Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO ROBERT MORRIS. - The Writings of George Washington, vol. V (1776-1777)
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TO ROBERT MORRIS. - George Washington, The Writings of George Washington, vol. V (1776-1777) 
The Writings of George Washington, collected and edited by Worthington Chauncey Ford (New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1890). Vol. V (1776-1777).
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TO ROBERT MORRIS.
Morristown, 2 March, 1777.
Your favour of the 27th ultimo came to my hands last night. The freedom, with which you have communicated your sentiments on several matters therein contained, is highly pleasing to me. For be assured Sir, that nothing would add more to my satisfaction, than an unreserved correspondence with a Gentleman of whose Abilities and attachment to the Cause we are contending for, I entertain so high an opinion as I do of yours. Letters, however, being liable to various accidents, make a communication of thoughts that way rather unsafe. But, as this will be conveyed by a gentleman on whom I can depend, I shall not scruple to disclose my Mind and situation, more freely than I otherwise should do.1
The Reasons, my good Sir, which you assign for thinking General Howe cannot move forward with his army are good; but not conclusive. It is a descriptive evidence of the difficulties he has to contend with, but no proof that they cannot be surmounted. It is a view of one side of the picture, against which let me enumerate the advantages on the other, and then determine how we would act in his situation General Howe cannot, by the best intelligence I have been able to get, have less than ten thousand men in the Jerseys and on board of transports at Amboy. Ours does not exceed four thousand. His are well disciplined, well officered, and well appointed. Ours raw Militia, badly officered, and under no Government. His numbers cannot, in any short time, be augmented. Ours must be very considerably, and by such troops as we can have some reliance on, or the game is at an end. His situation with respect to horses and forage is bad, very bad, I believe; but will it be better? No; on the contrary, worse, and, therefore, an inducement, if no other, to shift quarters. General Howe’s informants are too numerous, and too well acquainted with all these circumstances, to suffer him to remain in ignorance of them. With what propriety, then, can he miss so favorable an opportunity of striking a capital stroke against a city, from whence we derive so many advantages, the carrying of which would give such eclat to his arms, and strike such a damp upon ours? Nor is his difficulty of moving so great as is imagined. All the heavy Baggage of the Army, their Salt provisions, (and flour, their stores, &c.), might go round by water; whilst their superior numbers would enable them to make a sweep of the horses for many miles around about them (not already taken off by us).
In addition to all this, his coming himself to Brunswic, his bringing troops which cannot be quartered, and keeping them on shipboard at Amboy, with some other corroborating circumstances, did induce a firm belief in me, that he would move, and towards Philadelphia. I candidly own, that I expected it would happen before the expiration of my proclamation; the longer it is delayed, the better for us, and happy shall I be, if I am deceived. My opinions upon these several matters are only known to those, who have a right to be informed. As much as possible I have endeavored to conceal them from every one else; and, that no hasty removal of the public stores should take place, thereby communicating an alarm; it was, that I early recommended this measure, and have since been urging it, well knowing that a measure of this kind, set hastily about, when the enemy were advancing, would give unfavorable impressions, and be attended with bad consequences. To deceive Congress, or you, through whose hands my letters to them are to pass, with false appearances and assurances, would, in my judgment, be criminal, and make me responsible for the consequences. I endeavor, in all these letters, to state matters as they appear to my judgment, without adding to or diminishing aught from the picture. From others my sentiments are pretty much hid.
I wish, with all my heart, that Congress had gratified General Lee in his request. If not too late, I wish they would do it still. I can see no possible evil that can result from it; some good I think might. The request to see a gentleman or two came from the General, not from the Commissioners; there could have been no harm, therefore, in hearing what he had to say on any subject, especially as he had declared, that his own personal interest was deeply concerned. The resolve to put in close confinement Lieutenant-Colonel Campbell and the Hessian field-officers, in order to retaliate General Lee’s punishment upon them, is, in my opinion, injurious in every point of view, and must have been entered into without due attention to the consequences. Does Congress know how much the balance of prisoners is against us; that the enemy have, at least, three hundred officers of ours in their possession, and we not fifty of theirs; that Generals Thompson and Waterbury are subject to be recalled at any time? Do they imagine that these officers will not share the fate of Campbell &c? Or, possibly, by receiving very different treatment, mixed with artful insinuations, have their resentments roused to acts highly injurious to our cause. It is much easier to raise a ferment of this kind than to allay it. Do they know that every artifice is now practising to prepossess the Hessians with an idea of our mal-treatment of their countrymen (in our possession); that we are treating them as slaves; nay, that we mean to sell them? And will not the close confinement of their first officers be adduced as strong evidence of this? Congress therefore should be cautious how they adopt measures which cannot be carried into execution without involving a train of evils, that may be fatal in their consequences. In a word, common prudence dictates the necessity of duly attending to the circumstances of both armies, before the style of conquerors is assumed by either; and sorry I am to add, that this does not appear to be the case with us; nor is it in my power to make Congress fully sensible of the real situation of our affairs, and that it is with difficulty, (if I may use the expression,) that I can, by every means in my power, keep the life and soul of this army together. In a word, when they are at a distance, they think it is but to say, Presto begone, and every thing is done. They seem not to have any conception of the difficulty and perplexity attending those, who are to execute. Indeed, Sir, your observations on the want of many capital characters in the senate are but too just. However, our cause is good, and I hope Providence will support it.
If the resolve of Congress, respecting General Lee, strikes you in the same point of view it has done me, I could wish you would signify as much to that body, as I really think they are fraught with every evil. We know that the meeting of a Committee of Congress and Lord Howe stopped the mouths of many disaffected people. I believe the meeting solicited by General Lee would have the same effect.1 But the other matter, relative to the confinement of the officers, is what I am particularly anxious about, as I think it will involve much more than Congress has an idea of, and that they surely will repent adhering to their unalterable resolution.
I have wrote you a much longer letter than I expected to have done when I sat down; and yet, if time would permit, I could enlarge greatly on the subject of it; but, at present, shall beg pardon for taking up so much of your time, and only assure you that I am, most sincerely, dear Sir, &c.
[1 ]This letter was in reply to one, which Mr. Morris had lately written, remarking on a previous letter from General Washington to him, in which the prospects of the future, particularly in regard to the movements and designs of the enemy, were depicted in sombre colors.
[1 ]Mr. Morris accorded in opinion with General Washington on this point. He said in reply: “I wish with you, that they had complied with General Lee’s request, and when I sent forward those despatches to Baltimore, I wrote my sentiments to some of the members. I must hint to you what I take to be one of the most forcible arguments, that has been used in Congress against this measure. I have not heard that it was used, but it occurred to me on reading General Lee’s letters; I mean the effect it might have at the court of France, should they hear, as they undoubtedly would, that members of Congress visited General Lee by permission of the British Commissioners. The meeting with Lord Howe at Staten Island last summer injured Mr. Deane’s negotiations much, and retarded supplies intended for us.”—Letter, March 6th.