Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO MAJOR-GENERAL GREENE. - The Writings of George Washington, vol. X (1782-1785)
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TO MAJOR-GENERAL GREENE. - 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 MAJOR-GENERAL GREENE.
My Dear Sir,
By an anonymous summons an attempt has been made to convene you together. How inconsistent with the rules of propriety, how unmilitary, and how subversive of all good order and discipline, let the good sense of the army decide.
By the Southern Mail of last Week I received your Letter of the 4th of Octr. enclosing the Returns of your Army: and I am just now favored with that of the 11th of Octr. covering the Returns for the month of Octr.: as I find by the latter, you had recd. mine of the 23d of Septr., I can have no occasion to suggest anything farther at this time respecting the disposition of the Troops after the Enemy shall have abandoned the Southern States—the latitude already given, will in a sufficient manner I believe, enable you to act for the public good, as the state of affairs may then seem to demand.
In the moment of this summons, another anonymous production was sent into circulation; addressed more to the feelings and passions, than to the reason and judgment of the army. The author of the piece is entitled to such credit for the goodness of his pen, and I could wish he had as much credit for the rectitude of his heart; for, as men see through different optics, and are induced by the reflecting faculties of the mind to use different means to obtain the same end, the author of the address should have had more charity, than to mark for suspicion the man, who should recommend moderation and longer forbearance, or in other words, who should not think as he thinks, and act as he advises. But he had another plan in view, in which candor and liberality of sentiment, regard to justice, and love of country, have no part; and he was right to insinuate the darkest suspicion, to effect the blackest designs.
There has been during the Summer much speculalation & many conjectures that New York would be evacuated before Winter, as I informed you in my last letter which was dated the 18th of Octr. but at the same time I mentioned “I had no such idea;” and the event has justified my opinion.—I am not without expectations, however, that a detachment will be made in the course of the Winter to the West Indies: indeed many appearances strongly indicate this, or at least, that some orders of embarkation are expected, such as the great preparation of Transports there being now about 120, collected from various quarters, lying in the east River compleatly fitted for sea—and Reports still continue to assert that several thousand British Troops will yet be detached.
That the address is drawn with great art, and is designed to answer the most insidious purposes, that it is calculated to impress the mind with an idea of premeditated injustice in the sovereign power of the United States, and rouse all those resentments, which must unavoidably flow from such a belief; that the secret mover of this scheme, whoever he may be, intended to take advantage of the passions, while they were warmed by the recollection of past distresses, without giving time for cool, deliberate thinking, and that composure of mind which is so necessary to give dignity and stability to measures, is rendered too obvious by the mode of conducting the business, to need other proof than a reference to the proceeding.
The sailing of the Fleet from New York in two divisions, I suppose must have been well known in Carolina; as in all probability the last squadron served to convoy a part of the Garrison of Charles Town to the W. Indies agreeably to your expectation—But I imagine you could not have learned, (it having been a secret to this time which it was not prudent to commit to paper) that the Orders of the Court of Versailles to the Count de Rochambeau, (who is himself about to sail for France) were that the Corps under his orders should go to the West Indies, in case the evacuation of New York or Charles Town should take place—In expectation that the latter would happen, the French Army marched into the eastern States, towards the last of Octr., under pretext of taking Winter Quarters there, but in fact, with the design of embarking on board the Fleet of M. the Marquis de Vaudrieul at Boston; whenever the event on which their ultimate movement depended, became sufficiently ascertained. From the general concurrence of intelligence & a variety of circumstances the Enemy’s intention to leave Charles Town has approached so near to a certainty, that all the Army of His Most Christn. Majesty (excepting the Legion of Lauzun which remains behind) have embarked, and are to sail in two days from this time—As soon as this Fleet is clear of the Coast, & the destination of the Troops shall be positively known at N. York, (as I observed before) it appears not improbable a considerable Corps of British will be sent to Jamaica; for the safety of which Island the apprehensions of the Enemy appear to be very much alarmed, on account of the large force at the Havanna & the arrival of the Marquis de Bouilli with a reinforcemt. from France—How far the Combined Powers will in reality prosecute a serious operation in that quarter, since the failure of the attempt against Gibraltar; (of the relief of which by the Fleet under Lord Howe you will I dare say have heard before this reaches you) or how far the last mentioned circumstance will tend to hasten or retard a general Pacification, I cannot undertake to determine with certainty. Many Politicians imagine that the fewer capital advantages either of the Belligerent Powers in Europe has over the other, the smaller will be the obstacles that will present themselves in the course of the negociation for Peace—but almost everything respecting this business in my opinion, will rather depend on the strength or weakness of Shelburne’s & Fox’s Parties in the British Parliament.
