George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Colonel Malmedy, 14 May 1777

From Colonel Malmedy

Head quarters [Morristown] 14 April [May] 1777


it Beeing more Easy to me, to Write, than to speaek English, permit me to give your Excellency a relation in Writing of my journey to philadelphia.

I am flattered, With the Esteem With Which the Congress has honored me; the Board of War seemed un Easy at my situation; But after the intimation, I have received by mister Hamilton, of your Excellency opinion, concerning my promotion,1 I plainly insinuated to those gentlemen, that, I aimed at serving at the camp, in any station not Derogatory, to that Which I had Enjoyed; But for the moment, I required only the rank of colonel, Which Was granted to me, With these assurances.

I Do not Know Whether [I] Deceive my self, or not? in thinking, that, my rank of colonel, in the army, Will not Derogate to my rank of Brigadier general in the state of rhodeisland (I was obliged to obtain him, in the continental army.) the promotion is the reward of service and a mark of Esteem; and When an officer, has been honored of them, and has done his Duty, he Cannot Cease Beeing what he Was; the officer’s rank, ought to be regulated by his conduct, that is the spring of Emulation, and the rule of Equity.

I beg your Excellency Will receive those observations in a favourable Light, and attribute them, to the sensibility of my sentiments. I should not be happy, if I [were] Deprived of that hope.

the board of War, has assured me, that the Congress has Desidered, you would Employ me in a usefull manner, therefore I wait upon your Excellency to receive his Commands. I am sir very respectfully your very most obedient humble servant


ALS, DLC:GW. Although the manuscript is dated “14 April 1777,” the context of the letter indicates that it was written on 14 May (see James Lovell to GW, 12 May, and GW to Malmedy, 16 May).

1Alexander Hamilton wrote New York delegate William Duer on 6 May from Morristown: “The bearer of this is Mr. Malmedi a french Gentleman of learning, abilities and experience. I believe he thinks himself intitled to preferment and comes to Congress for that purpose. At the recommendation of General Lee he was made Brigadier General by the State of Rhode Island, and filled the station to the satisfaction of his employers, as appears by a letter from Governor Cook, speaking of him in the highest terms of approbation. This has led him to hope that he should be adopted by the Continent on an equal footing. But in this he will no doubt be mistaken as there are many insuperable objections to such an event. Among others it would tend to raise the expectations of Frenchmen in general, already too high, to a pitch, which it would be impossible to gratify or endure. It might not however be amiss to do whatever propriety would warrant to keep him in good humour, as he is a man of sense and merit. I think policy would justify the advancing him a step higher, than his former Continental rank” (Syrett, Hamilton Papers description begins Harold C. Syrett et al., eds. The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. 27 vols. New York, 1961–87. description ends , 1:246–47). For the letters recommending Malmedy that Charles Lee wrote to Nicholas Cooke on 8 Dec. 1776 and that Cooke wrote to GW on 5 April 1777, see James Lovell to GW, 12 May, n.1. Malmedy presented various letters of recommendation to Congress on 8 May, and he was promoted to colonel two days later (see Malmedy to Congress, 1778, DNA:PCC, item 41, and 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 , 7:346).

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