Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO JAMES DUANE, IN CONGRESS. - The Writings of George Washington, vol. X (1782-1785)
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TO JAMES DUANE, IN CONGRESS. - George Washington, The Writings of George Washington, vol. X (1782-1785) 
The Writings of George Washington, collected and edited by Worthington Chauncey Ford (New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1890). Vol. X (1782-1785).
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TO JAMES DUANE, IN CONGRESS.
The latter gave me extreme pain. In God’s name, how did my brother Samuel contrive to get himself so enormously in debt? Was it by making purchases? By misfortunes? or sheer indolence and inattention to business? From whatever cause it proceeded, the matter is now the same, and curiosity only prompts me to the enquiry, as it does to know what will be saved, and how it is disposed of. In the list of his debts, did it appear that I had a claim upon him for the purchase money of the land I sold to Pendleton on Bullskin? I have never received a farthing for it yet, and think I have been informed by him, that he was to pay it.
Verplanck’s Point, 30th September, 1782.
I have heard a favorable account of Bushrod, and doubt not but his prudence will direct him to a proper line of conduct; I have given him my sentiments on this head, and persuade myself that with the advice of Mr. Wilson, to whose friendship, as well as instruction in his profession, I recommended him; and the admonition of others: he will stand as good a chance as most youth of his age, to avoid the vices of large cities, which have their advantages and disadvantages in fitting a man for the great theater of public life.
I shall be obliged to you, or some friend in Congress to inform me what has been or is likely to be done with respect to my reference of the case of Captn. Huddy. I cannot forbear complaining of the cruel situation I now am and oftentimes have been placed in, by the silence of Congress in matters of high importance, which the good of Service, and my official duty have obliged me to call upon them, as the sovereign power of these United States, to decide. It is only in intricate and perplexing cases, that I have requested their orders, being always willing to bear my proportion of public embarrassments, and take a full share of responsibility. Conscious that I have treated that Honble. Body, and all their measures, with as much deference and respect as any Officer in the United States, I expected this aid.
I have lately received a letter from my mother, in which she complains much of the knavery of the overseer at the Little Falls quarter. She says she can get nothing from him. It is pretty evident, I believe, that I get nothing from thence, while I have the annual rent of between eighty and an hundred pounds to pay. The whole profit of the plantation, according to her account, is applied to his own use; which is hard upon me, as I had no earthly inducement to meddle with it, but to comply with her wish and to free her from care. This, like every other matter of private concern to me, has been totally neglected; but it is too much, while I am suffering in every other way (and hardly able to keep my own estate from sale) to be saddled with all the expence of hers, and not be able to derive the smallest return from it. She has requested that I should get somebody to attend to it: I must therefore ask the favor of you, to take it under your care. I know of none in whose hands it can be better placed; none to whom it will be less inconvenient; and who is more interested in the good management of the land. For as it lies directly in your rout to Berkley, and in the neighborhood of our friends, where you must always make a halt, it will give you very little additional trouble to provide an overseer; call upon him as you pass and repass, and settle annual accounts with him, by which means I shall have some knowledge of his transactions, and a certainty that whatever is made will go towards payment of the rent. I shall by this post inform my mother of this application to you, hoping you will find no difficulty in the undertaking.
Why, then, if policy forbids a decision upon the difficult points I have referd., I am not to be informed of it, is beyond my conception, unless I was to ascribe it to causes, which I flatter myself do not exist. When I refer a matter to Congress, every proceeding on it on my part is suspended, until their pleasure is transmitted; and for this it is well known I have waited with unexampled patience. But when no notice is taken of my application; when measures, which I might otherwise adopt, are suspended; when my own feelings are wounded, and others perhaps are suffering by the delay, how is it possible for me to forbear expressing my disquietude?
While I am talking of my mother and her concerns, I am impelled to mention some things which have given, and still continue to give me pain. About two years ago, a gentleman of my acquaintance1 informed me, that it was in contemplation, to move for a pension for her in the Virginia Assembly; that he did not suppose I knew of the measure proposed; and that he did not believe it would be very agreeable to me to have it done; but wished, however, to know my sentiments thereon. I instantly wrote him, that it was new and astonishing to me, and begged that he would prevent the motion if possible; or oppose it, if made; for I was sure she had not a child that would not be hurt at the idea of her becoming a pensioner—or in other words, receiving charity from the public. Since then I have heard nothing of that matter; but learn from very good authority, that she is, upon all occasions and in all companies, complaining of the hardness of the times, of her wants and difficulties; and if not in direct terms, at least by strong innuendoes, endeavors to excite a belief that times are much altered, &c., &c., which not only makes her appear in an unfavorable point of view, but those also who are connected with her. That she can have no real wants, that may not easily be supplied, I am sure of. Imaginary wants are indefinite; and oftentimes insatiable; because they sometimes are boundless, and always changing. The reason of my mentioning these matters, is that you may enquire into her real wants, and see what is necessary to make her comfortable. If the rent is insufficient to do this, while I have anything, I will part with it to make her so; and wish you to take measures in my behalf accordingly. At the same time, I wish you to represent to her in delicate terms, the impropriety of her complaints, and acceptance of favors, even where they are voluntarily offered, from any but relations. It will not do to touch upon this subject in a letter to her, and therefore I have avoided it.
