WASHINGTON, George. Letter signed (''G:o Washington''), as Commander in Chief, to Clement Biddle, 29 May 1779. 2¼ pages, folio, creases repaired affecting a few words, portion of leaf below signature replaced, a dove and olive branch watermark on one side, and portion of the royal watermark on the other.
WASHINGTON, George. Letter signed ("G:o Washington"), as Commander in Chief, to Clement Biddle, 29 May 1779. 2¼ pages, folio, creases repaired affecting a few words, portion of leaf below signature replaced, a dove and olive branch watermark on one side, and portion of the royal watermark on the other.
"EVERY POSSIBLE RESPECT SHOULD BE PAID IN ALL CASES TO THE LAWS...AND A SACRED REGARD TO THE PROPERTY OF EACH INDIVIDUAL"
Washington finds it "very distressing" to hear his troops accused of "wanton exercise of power" in taking food and supplies from the surrounding countryside, and he tells Biddle in no uncertain terms to put a stop to it. "It is my wish that every possible respect should be paid in all cases to the laws of this and every other State, and a sacred regard to the property of each Individual Member as far as it can be done; but if necessity will not admit of these strict observance, it must justify a deviation and such infringements as she compells. However, to prevent as much as possible any just grounds of complaint and the charge of a wanton exercise of power, you should use every practicable exertion to obtain forage in the ordinary way and where this cannot be effected, whenever circumstances will permit, you should make written requisitions to the Magistrates for pasturage and Meadows and obtain them by their allotment. If they will not permit or the Magistrates refuse to designate them or to make a competent provision, the exigency of the public service must decide the conduct you are to pursue. I have mentioned those precautions because (tho all regulations must yield to necessity) the principle should be introduced with caution and be practiced upon with still more delicacy. What I have said above will apply to every situation of the body, or in detachment; in camp or on a march."
Supply remained a problem throughout the Middlebrook encampment of 1778-1779. Price gouging farmers and merchants--and a largely indifferent civilian populace--were a constant source of exasperation for Washington. Nevertheless, he refused to allow his troops to become lawless plunderers. The British authorities might try to paint the revolutionary patriots as lawless brigands, but Washington was ever conscious of the idealistic moral and political spirit which the American cause embodied. In Fitzpatrick, 15:178-179.