Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO BENJAMIN HARRISON, SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF DELEGATES OF VIRGINIA. - The Writings of George Washington, vol. VII (1778-1779)
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TO BENJAMIN HARRISON, SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF DELEGATES OF VIRGINIA. - 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 BENJAMIN HARRISON, SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF DELEGATES OF VIRGINIA.
My Dear Sir,
You will be so obliging as to present the enclosed to the House, when opportunity & a suitable occasion offer. I feel very sensibly the late honorable testitimony of their remembrance.1 To stand well in the good opinion of my countrymen constitutes my chiefest happiness, and will be my best support under the perplexities and difficulties of my present station.
The mention of my lands in the back country was more owing to accident than design—the Virga. Officers having sollicited leave for Colo. Wood to attend the Assembly of that Commonwealth with some representation of theirs respecting their claims, or wishes, brought my own matters (of a similar nature) to view; but I am too little acquainted with the minutiæ of them to ground an application on or give any trouble to the Assembly concerning them.—Under the proclamation of 1763, I am entitled to 5000 Acres of Land in my own right, & by purchase from Captn. Roots, Posey, & some other officers, I obtained rights to several thousand more—a small part of wch. I Patented during the Admn. of Lord Dunmore,—another part was (I believe) surveyed—whilst the major part remains in locations, but where (without having recourse to my Memms.) and under what circumstances, I know not at this time any more than you do, nor do I wish to give trouble abt. them.
I can assign but two causes for the enemy’s continuance among us; and these balance so equally in my mind, that I scarcely know which of the two preponderates. The one is, that they are waiting the ultimate determination of Parliament; the other, that of our distresses, by which I know the Commissioners went home not a little buoyed up, and, sorry I am to add, not without cause. What may be the effect of such large and frequent emissions, of the dissensions,—parties,—extravagance, and a general lax of public virtue, Heaven alone can tell! I am afraid even to think of It. But it appears as clear to me as ever the Sun did in its meridian brightness, that America never stood in more eminent need of the wise, patriotic, and spirited exertions of her Sons than at this period; and if it is not a sufficient cause for genl. lamentation, my misconception of the matter impresses it too strongly upon me, that the States, separately, are too much engaged in their local concerns, and have too many of their ablest men withdrawn from the general council, for the good of the common weal. In a word, I think our political system may be compared to the mechanism of a clock, and that our conduct should derive a lesson from it; for it answers no good purpose to keep the smaller wheels in order, if the greater one, which is the support and prime mover of the whole, is neglected.
How far the latter is the case, it does not become me to pronounce; but, as there can be no harm in a pious wish for the good of one’s Country, I shall offer it as mine, that each State wd. not only choose, but absolutely compel their ablest men to attend Congress; and that they would instruct them to go into a thorough investigation of the causes, that have produced so many disagreeable effects in the army and Country; in a word, that public abuses shoud be corrected & an entire reformation worked. Without these, it does not in my Judgment require the spirit of divination to foretell the consequences of the present administration; nor to how little purpose the States individually are framing constitutions, providing laws, and filling offices with the abilities of their ablest men. These, if the great whole is mismanaged, must sink in the general wreck, and will carry with it the remorse of thinking, that we are lost by our own folly and negligence, or the desire perhaps of living in ease and tranquillity during the expected accomplishment of so great a revolution, in the effecting of which the greatest abilities, and the honestest men our (i.e. the American) world affords, ought to be employed.1
It is much to be feared, my dear Sir, that the States, in their separate capacities, have very inadequate ideas of the present danger. Removed (some of them) far distant from the scene of action, and seeing and hearing such publications only, as flatter their wishes, they conceive that the contest is at an end, and that to regulate the government and police of their own State is all that remains to be done; but it is devoutly to be wished, that a sad reverse of this may not fall upon them like a thunder-clap, that is little expected. I do not mean to designate particular States. I wish to cast no reflections upon any one. The Public believe (and, if they do believe it, the fact might almost as well be so), that the States at this time are badly represented, and that the great and important concerns of the nation are horribly conducted, for want either of abilities or application in the members, or through the discord & party views of some individuals. That they should be so, is to be lamented more at this time than formerly, as we are far advanced in the dispute, and, in the opinn. of many, drawg. to a happy period; have the eyes of Europe upon us, and I am persuaded many political spies to watch, discover our situation and give information of our weaknesses and wants. The story you have related, of a proposal to redeem ye paper money at its present depreciated value, has also come to my ears; but I cannot vouch for the authenticity of it.
