Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO RICHARD HENRY LEE. - The Writings of George Washington, vol. V (1776-1777)
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TO RICHARD HENRY LEE. - 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 RICHARD HENRY LEE.
Morristown, 24 April, 1777.
I have been favored with two or three letters from you lately. The last that came to hand was without date, but contained an extract from Doctor Lee’s letter to the Secret Committee, and the French general’s ideas of the measures necessary for us to pursue in prosecuting the war with Great Britain; for both of which I sincerely thank you, as the communication of such matters cannot fail of having a proper tendency.1
The complexion of affairs in Europe seems to indicate an approaching storm; but where, when, or on whom it may break, is not quite so clear, and ought not, in my judgment, to occasion the smallest relaxation in our preparations; for I profess myself to be of that class, who never built sanguinely upon the assistance of France, further than her winking at our supplies from thence for the benefits derived from our trade; and how far the measures and offers of Great Britain may contravene this, time only can discover, and is somewhat to be feared. The plan drawn by the French general is of such a nature, that it is impracticable to carry it into execution this campaign. It may, however, be kept in view, and the whole or such parts of it adopted, as our circumstances, upon a full consideration of the matter, may hereafter admit. The great delay in appointing the general officers, the resignation of some of them, the non-acceptance of others, and I might add the unfitness of a few, joined to the amazing delay in assembling the troops, and the abuses which I am satisfied have been committed by the recruiting officers, (both of which being consequences of the want of officers in that line to superintend those duties in the respective States) have distressed me and the service exceedingly; and they will amply prove, what I foretold to Congress, that the pay of these officers (for I could account for the delay of appointing them on no other principle) would be an ill-timed saving. Convinced I am, that thousands of pounds would have been saved to the public, if the measure had been adopted upon my first recommendation of it. But the extra expense is the smallest part of the evil. The backwardness in assembling the troops is truly alarming; this, however, is not a singular instance of our suffering by delay in the adoption of measures, which were early recommended.
You are not aware of the evil consequences, that would follow a general exemption of all persons concerned in iron-works from military duty; they are very numerous, and in this part of the country form a great majority of the people. Besides, why should the ironmaster carry on his trade without restriction, when the farmer, equally useful for the support of the war, the shoemaker, and other manufacturers, absolutely necessary to the equipment of an army, may have their servants and apprentices taken from them at pleasure? One thing I have ever done, and it has, I believe, answered the end proposed by you; whenever an iron-work has been employed for the public, I have desired the owner to give me a return of the number of men, and the names of those necessarily employed therein, and have exempted them from the duties of militia-men in this State. This I have found necessary on two accounts; first, to secure such articles of manufacture as the army wanted; and, next, to prevent numbers under this pretext from withholding their services in the military line, there being, in this county (Morris) alone, between eighty and a hundred iron-works, large and small. Doctor Lee’s opinion on the propriety of attacking the enemy upon their first arrival, under a supposition of their being raw and undisciplined, is certainly well founded, if our own circumstances will admit of it; but the Doctor little apprehended, I believe, that we ourselves should have an army to raise, at this late hour, of men equally raw, and officers probably much more so. Please to make a tender of my compliments to your brother and other delegates from Virginia. I have the honor to be, &c.1
[1 ]The following statement will show how much influence a small circumstance will sometimes have in war. Arthur Lee was in Bordeaux on the 20th of February, where he received a letter from a confidential correspondent, who assured him, that “Boston was certainly to be attacked in the spring, and that Burgoyne was to command.” This intelligence was sent by Arthur Lee to the Secret Committee of Congress, and by them transmitted to General Washington and the Legislature of Massachusetts; thus embarrassing the Commander-in-chief as to the designs of the enemy, and alarming the people of Massachusetts, and turning their thoughts to the raising of forces for their own protection, when the best interests of the cause required them to contribute all the strength in their power to the main army. The intelligence was false, and was probably communicated by a finesse of the British government, with the view of distracting the attention of the Americans, in regard to the real objects of the approaching campaign.—Sparks.
[1 ]“I wrote you on the 23d instant, communicating intelligence lately received respecting the enemy’s designs up the No. River. A letter from General McDougall, this moment received, places their Intentions beyond the power of misconception. Several Transports have anchored at Dobb’s Ferry, and in my opinion they intend to divert our attention (if possible) from their Movements towards the Delaware. At any rate they may attempt to make some incursions into the country back of this place, and, if they can, seize the passes through the mountains, thereby aiming to cut off the Communication between the army here and the No. River. To frustrate such a design effectually I must repeat my desire, that you would post as good a body of troops in the mountains west of the river, as you can collect and spare from the garrison. This will serve not only to retain our possession of the passes, but will awe the disaffected, and protect our friends.”—Washington to Brigadier-General George Clinton, 26 April, 1777.