Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO JOHN PARK CUSTIS. - The Writings of George Washington, vol. IX (1780-1782)
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TO JOHN PARK CUSTIS. - 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 PARK CUSTIS.
New Windsor, 28 February, 1781.
If you will accept a hasty letter in return for yours of last month, I will devote a few moments to this purpose, and confine myself to an interesting point or two. I do not suppose, that so young a senator as you are, little versed in political disquisitions, can yet have much influence in a populous assembly, composed of Gentln. of various talents and of different views. But it is in your power to be punctual in your attendance (and duty to the trust reposed in you exacts it of you), to hear dispassionately and determine coolly all great questions. To be disgusted at the decision of questions, because they are not consonant to our own ideas, and to withdraw ourselves from public assemblies, or to neglect our attendance at them, upon suspicion that there is a party formed, who are inimical to our cause and to the true interest of our country, is wrong, because these things may originate in a difference of opinion; but, supposing the fact is otherwise, and that our suspicions are well founded, it is the indispensable duty of every patriot to counteract them by the most steady and uniform opposition. This advice is the result of information, that, you and others being dissatisfied at the proceedings of the Virginia Assembly, and thinking your attendance of little avail (as there is always a majority for measures, which you and a minority conceive to be repugnant to the interest of your Country), are indifferent about the Assembly.
The next and I believe the last thing I shall have time to touch upon, is our military establishment; and here, if I thought the conviction of having a permanent force had not ere this flashed upon every man’s mind, I could write a volume in support of the utility of it; for no day or hour arrives unaccompd. with proof of some loss, some expense, or some misfortune consequent of the want of it. No operation of war, offensive or defensive, can be carried on for any length of time without it. No funds are adequate to the supplies of a fluctuating army, tho’ it may go under the denomination of a regular one; much less are they competent to the support of militia. In a word, for it is unnecessary to go into all the reasons the subject will admit of, we have brought a cause, which might have been happily terminated years ago by the adoption of proper measures, to the verge of ruin by temporary enlistments and a reliance on militia. The sums expended in bounties, waste of arms, consumption of military stores, Provisions, and Camp utensils, to say nothing of cloathing, which temporary soldiers are always receiving and always in want of, are too great for the resources of any nation, and prove the fallacy and danger of temporary expedients, which are no more than mushrooms, and of as short duration, but leave a sting, that is, a debt (which is continually revolving upon us) behind them.
It must be a settled plan, founded in system, order, and œconomy, that is to carry us triumphantly through the war. Supineness and indifference to the distresses and cries of a sister State, when danger is far off, and a general but momentary resort to arms when it comes to our doors, are equally impolitic and dangerous, and prove the necessity of a controlling power in Congress to regulate and direct all matters of general concern—without it the great business of war never can be well conducted, if it can be conducted at all, while the powers of Congress are only recommendatory. While one State yields obedience, and another refuses it, while a third mutilates and adopts the measure in part only, and all vary in time and manner, it is scarcely possible our affairs should prosper, or that any thing but disappointmt. can follow the best concerted plans. The willing States are almost ruined by their exertions; distrust and jealousy succeeds to it. Hence proceed neglect and ill timed compliances, one State waiting to see what another will do. This thwarts all our measures, after a heavy tho’ ineffectual expense is incurred.
Does not these things show, that in ye most striking point of view, the indispensable necessity, the great and good policy, of each State sending its ablest and best men to Congress; men, who have a perfect understanding of the constitution of their Country, of its policy and interests; and of vesting that body with competent powers? Our Independence depends upon it, our respectability and consequence in Europe depends upon it, our greatness as a nation hereafter depends upon it. The fear of giving sufficient powers to Congress, for the purposes I have mentioned, is futile, without it our Independence fails and each Assembly, under its present constitution, will be annihilated, and we must once more return to the Government of G. Britain, and be made to kiss the rod preparing for our correction. A nominal head, which at present is but another name for Congress, will no longer do. That honorable body, after hearing the interests and views of the several States fairly discussed and explained by their respective representatives, must dictate, and not merely recommend and leave it to the States afterwards to do as they please, which, as I have observed before, is in many cases to do nothing at all.
When I began this letter, I did not expect to have filled more than one side of the sheet, but I have run on insensibly. If you are at home, give my love to Nelly and the children; if at Richmond, present my complimts. to any inquiring friends. I am sincerely and affectionately, &c.
P. S. The Public Gazette will give you all the news of this quarter—our eyes are anxiously towards the South for events.