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TO BENJAMIN HARRISON. - 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.
My dear Sir;
Your favor of the 8th of Feby. arrived safe, by Colo. Mead, abt. the 10th of Apl.—It conveyed to me a two fold pleasure—1st to hear that you were ready to obey the call of your Country in a representation of it; and 2dly that you could do it with more ease and convenience to your affairs than formerly.—
If time would permit, and it was proper and safe by the Post to go into a free discussion of the political state of our affairs, I could and would write you a very long letter on this subject. But this kind of conveyance is too uncertain (while the enemy are pursuing with avidity every means in their power to come at the sentiments of men in office,) to hazard such opinions as I could wish to convey; I shall only remark therefore that no day passes without some proofs of the justness of the observations contained in my letter to you by Colo Mead, and the necessity of the measure there recommended—if it is much longer neglected, I shall not scruple to add that our affairs are irretrievably lost!
I see no cause to retract a single sentiment contained in that long letter, but many very many alarming proofs in confirmation of the truth of them—if the letter therefore is in being, you are possessed as fully of my ideas on the several matters there touched as I have words to express them, and may allow them such weight as you think they deserve. An instance in proof of one of my positions I may give, because it is a fact of such notoriety that to the enemy, and to ourselves it is equally well known: it is, that Beef in the Market of Phila. is from ten to 15/ a pound, and other things in proportion; Country produce and imported Goods are equally dear. Under these circumstances, and no appearances that I can see of a radical cure, it is not difficult to predict the fate of our Paper Money, and with it a general Crash of all things.1
The measures of Ministry are taken; and the whole strength and resources of the Kingdom will be exerted against us this Campaign; while we have been either slumbering and sleeping or disputing upon trifles, contenting ourselves with laughing at the impotence of G. Britain, which we supposed to be on her knees, begging mercy of us and forgiveness for past offences, instead of devising ways and means to recruit our Battalions, provide supplies, and improving our finances, thereby providing against the worst and a very possible contingency.
Accounts from London to the 9th of March have fixed me in the opinion that G. Britain will strain every nerve to distress us this Campaign, but where or in what manner her principal force will be employed I cannot determine. That a pretty considerable number of Troops will be sent from G. Britain does not, I think, admit of a doubt, but whether for the West Indies, Georgia, or New York, or partly to all three, time must unfold. My own opinion of the matter is that they will keep a respectable force at the last mentioned place, and push their operations vigorously to the Southward, where we are most vulnerable and least able to afford succor. By extracts from the English Papers of the 4th of March it appears pretty evident that Seven, Regiments, besides two of the New raised Scotch Corps, Recruits for the Guards, and other Regits. now in America, were upon the point of embarking; the whole, it is said, would amount to 12 or 13,000 Men. A Bill has passed both Houses of Parliament obliging each parish in the Kingdom to furnish two Men, by which, it is said, 27,000 will be raised. With this augmentation and her fleets, which are more than a match for the Naval strength of France alone, she may, circumstanced as we are, give a very unfavorable turn to that pleasing slumber we have been in for the last eight months, and which has produc’d nothing but dreams of Peace and Independence—if Spain can be kept quiet. To effect which, there is no doubt but that all the art and address of the Ministry will be displayed, and with too much success, it is to be feared, as it will be difficult upon any political ground (I am capable of investigating,) to account for the backwardness of that Court, if it means to take an active part, as the Fleet of France and Independence of America are hazarded by the delay.
From present appearances, I have not the smallest doubt but that we shall be hard pushed in every quarter. This campaign will be grand, and if unsuccessful, more than probably the last struggle of G. Britain; how much then does it behoove us to be prepar’d at all points to avert their intended blows. They are raising all the Indians from North to South that their arts and their money can procure, and a powerful diversion they will make in this quarter, with the aid expected from Canada. They have already begun their depredations. Under this view of things, which I believe is not exagerated, and the probability of the enemy’s operating to the Southward out of supporting distance of this Army, would it not be good policy in the State of Virginia to extend their views to the necessary and effectual support of their Southern neighbors? The slow, ineffectual, and expensive modes ordinarily used to draw out the Militia, is ruinous in ye extreme, on account of the enormous expence which is incurred in the consumption of Provisions and stores, to say nothing of the useless time which they are paid for in coming, going, and waiting for each other, at any given point or place of rendezvous, or the injuries which agriculture and manufactures sustain. I know too little of the policy, energy, and situation of your government to hazard a clear opinion on the propriety, or practicability of any measure adequate to this end; nor do I know upon what footing your minute men, which existed at the commencement of the dispute, were put (as the establishment of them happened after I left Virginia); but it appears to me that if a certain proportion of the Militia of each County are enrolled under this description, properly officered by men who had seen service and know how to train them, and were inform’d that they were to be first called to service, it might prove a very happy resource. If the proportion which shall be agreed on cannot be obtained voluntarily from ye Militia, let the private perform ye duty by rotation. These are but crude ideas, and will, in case they should merit notice at all, require time and consideration to digest them to system and order. My forebodings may lead me too far; but apprehensive as I am on account of the situation of Southern States, I shall hope to stand excused for this freedom of thought, especially as I am convinced that Militia which can only be drawn out for short, limited periods, can afford no effectual aid, while they ruin us in expence.
