1-266 To Brigadier General John McA. Palmer, September 15, 1928

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: September 15, 1928

To Brigadier General John McA. Palmer

September 15, 1928 Fort Benning, Georgia

My dear John,

Your letter of August 22d pursued me about the country and did not catch up until my return to Fort Benning four days ago. I secured the September Harper’s yesterday and read your article on “America’s Debt to the German Soldier” last night.1 It is delightfully written, very informing, and exceedingly pointed as to moral. I am curious to know what reactions you have received regarding it, particularly as to the last paragraph. I wish it were possible for me to present my ideas in the delightful and cultured fashion you do yours.2

I was only in Washington one night on my way south the end of August and I stopped at the Farnsboro3 to see if there was any chance of picking you up to motor down with me, including two or three visits in the country in Virginia. Miss or Mrs. —————, who stays at the phone, I never remember her name, told me you and Mrs. Palmer were in Cambridge. So that idea fell through. Probably you would not have cared to enter Georgia at this hot season of the year, but we would have had an amusing time, I know, on our way down here. I spent five days with General Pershing in the Blue Ridge Mountains, a week at a house party near Upperville, and a couple of days in Albemarle. All of this I know you would have enjoyed.

I was in Boston for three days this summer with Preston Brown, having arrived there after a visit at Fort Ethan Allen, and continued on to Gloucester for two days and then for ten days on Naushon Island, off Woodshole. Just now I am deep in the business of getting started on the new school year, while the painters are wrecking the inside of my house. Benning looks very green after a rainy summer. The new students have almost all arrived.

With affectionate regards to Mrs. Palmer and yourself, believe me always

Faithfully yours,

Document Copy Text Source: John McA. Palmer Papers, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

Document Format: Typed letter.

1. “America’s Debt to a German Soldier: Baron von Steuben and What He Taught Us,” Harper’s Magazine 157(September 1928): 456-66.

2. Palmer’s “moral” was more than simply preparedness prevents war. He asserted that effective preparedness in a republic resulted from a citizen army of organized and trained militiamen based upon military training for all able-bodied men of eighteen to twenty years of age. The Regular Army was to be a small, strictly limited organization performing certain continuing duties that could not be performed by citizen-soldiers (e.g., garrisoning frontier posts and providing military instruction and administration in peacetime). The 1920 reorganization bill, Palmer maintained, was a belated attempt to put into practice a system proposed by Baron von Steuben and George Washington in the 1780s.

In the second half of the final paragraph, Palmer wrote: “If our existing organization is not identical in all respects with Washington’s, it is because another military system, entirely different in kind, and based upon the idea of an expansible standing army, has gradually developed since the War of 1812. This system, founded upon an exploded interpretation of the Constitution and supported by incomplete and uncritical historical research, still obstructs the development of our traditional military policy as perfected by Washington and as endorsed by all of the soldiers and statesmen who founded our government.”

3. Palmer’s Washington, D.C., apartment was in the Farnsboro Building at 2129 Florida Avenue, N.W.

Recommended Citation: The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, ed. Larry I. Bland and Sharon Ritenour Stevens (Lexington, Va.: The George C. Marshall Foundation, 1981- ). Electronic version based on The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, vol. 1, “The Soldierly Spirit,” December 1880-June 1939 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1981), pp. 328-329.

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