Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to the Marquis de Lafayette, 17 August 1779

To the Marquis de Lafayette

Copy: Library of Congress

Passy, Aug. 17. 1779.

Dear sir

I received duly your much esteemed favours of july 12. and Aug. 3.— You have found out by this time that I am a very bad Correspondent. As I grow old I perceive my aversion to writing increases, and is become almost insurmountable.

The Expedition of the Enemy into Virginia has done us some harm, but not considerable, and it has done them no good. They have only more exasperated the People by their Barbarities; and they have shown their Weakness, by not being able to maintain their Post but a few Days. The Reports about Fort Pitt are Newyork News, and not confirmed.7

I inclose a Letter I have just received for you from America; but I believe it is a very old one as it comes far about.— I send you also a Copy of a note just come to hand from Holland relating to the affair at Charlestown.8 It is strange that we have no direct Authentic Advices of it.— But the Rumour comes so many different Ways, that one can scarcely forbear giving some credit to it. With the Sincerest Esteem and affection, and my best Wishes for your success in your present expedition, and safe return to your friends and amiable family crown’d with fresh Laurels, I am ever Your most obedient and most humble servant


Marquis De La Fayette.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

7BF had already responded on Aug. 3 to Lafayette’s July 12 comments about the British expedition to Virginia and the rumored American evacuation of Ft. Pitt. By “Newyork News” BF undoubtedly means the gossip retailed by the Loyalist press of New York; in fact the story about Ft. Pitt did appear in the May 17 issue of the New-York Gazette and the Weekly Mercury.

8The note is dated “Rotterdam 11th. August 1779” and bears WTF’s notation “News from America by the Way of Rotterdam” (University of Pa. Library). It reports the arrival of a Philadelphia paper confirming the defeat of the British Army near Charleston on May 11. American losses in the lines were fewer than 40, and Pulaski’s cavalry took 180 prisoners. The British left 563 dead.

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