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TO GOUVERNEUR MORRIS. - George Washington, The Writings of George Washington, vol. VII (1778-1779) 
The Writings of George Washington, collected and edited by Worthington Chauncey Ford (New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1890). Vol. VII (1778-1779).
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TO GOUVERNEUR MORRIS.
Valley Forge, 29th May, 1778.
I thank you for your favors of the 21st & 23d Inst—both of which have come to my hand since my last to you. Had such a chapter as you speak of been written to the rulers of mankind it would I am persuaded, have been as unavailing as many others upon subjects of equal importance—We may lament that things are not consonant with our wishes, but cannot change the nature of Men, and yet those who are distressed by the folly and perverseness of it, cannot help complaining, as I would do on the old score of regulation and arrangement, if I thought any good would come of it1 :
It appears to me that British politics are aground, & that administration is reduced to the alternative (if war is declared, which I cannot doubt) of relinquishing all pretensions to conquest in America, or must give up her Islands. Which she will choose I cannot say; which she ought to do, is evident, but how far obstinacy, revenge & villainy, may enduce them to persevere, I shall not undertake to determine.—That the enemy in Philadelphia are bound to New York, I have no doubt—whether as a place of rendezvous, or to facilitate any operations up the North River, time, & less of it than you have taken to arrange the business of this army, will unfold—whether they will go thence by land or water, or whether they may not pay their compliments to us before they go, is not yet certain—my own opinion is that they will march the flower of their army, un-incumbered with baggage through the Jerseys, & it is much to be lamented that our strength, the number & situation of our sick, & stores, will not allow us to make a larger detachment (previous to their move) than a brigade in aid of the militia of that State; but were we to do this, if they had no serious thoughts before of visiting this army, a large detachment from it, out of recalling distance, might enduce a measure of this kind, & expose upwards of three thousand sick which we have not conveniency to remove, to insult perhaps to a capital stroke & loss—
If I could spare a brigade from this army for Rhode Island, I should not hesitate a moment in my choice of the person you have mentioned1 but Congress most assuredly knew that since McIntosh has left us2 No. Carolina wants one for the Troops of that State—Virginia two (as Muhlenburg only waits the arrival of a successor)—Maryland one—Pennsylvania (till Hand arrives) one—Massachusetts two—& these exclusive of what were thought necessary for the light troops (if any were ever to be formed). What am I to do with Putnam? If Congress mean to lay him aside decently, I wish they would devise the mode.—He wanted some time ago to visit his family; I gave him leave, & requested him to superintend the forwarding of the Connecticut recruits—This service he says is at an end, & is now applying for orders.—If he comes to this army he must be in high command (being next in rank to Lee)—if he goes to the North River he must command Gates, or serve under a junior officer—The sooner these embarrassments could be removed the better—If they are not to be removed, I wish to know it, that I may govern myself accordingly; indecision & suspense in the military line, are hurtful in the extreme.
The Marquis by depending on the militia to patroll the roads on his left, had very near been caught in a snare—in fact he was in it—but by his own dexterity or the enemy’s want of it, he disengaged himself in a very soldierlike manner, & by an orderly & well conducted retreat got out, losing three men killed & a like number taken only.—Of the enemy about the same number were taken three or four times as many killed & wounded, besides those who died of the fatigue & some of their cavalry disabled—Upon the whole the Marquis came handsomely off, and the enemy returned disappointed & disgraced—loading poor Grant with obliquy for his conduct on the occasion; sneeringly asking, how 5000 men were to go through the Continent when 2500 only, shifted their ground in his view, & looked at him at the head of six or seven thousand with good countenances.
I had wrote this far when your favor begun on the 27th & ended on the 28th came to hand—With respect to appointments, promotions, etc. I have not a word more to say—My earnest wish is that something, I do not care what, may be fixed & the regulations completed. It is a lamentable prospect to a man who has seen, and felt as many inconveniences as I have from the unsettled & disordered condition of the Army, to perceive that we are again to be plunged into a moving state (after near six months repose) before the intended regulations are made & the officers informed who are, & who are not, to be continued in service under the new establishment.
Your idea of levying contributions on the city of Philadelphia widely differs from mine, & the spirit of the proclamation1 of Congress to each State—that I had never entertained a single thought of the kind. A measure of this sort, in my judgment would not only be inconsistent with sound policy, but would be looked upon as on arbitrary stretch of military power—inflame the country as well as city, & lay the foundation of much evil. If Congress are in the same sentiments with you I could wish to have them clearly & explicitly expressed & without a moment’s loss of time, as, between you & I, I have no idea of marching more than a small detachment to the city, to prevent plundering and disorder till some kind of civil government can be established; in effecting which no time should be lost by this state, and to secure any public stores which may be left, and aid the quarter-master, &c. in providing for the Army.1
Your letter to General Clinton shall go under cover of one I had just written & was about to dispatch on other matters.
Very sincerely I remain, &c.2
[1 ]“We are going on with the regimental arrangements as fast as possible, and I think the Day begins to appear with Respect to this Business. Had our Saviour addressed a Chapter to the Rulers of Mankind, as he did many to the subjects, I am persuaded his good sense would have dictated this Text—Be not wise overmuch. Had the several members which compose our multifarious Body been only wise enough, our Business would long since have been compleated. But our superior Abilities, or the Desire of appearing to possess them, lead us to such exquisite tediousness of Debate, that the most precious moments pass unheeded away like vulgar Things.”—Gouverneur Morris to Washington, 21 May, 1778.
[1 ]“If you send any General to Rhode Island, you will probably find it most convenient to get rid of Varnum, whose temper and manners are by no means calculated to teach Patience, Discipline and Subordination.”—Gouverneur Morris to Washington, 23 May, 1778.
[2 ]“The Congress having been pleased to direct me to appoint an officer to command at Fort Pitt, and on the western frontiers, in the room of Brigadier-General Hand, I am induced, but not without reluctance, from the sense I entertain of your merit, to nominate you, as an officer well qualified from a variety of considerations to answer the objects they may have in view. I do not know particularly what the objects are, which Congress have in contemplation in this command; and I therefore request that you will, as soon as you conveniently can, repair to Yorktown and receive their instructions respecting them. I have only to add, that I shall be happy to hear from you as often as opportunity will permit, and my warmest wishes, that your services may be honorable to yourself and approved by your country.”—Washington to Brigadier-General McIntosh, 26 May, 1778.
[1 ]I am not sure of this word—it is abbreviated and not plainly written.—W. C. F.
[1 ]“I should be glad to know, in case Philadelphia is evacuated, whether any and what line of conduct is to be pursued respecting the goods that may be left. Such articles, as come under the denomination of public stores, will of course be taken by the proper officers for the use of the States. The point on which I wish direction is, with respect to goods and merchandise, private property. I do not know whether any considerable quantity may be left; but it has been suggested, that, from an expectation of the sort, there are some bringing into light their gold and silver for the purpose of buying up. If there should be clothing suitable for the army, perhaps there might be nothing unjust in the public’s taking the preference, and Congress appointing one or two intelligent, active persons of address, acquainted with the city and with those who have the goods, with proper powers to purchase them.
[2 ]Miss Annie Cary Morris, of Morrisania, very courteously gave me a copy of this letter.