Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO JOHN ARMSTRONG. - The Writings of George Washington, vol. VII (1778-1779)
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TO JOHN ARMSTRONG. - 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 JOHN ARMSTRONG.
I have received your favor of the 10th inst. by Col. Blaine, and thank you for it. Never was there an observation founded in more truth than yours of my having a choice of difficulties. I cannot say that the resolve of Congress which you allude to has increased them, but with propriety I may observe it has added to my embarrassment in fixing on the least, inasmuch as it gives me powers without the means of execution when they ought at least to be co-equal.
The cries of the distressed, of the fatherless and widows, come to me from all quarters. The States are not behind hand in making application for assistance, notwithstanding scarce any one of them, that I can find, is taking effectual measures to complete its quota of continental troops, or has even power, or energy enough to draw forth its militia. Each complains of neglect, because it gets not what it asks, and conceives that none others suffers like itself, because it is ignorant of what others experience, receiving the complaints of its own people only. I have a hard time of it, and a disagreeable task. To please everybody is impossible; were I to undertake it, I should probably please nobody. If I know myself I have no partialities. I have from the beginning, and I hope I shall to the end, pursue to the utmost of my judgment and abilities, one steady line of conduct for the good of the great whole. This will, under all circumstances, administer consolation to myself, however short I may fall in the expectation of others.
But to leave smaller matters, I am much mistaken if the resolve of Congress hath not an eye to something far beyond our abilities. They are, I conceive, sufficiently acquainted with the state and strength of the army, of our resources, and how they are to be drawn out. The powers given may be beneficial, but do not let Congress deceive themselves by false expectation, founded on a superficial view of things in general, and the strength of their own troops in particular. For in a word I give it to you as my opinion, that if the reinforcement expected by the enemy should arrive, and no effectual measures be taken to complete our battalions and stop the further depreciation of our money, I do not see upon what ground we are able, or mean to continue the contest. We now stand upon the brink of a precipice, from whence the smallest help casts us headlong. At this moment our money does not pass, at what rate I need not add, because the unsatisfied demands on the Treasury afford too many unequivocal and alarming proofs to stand in need of illustration. Even at this hour everything is, in a manner, at a stand, for want of this money (such as it is) and because many of the States instead of passing laws to aid the several departments of the army, have done the reverse, and hampered the transportation in such a way as to stop the supplies which are indispensably necessary, and for want of which we are embarrassed exceedingly.
This is a summary of our affairs in general, to which I am to add that the officers, unable any longer to support themselves in the army, are resigning continually, or doing what is worse, spreading discontent, and possibly the seeds of sedition. You will readily perceive, my dear Sir, that this is a confidential letter, and that however willing I may be to disclose such matters or such sentiments to particular friends who are entrusted with the government of our great national concerns, I shall be extremely unwilling to have them communicated to any others; as I should feel much compunction if a single word or thought of mine was to create the smallest despair in our own people, or feed the hope of the enemy who I know pursue with avidity every track which leads to a discovery of the sentiments of men in office. Such (that is men in office) I wish to be impressed, deeply impressed with the importance of a close attention, and vigorous exertion of the means for extricating our finances from the deplorable situation in which they now are. I never was, much less reason have I now, to be afraid of the enemy’s arms; but I have no scruple in declaring to you, that I have never yet seen the time in which our affairs (in my opinion) were at so low an ebb as they are at present; and without a speedy and capital change, we shall not be able in a very short time to call out the strength and resources of the country. The hour, therefore, is certainly come when party differences and disputes should subside, when every man (especially those in office) should with one hand and one heart, pull the same way and with all their strength. Providence has done, and I am persuaded is disposed to do, a great deal for us, but we are not to forget the fable of Jupiter and the carman.
P. S. I am not insensible to the force of your remark contained in the P. S. of your letter, and can assure you that the person you allude to was not appointed from motives of partiality or in a hasty manner.1 After long and cool deliberation, a due consideration of characters and circumstances, and some regard to military rules and propriety, I could do no better. I must work with such means as I am furnished. You know, I presume, that the command was offered to General G—tes, who declined the acceptance of it.
[1 ]Referring to Major-General Sullivan.