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TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS. - 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 THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Head-Quarters,Middlebrook, 13th Dec., 1778.
It has not been in my power to return an answer to your favor of the 6th Instt. till now. The letter met me on the road, separated from my papers; and I did not reach this place till late on the 11th, since which I have been much employed in attending to the disposition for hutting the army; but, in the mean time, the objects of the despatch have engaged my utmost consideration.
The earnest desire I have to pay the strictest compliance in every instance with the views and instructions of Congress, cannot but make me feel the greatest uneasiness, when I find myself in circumstances of hesitation or doubt with respect to their directions. But the perfect confidence I have in the justice and candor of that honble. body emboldens me to communicate without reserve the difficulties, which occur in the execution of their present order; and the indulgence I have experienced on every former occasion induces me to imagine, that the liberty I now take will not meet with disapprobation.
I have attentively taken up the report of the committee of the 5th, (approv’d by Congress,) on the subject of my letter of the 11th ulto., on the proposed expedition into Canada. I have considered it in several lights, and sincerely regret, that I should feel myself under any embarrassment in carrying it into execution. Still I remain of opinion, from a general review of things and the state of our resources, that no extensive system of coöperation with the French, for the complete emancipation of Canada, can be positively decided on for the ensuing year. To propose a plan of perfect coöperation with a foreign power, without a moral certainty in our supplies, and to have that plan actually ratified by the court of Versailles, might be attended, in case of failure in the conditions on our part, with very fatal effects.
If I should seem unwilling to transmit the plan as prepared by Congress, with my observations, it is because I find myself under a necessity, (in order to give our minister sufficient ground to found an application on,) to propose something more than a vague and indecisive plan, which, even in the event of a total evacuation of these States by the enemy, may be rendered impracticable in the execution by a variety of insurmountable obstacles; or, if I retain my present sentiments and act consistently, I must point out the difficulties as they appear to me; which must embarrass his negotiations, and may disappoint the views of Congress.
But, proceeding on the idea of the enemy’s leaving these States before the active part of the ensuing campaign, I should fear to hazard a mistake as to the precise aim and extent of the views of Congress. The line of conduct, that I am to observe in writing to our minister at the court of France, does not appear sufficiently deliniated. Were I to undertake it, I should be much afraid of erring through misconception. In this dilemma I would esteem it a particular favor to be excused from writing at all on the subject, especially as it is ye part of candor in me to acknowledge, that I do not see my way clear enough to point out such a plan for coöperation, as I conceive to be consistent with the ideas of Congress, and that will be sufficiently explanatory, with respect to time and circumstances, to give efficacy to the measure. But if Congress still think it necessary for me to proceed in the business, I must request their more definitive & explicit instructions, and that they will permit me, previous to transmitting the intended despatches, to submit them to their determination.
I could wish to lay before Congress more minutely the state of the army, the condition of our Supplies, and the requisites necessary for carrying into execution an undertaking that may involve the most serious events. If Congress think this can be done more satisfactorily in a personal conference, I hope to have the army in such a situation before I can receive their answer, as to afford me an opportunity of giving my attendance. I would only add, that I shall cheerfully comply with the directions of Congress relative to making every preparation in our power for an Expedition against Niagara, and for such further operations to the northward, as time & circumstances shall enable us to carry on. Measures for the purpose have been taken in part for some time past; and I shall pursue them vigorously. The subject has long engaged my contemplation; and I am thoroughly convinced of the expediency & policy of doing every thing practicable on our part, for giving security to our Frontiers by the reduction of those places, which facilitate annoying them, and even for accomplishing the annexation of Canada to the Union.
I have the honor to be, &c.1
P. S. I have detained the letter to the Marquis till your further Instructions.1 The waters have been so high, as to prevent the Express from setting out yesterday with this despatch, as was intended.2
[1 ]By the direction of Congress, in conformity to the above suggestion, General Washington left camp on the 22d of December, and repaired to Philadelphia for the purpose of holding a personal conference, respecting military affairs. The following were the proceedings of Congress on the occasion.
[1 ]The Marquis de Lafayette arrived in Boston on the 11th of December, preparatory to his embarkation for France, having been nearly six weeks on his way from Congress. He was detained on the road at Fishkill three weeks by extreme illness. Fatigue and exposure in travelling through a storm of rain on horseback had produced a fever, which for a time raged so violently that his life was despaired of. General Washington, whose head-quarters were a few miles from that place, was in a state of great anxiety, and by his personal visits and attentions exhibited proofs of his deep interest and warm attachment, which made a lasting impression upon his ardent young friend. Under the skilful treatment and constant attendance of Dr. Cochran, one of the principal physicians in the army, the disease took a favorable turn, and a natural vigor of constitution restored the patient, more speedily than could have been expected, to his accustomed health.—Sparks.
[2 ]Read in Congress December 17th. Referred to Laurens, M. Smith, G, Morris, S. Adams, and Burke.