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I have been honored with your Excellency's despatches of the 18th of December and 29th of January. I am made happy by your full approbation of my conduct, and the army under my command, during the southern operations. The evacuation of Charleston, and the proposals of peace, are matters highly interesting to this country, whose finances and political arrangements are in the most deplorable situation. Charleston remains without a platform, or a single cannon for its defence. The subsistence of the troops, for some time after the evacuation of this place, depended on military collections ; but, happily, we have made a contract for their future subsistence. On this subject I should feel easy, but for the critical situation the Financier writes me his department is circumstanced.
The States have rejected the five per cent, duty act generally, and few pay any thing into the Continental Treasury any other -way. I wrote a letter to this State on the subject a few days past, stating some facts respecting the discontents prevailing in the Northern army respecting pay, and what might be expected in this to the southward. I thought it my duty to warn the State of what I apprehended. The impost act was rejected, notwithstanding, and the Assembly offended. I will ever speak my sentiments, and act with candor. I wish to know the nature and extent of the discontent ]3revailing in the northern troops. Matters are represented here in dark colors. The report spreads among our troops, and threatens a convulsion. I shall give you the best information on the subject in my power ; but these things often come to a crisis from accident and indiscretion, before one expects it. I could wish to be fully informed respecting the temper of the Northern army ; it would enable me to counteract many aggravations here.
I have communicated to the Assembly your orders for marching the troops to the northward ; but I am much at a loss how to act in the matter. Your Excellency seems to leave a latitude of discretion respecting the tranquillity of these States ; but your comment upon a desultory and predatory war, appears to be intended to limit m}' discretionary powers to matters of serious invasion. We have none at present, and yet there are parties continually making inroads upon different sides of both Georgia and South Carolina, from St. Augustine.
If I put the troops in motion, as you mention, it leaves the Southern States a prey to every invader. A small force, in their present distracted state, would overrun the country, and Charleston may be repossessed, at any time, by a few frigates, with a regiment or two of inftmtiy. I would wish to follow your intention. If I could conceive you had a clear idea of the weakness and distress of this country, the troops should march immediately ; hut the prospects of peace, and the possibility of New York being evacuated, if the war should continue, induce me to wait until the arrival of the next despatches. In the mean time, I shall have every preparation made for their marching as soon as may be. The men are well clothed, and pretty well disciplined. Some few days before the arrival of your last letter, from an appearance of an invasion upon Georgia, I put the Virginia troops in motion for the protection of that quarter ; and, as their numbers are small, and will be of little consequence in the siege, I shall not march them until your further orders.
The people of this State are much prejudiced against Congress and the Financier. Those who came from the northward think they have been amazingly neglected by both in their distresses. Their General disposition leads more to an independence of Congressional connection, than I could wish, or is for their peace or welfare. This State has contributed more than any other State, it is true, towards the Continental expenses; but necessity obliged them. I wish all the States could see how much the tranquillity of each depended upon giving effectual support to Congress. I have the honor to be, with great respect.
Your Excellency's most obedient, humble servant,
- 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 IV., Jared Sparks, 1853