WASHINGTON, George. Letter signed ("Go:Washington") as Commander-in-Chief, Continental Army, To Nicholas Cooke, Governor of Rhode Island, the text in the hand of his aide, George Johnston, Morris Town, [New Jersey], 2 February 1777. 1 page, folio (13 x 8 3/16 in.), trace of old mount in lower corner of page 2, not affecting text, otherwise in fine original condition, the deckle edges of the sheet preserved.
WASHINGTON DEPLORES THE "POISONOUS EFFECTS" OF UNEQUAL ENLISTMENT BOUNTIES, WHICH ARE "MANIFESTLY INJURIOUS TO THE COMMON CAUSE AND AN INDIRECT BREACH OF THE UNION"
An unusually strongly worded letter in which Washington--in the midst of an enlistment crisis--bitterly condemns Rhode Island's practice of offering higher pay to those who enlist in state regiments than to enlistees in Continental Regiments. Referring to a previous letter, Washington observes that "I could not help expressing my Sentiments of the Impropriety (as it appeared to me) of raising Troops on a Colonial Establishment and thereby setting up a kind of separate Interest, before your quota for the Continental Army, was compleated. At the time...I was unacquainted with the terms on which these Colonial Regiments were to be raised. I little thought, that the pay of these Men [the state troops] was to be greater than of those in the Continental Service. I foresaw indeed Inconveniences enough without this, but the baneful Influence of advanced Pay and Bounty, already begins to show itself in numberless Instances, and the poisonous effects of them have reached this Army."
"I do not know in what light the adoption of these Measures may appear to your State; to me, the Contradistinctions which they are setting up, appear to be fraught with every evil, Manifestly injurious to the Common Cause, and an indirect Breach of the Union.-My duty therefore as Commander in Chief of the Armies of the United States compels me (however disagreeable the task) to remonstrate against such mode of proceeding..., and to add, that if the defence of any particular State is the governing Object of its Policy it can be no Recommendation to me, or inducement for Congress to bestow any extraordinary attention to the defence of such State."
"You will do me the justice to perceive, Sir, that I am grounding my complaint upon an Information 'that the Continental, and Colonial Officers are recruiting Indiscriminately; the first at Forty Shillings, the other at Three Pounds pr. Month, the former for hard and dangerous Service, far distant from home perhaps, the latter for easy and secure duty at, or near, their fire-sides.' If my information is wrong, and you are pursuing co-ercive, or vigorous Measures to compleat the Continental Regiments required of your State in a short time; my Remonstrance drops of course, and I have to ask pardon for the trouble I have given you: If right, the Error of the Policy is too obvious to need further animadversion upon it; sufficient it is to me, to warn you of the danger, and urge the Completion of the regiments for Continental Service. The United States have a just claim upon you for these Men, and will have but too good Cause to complain, if they are depriv'd of them by your attempts to raise others. The importance of the Subject will apologize for the freedom, & candour of my Sentiments...."
Published in Fitzpatrick 7:89-90.