Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO GOUVERNEUR MORRIS. - The Writings of George Washington, vol. VII (1778-1779)
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
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).
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
TO GOUVERNEUR MORRIS.
Hd.-Qrs.,Middlebrook, May 8th, 1779.
Monsieur Gerard did me the honor to deliver me your favor of the 26th. I shall always feel obliged to you, my dear Sir, for a free communication of your sentiments, on whatsoever subject may occur. The objects of your letter were important. Mr. Gerard, I dare say, has made it unnecessary for me to recapitulate what passed between him and myself, and has informed you of the alternative I proposed for improving the important event announced by him. From what he told me, it appears, that sufficient assurances cannot be given of points, which are essential to justify the great undertaking you had in view,1 at the expense of other operations very interesting; and, indeed, though I was desirous to convince the Minister, that we are willing to make every effort in our power for striking a decisive blow, yet my judgment rather inclined to the second plan, as promising more certain success without putting so much to hazard. The relief of the Southern States appears to me an object of the greatest magnitude, and one that may lead to still more important advantages. I feel infinite anxiety on their account. Their internal weakness, disaffection, the want of energy, the general languor that has seized the people at large, makes me apprehend the most serious consequences. It would seem, too, as if the enemy meant to transfer the principal weight of the war that way. If it be true, that a large detachment has lately sailed from New York, and that Sir Henry Clinton is gone with it, in which several accounts I have received agree, (though I do not credit the latter,) and these should be destined for the southward, as is most probable, there can be little doubt, that this is the present plan. Charles Town, it is likely, will feel the next stroke. This, if it succeeds, will leave the enemy in full possession of Georgia, by obliging us to collect our forces for the defence of South Carolina, and will, consequently, open new sources for men and supplies, and prepare the way for a further career. The climate I am aware is an obstacle, but perhaps not so great as is imagined; and, when we consider the difference in our respective means of preserving health, it may possibly be found more adverse to our troops than to theirs. In this critical situation, I hardly know any resource we have, unless it be in the event expected;1 and the supposed reinforcement now on its way,2 for want of a competent land force on our part, may make even this dependence precarious. If it should fail, our affairs, which have a very sickly aspect in many respects, will receive a stroke they are little able to bear.
As a variety of accidents may disappoint our hopes here, it is indispensable we should make every exertion on our part to check the enemy’s progress. This cannot be done to effect, if our reliance is solely or principally on militia; for a force continually fluctuating is incapable of any material effort. The States concerned ought by all means to endeavor to draw out men for a length of time. A smaller number, on this plan, would answer their purpose better; a great deal of expense would be avoided, and agriculture would be much less impeded. It is to be lamented, that the remoteness and weakness of this army would make it folly to attempt to send any succor from this quarter. Perhaps, from want of knowing the true state of our foreign expectations and prospects of finance, I may be led to contemplate the gloomy side of things; but I confess they appear to me to be in a very disagreeable train. The rapid decay of our currency, the extinction of public spirit, the increasing rapacity of the times, the want of harmony in our councils, the declining zeal of the people, the discontents and distresses of the officers of the army, and I may add, the prevailing security and insensibility to danger, are symptoms, in my eye, of a most alarming nature. If the enemy have it in their power to press us hard this campaign, I know not what may be the consequence. Our army, as it now stands, is but little more than the skeleton of an army; and I hear of no steps that are taking to give it strength and substance. I hope there may not be great mistakes on this head, and that our abilities in general are not overrated. The applications for succor are numerous, but no pains are taken to put it in my power to afford them. When I endeavor to draw together the Continental troops for the most essential purposes, I am embarrassed with complaints of the exhausted, defenceless situation of particular States, and find myself obliged, either to resist solicitations, made in such a manner and with such a degree of emphasis as scarcely to leave me a choice, or to sacrifice the most obvious principles of military propriety and risk the general safety. I shall conclude by observing, that it is well worthy the ambition of a patriot statesman at this juncture, to endeavor to pacify party differences, to give fresh vigor to the springs of government, to inspire the people with confidence, and above all to restore the credit of our currency. I am, dear Sir, &c.
[1 ]An attack upon New York.
[1 ]The arrival of Count d’Estaing’s fleet.
[2 ]That is, a reinforcement of British troops from England.