William Whipple, Signer of the Declaration from New Hampshire
- Letter signed ("Wm: Whipple”) regarding the reorganization of the offices of Quartermaster General and Commissary General
- Paper, Ink
The acquistion and distribution of supplies plagued the Continental Army throughout the Revolutionary War, with weapons, munitions, tools, textiles, clothing, and food, not to mention pay, in perpetual shortage. Nathanael Greene reluctantly accepted a commission as Quartermaster General in 1778, but even he could not implement the reforms that were necessary. On 6 November, Greene wrote Congress that "speedy and vigorous measures" were necessary "to regulate the commissary's and quarter master's departments." Four days later, Congress appointed William Whipple, Gouverneur Morris, and Nathaniel Scudder, to "be a committee to superintend" the two departments, empowering them "to take such steps relating to the same as they shall think most [advantageous] for the public service." The very day after their appointment, the members of the new committee sent this rousing appeal for assistance to the governor of each of the United States.
"The great & increasing Difficulties in the Quarter Masters & Commissary Generals Departments have induced Congress to adopt the Resolution, of which we have the Honor to enclose you a Copy. Among the measures immediately necessary for placing these matters on a proper Foundation, is the acquiring a knowledge of the proper resources of these States. The Articles of Consumption which we would most particularly be informed of are Flour, Wheat, Rye, Barley, Oats, Corn & Rice, Beef, Pork, working Oxen & Horses, Cyder & Vinegar. The Ignorance & the Interests of Mankind, oppose so strongly our wishes in this Respect, that after every Effort & every prudent precaution, our information will perhaps be of far less importance than could be wished. It is however our Duty to aim at it, and we have no reason to doubt your Excellency's Concurrence in the Steps necessary to attain what we have in view: Especially when it is considered, how readily your own good sence will dictate the impracticability of continuing the war, at least of continuing it to advantage, while we remain supremely ignorant of the Supplies, our Country is capable of affording.
“We have to entreat that your Excellency, from your knowledge of the Productions of the several parts of your State, would appoint some proper persons in whose Industry & secrecy you can confide to make proper lists through the Districts you shall severally allott to them of the Quantity &number of such of the Articles above named as are produced in it, which may probably be over & above the necessary consumption of the Inhabitants, and also as nearly as possible the Quantity &c which they consume over and above their own production, or of what they do not produce. We hope that these lists may be transmitted to us with all convenient Speed, to the end that proper Arrangements may immediately be made for the ensueing Campaign. Upon transmitting An Account of the Expenses which may accrue in this Business, they shall immediately be paid."
In conclusion the committee acknowledges that many of the troubles afflicting the commissary and quartermaster departments were the result of graft and corruption, which are to be tolerated no longer. "You will perceive Sir that every precaution should be taken, to prevent this Object from transpiring, lest as on many former Occasions the Devoted Adherents of Lucre should make a gain of the Publick Distresses."
The James S. Copley Library contained the copy of this circular letter sent to Governor Richard Caswell of North Carolina, which was sold by us, 14 April 2010, for $18,750.