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Letter from General Washington to the Massachusetts Council of Safety



Cambridge, January 10, 1775.

GENTLEMEN: In the confused and disordered state of this Army, occasioned by such capital changes as have taken place of late, I have found it almost impossible to come at exact returns of the strength of our levies. Not till last night was I able to get in the whole, since the dissolution of the old Army. By these, I find myself weaker than I had any idea of, and under the necessity of requesting an exertion of your influence and interest, to prevail upon the Militia of this Government, now in the pay of the Continent, to continue till the last of the month, and longer if requisite. I am assured that those of New-Hampshire will not stay any longer than they engaged for, notwithstanding our weak state, and the progress we make in recruiting, which, by the last week' s report, amounts to but little more than half of our usual complement, owing, it is said, to the number of men going, or expecting to go into the Provincial service, at or near their own homes.

I am more and more convinced that we never shall, raise the Army to the new establishment by voluntary inlistments. It is, therefore, necessary, that this, and the neighbouring Governments, should consider in time, and adopt some other expedient for effecting it.

The hurry I was in the other day, when your Committee did me the honour to present a petition from a person, (whose name I forgot,) wanting to be employed in the Continental Army, prevented me from being so full on the subject as I wished. I shall beg leave, therefore, at this time to add, that I hope your honourable Board will do me the justice to believe, that it will give me pleasure at all times to pay a proper respect to any recommendation coming from them, and that the reason why I do not now encourage such kind of applications as was made to you, is, that the new Army was arranged as near the plan and agreeable to the orders of Congress, as it was in my power to comply with them, (although some unavoidable departures and changes have taken place,) and the officers thus constituted, ordered to recruit. Every attempt, therefore, of others, not of their appointment, must counteract, and has been of infinite prejudice to the service. They infuse ideas into the minds of the men they have any influence over, that, by engaging with them, or, which is tantamount, not engaging with others, they shall be able to force themselves into the service. Of this we have numberless instances, I am, therefore, anxious to discourage every attempt of this kind, by convincing such persons, that their engaging a company will not bring them in. If they could be once satisfied of this, the business of the Army would go on more smoothly, and with much more regularity and order. In short, gentlemen, it is scarcely possible


for me to convey to you a perfect idea of the trouble and vexation I have met with, in getting this matter fixed upon some settled footing. One day an officer would serve, the next he would not, and so on, that I have hardly known what steps to pursue for preserving consistency, and advancing the good of the service, which are the only objects in my view. I have no friend, nor any person with whom I am the least connected, that I want or wish to bring in.

I am, gentlemen, with much esteem and respect, your most obedient servant,

George Washington.

To the Honourable the President and Council of Massachusetts-Bay.