Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS. 1 - The Writings of George Washington, vol. VIII (1779-1780)
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TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS. 1 - George Washington, The Writings of George Washington, vol. VIII (1779-1780) 
The Writings of George Washington, collected and edited by Worthington Chauncey Ford (New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1890). Vol. VIII (1779-1780).
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TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.1
I beg leave to inform Congress that from the importance of the subject and the difficulties we have experienced in our provision and forage supplies, I have been induced in the course of a few days past, with the assistance of the Quarter Master General and the Commissary Generals of provision and forage, to make an estimate of the quantity of each of these articles, which would be necessary under our circumstances for thirty thousand men for twelve months. From a view of our past expenditures and supposing our means of transportation will be nearly the same they have been, it appears that two hundred thousand barrels of flour and forty millions of pounds of meat would be requisite to be provided, and a much greater quantity of hay and grain forage, as will be seen by the enclosed estimate, than Congress have been pleased to require of the States, by their resolutions of the 25th of last month. I should have deemed a communication essential in the case of any specific requisition, which should have seemed too short in the supplies required, lest the States after providing for the quantities called for, might have permitted the remaining surplus of provisions to be exported, and from thence placed the subsistence of the army on too precarious a footing. In the present one, however, the communication appears the more essential as, besides the inconvenience suggested and admitting it should never happen, the act makes no certain provision for obtaining any supplies beyond those required by it, although they should prove deficient. With all deference I would take the liberty to observe, that it appears to me, we cannot be too secure and guarded with respect to our supplies of provision and forage, as a failure in either would involve the most distressing consequences and therefore that our requisitions should be full and ample in the first instance; and also, even where this is the case, that there should reside a power, either in the Commissary General, or in one or more persons appointed by Congress, or in the superintending agents to be nominated by the States, to provide for contingencies. Upon the present occasion this power seems to me indispensable, as the supplies requested by the resolution of the 25th of February, appear to be so materially deficient, and it may be absolutely necessary in many cases, both for the sake of public economy and because the articles of supply may not be procurable elsewhere, or at least not in due time, or without great difficulty, to obtain large quantities of provision and forage in a State, after it has actually furnished the quota required of it in the general assessment. If this should not be allowable, the public service may and will certainly suffer; and yet under the present arrangement of the business in this State, which, as I am informed, has undertaken to furnish its quota agreeable to the requisition, there is no provision which authorizes its own superintendent or contractors to go farther than this, while the law prohibits the staff in the Continental line from purchasing any article of provision or forage on public account, under a severe penalty; which system may be adopted by others. With respect to the article of hay for instance, the quantity heretofore purchased in this State, and which was essential for the army, has been more than double what is apportioned on it by the act of the 25th of February; and should circumstances make as great an expenditure material in future, and the State should be capable of affording a supply, the public interest would certainly require that it should be procured, in preference to drawing it from another, supposing it could be done. The prosperity, and indeed the necessity, of the measure, holds equally with respect to other articles and to every State. I do not mean to convey an idea that it is not necessary in our present circumstances to make specific requisitions of supplies in these instances, of the States; or that a system could be, or should be formed on any principle of apportionment, to oblige every one to furnish in this way more than its proportion; but only, that there should be a power somewhere, through which the public may avail themselves of the resources occasionally, of which each State may be capable. And indeed, as it may be unnecessary and impossible in many instances to use the supplies apportioned on particular States, from the local operations of the army, it seems to me that there should be occasional sales of the articles laid up, particularly of forage, whenever it shall appear from the circumstances of the war that they will not be wanted. * * *1
[1 ]“Our affairs seem to be verging so fast to a stagnation in every branch, even provisions, that I have not only consented, but advised Genl. Greene, as I shall do the commissary when he arrives, to repair to Philadelphia, and endeavor to know with precision what is to be depended on in their respective departments. The new system adopted by Congress for conducting the business of these departments may have originated from two causes, necessity and choice; the first, from inability (for want of money) to proceed any further in the old track; the second, from a desire to change the old system on acct. of the Commission, it being thought, (and I fear with too much reason,) exceedingly expensive and disgustful to the People at large. Under these ideas and impressions I am embarrassed, and cautious of saying any thing on the subject, further than to give it as my opinion, that, whatever system is adopted, it should be made as perfect as the nature of the thing will admit of. That this is not the case in many instances with the present one is obvious, as must appear to you upon a comparative view of the plan, movements, and wants of an army. In some instances, if literally adhered to, ruin must follow.”—Washington to Philip Schuyler in Congress, 22 March, 1780.
[1 ]Read in Congress March 29th. Referred to Sherman, Burke, Searle.