President of the Continental Congress
December 23, 1777
I would be as ungrateful as you are certainly gracious did I not take the opportunity of expressing, once again, my heartfelt thanks for the leave that the Congress, under your kind auspices, granted me after a year of hard campaigning which has left me exhausted in mind and limb. Sensible as I am of the grave responsibilities that my country has seen fit to place upon my shoulders in this time of peril, I think it a near certainty that my bone weariness would have clouded my judgment and done injury to our noble cause had I been compelled to remain in the field a day longer. And although you will chide me for beating a dead horse when it is my fervent hope that I am merely spurring a recalcitrant one, I must state again my opinion that the suffering and loss of life that are the inevitable consequences of armed strife might have been avoided altogether had the Congress attempted to seek legal redress against the belligerence of the British government through the treatment of same as a matter actionable under the common law rather than a warlike act requiring the invocation of Mars. In despite of the foolishness manifested by our hot-headed brethren, who have rashly set fire to the barn in order that it might be freed of a few vermin, I will continue to do my duty to the best of my abilities through force of arms, since this martial course is now the only path open to us (Or do I vex you unconscionably by suggesting that we may yet sue for peace? I fear that our countrymen, having once smelt gunpowder, may develop a fondness for combat. Will the citizens of our country’s futurity see enemies everywhere, not excluding even the Sublime Porte’s Mahometan hordes?)
It is with much distress that I learn of our recent reverses, and of the grievous privations afflicting our men at Valley Forge. Nevertheless, it should be obvious to the meanest intelligence that our strategy is functioning according to plan, all appearances to the contrary notwithstanding.
With respect to my current circumstances, I am happy to report that the Sandwich Islands suit me very well. The almost continuous sunshine is leeching the noxious humors from my battered frame, and my tissues are being restored apace. By an extraordinary stroke of good fortune, I have met a Scotch trader who has introduced me to a very interesting game called golf. Indeed, I find that it is only with the greatest reluctance that I can tear myself away from this diversion (which you should take as a mark of my high esteem for you, inasmuch as I broke off a match so that I could write this brief note; although, I cannot tell a lie, the afternoon deluge would have driven me into my hut in any event). Quite aside from the golf, the islands are a veritable Arcadia, with blazing white beaches, innumerable species of flowers and graceful palm trees. I shall bring you a coconut.
With devout prayers for your well-being, and for the success of our cause, I remain,
Your most humble and obedient servant,