George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Henry Laurens, 20 April 1778

To Henry Laurens

Valley Forge April 20th 1778


With your Letter of the 17th Instant and it’s inclosures, I was duly honored on Saturday afternoon.1

When I addressed you on the 18th, I was doubtful, whether the draught of the Bill then transmitted was not spurious and contrived in philadelphia; but it’s authenticity, I am almost certain is not to be questioned. The information from philadelphia seems clear & conclusive, that it came over in the packet, with Lord North’s speech on the introduction of it into parliament. I inclose a paper containing his speech which just came to hand.2 This Bill, I am persuaded, will pass into a Law. Congress will perceive by the Ministers speech, that it aims at Objects of the greatest extent & importance, and will no doubt, in one way or other involve the most interesting consequences to this Country. With great respect I have the Honor to be Sir Yr Most Obedt sert

Go: Washington

LS, in Robert Hanson Harrison’s writing, DNA:PCC, item 152; Df, DLC:GW; copy, DNA:PCC, item 169; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. The LS is docketed in part, “read 23” (see 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 , 10:380). The letter evidently had arrived at York and been read by individual congressmen on the evening of 21 April (see Charles Carroll to Charles Carroll, Sr., 22 April, in Smith, Letters of Delegates description begins Paul H. Smith et al., eds. Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774–1789. 26 vols. Washington, D.C., 1976–2000. description ends , 9:467).

1The previous Saturday was 18 April.

2The enclosed paper has not been identified. Lord North’s speech of 19 Feb. was printed in all three Philadelphia papers: the Pennsylvania Evening Post, 17 April, the Royal Pennsylvania Gazette, 17 April, and the Pennsylvania Ledger, 18 April. North argued that although Britain had the power “to compel America to accept of reasonable terms . . . it is better to offer a concession to the colonies now, which may end the contest within the year than to continue the war for three or four years longer,” thereby avoiding “too great an expence of men and money.” He proposed a peace commission because an ultimatum might be rejected and because he thought “that there is so much affection still left in that country towards this, that barely to enter on a discussion is more than half the business.” The commissioners must be given the power to suspend parliamentary acts in order to meet the demands of the colonies, but the colonies “must give up their claim of independency.” The commissioners would have power to deal with the colonies collectively or individually since the colonies might divide on that independence “and it will not be said that if the commissioners cannot treat with all, they shall not treat with any.” North further explained that in his view the purpose of the war was to establish “the dependence of America” and that he offered the bill renouncing parliamentary taxation as an “inducement” for the colonies to negotiate.

Index Entries