From George Washington
New Windsor 8th. Decr. 1780
I have the honor of introducing to your Excellency the Marq[uis] de la Fayette, Majr. General in our army and an officer of Rank in those of France. This Gentlemans character, illustrious birth and fortune, cannot be unknown to you, though you may be unacquainted with his person. I should be wanting in that justice which is due to his great merit, to his early attachment to the American Cause, and to his powerful support of it here and at the Court of Versailles; was I to permit him to depart for the Southern Army without this testimony of the sense I entertain of his worth, and recommendation of him to your attention.
He will, probably, be accompanied by his Brother in law the Viscount de Noailles, and Count Damas; Gentleman of Family, Fortune and Rank in the French Army at Rhode Island, whose Zeal to serve America has prompted them to make a Winters Campaign to the Southward if permission can be obtained from the Count de Rochambeau to be absent from their respective Commands so long.
With much esteem & respt. I have the honr. to be Yr. Excellency’s Most Obedt. Hble Ser[vt],
RC (DLC). In DLC: Washington Papers is a draft letter in Washington’s hand endorsed by him: “Substance of the Letters of introduction in favor of the Marqs. De la Fayette 8th. Decr. 1780 To sundry Gentlemen in Virginia”; this draft is printed in Washington’s Writings, ed. Fitzpatrick, xx, 440.
This letter was not sent until 20 Mch. 1781, when Lafayette enclosed it in his letter to TJ of that date, with the explanation that “Some Month Ago, Sir, when I intended a journey to the Southward, I was Honored with A Letter of introduction to Your Excellency from General Washington.” As things turned out, Lafayette did not go to Virginia until Mch. 1781, when he was sent by Washington in command of a land force that was to cooperate with a French naval squadron in an attempt to destroy the British army encamped at Portsmouth and to capture its commander, Benedict Arnold; see letters from Lafayette and from Washington to TJ, both dated 21 Feb. 1781.