Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO JAMES DUANE. - The Writings of George Washington, vol. IX (1780-1782)
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TO JAMES DUANE. - 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 JAMES DUANE.
New Windsor, 26 December, 1780.
My Dear Sir,
I received with much thankfulness your confidential letter of the 9th. Inst., and am greatly obliged by the affectionate expressions of personal regard which are contained in it. An unreserved communication of sentiments, accompanying such information as you are at liberty to give, will ever be pleasing to me, and cannot fail of being useful. In this light I view and value your last letter, some parts of which are new, agreeable and instructive—while that part of it which relates to the transaction at the Ct. of V—, is wonderfully astonishing.
There are two things (as I have often declared) which in my opinion, are indispensably necessary to the well being and good Government of our public affairs; these are, greater powers to Congress, and more responsibility and permanency in the executive bodies. If individual States conceive themselves at liberty to reject, or alter any act of Congress, which in a full representation of them has been solemnly debated, and decided on; it will be madness in us, to think of prosecuting the war. And if Congress suppose, that Boards composed of their own body, and always fluctuating, are competent to the great business of war, (which requires not only close application, but a constant and uniform train of thinking and acting), they will most assuredly deceive themselves. Many, many instances might be adduced in proof of this, but to a mind as observant as yours, there is no need to enumerate them. One, however, as we feelingly experience it, I shall name. It is the want of cloathing, when I have every reason to be convinced that the expence which the Public is run to in this article would cloath our army as well as any troops in Europe—in place of it we have enumerable objects of distressing want.
Necessity alone can justify the present mode of obtaining supplies, for besides the hazard and difficulty we meet with in procuring them, I am well convinced, that the public is charged with double what it receives, and what it receives is doubly charged, so expensive and precarious is the present system. When the army marched [illegible] for winter Quarters, I visited the Hospitals and back communication from Pensa. to this place. In the neighborhood of Pittstown I fell in with a parcel of cattle that were going to be slaughtered and salted, and can assure you upon my honor, that besides being immensely poor, they were so small that I am convinced they would not average 175 lbs. the 4 nett quarters—some could not exceed one hundd. weight, and others were mere calves. These pass by the head, and the State or States that furnish them, will have the reputation of supplying that number of merchantable bullocks, when the fact is that next summer a starving man would scarce eat the beef they were about to put up) after the salt had extracted the little fat and juice that were in it. There were about 100 in the drove I saw, and my information extended to about 8 or 900 more of the same kind, in the neighborhood. I directed the Commissary to select the best for salting, and let the others be eaten fresh, as it would be a waste of salt, barrels, and time to put it up. I relate this as a matter coming under my own observation. Many other instances of a similar nature might be given from information, but I avoid it.
This letter will accompany one to Congress on the subject of promotion. That of lineal, instead of regimental, I am perswaded, as well from the opinions I have heard, as from the reason and the nature of the thing, will be the most consistent with justice, and most pleasing to each state line. With respect to the rise of Colonels and promotion of General officers, I have no wish to gratify, except that which I have expressed in my public letter, of fixing some principle to avoid discontent and the consequences which flow from it. Irregular promotion, unless there is obvious cause for it, is not only injurious in any service, but in ours is derogatory of the dignity of Congress, for the officer who is superceded, and afterwards restored, is hurt by the first act, and does not feel himself obliged by the latter (considering it as an act of justice only); while the two acts stand as an undeniable proof on record, that there is an established principle wanting, or that there is a want of information, or a want of firmness in Congress to resist importunity, because the restoring act, as I have observed, is an incontestable proof of one or the other of these three things.
At present we are in no want of Major Generals—in this part of the army at least. But while I am on the subject of promotion, and while the thing is in my mind, I will beg leave to mention, that if at any time hereafter there should be a brigadier junior to Gen’l Knox promoted before him, he will be lost to the service, tho’ he should thereafter be restored to his place. I mention it because under the idea of State promotion he can never rise, and because I am well perswaded that the want of him at the head of the artillery, would be irrepairable. * * *