Letter from George Washington to Joseph Jones (1783)

No study questions

Dear Sir:

I have received your letter of the 27th. Ulto., and thank you for the information and freedom of your communications.

My Official Letter to Congress of this date will inform you of what has happened in this Quarter, in addition to which, it may be necessary it should be known to you, and to such others as you may think proper, that the temper of the Army, tho very irritable on acct. of their long-protracted sufferings has been apparently extremely quiet while their business was depending before Congress untill four days past. In the mean time, it should seem reports have been propagated in Philadelphia that dangerous combinations were forming in the Army; and this at a time when there was not a syllable of the kind in agitation in Camp.

It also appears, that upon the arrival of a certain Gentleman from Phila. in Camp, whose name, I do not, at present, incline to mention such sentiments as these were immediately and industriously circulated. That it was universally expected the Army would not disband untill they had obtained Justice. That the public creditors looked up to them for redress of their Grievances, would afford them every aid, and even join them in the Field, if necessary. That some Members of Congress wished the Measure might take effect, in order to compel the Public, particularly the delinquent States, to do justice. With many other suggestions of a Similar Nature; from whence, and a variety of other considerations it is generally believ’d the Scheme was not only planned, but also digested and matured in Philadelphia; and that some people have been playing a double game; spreading at the Camp and in Philadelphia Reports and raising jealousies equally void of Foundation untill called into being by their vile Artifices; for as soon as the Minds of the Army were thought to be prepared for the transaction, anonymous invitations were circulated, requesting a general Meeting of the Officers next day; at the same instant many Copies of the Address to the Officers of the Army was scattered in every State line of it.

So soon as I obtained knowledge of these things, I issued the order of the 11th. (transmitted to Congress;) in order to rescue the foot, that stood wavering on the precipice of despair, from taking those steps which would have lead to the abyss of misery while the passions were inflamed, and the mind trimblingly alive with the recollection of past sufferings, and their present feelings. I did this upon the principle that it is easier to divert from a wrong to a right path, than it is to recall the hasty and fatal steps which have been already taken.

It is commonly supposed, if the Officers had met agreeable to the anonymous Summons, resolutions might have been formed, the consequences of which may be more easily conceived than expressed. Now, they will have leisure to view the matter more calmly and seriously. It is to be hoped they will be induced to adopt more rational measures, and wait a while longer for the settlemts. of their Accts.; the postponing of which gives more uneasiness in the Army than any other thing. there is not a man in it, who will not acknowledge that Congress have not the means of payment; but why not say they, one and all, liquidate the Accts. and certifie our dues? Are we to be disbanded and sent home without this? Are we, afterwards, to make individual applications for such settlements at Philadelphia, or any Auditing Office in our respective states; to be shifted perhaps from one board to another; dancing attendence at all, and finally perhaps be postponed till we loose the substance in pursuit of the shadow. While they are agitated by these considerations there are not wanting insiduous characters who tell them, it is neither the wish nor the intention of the public to settle your accounts; but to delay this business under one pretext or another till Peace wch. we are upon the eve of, and a seperation of the Army takes place when it is well known a generl settlement never can be effected and that individual loss, in this instance, becomes a public gain.

However derogatory these ideas are with the dignity, honor, and justice of government yet in a matter so interesting to the Army, and at the same time so easy to be effected by the Public, as that of liquidating the Accounts, is delayed without any apparent, or obvious necessity, they will have their place in a mind that is soured and irritated. Let me entreat you therefore my good Sir to push this matter to an issue, and if there are Delegates among you, who are really opposed to doing justice to the Army, scruple not to tell them, if matters should come to extremity, that they must be answerable for all the ineffable horrors which may be occasioned thereby. I am etc.

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