George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Landon Carter, 7 May 1778

From Landon Carter

Sabine Hall [Va.] May 7. 1778

My dear General

I have often set down to entertain Mine and my Countrys fri⟨ends⟩ with what should come upermost, by some of these slow movers, tho’ charming officers, rather than not entitle my self to an enquiry how he does; an inquiry which heaven seems to demand of All America, as out of respect to her chosen servant inspired to redeem her from an Approaching Slavery; but an old Companion set—I call age, loaded with infirmity, has as often given a negative to every endeavour, by the most trembling nerves imaginable ⟨on⟩ a Pen. However such is my esteem for you, that I cannot refrain the attempt tho’ it should puzzle you to read me; and altho I wrote by Colo. R.H. Lee returning to congress last month; especially as that letter may be still on its Journey, by means of his brother Colo. Tom’s death; who poor Gentleman fell by the modes of his own Charitable humanity, convincing or rather deceiving him, through inflammatory fevers, whether of the infectious or of the eruptive kind or not, ought to be treated in the cold way: So that a Peripneumony endest his days, with every door and window opend upon him, in cold damp weather. It has not been so with me. He inoculated his hundreds witho. a single loss. And I thank my God I have had my hundreds as well as myself in the Peripneumonic Stile, with the same success; for at the same time I was condemning too cold a regimen, I never could admit of too hot a one; for with me it seem’d equal, to burn a patient to death, as it must be to freeze him out of the world.

I lately saw an exhibition of the Chief commander of our enimys army, under the hands of his Secretary McKensie; and can venture to assert it to be the same, which Lord Howe brot over; an ⟨un⟩declaratory bill, exactly similar to what passd at the repeal of the Stamp act.1 That while inexpediency made it necessary to repeal the Stamp act, The declaratory bill should foreclose our rights to have it repealed; and confirm the despotic Supremacy over us in Parliament. And we see how soon that Sugar plum in the repeal, dissolvd into all the bitterness of Slavery; for they not only continued to tax agst the constitution, but to oppress us with Squadrons and Armies, Joind with all the military hardships of an excruciating Gage. Just so this playcard now publishd, was evidently intended. At first they were to attempt to fun us into asking Pardon, with an unconditional Submission; and if that should not deceive us into a Stupid compliance; then they were to try (if they found us disposd to resist their arbitary designs) to annihilate and destroy us according to our resolutions to defend our freedom; and if that should not succeed; this Paper was to offer us, not so much as what we constantly Petitiond for (to be as we were in 63) for then no Parliamentary declaration of their Supremacy ever appeard. But now after all the injuries sustaind, in every distructive manner imaginable, we are to be indulged with a temporary Power of taxing our Selves; and no doubt as soon as they can recover from their most evident decline; Should we be lulld in the cradles of a most treacherous offer of Peace, and have quite lost the sweets of an approaching establishmt of our own real one, Supported by our own resolutions, out comes some Parliamentary edict, by their despotic bribery to reduce us to an Unconditional Slavery. A Gall so Evidently out of the channels of Justice, that I cannot help saying with the Reverend Dr Coombes, that it must be high treason against Posterity, to be otherwise affected by it, than with the Utmost contempt of that, and every thing so abandonned as it certainly is, to the vilest chicanery that ever was attempted to be ⟨illegible⟩ on a human creature.2 In short old as I am, & infirm to boot, If I knew the way to hell, I would hobble out to throw ⟨the monster⟩ of an American in that ⟨illegible⟩ if I could do it; be he even of Congress or not. I mention that body, because I have heard that Willings Partner & Agent,3 has been secretly Preparing to lead on this confusion in Sentiment amongst the Members of that board: God knows how true it may be; but all things are to be suspected from any great adept in Mercantile Arts; and it is one of that sort that I mean. Where Gain is the deity worshipd, All hell are engagd to promote and reward the adoration—Again I hear from the Southward, tho whilst I relate it, I am inclin’d to suspect the truth of it; and only tell it, as a tacit confirmation of what my own reason makes consistant, that this report, and this exhibition exactly square with the evident difficulty they are under to send over any more recruits, that can be of any consequence against now a well Provd American army. They who wanted to Crush us with blood, theft, and murder, would not now be for withdrawing their intentions, were they not convinc’d, that their utmost efforts would be in vain. The report is then “A Vote has passd in Parliamt, to make peace with America on any terms even allowing her independency; Provided America will cede her trade to them alone.” It seems Chatham said their Squadrons could confine that trade to Britain alone; and Shelburne was convinc’d that the Americans would be willing to have the act of navigation revivd upon them.4 As to Chatham let him say what he will, ever so inconsistant, his argument shews the Peace he means, is no Peace at all; for if our trade is to be interrupted with other states, will not our trade wth them pay the expences of these obstructing squadrons, by the duties laid on what we import to them, and they export to us? May I not then ask that good man, Whether there is not full as much Justice in the origination of this american War, as there can be in a peace so attended? Justice can not be confind to the constitution, of a particular State, alone; because right and wrong are constitutional, and anticonstitutional to the whole race of mankind. As to Shelburne. I hope he did not get his conjecture from America; other wise it is very foolish indeed; for what sort of a p⟨eace⟩ can that be, under a confind trade? No, No, as we have so nobly and so successfully resisted our Slavery, let us not affront the hand of heaven, which must have assisted in Supporting our Justice, by any folly on our side of the kind. A commercial treaty as with other nations, or no treaty at all. Such ⟨Creatures are⟩ not to be trusted with any implied conclusions—As to your ⟨illegible⟩ army; tho’ I hear a great deal, I believe nothing, either as to its numbers, or its smallness. A femail Politician Madam tayloe by name,5 sometimes tells me it is but 4000, sometimes 8000 strong; and Howes full 20,000, and this from Undoubted Authority. Madam I said, Why then does not ⟨illegible⟩ arise to kill and eat Washington up. Indeed with a son in Law a Tory R. ⟨Worm⟩ley junr, and a brother in law R. Corbin a grand one,6 Joind with her ⟨immediately⟩, makes & changes her, just as their letters get to hand; ⟨to say⟩ nothing of the hasty fears of Congress also—This letter comes by one Robert Faunteleroy a Lieut. in your Army.7 He went into it with a Patriotic as well as a youthful Zeal, nothing attachd to gain; therefore I hope he must have behavd well; and that he injoys the Countenance of his dear General as well as of those who immediately command him, which I really ⟨Shd⟩ be glad to hear, for I know his ⟨relation⟩ is equally anxious with others. Now my dear General, let me suppose I have tired you, And Conclude Your devoted well wisher & most Obedient Servant & friend

