different opinion acted from the purest motives, and the fullest conviction that it was the most elioible. Notwithstanding the vote passed to raise the men for three years, or for the war, yet I have great hopes, from the encouragement given to them to engage for the war, in addition to the sum to be given for a three years' enlistment, and. from the disposition I find in the seaports in favor of the former measure, that great exertions will be made by them and others to carry it into execution. Indeed, this town has already secured about one third of its men for this term, and expect thus to secure the remainder.
The Assembly meets next week ; and, if there is the most distant prospect that, on a revival of the question, it will share a different fate from its last, I am positive it will be renewed.
By looking back into the state of onr finances, and forward to the expenses which will necessarily be incurred the next campaign, it is found that part of them must be provided for by direct borrowing. This, I think, will have a very happy effect ; for, before we can be again trusted, we must rescind some former resolutions, which have not given all that protection and support to creditors which, perhaps, the Legislative body intended they should give ; and adopt an enlarged system of politics, pregnant with the highest justice, the most permanent security to individuals. This will give dignity to Government, array the Legislature with confidence, and clothe the Executive with strength and vigor ; for a government whose resolutions are equal will as certainly find support, as that men regard, and steadily pursue, their own happiness.
I am much surprised to hear that there is so scanty an allowance of clothing in camp, as we have had, for so long a time, not only a good supply on hand in Europe and the West Indies, but, as I have the greatest reason to believe, a sufficiency of clothes within this State, brought in by our privateers, to clothe our army at any time within these five months past, five times over. Our finances, I know, are in a miserable situation; but I cannot believe that those of the several States are in so ruinous a condition as to prevent the purchase of so necessary an article.
Though it always gives me pain to offer a sentiment, which may in the least cast a censure upon Congress, for I know they are embarrassed, and are not supported as the best good of the public evidently dictates, yet I cannot but suggest my belief, that the want of proper arrangements, in some degree occasioned those distresses of our army, consequent upon a want of clothing. Either the Continental agents should purchase the whole for the army at large, or the several States should be left entirely to clothe their own troops, without the least interference of the agents; for, so long as it is the joint business of the agents and the respective States, a mutual reliance will occasion a failure of exertion in each. The former method is much to be preferred, because there would be a greater uniformity in the clothing of the troops, which will, among other conveniences, serve to prevent the existence of jealousies, arising from an apprehension of different usage. If an idea has ever been held up, that the Continental army is but the union of thirteen different armies, having different interests, and, in some degree, different pursuits, and of course, that good policy requires that each State should secure the affections of their own troops, and attach them to her particular interest, every step I wish might be taken to bury the sentiment in oblivion, and every measure tending to support it, if another can as conveniently be adopted, be by no means executed.
This, then, will stand as another reason why the Continent should clothe the troops of the respective States, or rather their own army. The business of clothing the army is exceedingly loose and irregular, so far that this State, even at this late hour, are uncertain, whether Congress expect that they are to clothe their own troops, independent of them, or not. As it is a matter of great importance, I hope Congress will be explicit and decided on this point. It is particularly necessary that they should be so, as it is supposed, here, that the late requisition of Congress for the specific articles and cash, together with what they draw from the new emission, is the whole demand on this State ; and, as I said before, part of this expense must be provided for b}'' borrowing. Should Congress think it most expedient that this State, or the several States, should clothe their own troops and credit them for the expense, in the present requisition, I am confident that if they give orders to this State for this purpose, they will be immediately executed.
Colonel Henly assures me, that the goods are here, and that an immediate supply for the whole army can be obtained. Some have been offered him on credit. He has no orders to purchase.
To clothe all the troops of the Continent can now, I think, be easily effected. The inclosed will show your Excellency, what quantity of clothing has been lately sent on, and what remains on hand. I hope the matter will not be delayed a single moment, from an expectation of our receiving what we have in Europe, or the West Indies. The danger of the seas, and the risk of capture, are too great to justify the least suspension. Indeed, was it to arrive at the hour of our procuring a full supply, should we even then have more on hand than sound policy would direct? I believe not; but am rather of opinion that a provident people, under our circumstances, would store three times the quantity. If, on the whole, we should be ordered to clothe our own troops, I wish your Excellency's directions whether, if it can soon be effected, the recruits should be detained in the mean time, or marched on, without delay, to camp. In either case, I conceive it will be necessary to send a number of officers to Springfield, and to this town, as those will probably be the two principal places at which the troops will rendezvous; for, if we mean to keep them from straggling, marauding, and wasting their time, they must be sent in bodies under proper officers. It appears to me, that it will be also necessary to detain some of the arms now here and which are ordered on, to be put into the hands of those on whom we can depend. They will serve as a guard to others of a different character.
The General Court have ordered, to each man, one dollar a mile, to enable him to march to camp ; but it is so far short of the real expense, that it will answer no valuable purpose. Indeed, if it was adequate, I think no good would arise from the measure ; for, I am confident, the men will not be got to camp unless they are marched under the care of proper officers, and different magazines established on the route, at which the men can be regularly supplied. I think there should be one in this town, one in Worcester, one in Springfield, and one in Litchfield. If your Excellency should be of opinion that the measure is necessary, I wish you would suggest it to the Governor, who, ever disposed to do right, doubts the propriety of his ordering these magazines from the specific articles called for by Congress. If these are not taken, it will be difficult to establish them.
There are some matters to be attended to here, in the military way, which seem to be the particular business of your Excellency, as Commander-in-chief, or the Commanding Officer in a separate department. Am I, Sir, as senior officer here, competent to such business ? If I am not, and further powers from your Excellency should be necessary, and you should think proper to grant them, I hope, if it can be avoided, an idea of my being Commanding Officer in this department will not be held up.
I have the honor to be, &c.,
- Correspondence of the American Revolution; Being Letters of Eminent Men to George Washington, from the Time of His Taking Command of the Army to the End of His Presidency, Volume III., Jared Sparks, 1853