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Colonial and State Records of North Carolina
Letter from George Washington to William Heath
Washington, George, 1732-1799
June 06, 1783
Volume 16, Pages 830-832

[From Executive Letter Book.]

Head Quarters, June 6th, 1783.


Before I make a reply to the subject of the Address of the Generals and Officers Commanding the Regiments and Corps of the Army, presented by yourself yesterday, I entreat that those Gentlemen, will accept my warmest acknowledgements for the confidence they have been pleased to repose in me. They may be assured it shall never be abused, and I beg they will be persuaded that as no man can possibly be better acquainted than I am with the past merits and Services of the army, so no one can be more strongly impressed with their present uneligible situation, feel a keener sensibility at their distresses, or more ardently desire to alleviate or remove them, but it would be unnecessary perhaps to enter into a detail of what I have done and what I am still attempting to do, in order to assist in the accomplishment of this interesting purpose. Let it be sufficient to observe, I do not yet despair of Success; for I am perfectly convinced that the States cannot without involving themselves in National Bankruptcy and ruin refuse to comply with the requisitions of Congress who it must be acknowledged have done every thing in their power to obtain ample and complete Justice for the Army, and whose great object in the present measure undoubtedly was by a reduction of expences to enable the financier to make three months payment to the Army which on all hands has been agreed to be absolutely & indispensably necessary. To explain this matter I beg leave to insert an Extract of a Letter from the Superintendent of Finances dated the 29th Ultimo.

“It is now above a month since the Committee conferred with me on that subject and I then told them no payment could be made to the Army, but by means of a paper anticipation, and unless our Expenditures were immediately and considerably reduced even that could not be done, our expenditures have nevertheless been continued and our revenues lessen, the States growing daily more and more remiss in their Collections, the consequence is that I cannot

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make payment in the manner first intended, the notes issued for this purpose wonld have been payable at two, four, and six months from the dates, but at present they will be at six months, and even that will soon become impracticable; unless our expenses be immediately curtailed.

I shall cause such notes to be issued for three months pay to the Army and I must entreat Sir, that every influence be used with the States to absorb them together with any other engagements by taxation.”

Three days ago a messenger was dispatched by me to urge the necessity of forwarding these Notes with the greatest possible Expedition.

Under this State of Circumstances I need scarcely add the expence of every day in feeding the whole army will increase very considerably the inability of the public to discharge the debts already incurred at least for a considerable time to come.

Altho the Officers of the Army very well know my Official Situation, that I am only a servant of the public, and that it is not for me to dispense with orders which it is my duty to carry into execution, yet as furloughs in all services are considered as a matter of Indulgence and not of Compulsion, as Congress I am persuaded entertain the best disposition towards the Army, and as I apprehend in a very short time the two principal Articles of Complaint will be removed; until the further pleasure of Congress can be known I shall not hesitate to comply with the wishes of the Army, under these restrictions only, that Officers sufficient to conduct the men who choose to receive furloughs will attend them either on furlough or by detachment. The propriety and necessity of this measure must be obvious to all, it need not therefore be enforced. And with regard to the non-commissioned Officers and Privates, such as from a peculiarity of circumstances wish not to receive furloughs at this time will give in their names by 12 o’clock tomorrow to the Commanding Officers of their Regiments that on a Report to the Adjutant General, an equal number of Men engaged for three years may be furloughed which will make the saving of expences exactly the same to the public.

I cannot but hope the Notes will soon arrive and that the settlement of accounts may be completed by the assistance of the paymasters

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in a very few days. In the meantime I shall have the honor of laying the Sentiments of the Generals and Officers Commanding Regiments and Corps before Congress. They are expressed in such a decent, candid, and affecting manner that I am certain every mark of attention will be paid to them.

I have the honor to be, &c.,