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Letter from General Greene to Samuel Ward



Prospect-Hill, December 31, 1775.

You entreat the General Officers to recommend to the Congress the giving of a bounty. But his Excellency, General Washington, has often assured us that the Congress would not give a bounty, and before they would give a bounty they would give up the dispute.

The cement between the Northern and Southern Colonies is not very strong, if forty thousand lawful, will induce the Congress to give us up. Although I do not imagine that the necessity of allowing a bounty would have broken the Union, yet it was a sufficient intimation that the bare mention was disagreeable. Can you think we should hesitate a moment to recommend a bounty, if we thought ourselves at liberty to do so? We should then have an opportunity of picking the best men, filling the Army soon, keeping up a proper discipline, and preserving good order and government in camp; while we are now obliged to relax the very sinews of military government, and give a latitude of indulgence to the soldiery incompatible with security of either camp or country.

What reason have you to think that a proposition of that sort, if it came recommended by General Officers, would be acceded to by the Congress? Most of the Generals belong to the Northern Governments; if the Congress refuse to hear their Delegates, I apprehend they would the Generals also. The Congress cannot suppose that the Generals are better acquainted with the temper and genius of this people than the Delegates are from these Provinces; and why they should refuse to hear you, and not us, I cannot imagine.

A good politician will always have an eye to economy; but, to form an extensive plan, and not provide the means for carrying it into execution, betrays either a defect in counsel, or want of resolution to prosecute.

There is nothing that will encourage our enemies, both external and internal, like the difficulties we meet in raising a new Army. If we had given a good bounty, and raised the troops speedily, it would have struck the Ministry with astonishment to sec that four Colonies could raise such an army in so short a time. They could not expect to conquer a people so united, firm, and resolutely determined to


defend their rights and privileges. But, from the difficulties we meet with, the confusion and disorder we are in, the large number of the soldiers who are going home, our enemies will draw a conclusion, that we are like a rope of sand, and that we shall soon break to pieces. God grant it may not be the case.

You misunderstand me, my dear sir, or I wrote what I did not mean. It was not the lower class of people that I meant to complain of, but the merchants and wealthy farmers, who, I think, do not exert themselves as they ought. This is no time for getting riches, but to secure what we have got. Every shadow of oppression or extortion ought to disappear; but, instead of this, we find many articles of merchandise enhanced in price four times the first cost, and most of them cent per cent. The farmers are extortionate, whenever their situation furnishes them with an opportunity. These are the people that I complain most of; they are wounding the cause. When people are distressed, it is natural for them to try every thing, and every where, to get relief; and, to find oppression instead of relief from these two orders of men, will go near to driving the poorer sort to desperation. It will be good policy in the United Colonies to render the poorer sort of people as easy and happy, under their present circumstances, as possible; for they are creatures of a day, and present gain and gratification, though small, has more weight with them than much greater advantages at a distance. A good politician must, and will, consider the temper of the times, and the prejudices of the people he has to deal with, when he takes his measures to execute any great design.

The current sentiment in the New-England Colonies, generally, favours the Opposition; but, if the distresses of the people are multiplied, their opinions may change. They will naturally look back upon their former happy situation, and contrast that with their present worse condition, and conclude that the source of all their misery originates in their dispute with Great Britain.

If all the maritime towns throughout the United Colonies had a body of troops in continual pay, it would, in a great measure, remedy this evil. Provision must be made for those who are thrown out of employ by the decay of trade. If they are not engaged for us, necessity will oblige them to engage against us; for they cannot live upon the air. What signifies our being frightened at the expense? If we succeed, we gain all; but, if we are conquered, we lose all; not only our present possessions, but all our future labours will be appropriated to the support of a haughty, proud, insolent set of puppies, whose greatest merit with the Crown will be, to render the people as completely humble as possible.

I agree with you, that Congress should embody seventy thousand men; all the troops raised in the different Colonies to be upon Continental pay; and where there any stationed for the protection of any particular Province, to be considered as a detachment from the Grand Army; and all, in every Province, to be subject to the Commander-in-chief, and at his disposal and discretion. A body of troops in each Colony would support the spirited, confirm the weak and wavering, and awe our oppressors into submission; for there are no arguments, however well supported by truth and reason, that carry such conviction with them as those which are enforced from the muzzle of a gun, or the point of a bayonet.

If the Southern and Northern troops were exchanged, it would be serviceable to the cause. It would, in a great measure, cure the itch for going home on furlough, and save the Continent the needless expense of paying a large body of troops that are absent from camp.

