Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS. - The Writings of George Washington, vol. VI (1777-1778)
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TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS. - 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 THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Valley Forge, 18 April, 1778.
On Thursday evening I had the honor to receive your two letters of the 14th instant. I am much obliged by the fresh assurances, which Congress are pleased to make me of their confidence; and they may be satisfied that I wish nothing more ardently, than that a good and perfect agreement should subsist between us. The negotiation between the commissioners is ended without effecting a cartel; nor do I suppose, from the information I have received on the subject, that there is any good prospect that one will ever be formed, or at least for a great while, on a liberal and an extensive plan. A report of the proceedings of the commissioners on our part, at their several meetings, I take the liberty to enclose. * * * The old agreement, I presume, continues; and under it we must carry on exchanges.1
General Muhlenberg has communicated his determination to resign, but has promised not to leave his brigade till Congress shall appoint another general in his room, provided it is done in any reasonable time. By postponing my call upon the militia, as mentioned in my last of the 10th, I did not mean to decline it altogether. I did not see the necessity of calling out five thousand for the sole purpose of defence; and in the present situation of things, I cannot perceive my way sufficiently clear for offensive measures, as I do not know when to expect the recruits from the different States, nor what prospect the commissary has of provision; as we only get it yet from hand to mouth, assembling the militia, unless for the purpose of defence, should be the last thing done, as they soon become impatient, and are very expensive in the articles of stores, camp utensils, provisions, &c.
The enclosed draft of a bill was brought to headquarters yesterday afternoon, by a gentleman who informed me, that a large cargo of them had been just sent out of Philadelphia. Whether this insidious proceeding is genuine, and imported in the packet, which arrived a few days ago, or contrived in Philadelphia, is a point undetermined and immaterial; but it is certainly founded in principles of the most wicked, diabolical baseness, meant to poison the minds of the people, and detach the wavering at least from our cause.1 I suppose it will obtain a place in the papers, and am not without anxiety that it will have a malignant influence. I would submit it, whether it will not be highly expedient for Congress to investigate it in all its parts, and to expose in the most striking manner the injustice, delusion, and fraud it contains. I trust it will be attacked, in every shape, in every part of the continent.1 I have the honor to be, &c.2
[1 ]The commissioners met again April 6th, at Newtown, in Bucks County. A difficulty arose at the outset concerning the nature of the powers contained in General Howe’s commission. It was given on no other authority than his own, whereas the commission from General Washington expressly specified, that it was “in virtue of full powers to him delegated.” This defect was objected to by the American commissioners, and the subject was referred to General Howe, who declined altering the commission, declaring at the same time, “that he meant the treaty to be of a personal nature, founded on the mutual confidence and honor of the contracting generals, and had no intention, either of binding the nation, or extending the cartel beyond the limits and duration of his own command.” As this was putting the matter on a totally different footing from that contemplated in General Washington’s commission, by which Congress and the nation were bound, and as General Howe’s commissioners refused to treat on any other terms, the meeting was dissolved, without any progress having been made in a cartel. It was intimated by the British commissioners, as a reason why General Howe declined to negotiate on a national ground, that it might imply an acknowledgment inconsistent with the claims of the English government. The papers, which passed between the commissioners of the two parties, were published by order of Congress.—See Remembrancer, vol. vi., p. 315.
[1 ]“When I addressed you on the 18th, I was doubtful whether the draft of the bill then transmitted was not spurious and contrived in Philadelphia; but its authenticity, I am almost certain is not to be questioned. The information from Philadelphia seems clear and conclusive, that it came over in the packet, with Lord North’s speech on the introduction of it into Parliament. I enclose a paper containing his speech, which just came to hand. This bill, I am persuaded, will pass into a law. Congress will perceive by the minister’s speech, that it aims at objects of the greatest extent and importance, and will no doubt in one way or other involve the most interesting consequences to this country.”—Washington to the President of Congress, 20 April, 1778.
[1 ]The paper here referred to contained a draft of Lord North’s Conciliatory Bills, as they were called. They had made their way with quick despatch to General Washington’s camp. They arrived in New York on the 14th of April, and were published on the 15th by Governor Tryon, accompanied by a declaration certifying that they were genuine copies of the drafts sent to him by Lord George Germaine. He added: “To prepare the way for the return of peace, the above bills were read in the House of Commons on the 19th day of February last, in pursuance of unanimous resolve of the House on the 17th of the same month; and I have his Majesty’s command to cause them to be printed and dispersed, that the people at large may be acquainted with their contents, and with the favorable disposition of Great Britain towards the American colonies.” Lord North’s speech, on presenting the bills to Parliament, was likewise published at the same time. None of these particulars had come to General Washington’s knowledge, when he wrote the above letter. From the manner in which he speaks of the bills, as well as from his next letter to Congress, it is evident that he considered them a forgery at the time he was writing. Nor was he singular in this opinion. Mr. Laurens, President of Congress, in a letter to Governor Clinton, said: “I differ from gentlemen, who suppose the performance originated under authority in England. It appears to me to be destitute of the most essential marks. I believe it to be of Philadelphia manufacture, probably under hints from the other side of the water.”—MS. Letter, April 20th.
[2 ]Read in Congress, April 20th. Referred to G. Morris, Drayton, and Dana.