The particular cause of it at this time arises from two things. First, while I am totally silent to the public, waiting the decision of Congs. on the case of Huddy, I see publications on this head (importing reflections) in one of the Pennsylvania Papers, which no man could have made, that had not access to my official letter of the 19th of August to Congress; and, secondly, because I feel exceedingly for Captn. Asgill, who was designated by Lot as a victim to the manes of Captain Huddy. While retaliation was apparently necessary, however disagreeable in itself, I had no repugnance to the measure. But, when the end proposed by it is answered, by a disavowal of the act, by a dissolution of the Board of Refugees, by a promise whether with or without meaning to comply with it, I shall not determine, that further inquisition should be made into the matter, I thought it incumbent upon me, to have the sense of Congress, who had most explicitly approved, and impliedly indeed ordered retaliation to take place before I proceeded any further in the matter. To this hour I am held in darkness.
I do not believe that Sir Guy Carleton gives countenance to those dirty picaroons that infest your rivers. If they are encouraged at all, it must be by the Admiral, in whose element they are; but I am rather inclined to think that they are navigated by a lawless banditti, who would rob both sides with equal facility, if they could do it with equal impunity.
The letter of Asgill, (copy of which I inclose,) and the situation of his Father, which I am made acquainted with by the British prints, work too powerfully upon my humanity not to wish, that Congress would chalk a line for me to walk by in this business. To effect this, is the cause of the trouble you now receive from, dear Sir, your most obedient and most humble servant.1
With respect to Peace, we are held in a very disagreeable state of suspence, and shall remain in it, I expect, ’till some time in February. My opinion of it, however, has been uniformly the same since the death of the Marquis of Rockingham, and succession of Mr. Fox. It is, that nothing would be concluded ’till the meeting of the British Parliament in November, and if the influence of the Crown could prevent it, that it would not take place even then, if the independence of this country is to be a consequence of it. That previous to the session, the negotiation from the Court of Britain would be employed in intriguing, in an investigation of powers, hearing propositions, and probing the intentions and expectations of the belligerent powers, to the bottom. The latter being accomplished, Lord Shelburne, if he found himself standing upon slippery ground, or that the voice of the people was loud for peace, would say to Parliament: that after many months spent in negotiation, here are the best terms we can obtain; and, as they involve consequences of great national concern, and have been the subject of seven years war and debate, it is fitting that Parliament should decide on them, and either accept them, or prepare vigorously for the prosecution of the war. This would put the matter upon a broad basis, remove responsibility from his door, and blunt the edge of opposition, which otherwise I am persuaded will be found to be very keen. The King having by his letters patent (which I have seen) authorised Mr. Oswald to treat with any commissioner or commissioners from the United States of America, vested with proper powers, is certainly a great point gained; but it was unavoidable on their part, and our commissioners refused to enter upon any business with Mr. Oswald without. And the minister dared not to meet the Parliament without having attempted something under the Peace Bill which passed the session before. Upon the whole, I am of opinion that the terms of Peace were agreed upon before the adjournment for the Christmas holidays, or that we shall have at least another campaign. How well the States have provided for the continuance of the war, let their acts and their policy answer. The army as usual is without pay, and a great part of the soldiery without shirts; and tho’ the patience of them is equally threadbare, it seems to be a matter of small concern to those at a distance. In truth, if one was to hazard an opinion for them on this subject, it would be, that the army having contracted a habit of encountering distress and difficulties, and of living without money, it would be injurious to it, to introduce other customs. We have, however, (but this depended upon ourselves) built the most comfortable barracks in the vicinity of this place (wch. is near Wt. Point) that the troops have ever yet been in.
[1 ]Benj. Harrison. See Vol. IX., p. 182.
[1 ]Benj. Harrison. See Vol. IX., p. 182.