Letter to Lord Germain

Benedict Arnold

New York

October 07, 1780

My Lord,

Conscious of the rectitude of my Intentions (whatever Constructions may have been put on my Conduct,) and convinced of the benevolence and goodness of your Lordship, I am emboldened to request Your Interest and Intercession, that I may be restored to the favor of my most gracious Sovereign; In the fullest Confidence of his Clemency, I most cheerfully cast myself at his Feet, imploring his Royal Grace and Protection.

I have that Confidence in the Goodness of Sir Henry Clinton, That His Majesty will not remain long, uninformed that some considerable time has elapsed, since I resolved to devote my Life and Fortune to his Majesty’s Service, and that I was intent to have Demonstrated my Zeal by an Act, which had it succeeded as intended, must have immediately terminated the unnatural Convulsions that have so long distracted the Empire.

Your Lordship will perceive by the enclosed address to the Public, by what principles I have been and am now actuated, to which I shall at present only add my most sacred Assurance that no endeavors of mine shall be wanting to confirm the Profession I make of an unalterable Attachment to the Person, Family and Interests of my Sovereign, and the Glory of his Reign. I enclose another Paper with some imperfect Notes, but will do myself the honor by the next Conveyance to transmit Your Lordship a more full and perfect State of Matters than in my present Confusion and Circumstances I am able to do.

I shall endeavour to merit your Lordships Patronage by my Zeal and Assiduity in His Majesty’s Service.

I have the honor to be with the greatest Respect My Lord Your Lordships Most Obedient and most humble servant

The Present State of the American Rebel Army, Navy,
and Finances, with some Remarks.
The present operating Force under the immediate Command of general Washington as stated by himself to a Council of
general Officers the 6th. ulto. amounts to………………………
10,400 men
One Battalion of Continl. troops at Rhode Island……………….     500
Two State Regiments of Continl. Militia at North Castle……….     500
11,400

About one half of these Troops are Militia, whose time of service expires on the first day of January next, which will re-duce the Army engaged for the war to less than Six Thousand men, exclusive of the Troops in the Southern Department under General Gates, who may amount to eight hundred or a thousand regular’ troops, besides Militia; about 350 Light Horse are included in the above Calculation. All these troops are illy clad, badly fed, and worse paid having in general two or three years pay due to them. Many of the best officers of the Army have resigned, and others are daily following their Example, through Disgust, necessity, and a Conviction that the Provinces will not be able to Establish there Independence.

There has long subsisted a Jealousy between Congress and the Army. The former have been Jealous of the Power of the latter, and the latter have thought themselves neglected, and ill treated by the former, who have excluded the Army from every Appointment of honor, or profit in the Civil Line. The Common Soldiers are exceedingly disgusted with the Service, and every effort to recruit the Army (except by Temporary Draughts of Militia) has hitherto proved ineffectual. Congress and General Washington last Spring made the most pressing Demands on the Colonies to furnish a Body of Troops to complete the Army to 35,000 men, every Argument was urged to enforce, the Demand, among others that it would enable General Washington (in conjunction with the French troops) to oblige Sir Henry Clinton to evacuate New York-and thereby put a Period to the War: The Colonies promised to Comply with the Requisition, every effort was used, but without Success. The Body of the People heartily tired of the war refused to Inlist Voluntarily, and not more than one-third of the men ordered to be Draughted, appeared in the Field. The Distress and Discontents of the People are daily increasing, and the difficulty of Recruiting the Army another year will undoubtedly be greater than ever.

The Navy is reduced to three Frigates, and a few small vessels, who are generally in Port, for want of hands to man them.

The Treasury is entirely empty and the finances are at the lowest Ebb. The Public Debt inclusive of Paper emitted by Congress, and the Colonies, Loan Office Certificates, and Arrears due to the Army, Commissaries and Quarter Masters amounts to upwards of Four hundred Million of Paper Dollars. Congress have lost all Confidence and, Credit with the People, who have been too often deceived and duped by them to pay any regard to their promises in future, the different Provinces have very little more Credit with the People than Congress. Their late Emissions of Paper for the payment of which they have given every possible Security, can hardly be said to have any Currency, and is Depreciating Rapidly.

As the result of their Distresses the Eyes of the People are in general opened, they Feel their Error and look back with Remorse to their once happy Condition, and most ardently wish for a reconciliation on Terms safe and honorable to both countries. Many would Return to it with implicit Confidence. Some doubt the Sufficiency of the Powers of the present Commissioners to Offer or Accept Terms for an Established accommodation. It would serve very good uses if the commissioners have Authority for it, to Signify, that the Colonies upon returning to their obedience, shall be restored to their obedience, shall be restored to their Antient Condition with Respect to their Charter, Rights, and Privileges, Civil and Religious, free from British Taxation, and to Invite to Negociation for General Regulations. It will increase the number of Advocates for the reunion.

But the best step is to Vest Commissioners with Decisive Powers on such Settlement as Great Britain may be willing to Establish. There will always be Jealousies seen while a Power is Reserved to Great Britain to approve or disapprove, what Her Commissioners have done. With power in a Sett of Commissioners to bind the Nation as firmly as she would bind herself, by Future Acts of Parliament, I am of opinion that a Pacification would immediately take place.

But should the Artful and Designing who have assumed the Reins of government, continue to have sufficient Influence to mislead the Minds of the People, and continue the Opposition to Government, I am Clearly of Opinion that, an addition of Ten thousand Troops to the American army (including those who may be on their way to America) will be a sufficient Force under the Direction of an Officer of the Experience and abilities of Sir Henry Clinton to put a period to the Contest in the Course of the next Campaign.

I have forgot to mention that the want of Provision in the Army is not owing to the Scarcity of Provision in the country, But to the weakness of the Usurpation in every Colony, without Money or Credit Supplies must be Collected by Force and Terror, wherever the Army are they take without opposition. But this force acts against Itself by Creating internal Enemies, and by making Friends to Great Britain. It is One of the Principal Saps hourly undermining the Strength of the Rebellion.

N. B. In the foregoing Estimate the French Troops at Rhode Island who amount to about 5000 Effectives are not Included.

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