Little did I expect when I begun this letter, that I should have spun it out to this length, or that I should have run into such freedom of sentiment; but I have been led on insensibly, and therefore shall not haggle at the mention of one thing which I am desirous to touch upon, it is with respect to the treatment of the Convention troops, now in Virginia. No man in the early part of this War wished more than I did to soften the hardships of captivity by seeing the enemy’s Officers, prisoners with us, treated with every mark of humanity, civility, and respect.1 But such invariable proofs of ungrateful returns, from an opinion that all your civilities are ye result of fear; such incessant endeavors, maugre all their paroles, to poison the minds of those around them; such arts and address to accomplish this, by magnifying the power of G. Britain to some, her favorable disposition to others, and combining the two arguments to a third set; that I cannot help looking upon them as dangerous guests in the bowels of our Country, and apprehending a good deal from the hospitality and unsuspicious temper of my Countrymen, the more indulged they are, the more indulgencies they will require, and more pernicious they grow under them; and I am much mistaken if those who pay most attention to them do not find the greatest cause for repentance. I view General Phillips in the light of a dangerous man. In his march to Charlottesville he was guilty of a very great breach of military propriety, nay—of a procedure highly criminal; for instead of pursuing the route pointed out to him, namely the one by which the Troops of Convention marched through Leesburg, Orange, &ca., he struck down to George Town in Maryland, from thence went by water to Alexandria (taking as I am told the soundings of the River as he went), and from thence to Fredericksburg. True it is, that the officer who conducted him was more culpable than he; but upon enquiry it is found that this officer is a person over whom I have no controul as he is a prisoner of theirs. I only mention these things in proof of the necessity of keeping a watchful eye upon these officers. And let me add, if you think you gain by the apparent desertion of the men I can assure you you are deceived; we are every day apprehending these People in their attempts to get into New York. In a word, I had such good ground to suspect that under pretence of desertion numbers of them intended to get into New York, that I was induced to march parallel with them as they pass’d thro’ N. York and Jersey, and post guards at proper places to intercept them; notwithstanding which, numbers, aided by the Tories who kept them concealed in the Mountains and obscure places, effected a junction with the enemy in the City.—Above all things, suffer them not to engage in your service as Soldiers, for so sure as they do, so sure do they rob you of your bounty and arms, and more than probably carry a man or two along with them to ye enemy.
I have already informed you that the Indians have begun their depredations on the Frontiers, and I have the pleasure to add, that we are endeavoring to pay them in their own Coin. About a fortnight ago, I sent 500 Men against the Onondago settlement, which they destroyed with their Provisions and ammunition, killed 12 of them (and their Horses and Cattle)—took 34 prisoners, 100 stand of Arms, and did them other damage without the loss of a Man. This with what may follow, will, it is to be hoped, be attended with salutary effects.
The enemy have been busily employed some days in preparing nine Regiments for Imbarkation, but for what Service they are intended is uncertain—most likely Georgia, No measures are taking by any of the States to compleat their Battalions; none at least that promises success, except in Virginia where the measure was set about in time. I leave you under this relation and these circumstances to draw your own conclusions, & am with every sentiment of regard and affectn. Yrs. &c.
P. S. May 7th. This letter will go by Colo Spotswood to Fredg. instead of the Post—I have this instant received advice of the sailing of the Troops mentioned above (as preparing to imbark), their number said to be 4000. I have ordered all the Virginia levies to be form’d into 3 Regiments, and marched under the command of Gen’l Scott immediately for Georgia. Officers are going from Camp to take charge of them. Bland’s and Baylor’s Regiments will, I believe, also be sent thither; but if the Troops here mentioned are destined for the Southward more aid must be sent to our Army; or South Carolina will soon be added to Georgia.
[1 ]“You give an affecting summary of the causes of the national evils we feel, and the still greater we have reason to apprehend. To me it appears that our affairs are in a very delicate situation; and what is not the least to be lamented is, that many people think they are in a very flourishing way, and seem in a great measure insensible to the danger with which we are threatened if Britain should be able to make a vigorous campaign in America this summer, in the present depreciation of our money, scantiness of supplies, want of virtue and want of exertion, tis hard to say what may be the consequence. It is a melancholy consideration that any concerned in the conduct of public affairs should discover an indifference to the state of our currency. Nothing, in my opinion, can be more manifest, than that if some thing effectual be not done to restore its credit, it will in a short time either cease to circulate altogether, or circulate so feebly as to be utterly incapable of drawing out the resources of the country. This is nearly the case now.”—Washington to John Jay, 10 May, 1779.
[1 ]It is curious that on one point the British Minister should speak in almost precisely the same language as General Washington, though with an opposite application. Lord George Germaine said, in writing to General Clinton: “The rebels have hitherto made the most ungrateful returns for that lenity, which from principles of humanity has been too indiscriminately shown towards them, and, instead of being grateful for indulgences, they have always imputed lenity to fear, and the remission of punishment to the dread of retaliation.”—November 9, 1780.