Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO JOHN SULLIVAN, IN CONGRESS. - The Writings of George Washington, vol. IX (1780-1782)
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TO JOHN SULLIVAN, IN CONGRESS. - George Washington, The Writings of George Washington, vol. IX (1780-1782) 
The Writings of George Washington, collected and edited by Worthington Chauncey Ford (New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1890). Vol. IX (1780-1782).
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TO JOHN SULLIVAN, IN CONGRESS.
New Windsor, 17 December, 1780.
Your letter 9th is safe at hand and propounds a question respecting promotion, which I candidly acknowledge I am puzzled to answer with satisfaction to myself. If in all cases ours was one army, or thirteen armies allied for the common defence, there would be no difficulty in solving your question; but we are occasionally both, and I should not be much out if I were to say, that we are sometimes neither, but a compound of both.
If we were considered in every point of view as one army, lineal promotion, as well from as to the rank of colonel, would undoubtedly be the most equitable and satisfactory mode of rising; and no possible objection could be made to it by any State, or the Troops of a State; or, if Congress, having regard to the number of Troops, which each State is to furnish to the Confederated Army, were to allow the number of General officers, which should be thought competent thereto, there would be no difficulty here neither, because the promotion would be lineal in each State; and, though it might fall hard upon the Colonels of such States as only furnish one regiment for Continental Service, it would be incidental to their State quotas, and must be submitted to; as the annexation of their Regiments to other State Troops, also, must be, to form Brigades. But it is our having no fixed principle, that I know of, and sometimes acting upon one and then the other of the cases before mentioned (as it happens to suit an individual State, or particular characters,) that creates our difficulties and the discontents that prevail.
It is well known, that in the early stages of this war I used every means in my power to destroy all kinds of State distinctions, and labored to have every part and parcel of the army considered as Continental, The steps, which have led to a different sentimt. and to our present system of politics, you are not to be informed of. We must take things as they are. And therefore, under the ideas that prevail, and our general practice, I am, though puzzled, more inclined to let all promotions be lineal in each State, to the rank of Brigadr. inclusive (where there is more than one regiment), than to any other mode; because it is more consonant to the expectation of the Army than any other; and because, under it, I believe a newly appointed brigadr. from the Southern Troops would at this day be disagreeable to an Eastern Brigade, and vice versa. How far State promotions beyond the Rank of Brigadrs. are eligible or not, is a matter on which much may be said on both sides. On the one hand, it may be urged that the State, which sends more than a Brigade into the Field, has as good a right to accompany them with a Majr. Genl. as ye middling State has to furnish a Brigr., or the smallest a Colo., because neither has more than its due proportion of officers. On the other hand, it may be observed, that, as officers advance in rank and acquire that general knowledge, which is necessary to qualify them for extensive command, their feelings are more hurt, and the Service more injured, by placing juniors over them, than when it happens to inferiors; though the same principle, which bars the rise of a Colo. where there is but one regiment, will apply to a Brigadr., where the State only furnishes a brigade. At prest. we want no new Majr.-Generals, (having rather a surplusage); but may not the following expedient answer in future, at least in a degree, the views of all; namely, to suffer the larger States to have Majr.-Genls. of their own line proportioned to the number of their Troops, and the other Majr.-Genls. to be promoted from Brigadiers according to seniority? This, at the same time that it yields compliance to the views of the large States, does not preclude the Brigadiers of the smaller from promotion, as there must be Major-Generals for separate comds., and for the wings of the army, &c., wch. cannot be supplied by the State quotas of Troops, where there is no more than a just proportion of officers to men.
Our present mode of promotion is regimentally to Captns. inclusively, and in the Line of the State afterwards. But I am convinced, as well from the reason and justice of the thing, as from several conversations I have held with some of the most judicious officers of the army, that it would be more agreeable to it, that all promotion should be lineal, instead of Regimental, in every State line; for which reasons I shall recomd. the measure to Congrs. to take place with the New Establishmt. of the army.
What I have here said with respect to promotion is general; but there is a case before me in the Jersey line, which makes me wish that Congress would fix their principle. This State has three Regiments, which are to be reduced to two. Dayton is the Senr. Colonel, and among the oldest of that rank in the whole army, a valuable officer, and does not want to leave the Service. Shreve is the next oldest Colo. in Jersey, and will not go out. His character you are as well acquainted with as I am. Ogden is the youngest and extremely desirous of staying, but cannot continue if Colonel Dayton remains in Service in his present rank. The matter, therefore, (as it is related to me,) is brought to this Issue, that Dayton or Ogden is to go out, unless the former can be promoted, which would remove every difficulty, and be agreeable to the prest. system of State policy, as there is no Genl. officer in that line; but if the promotion is delayed till after the first of Jany., or, in other words, till after Dayton or Ogden is deranged, the remedy will come too late; because we shall have sent out a valuable officer upon half-pay, and will, if Dayton is the person that goes, have a person to promote. Who? But here I drop the curtain. It may suffice to say, that, if the State of New Jersey is to be allowed a brigr., it ought to be granted before the first of January for more reasons than that of œconomy.
That you may have some data to judge of the propriety of new appointments, I shall take the liberty of observing, that the States, from New Hampshire to Pennsylvania inclusively, with Hazen’s Regimt., make by the last requisition 29 battalions of Infantry. That three of these Battns., according to the present establishmt. of the army, will make as large a Brigade as four of the old, and that the number of Brigadiers in the States I have mentioned amounts at this time to no more than eight, viz., Stark, of N. Hampshire, Glover and Paterson of Massachusetts, Huntington of Connecticut, Clinton of New York, and Wayne, Hand, and Irvine of Pennsylva.; and these may be reduced to Seven, if Hand should be placed in the Staff. I am most firmly of opinion, that, after the States have brought their Troops into the Field, the less they have to do with them, or their supplies of Cloathing, &c., &c., the better it will be for the common Interest; for reasons which manifest themselves more and more every day, and for the clearest evidence of public œconomy. I am, dear Sir, with much esteem, &c.