I am very happy to hear, that the Assembly of Virginia have put the completion of their regiments upon a footing so apparently certain; but, as one great defect of your past Laws for this purpose has lain in the mode of getting men to the army, I hope that effectual measures are pointed out in the present to remedy the evil, and bring forward all that shall be raised. The embargo upon provisions is a most salutary measure, as I am afraid a sufficiency of flour will not be obtained, even with money of higher estimation than ours. Adieu, my dear Sir. I am, &c.
P. S. Phila: 30th. This letter was to have gone by Post from Middlebrook but missed that conveyance, since which I have come to this place at the request of Congress whence I shall soon return.
I have seen nothing since I came here (on the 22d Inst.) to change my opinion of Men or Measrs., but abundant reason to be convinced that our affairs are in a more distressed, ruinous, and deplorable condition than they have been in since the commencement of the War.—By a faithfull aborer then in the cause—By a Man who is daily injuring his private Estate without even the smallest earthly advantage not common to all in case of a favorable Issue to the dispute—By one who wishes the prosperity of America most devoutly and sees or thinks he sees it, on the brink of ruin, you are beseeched most earnestly, my dear Colo. Harrison, to exert yourself in endeavoring to rescue your Country by (let me add) sending your ablest and best Men to Congress—these characters must not slumber nor sleep at home in such times of pressing danger—they must not content themselves in the enjoyment of places of honor or profit in their own Country while the common interests of America are mouldering and sinking into irretrievable (if a remedy is not soon applied) ruin in which theirs also must ultimately be involved. If I was to be called upon to draw a picture of the times and of Men, from what I have seen, and heard, and in part know, I should in one word say that idleness, dissipation & extravagance seems to have laid fast hold of most of them.—That speculation—peculation—and an insatiable thirst for rishes seems to have got the better of every other consideration and almost of every order of Men.—That party disputes and personal quarrels are the great business of the day whilst the momentous concerns of an empire—a great and accumulated debt—ruined finances—depreciated money—and want of credit (which in their consequences is the want of everything) are but secondary considerations and postponed from day to day—from week to week as if our affairs wear the most promising aspect—after drawing this picture, which from my Soul I believe to be a true one, I need not repeat to you that I am alarmed and wish to see my Countrymen roused.—I have no resentments, nor do I mean to point at any particular characters,—this I can declare upon my honor for I have every attention paid me by Congress that I can possibly expect and have reason to think that I stand well in their estimation, but in the present situation of things I cannot help asking—Where is Mason—Wythe—Jefferson—Nicholas—Pendleton—Nelson—and another I could name—and why, if you are sufficiently impressed with your danger do you not (as New Yk. has done in the case of Mr. Jay) send an extra member or two for at least a certain limited time till the great business of the Nation is put upon a more respectable and happy establishmt.—Your Money is now sinking 5 pr. ct. a day in this city; and I shall not be surprized if in the course of a few months a total stop is put to the currency of it.—And yet an Assembly—a concert—a Dinner—or supper (that will cost three or four hundred pounds) will not only take Men off from acting in but even from thinking of this business while a great part of the Officers of ye Army from absolute necessity are quitting the service and ye more virtuous few rather than do this are sinking by sure degrees into beggary and want.—I again repeat to you that this is not an exaggerated acct.; that it is an alarming one I do not deny, and confess to you that I feel more real distress on acct. of the prest. appearances of things than I have done at any one time since the commencement of the dispute—but it is time to bid you once more adieu.—Providence has heretofore taken me up when all other means and hope seemed to be departing from me in this. I will confide.—Yours—&c.
[1 ]The Virginia House of Delegates voted four geldings to Washington.
[1 ]In writing to George Mason, he expressed similar sentiments. “I cannot refrain from lamenting,” said he, “in the most poignant terms the fatal policy, too prevalent in most of the States, of employing their ablest men at home in posts of honor and profit, before the great national interest is fixed upon a solid basis.”