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Remarks on Washington’s Proclamation

From Diary of the American Revolution, Vol II. Compiled by Frank Moore and published in 1859.

January 1.—Mr. Washington last winter issued a proclamation requiring the inhabitants of certain districts to fatten their cattle, in order to support his army the ensuing campaign. The British light infantry having at least an equal interest in that measure, one of them, in the name of the whole, composed the following exhortation to accompany and strengthen the rebel general’s requisition. The earnestness with which he repeatedly returns to the main object of the poem, shows the sincerity with which he seconded the republican views. Unfortunately, however, the beef was fattened in vain. The French having been prevailed upon by the rebel emissaries to keep their treachery in countenance, and to surprise the world by a breach of faith even beyond all former examples of Gallic infidelity, the British force required to be collected for a time, and the army only reaped the benefit of the proclamation during its march through the Jerseys. At present, however, when the French have been obliged to abandon their worthy friends and steal from America with no other advantage than what they may derive from the honor of their attempt, and when there is little chance that the rebels will ever again communicate with their French allies unless by letter, it may not be improper to republish the light infantry exhortation, preparatory to the operations of spring, 1779. And as the British are willing that the rebel troops should, as heretofore, make use of all the beef out of the reach of the English camps and march routes, it is hoped that the Continental general will, in return, second this their exhortation, by a fresh proclamation; and it is submitted to him whether it may not tend to the advantage and convenience of both armies to have this measure not only recommended to particular districts, but throughout the thirteen States, as the British troops will have occasion for the bullocks in those provinces which they invade, and the Continentals will require to be extremely well nourished during the long marches from Georgia to the Bay of Fundy, in which probably they will be pretty constantly employed.


Great Washington! thou mighty son of Mars,
Thou thundering hero of the rebel wars,
Accept our thanks for all thy favors past,
Our special thanks await thee for the last.
Thy proclamation, timely to command
The cattle to be fattened round the land,
Bespeaks thy generosity, and shows
A charity that reaches to thy foes!
And was this order issued for our sakes,
To treat us with roast beef and savory stakes?
Or was it for thy rebel train intended,
Give ’em the hides—and let their shoes be mended?
Tho’ shoes are what they seldom wear of late,
‘Twould load their nimble feet too much with weight!
And for the beef—there needs no puff about it;
In short, they must content themselves without it,
Not that we mean to have them starved—why, marry,
The live stock in abundance, which they carry
Upon their backs, prevents all fear of that!
Then honest Whigs, make all your cattle fat;
We to reward you for your care and pains,
Will visit soon your crowded stalls and plains,
And for your pampered cattle write at large,
With bloody bayonets, a full discharge.
You know that we light bobs are tough and hardy,
And at a push you’ll never find us tardy.
We have a stomach both for beef and battle,
So honest Whigs, once more feed well your cattle,
Obey your chief’s command, and then ’tis plain
We cannot want for beef the next campaign!
And if we want for fighting, be it known,
The fault, good neighbors, shall be all your own.1

1 Rivington’s Royal Gazette, January 2.