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General Washington to Colonel Joseph Reed



Cambridge, November 28, 1775.

DEAR SIR: Your favours of the 15th and 17th are come to hand. In one of them you justly observe, that the sudden departure of Mr˙ Randolph must cause your absence to be the more sensibly felt. I can truly assure you that I miss you exceedingly, and if an express declaration be wanting to hasten your return, I make it most heartily, and with some pleasure, as Mr˙ Lynch, in a letter of the 13th, gives this information: "In consequence of your letter by Colonel Reed, I applied to the Chief Justice, who tells me the Supreme Courts are lately held, and that it will be some time before their term will return; that he knows of no capital suit now depending, and that it is very easy for Colonel Reed to manage matters so as not to let them prevent his return to you. I am sure Mr˙ Chew is so heartily disposed to oblige you, and serve the cause, that nothing in his power will be wanting." I could wish, my good friend, that these things may give a spur to your inclination to return, and that I may see you here as soon as convenient; for I feel the want of your ready pen greatly.

What an astonishing thing it is that those who are employed to sign the Continental bills should not be able, or inclined, to do it as fast as they are wanted. They will prove the destruction of the Army, if they are not more attentive and diligent.

Such a dearth of publick spirit and such want of virtue, such stockjobbing and fertility in all the low arts to obtain advantages of one kind or another in this great change of military arrangement, I never saw before, and pray God' s mercy that I may never be witness to again. What will be the end of these manoeuvres is beyond my scan. I tremble at the prospect. We have been till this time enlisting about three thousand five hundred men. To engage these, I have been obliged to allow furloughs as far as fifty men to a Regiment; and the officers, I am persuaded, indulge as many more. The Connecticut troops will not be prevailed upon to stay longer than their term, saving those who have enlisted for the next campaign, and are mostly on furlough; and such a mercenary Spirit pervades the whole, that I should not be at all surprised at any disaster that may happen. In short, after the last of this month, our lines will be so weakened, that the Minute-men and Militia must be called in for their defence; and these, being under no kind of government themselves, will destroy the little subordination I have been labouring to establish, and run me into one evil whilst I am endeavouring to avoid another: but the less must be chosen. Could I have foreseen what I have experienced, and am likely to experience, no consideration upon earth should have induced me to accept this command. A Regiment, or any subordinate department, would have been accompanied with ten times the satisfaction, and, perhaps, the honour.

The Congress already know, from the general estimate given in for a month, what sum it will take to supply the Army, and that little less than two hundred and seventy-five thousand dollars will answer the purpose; Pray impress this upon the members, and the necessity of forwarding the last sum voted, as one hundred thousand dollars will be totally inadequate to our demands at this time.

I wish that matter respecting the punctilio hinted at by you could come to some decision of Congress. I have done nothing yet in respect to the proposed exchange of prisoners, nor shall I, until I hear from them or you on


this subject. I am sorry Mr˙ White met with a disappointment in the Jerseys, as I could wish not to be under the necessity, from any former encouragement given him, of taking him into my family. I find it absolutely necessary that the aids to the Commander-in-Chief should be ready at their pen, (which, I believe, he is not,) to render that assistance which is expected of them. It would give me singular pleasure to provide for those two gentlemen mentioned in your letter; but, believe me, it is beyond the powers of conception to realize the absurdities and partiality of these people, and the trouble and vexation I have had in the new arrangement of officers. After five, I think, different meetings of the General Officers, I have, in a manner, been obliged to yield to the humour and whimsies of the people, or get no Army. The officers of one Government would not serve in the Regiments of another, although there was to be an entire new creation; a Captain must be in this Regiment, a Subaltern in that Company, in short, I can scarce tell, at this moment, in what manner they are fixed. Some time hence strangers may be brought in; but it could not be done now, except in an instance or two, without putting too much to hazard.

What can your brethren of the law mean, by saying your perquisites, as Secretary, must be considerable? I am sure they have not amounted to one farthing. Captain Blewer waits, and therefore I shall add no more than that I am, dear Sir, your most obedient and affectionate servant, GEORGE WASHINGTON.

To Colonel Joseph Reed.