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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.
I have waited with anxious expectation for some plan to be adopted by Congress, which would have a general operation throughout the States for compleating their respective battalions. No plan for this purpose has yet come to my knowledge, nor do I find that the several governments are pursuing any measures to accomplish the end by particular arrangements of their own legislatures. I therefore hope Congress will excuse any appearance of importunity in my troubling them again on the subject, as I earnestly wish to be enabled to realize some ideas on what may be expected towards the completion of our Battalions by the opening of the next campaign. They are already greatly reduced, and will be much more so by that time, owing to the expiration of the term of Service of the last year’s drafts.
At ye posts in the highlands, Nixon’s, Paterson’s, and Learned’s Brigades alone will suffer (by the 1st of April) a diminution of 847 men, which must be replaced, illy as they can, & reluctantly as they will be spared from the other Posts. The Committee, with whom I had the honor to confer, were of opinion, that the regimts. now in Service should be continued & completed. This was confirmed by the resolve of Congress of the 23d of Jany. last, which also directed some additional encouragements for recruiting the army during the war. Aware that this expedient, though a very useful one, could not be altogether relied on, especially if the interference of State bounties were still permitted, I furnished the Committee with my ideas of the mode, which afforded the most certain prospect of success. I shall not trouble Congress with a repetition of these, as I doubt not they have been fully reported by the Committee. Among the Troops of some States, recruiting in Camp on the new bounties has succeded tolerably well; among others, where the expectations of State bounties have had more influence, very ill1 ; upon the whole, the success has been far short of our wishes, and will probably be so of our necessities.
I have not yet made any attempt to recruit in the country, for reasons which will be communicated by the committee; added to which, I have received information from Colonel Rawlings, who has been authorized by Congress to recruit the three companies still remaining of his battalion to their complement, that he could make no progress, in the business, on account of the inferiority of the Continental bounty to that of Virginia. The measure of enlisting in the Country, in my opinion, depends so much on the abolishing of State bounties, that without it I am doubtful whether it will be worth the experiment. State bounties have been a source of immense expense and many misfortunes. The sooner the practice can be abolished, and system introduced in our manner of recruiting and keeping up our battalions, as well as in the administration of the several departments of the army, the sooner will our Security be established and placed out of the reach of contingencies. Temporary expedients, to serve the purposes of the moment, occasion more difficulties and expense than can easily be conceived.1
The superior information, which Congress may have of the political state of affairs in Europe, and of combining circumstances may induce them to believe, that there will soon be a termination of the war; and therefore that the expense of vigorous measures to reinforce the army may be avoided. If this should be the case, I dare say the reasons will be well considered before a plan is adopted, which, whatever advantages of economy it may promise, in an eventual disappointment may be productive of ruinous consequences. For my own part, I confess I should be cautious of admitting the supposition, that the War will terminate without another desperate effort on the part of the enemy. The speech of the Prince, and the debates of his ministers, have very little of the aspect of peace; and if we reflect, that they are subsequent, (as I apprehend they must have been,) to the events, on which our hopes appear to be founded, they must seem no bad argumts. of a determination in the British cabinet to continue the war. ’T is true whether this be the determination or not, ’tis a very natural policy, that every exertion should be made by them to be in the best condition to oppose their enemies, and that there should be every appearance of vigor and preparation. But if the ministry had serious thoughts of making peace, they would hardly insist so much as they do on the particular point of prosecuting the American war. They would not like to raise and inflame the expectations of the People on this subject, while it was secretly their intention to disappoint them. In America, every thing has the complexion of a continuance of the War. The operations of the enemy in the Southern States do not resemble a transient incursion, but a serious conquest. At their post in this quarter, every thing is in a state of tranquillity, and indicates a design at least to hold possession. These considerations joined to the preceding, The infinite pains that are taken to keep up the spirits of the disaffected and to assure them of support and protection, and several other circumstances, trifling in themselves but powerful when combined, amount to no contemptible evidence, that the contest is not so near an end as we could wish. I am fully sensible of many weighty reasons on the opposite side; but I do not think them sufficiently conclusive to destroy the force of what has been suggested, or to justify the sanguine inferences many seem inclined to draw.
Should the Court of Britain be able to send any reinforcements to America the next campaign, and carry on offensive operations, and should we not take some effectual means to recruit our battalions, when we shall have detached the force necessary to act decisively against the Indians, and the remaining drafts shall have returned home, the force which remains for our defence will be very inconsiderable indeed. We must then, on every exigency, have recourse to the militia, the consequence of which, besides weakness and defeat in the field, will be double or treble the necessary expense to the public. To say nothing of the injury to agriculture, which attends calling out the militia on particular emergencies, and at some critical seasons, they are commonly twice as long in coming to the place where they are wanted and returning home, as they are in the field, and must of course for every day’s real service receive two or three days’ pay, and consume the same proportion of provisions.
When an important matter is suspended for deliberation in Congress, I should be sorry that my solicitude to have it determined should contribute to a premature decision. But, when I have such striking proofs of public loss and private discontent, from the present management of the clothing department; when accts. inadmissible, if any system existed, frequently remind me of the absolute necessity of introducing one; when I hear, as I often do, of large importations of cloathing, which we never see, of quantities wasting and rotting in different parts of the country, the knowledge of which reaches me by chance; when I have reason to believe, that the money, which has been expended for cloathing the army, if judiciously laid out and the cloathes regularly issued, would have effectually answered the purpose, and when I have never, till now, seen it otherwise than half naked; when I feel the perplexity and additional load of business thrown upon me, by the irregularity in this department, and by applications from all parts of the army for relief; I cannot forbear discovering my anxiety to have some plan decided for conducting the business hereafter in a more provident and consistent manner. If the one proposed to the Committee does not coincide with the Sentiments of Congress, I should be happy if some other could be substituted. With the greatest respect, I have the honor to be, &c.1
[1 ]By the resolution of the 23d of January, Congress had authorized the Commander-in-chief to offer a bounty of two hundred dollars for every soldier, who should enlist to serve during the war, in addition to the usual bounties of land and clothing. Enlistments had begun in camp on this principle among the troops, whose term of service was to expire in the month of June following. The mode of enlistment was afterwards modified in such a manner, as to obviate the difficulties mentioned above. It was referred to the respective States to fill up their quotas in such a mode, as they should think proper, and a bounty of two hundred dollars was granted from the Continental treasury for each recruit that should enlist for the war; and in case a State should grant a greater bounty, the amount of two hundred dollars was to be put to the credit of the State for every new recruit.
[1 ]The new bounty offered by Congress did not have the effect to abolish nor even to diminish State bounties. An act of the legislature of New Jersey, for completing the three battalions of the State, allowed two hundred and fifty dollars for each new recruit, in addition to the bounty of clothing, land, and two hundred dollars, given by Congress.—Wilson’s Laws of New Jersey, p. 84. The legislature of Virginia, by an act passed on the 3d of May, offered a bounty of seven hundred and fifty dollars for every soldier that should enlist to serve through the war, and also a suit of clothes once a year, and one hundred acres of unappropriated land within the State. The bounty and clothing given by Congress were to be deducted from the above amount, and reserved by the State. Provision was also made for pensions to those, who should be disabled in the service, or relief to their families in case of death before their term of enlistment should expire.—Hening’s Statues at Large, vol. x., p. 23.
[1 ]Read in Congress, March 18th.