George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Henry Laurens, 27 January 1778

From Henry Laurens

York Town [Pa.] 27th Jany 1778


While I was sitting in Congress yesterday a Member came in & delivered me the inclosed paper just in its present State except the broken Seals, the Gentleman’s declaration as he was putting the thing into my hand, that he had picked it up on the Stairs, was a sufficient alarm—I passed my Eye cursorily over the pages, put them into my pocket & intimated to the House, that it was an anonymous production containing stuff which I must be content with, as perquisites of Office—that the hearth was the proper depository for such Records. I have shewn it to no body & have long hesitated upon the propriety of troubling Your Excellency with the knowledge of an attempt for which I want a proper stigma. If I have erred in my present determination I beg Your Excellency will beleive that my motives are pure, & that as I wish to avoid the very appearance of being a party Man or an Informer Your Excellency will be pleased to receive this in confidence & in the favorable light of an innocent intrusion.1 I am with the most sincere Esteem & Regard Sir Your Excellency’s Most obedient servant

Henry Laurens

ALS, PHi: Gratz Collection; copy, ScHi: Henry Laurens Papers. The copy in ScHi indicates that the letter was carried “per Barry.” GW’s docket of the ALS is in DLC:GW; it reads “from Mr President Laurens 27th Jan. 1778. respectg an anonim transmitted him.”

1GW’s secretary Robert Hanson Harrison wrote a copy of the enclosed anonymous letter, titled “The Thoughts of a Freeman” and dated 17 January. Harrison’s copy of the letter reads: “That the Enemies leaving their Shiping and marching so many miles by land and taking possession of the City of Philadelphia with so little loss and opossi[ti]on has been very deceiving and discouraging to many of the true Friends of America. That an Inquiry into the reasons for not atacking and harassing them in their march from Elk till their taking possesion of Philadelphia ought to be strictly gone into. That The reasons why the Enemies left whing at the battle of Shads-ford, was left without a proper reconitering party, ought to be known. That the proper methods of atacking beating and conquering the Enemy has never as yet been adapted by the Commander in C—f. That More men will dye this winter then it would have cost lives to have conquered the Enemy last Summer and fall. That it is better to dye honourably in the field then in a stinking Hospital. That the many Fruitless and unacountable marches has had a great tendancy to fill the Hospitals with Sick. That the Baggage has many times been sent away to the great hurt of the health of the Army. That contrary to the good old maxim, Rayment has been regarded more than life. That the general contempt shown to the Militia by the standing forces is a dangerous Omen. That in every victory as yet obtained by the Americans the Militia has had the principal share. That the Liberties of America are safe only in the hands of the Militia. That the Honourable Congress in many cases has been too much led by Military men. That such presidents may in time become dangerous. That it is High time for the Honble Congress as the supream power of America to exercise their Othority with strict justice & impartiality. That the late success to the Northward was owing to a change of Commanders. That the Southern Army would have been alike successfull, had similar Changes taken place. That the Enemy have been greatly deceived, having no reason to expect so valuable a prize as the City of Philadelphia with so few broken boans. That after they got philadelphia might have been distroyd haveing exposed themselves several times. That had proper supplies been given to the forts on the River, their Shiping could not have come up, without which they could not have stay’d in the City. That the sending Generals from Head Quarters to order the erazure and evacuation of red bank fort is very misterious. That if they only were fitt to judge, they ought to have been sent Six weeks sooner, and if the Forts ware not sufficient, to have given orders and directions to have made them so. That those judges must be ignorant of Gen. Greens coming to their releif, or else they would not have ordered the said evacuation. That when members of the same body act, not in conjunction but in opposition to each other, argues great weakness in the head. That if the Enemy again comes out to forrage (which they cant avoid) The Supream power ought to give orders for their being atacked at all events. That if there is no General fitt and willing to lead on the said atack, the said power ought to send one. That it is a very great reproach to America, to say there is only one General in it. That the Enemy have not Eight Thousand effective men in and about the City of Philadelphia. That the increasing of the standing Army is not right, except beter methods are adapted for supplying the same. That no action has yet been lost for want of Men able willing and fitt to fight. That the present Army with the Militia are sufficient to conquer the present force of the Enemy, at least they ware not long ago. That if the Army is not better managed then heretofore numbers will avail nothing. That the dividing and subdividing the Q.M. department has been prejudicial to the Country as will as the Army. That the Army was better supplyed & Country people better satisfied before then since. That many of the good people of these States have been very ill used, who have supplyed the Q.M. Departments—who after many Journies for their money and receiving only the Insolence of Office have dispared of ever geting it. That the Carrages, horses and Harness belonging to the Army are in a very bad condition. That the greatest part of the Horses will be unfitt for service before spring, if beter methods of procuring Forrage are not speedily adapted. That the present place of Incampment is illy chosen on account of Forrage &c. That there is to much Forrage left within reach of the Enemy, tho even yet a great deal of it might be brought off. That some Departments of the Army ought to be strictly inspected and the Heads thereof bound in large securities untill all demands against said Departments are paid off and their accounts appears fair. That some people have to much interest in the continuance of the War. That the several departments of the Army are in a very bad state. That the Head cant posobly be sound when the whole body is disordered. That the people of America have been guilty of Idolatry by making a man their god—and that the God of Heaven and Earth will convince them by wofull experience that he is only a man. That no good may be expected from the standing Army untill Baal & his worshipers are banished from the Camp—I beleive that. Verte.”

Harrison docketed the letter: “To the United States of America in Congress Assembled Jany 17. 1778 (put under a Cover & directed) To the Honble the President of Congress & every member thereof (2d Cover) The Honble Henry Laurens, Esqr., Presidt of Congress[.] The Whole copied as contained in the Original” (DLC:GW).

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