Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO JOHN MATHEWS, IN CONGRESS. - The Writings of George Washington, vol. VIII (1779-1780)
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TO JOHN MATHEWS, IN CONGRESS. - 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 JOHN MATHEWS, IN CONGRESS.
Tappan, 4 October, 1780.
My dear Sir,
I have had the honor to receive your favors of the 15th and 24th ulto. I thank you much for your kind communications, which are rendered more pleasing as they are offered without reserve. As Congress has already allowed the alternative of raising men for twelve months, opinions on the propriety of the measure can be of no avail; but since you have done me the honor to ask mine, I have no scruple in declaring, I most firmly believe that the Independence of the United States never will be established, till there is an army on foot for the war; that, if we are to rely on occasional or annual levies, we must sink under the expense, and ruin must follow.
From an opinion, which seems to have influenced Congress, that men cannot be drafted for the war, (but which, with due deference to their judgment, I think is a mistaken one, as it seems to be a prevailing sentiment as I have heard, that nothing but an army on a permanent footing will do,) Gentn. unacquainted with the true state of facts, and struck with the magnitude of the bounty, which in the first instance must be given to induce men to engage for this period, without attending to the sum which is given for a year’s service, perhaps in reality for a much less time, though a year may be mentioned as the ostensible term and that this sum is more than doubled at every new enlistment; without considering the immense waste of arms, ammunition, stores, camp utensils, incidental to these changes; without adverting to the pay and subsistence of two sets of men at the same instant, (the old and new levies,) and the expense of marching and countermarching to and from camp; without taking into the acct. the interruption, which agriculture and all kinds of handicraft meet with, by which our supplies are lessened and the prices considerably increased; and, (wch. is of the greatest importance,) without considering the difference between a healthy army, (which is generally the case of one composed of old soldiers, and a sickly one, which is commonly the case with respect to the new, and the lives lost in acquiring a seasoning; and without considering that, in all exchanges of privates prisoners of war, we give the enemy a certain permanent force, and add but little and sometimes nothing to our own strength, as the terms of service of those we receive in exchange are already expired, or terminate often soon after;—without attending, I say, to these things, which are remote, and require close investigation and a recurrence to the public expenditures to be masters of them, they conclude, that the bounty necessary to engage men for the war is beyond our abilities, reject it, and adopt another system, which involves ultimately ten times the expense and infinitely greater distress. While, in the one case, we should have a well disciplined army, ready at all times and upon all occasions to take advantage of circumstances; in the other, the most favorable moments may pass away unimproved, because the composition of our Troops is such, that we dare not in ye beginning of a campaign attempt enterprises, on acct. of the rawness of the men, nor at the latter end of it, because they are about to leave us, (after the immense toil and pains wch. the officers have taken to teach them their duty,) and we have another set to attend to.
From long experience and the fullest conviction, I have been and now am decidedly in favr. of a permanent force; but knowing the jealousies, wch. have been entertained on this head—Heaven knows how unjustly, and the cause of which could never be apprehended, were a due regard had to our local and other circumstances, even if ambitious views could be supposed to exist, and that our political helm was in another direction, I forbore to press my Sentiments for a time; but, at a moment when we are tottering on the brink of a precipice, silence would have been criminal. The amendment proposed by you for keeping the old levies in the field, till the new should arrive, would certainly be a most desirable thing, if it could be accomplished; but I doubt the practicability of it. For, if there is not a definite term fixed with the men, we could as easily get them for the war; and, if there was a period fixed, altho the condition of a relief should be annexed to it, (which more than probably would be kept as much as possible out of their sight,) we never should be able to retain them. Desertion therefore and a genl. loss of public arms would be the inevitable consequence of an attempt to detain them, after they had completed what they conceived to be the term of their engagement.
I felt much pain in reading that part of your letter, which speaks of the reception of the Comee. of Cooperation in Congress. At a time when public harmony was so essential, when we should aid and assist each other with all our abilities, when our hearts should be open to information and our hands ready to administer relief, to find distrusts and jealousies taking possession of the mind, and a party spirit prevailing, is a most melancholy reflection, and forbodes no good. I shall always be happy to hear from you, being with the truest esteem and regard, dear Sir, &c.1
[1 ]The committee of coöperation, who had been several months with the army, and recently returned to Congress, had become unpopular with some of the members, in consequence of their strenuous endeavors to increase and render more permanent the military force. They were charged with being “too strongly tinctured with the army principles,” which they had imbibed while absent in camp.