Thus much, Gentlemen, I have thought it incumbent on me to observe to you, to show upon what principles I opposed the irregular and hasty meeting, which was proposed to be held on Tuesday last, and not because I wanted a disposition to give you every opportunity, consistent with your own honor and the dignity of the army, to make known your grievances. If my conduct heretofore has not evinced to you, that I have been a faithful friend to the army, my declaration of it at this time would be equally unavailing and improper. But, as I was among the first, who embarked in the cause of our common country; as I have never left your side one moment, but when called from you on public duty; as I have been the constant companion and witness of your distresses, and not among the last to feel and acknowledge your merits; as I have ever considered my own military reputation as inseparably connected with that of the army; as my heart has ever expanded with joy, when I have heard its praises, and my indignation has arisen, when the mouth of detraction has been opened against it; it can scarcely be supposed, at this late stage of the war, that I am indifferent to its interests. But how are they to be promoted? The way is plain, says the anonymous addresser; if war continues, remove into the unsettled country; there establish yourselves, and leave an ungrateful country to defend itself. But whom are they to defend? Our wives, our children, our farms and other property, which we leave behind us? Or, in the state of hostile separation, are we to take the two first (the latter cannot be removed) to perish in a wilderness with hunger, cold, and nakedness? If peace takes place, neither sheath your swords, says he, until you have obtained full and ample justice. This dreadful alternative, of either deserting our country in the extremest hour of distress, or turning our arms against it, which is the apparent object, unless Congress can be compelled into instant compliance, has something so shocking in it, that humility revolts at the idea. My God! What can this writer have in view by recommending such measures. Can he be a friend to the army? Can he be a friend to this country? Rather is he not an insidious foe? Some emissary, perhaps from New York, plotting the ruin of both by sowing the seeds of discord and separation between the civil and military powers of the continent? And what a compliment does he pay to our understandings, when he recommends measures, in either alternative, impracticable in their nature?
To wait Events, & profit by the occasions which may occur, I have concentred the Army to a point as much as possible.—At West Point and the Cantonment 4 miles from this place is our whole force, except the Rhode Island Regt. at the Northws. & one or two Corps on the Lines—this Army indeed is not numerous, but the efficient strength is greater in proportion to the total numbers, than ever it has been; the Troops are tolerably well appointed, and have improved very much in their discipline during the last Campaign. The Enemy’s regular Force in New York I compute to be between ten & eleven thousand.—Should they weaken themselves by a detachment of 4 or 5000 men & still attempt to hold that Garrison another Campaign, it would be an indelible blot to the reputation of this Country, not to furnish sufficient means for enabling us to expel them from the Continent.—And yet I am free to confess, I have accustomed myself not to be over sanguine in any of my calculations, especially when I consider the want of energy in government, & the want of that disposition in too many of the People, which once influenced them chearfully to yield a part to defend the remainder of their property.
But here, Gentlemen, I will drop the curtain, because it would be as imprudent in me to assign my reasons for this opinion, as it would be insulting to your conception to suppose you stood in need of them. A moment’s reflection will convince every dispassionate mind of the physical impossibility of carrying either proposal into execution.
Thus, my dear Sir, have I given for your own private satisfaction, a pretty general detail of the affairs of our Allies, ourselves, & our Enemies in this part of the Continent.—Hoping & expecting the Southern States will be restored to perfect tranquility before this is delivered to you, I have only to add that Mrs. Washington joins me in requesting Mrs. Greene & yourself to accept our best wishes & Compliments—it will ever give me pleasure to hear from you on matters of business or friendship, being with sentiments of perfect esteem & regard &c.
There might, Gentlemen, be an impropriety in my taking notice, in this address to you, of an anonymous production; but the manner in which that performance has been introduced to the army, the effect it was intended to have, together with some other circumstances, will amply justify my observations on the tendency of that writing. With respect to the advice given by the author to suspect the man, who shall recommend moderate measures and longer forbearance, I spurn it, as every man who regards that liberty, and reveres that justice, for which we contend, undoubtedly must. For, if men are to be precluded from offering their sentiments on a matter, which may involve the most serious and alarming consequences, that can invite the consideration of mankind, reason is of no use to us; the freedom of speech may be taken away, and, dumb and silent, we may be led away like sheep to the slaughter.
I am &c.
I cannot, in justice to my own belief, and what I have great reason to conceive is the intention of Congress, conclude this address without giving it as my decided opinion, that that honorable body entertain exalted sentiments of the services of the army, and, from a full conviction of its merits and sufferings, will do it complete justice. That their endeavors to discover, and establish funds for this purpose have been unwearied, and will not cease, till they have succeeded, I have no doubt; but, like all other large bodies, where there is a variety of different interests to reconcile, their deliberations are slow. Why then should we distrust them; and, in consequence of that distrust, adopt measures, which may cast a shade over that glory, which has been so justly acquired, and tarnish the reputation of an army, which is celebrated through all Europe for its fortitude and patriotism? And for what is this done? To bring the object we seek nearer? No! Most certainly, in my opinion, it will cast it at a greater distance.
For myself (and I take no merit in giving the assurance, being induced to it from principles of gratitude, veracity, and justice), a grateful sense of the confidence you have ever placed in me, a recollection of the cheerful assistance and prompt obedience I have experienced from you, under every vicissitude of fortune, and the sincere affection I feel for an army I have so long had the honor to command, oblige me to declare in this public and solemn manner, that, in the attainment of complete justice for all your toils and dangers, and in the gratification of every wish, so far as may be done consistently with the great duty I owe to my country, and those powers we are bound to respect, you may freely command my services to the utmost extent of my abilities.