Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO BENJAMIN FRANKLIN, IN PARIS. - The Writings of George Washington, vol. VI (1777-1778)
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TO BENJAMIN FRANKLIN, IN PARIS. - George Washington, The Writings of George Washington, vol. VI (1777-1778) 
The Writings of George Washington, collected and edited by Worthington Chauncey Ford (New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1890). Vol. VI (1777-1778).
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TO BENJAMIN FRANKLIN, IN PARIS.
Head-Quarters, 17 August, 1777.
I have been honored with your favor of the 2d of April by Monsieur de Cenis, written in behalf of that gentleman on the credit of Monsieur Turgot’s recommendation. I should have been happy, had it been in my power, in deference to your recommendation, founded upon that of so respectable a character as Monsieur Turgot, to afford Monsieur de Cenis the encouragement, to which his zeal and trouble in coming to America to offer his services give him a claim to; but such is the situation of things in our army at this time, that I am necessarily deprived of that satisfaction. Our troops being already formed and fully officered, and the number of foreign gentlemen already commissioned and continually arriving with fresh applications, throw such obstacles in the way of any future appointments, that every new arrival is only a new source of embarrassment to Congress and myself, and of disappointment and chagrin to the gentlemen, who come over. Had there been only a few to provide for, we might have found employment for them in a way advantageous to the service and honorable to themselves; but, as they have come over in such crowds, we either must not employ them, or we must do it at the expense of one half of the officers of the army; which you must be sensible would be attended with the most ruinous effects, and could not fail to occasion a general discontent. It is impossible for these gentlemen to raise men for themselves; and it would be equally impolitic and unjust to displace others, who have been at all the trouble and at considerable expense in raising corps, in order to give them the command. Even where vacancies happen, there are always those, who have a right of succession by seniority, and who are as tenacious of this right as of the places they actually hold; and in this they are justified by the common principle and practice of all armies, and by resolutions of Congress. Were these vacancies to be filled by the foreign officers, it would not only cause the resignation of those, who expect to succeed to them, but it would serve to disgust others, both through friendship to them, and from an apprehension of their being liable to the same inconvenience themselves. This, by rendering the hope of preferment precarious, would remove one of the principal springs of emulation, absolutely necessary to be upheld in an army.
Besides this difficulty, the error we at first fell into, of prodigally bestowing rank upon foreigners, without examining properly their pretensions, having led us to confer high ranks upon those who had none, or of a very inferior degree, in their own country, it now happens, that those who have really good pretensions, who are men of character, abilities, and rank, will not be contented unless they are introduced into some of the highest stations of the army, in which, it needs no arguments to convince you, it is impossible to gratify them. Hence their dissatisfaction and the difficulty of employing them are increased. These obstacles reduce us to this dilemma: either we must refuse to commission them at all, and leave all the expense, trouble, and risk, that have attended their coming over, uncompensated; or we must commission them without being able to incorporate or employ them; by which means enjoying the public pay and an unmeaning rank, they must submit to the mortification of being mere ciphers in the army. This last, to some of them, may not be disagreeable; but to men of sentiment, and who are actuated by a principle of honor and a desire to distinguish themselves, it must be humiliating and irksome in the extreme.
From these considerations it would be both prudent and just to discourage their coming over, by candidly opening the difficulties they have to encounter; and if, after that, they will persist in it, they can only blame themselves. I am sensible, Sir, that it is a delicate and perplexing task to refuse applications of persons patronized, (as I suppose often happens,) by some of the first characters in the kingdom where you are, and whose favor it is of importance to conciliate; but I beg leave to suggest, whether it would not be better to do that, than by compliance to expose them to those mortifications, which they must unavoidably experience, and which they are too apt to impute to other causes than the true, and may represent under very disadvantageous colors. Permit me also to observe to you, that even where you do not promise any thing, but simply give a line of recommendation, they draw as strong an assurance of success from that as from a positive engagement, and estimate the hardship of a disappointment nearly the same in the one case as in the other. I am, &c.1
[1 ]“I was just now informed that Lieut. McNaire, of the Artillery, has been arrested, and stands bound over to the nearest Court to be held for Hertford County, for enlisting two men to serve in one of the Continental Regiments of Artillery. This, it is said, is in consequence of an act of your Assembly, by which all officers are prohibited from enlisting men within the State, unless they are of the Regiments belonging to it. I have never seen the Law, and therefore cannot pretend to determine how far the prohibition extends, but should suppose, it was only designed to prevent the Officers of other States enlisting men to fill up the Regiments assigned to their Quota. So far, it appears to me, the Act would be founded on the strictest justice; but when there is an absolute necessity for Artillery Corps,—when three such Regiments were ordered to be raised by Congress, without being apportioned on any particular State, certainly each should furnish a proportion of men. This case is quite otherwise. All in this Line now with the Army have been enlisted in the New England States, a few excepted, and the greatest part in that of Massachusetts, over and above their quota of the 88 Battalions first voted, and a proportion of the additional 16. I will not say anything of the policy or impolicy of the Act, if it has a more extensive operation than I have supposed it to have; but I would take the liberty to observe that in my opinion, it would be for the advantage of the States if each of ’em had men employed in this important branch of war, not to add, that the whole ought to contribute equally to the filling of all Corps that are deemed essential, and which are not allotted to any individual one.”—Washington to the Maryland Delegates in Congress, 17 August, 1777.