Front Page Titles (by Subject) CIRCULAR LETTER TO STATES. 1 - The Writings of George Washington, vol. IX (1780-1782)
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CIRCULAR LETTER TO STATES. 1 - 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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CIRCULAR LETTER TO STATES.1
I have the honor to transmit herewith returns of the Number of men now actually in service, from your state, in order that measures may be adopted for completing the regiments to the full establishment agreeably to the resolution of Congress of the 10th of December. I cannot omit so favorable an opportunity of expressing to you my sentiments on this subject, and of entreating in the most earnest manner, that there may be a speedy, pointed, and effectual compliance with those requisitions.
It will, I flatter myself, be unnecessary to recapitulate all the arguments I made use of, in the circular letter I had the honor to address to the several states, at the close of the campaign of 1780, in which, it must be remembered, I took the liberty to urge, from the knowledge I had of our affairs, and a series of experience, the policy, the expediency, the necessity of recruiting the army as the only probable means of bringing the war to a speedy and happy conclusion;—if these arguments had any influence at that time—if the consequent exertions were crowned with any success—if the present crisis exhibits new and more forcible inducements for still greater efforts; let me point you and your legislature to these considerations, and especially let me recommend, in the warmest terms, that all the fruits of the successes, which have been obtained the last campaign, may not be thrown away by an inglorious winter of languor and inactivity.
However, at this advanced stage of the war, it might seem to be an insult upon the understanding to suppose a long train of reasoning necessary to prove that a respectable force in the field is essential to the establishment of our liberties and independence; yet, as I am apprehensive, the prosperous issue of the combined operation in Virginia, may have (as is too common in such cases) the pernicious tendency of lulling the country into a lethargy of inactivity and security; and as I feel my own reputation, as well as the interest, the honor, the glory, and the happiness of my country, intimately concerned in the event, I will ask the indulgence to speak the more freely on those accounts, and to make some of those observations, which the present moment seems to suggest;—that the broken and perplexed state of the enemy’s affairs, and the successes of the last campaign, on our part, ought to be a powerful incitement to vigorous preparations for the next—that, unless we strenuously exert ourselves to profit by these successes, we shall not only lose all the solid advantages that might be derived from them, but we shall become contemptible in our own eyes, in the eyes of our enemy, in the opinion of posterity, and even in the estimation of the whole world, which will consider us as a nation unworthy of prosperity, because we know not how to make a right use of it—that, although we cannot, by the best concerted plans absolutely command success; although the race is not always to the swift, or the battle to the strong, yet without presumptuously waiting for miracles to be wrought in our favor, it is our indispensable duty, with the deepest gratitude to Heaven for the past, and humble confidence in its smiles on our future operations, to make use of all the means in our power for our defence and security—that this period is particularly important, because no circumstances since the commencement of the war, have been so favorable to the recruiting service; and because it is to be presumed, from the increase of population, and the brilliant prospects before us, it is actually in our power to complete the army before the opening of the campaign—that however flattering the prospects may be, much still remains to be done, which cannot probably be effected unless the army is recruited to its establishment; and consequently the continuance or termination of the war seems principally to rest on the vigor and decision of the states in this interesting point. And finally, that it is our first object of policy, under every supposible or possible case, to have a powerful army early in the field; for we must suppose, the enemy are either disposed “to prosecute the war,” or “to enter into a negociation for peace”—there is no other alternative. On the former supposition, a respectable army becomes necessary, to counteract the enemy and to prevent the accumulating expences of a lingering war; on the latter, nothing but a decidedly superior force can enable us boldly to claim our rights, and dictate the law at the pacification.—So that whatever the disposition of the enemy may be, it is evidently our only interest and economy to act liberally and exert ourselves greatly during the present winter, to cut off at once all the expences of the war, by putting a period to it.
And soon might that day arrive, soon might we hope to enjoy all the blessings of peace, if we could see again the same animation in the cause of our country inspire every breast, the same passion for freedom and military glory impel our youths to the field, and the same disinterested patriotism pervade every rank of men, as was conspicuous at the commencement of this glorious revolution; and I am persuaded, only some great occasion was wanting, such as the present moment exhibits, to rekindle the latent sparks of that patriotic fire into a generous flame, to rouse again the unconquerable spirit of liberty, which has sometimes seemed to slumber for a while, into the full vigor of action.
I cannot now conclude this letter, without expressing my full expectation, that the several states, animated with the noblest principles, and convinced of the policy of complying faithfully with the requisitions, will be only emulous which shall be foremost in furnishing its quota of men; that the calculation of the numbers wanted to fill the deficiency may be so ample, as (allowing for the casualties and deductions) will be sufficient certainly to complete the battalions; that the measures for this purpose, may be so explicit, pointed and energetic, as will inevitably furnish the recruits in season; and that such checks may be established, to prevent imposition as to the quality of the men, that no recruits may be accepted, but those who are in fact able-bodied and effective. Should any of a different description be sent to the army, they must be rejected, the expences thrown away, and the service injured, though others are required to supply their places; for it is only deceiving ourselves, with having a nominal instead of a real force, and consuming the public provisions and clothing to no effect, by attempting to impose decrepit and improper men or boys upon us as soldiers.
The returns before alluded to, being but this moment collected, I regret that it was not possible they should have been forwarded sooner; to prevent a miscarriage or delay, in so important a communication, I have committed them to — who will have the honor of delivering these despatches, and explaining my ideas very perfectly; as he is charged solely with this business he will return as soon as it is negociated, but he is instructed to wait until he can bear such official accounts from you to me, as will fully inform me, what aid may absolutely be relied upon from your state, which, in conjunction with the other reports of a similar nature, must serve as a basis, on which we may build our final plans and arrangements for the ensuing campaign.1
I have the honour to be, &c.
[1 ]New Hampshire, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York, and New Jersey.
[1 ]This last paragraph was omitted in the letter to Massachusetts. The bearer of the letter differed for each state. Col. Dearborn took that for New Hampshire, and Lt.-Col. Olney that for Rhode Island.