You complain, and say the New-England Colonies are treated ill. Why are they treated so? You think there ought to have been a bounty given. The Congress always had it in their power to give a bounty, if they pleased. Why were not the New-England Delegates sent to establish the plan for the constitution of the new Army? Why were strangers sent at so critical a period? History does not afford so dangerous a measure as that of disbanding an old army and forming a new one, within point blank shot of the enemy. This task was rendered very difficult, by the reduction of eleven regiments, and the discharge of such a number of officers, who have done every thing to obstruct and retard the filling the new Army, in hopes to


ruin the establishment and bring themselves into place again.

From whence originates that groundless jealousy of the New-England Colonies? I believe there is nothing more remote from their thoughts, than designs unfavourable to the equal rights of the other Colonies. For my own part, I abbor the thoughts, and cannot help thinking it highly injurious to the New-England people, who ever have been distinguished for their justice and moderation. I mentioned this subject to Mr˙ Lynch and Colonel Harrison, who assured me there was no such sentiment prevailing in Congress, nor among the Southern inhabitants of any respectability. I am sorry to find they were mistaken. It grieves me that such jealousies should prevail. If they are nourished, they will, sooner or later, sap the foundation of the Union, and dissolve the connection. God in mercy avert so dreadful an evil. How unhappy is it, for the interests of America, that such Colonial prejudices should prevail, and partial motives influence her councils! The interests of one Colony are no ways incompatible with the interests of another. We have all one common interest, and one common wish, to be free from Parliamentary jurisdiction and taxation. The different climates and produce of the Colonies will ever preserve a harmony amongst them, by an active trade and commerce. Each Colony will have the benefit of its own staples, whether they are independent, or connected with Great Britain.

Governour Franklin of [New-Jersey] and the Assembly go on with a high hand. His impudence, and the Congress' s silence, astonish all this part of the world. To suffer such presumption to go unpunished, betrays a want of spirit to resent, or power to punish. The dignity of the Congress ought to be held sacred, or else its authority will soon be brought into contempt. His conduct is calculated to breed a mutiny in the State; such budding mischiefs cannot be too early nipped; diseases that might have been easily remedied if seasonably attended to, have often been rendered incurable by being too long neglected. I wish this may not be the case here.

This is the last day of the old inlisted soldiers' service. Nothing but confusion and disorder reign. We are obliged to retain their guns, whether private or publick property. They are prized, and the owners paid; but, as guns, last Spring, ran very high, the Committee that values them sets them much lower than the price they were purchased at. This is looked upon to be both tyrannical and unjust. I am very sorry that necessity forces his Excellency to adopt any measures disagreeable to the people. But the Army cannot be provided for in any other way, and those we detain are very indifferent; generally without bayonets, and of different sized bores. Twenty thousand troops, with such arms, are not equal, in an engagement, to fifteen thousand, with such arms as the King' s troops are equipped with. I wish our troops were better furnished. The enemy has a great advantage over us.

We have suffered prodigiously for want of wood. Many regiments have been obliged to eat their provisions raw, for want of fuel to cook it; and, notwithstanding we have burnt up all the fences, and cut down all the trees for a mile round the camp, our sufferings have been inconceivable. The barracks have been greatly delayed for want of stuff. Many of the troops are yet in tents, and will be for some time; especially the officers. The fatigues of the campaign, the suffering for want of wood and clothing, have made a multitude of soldiers heartily sick of service.

The Connecticut troops went off, inspite of all that could be done to prevent it; but they met with such an unfavourable reception at home, that many are returning to camp again already. The people upon the road expressed so much abhorrence at their conduct for quitting the Army, that it was with difficulty they got provisions. I wish all the troops now going home may meet with the same contempt. I expect the Army, notwithstanding all the difficulties we meet with, will be full in about six weeks.

We never have been so weak as we shall be to-morrow, when we dismiss the old troops. Our growing weaker, whilst the enemy are growing stronger, renders our situation disagreeable.

General Lee has just returned from Rhode-Island. He has taken the Tories in hand,and sworn them, by a very


solemn oath, that they would not, for the future, grant any supplies to the enemy, directly or indirectly, nor give them any kind of intelligence, nor suffer it to be done by others without giving information ˙˙˙ and ˙˙˙ were the principals. He gives a very unfavourable account of the spirit and resolution of the people.

I beg leave to congratulate you on the recovery of your health, which may God in his providence long preserve, that you may enjoy happiness yourself, and continue a blessing to your country.