George Washington Papers

From George Washington to John Hancock, 7 October 1776

To John Hancock

Head Qrs Heights of Harlem Octor the 7th 1776


I do myself the honor of transmitting to you, a Copy of a Letter from the Compte D’Emery, Govr Genl of the French part of St Domingo, which I received Yesterday, and also my Answer, which I have enclosed and left open for the consideration of Congress, wishing that it may be sealed, if they approve of the Seiur De Chambeau’s releasment, and which I think may be attended with many valuable consequences. If Congress concur in sentiment with me, they will be pleased to give direction for his passage by the first Opportunity to the French Islands; if they do not, I shall be obliged by your returning my Letter.1

I have also the pleasure of inclosing a Copy of a Letter from Monsr P. Pennet which came to hand last night and which contains intelligence of an agreable and interesting nature, for which I beg leave to refer you to the Copy.

The polite manner in which Monsr Pennet has requested to be One of my Aid de Camps, demands my acknowledgements. As the Appointment will not be attended with any expence and will shew a proper regard for his complaisance and the Attachment he is pleased to express for the service of the American States, I shall take the liberty of complying with his requisition and transmit him a Brevet Commission, provided the same shall agreable to Congress. their sentiments upon the subject you will be kind enough to favor me with, by the first Opportunity.2

The Enclosed Letter for the Seignr De Chambeau you will please to forward to him if he is to be enlarged after closing It.3

Before I conclude I must take the liberty to observe that I am under no small difficulties on account of the French Gentlemen that are here in consequence of the Commissions they have received, having no means to employ them or to afford them an Opportunity of rendering that service, they themselves wish to give, or which perhaps is expected by the public.4 Their want of our language is an objection to their being joined to any of the Regiments here at this time, were there vacancies, and not other Obstacles. These considerations induce me to wish, that Congr⟨ess⟩ will adopt and point out some particular ⟨m⟩ode to be observed respecting them—What it should be, they will be best able to determine—But to me it appears, that their being here now, can be attended with no valuable consequences, and that as the power of appointing Officers for the New Army is vested in the Conventions &c. of the Several States, it will be necessary for Congress to direct them to be provided for in the Regiments to be raised according to the Ranks they would wish ’em to bear, or I am convinced, they will never be taken in, let their merit be what it may, or to form them into a distinct Corps, which may be encreased in time. they seem to be Genteel, sensible Men, and I have no doubt of their making good Officers as soon as they can learn as much of our language as to make themselves well understood, but unless Congress interfere with their particular directions to the States, they will never be incorporated in any of the Regiments to be raised and without they are, they will be entirely at a loss and in the most irksome situation for some thing to do as they now are. I have the Honor to be Sir your Most H. Servt

Go: Washington

LS, in Robert Hanson Harrison’s writing, DNA:PCC, item 152; LB, DLC:GW; copy, DNA:PCC, item 169; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. Congress read this letter on 11 Oct. and referred it to the Board of War (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends , 6:866).

1See Comte d’Ennery to GW, 4 Aug., and GW to d’Ennery, 7 October. Congress on 11 Oct. agreed to the release of Chambault (see ibid.).

2See Pierre Penet to GW, 3 August. Congress on 14 Oct. approved of Penet’s appointment as a brevet aide-de-camp to GW (ibid., 869–70).

3This letter has not been identified.

4GW is referring to the four French officers from Martinique who received Continental commissions from Congress on 19 Sept. (ibid., 5:783–84) and who were introduced to GW in a brief letter that Richard Peters, secretary of the Board of War, wrote to him on 20 Sept. (ALS, DLC:GW). Christian de Colerus and the marquis de Malmedy were majors by brevet; Jean Louis de Vernejout was a captain by brevet; and Jean Louis Imbert was an engineer without particular appointment. On 4 Nov. Robert Hanson Harrison wrote the Board of War: “Agreable to your request his Excellency [GW] has consulted with Genl Lee upon the best mode for employing the French Gentlemen and of making them serviceable. The result is, that they should be appointed to Regiments by Congress according to the Ranks they have been pleased to give ’em, and with the same pay as is allowed other Officers in such cases. their want of our Language is rather an objection, but it is hoped they will attain a sufficient knowledge of it, ’ere it be long, to be of great service, and that in the Interim their advice & assistance in directing of works may be of use where they may be stationed” (DNA:PCC, item 152).

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