Landon Carter
Anno ⟨illegible⟩ 69.


1For Parliament’s ill-fated attempts to conciliate America, see Lord Howe to GW, 27 May.

2The Reverend Thomas Coombe (1747–1822), whom GW had heard preach in October 1774 (Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 3:284), made this proclamation in a sermon in Philadelphia on 20 July 1775: “We asked but for peace, liberty, and safety; privileges derived from heaven and the constitution, sanctified by the faith of charters, and which no power on earth, without our own consent, hath authority to disannul…. they are privileges, which, had we been so tame as to have surrendered without a struggle, we should have been guilty of treason to posterity” (A Sermon, Preached before the Congregations of Christ Church and St. Peter’s, Philadelphia, On Thursday, July 20, 1775. Being The Day Recommended By The Honorable Continental Congress For A General Fast Throughout The Twelve United Colonies of North-America [Philadelphia: John Dunlap, 1775], 5–6). Despite this sermon, Coombe resisted the Declaration of Independence as contrary to his ordination oath, and in 1779 he left America for England, never to return.

3Carter is referring to Thomas Willing’s partner, Robert Morris.

4William Petty, first Marquis of Lansdowne, Earl of Shelburne (1737–1805), said in Parliament that Lord North’s conciliatory bills “were defective, and proceeded upon wrong principles.” He also swore that “he would never consent that America should be independent” (Cobbett, Parliamentary History description begins The Parliamentary History of England, from the Earliest Period to the Year 1803. 36 vols. London, 1806–20. description ends , 19:850).

5Rebecca Plater Tayloe (1731–1787) was the wife of John Tayloe (1721–1779) of Mount Airy, Richmond County, Virginia.

6Ralph Wormeley, Jr. (1744–1806), husband of one of Rebecca Plater Tayloe’s daughters, was a former member of the Virginia council who had been educated in England. The Virginia committee of safety arrested him in April 1776 for his Loyalist sympathies, releasing him on $10,000 bond and on condition that he remain near his family’s estate in Berkeley and Frederick Counties, Virginia. Wormeley rode out the war and was elected several times to the Virginia house of delegates in the 1780s. Rebecca Plater Tayloe’s husband, John Tayloe, was the brother of Elizabeth (Betty) Tayloe, who had married Richard Corbin (c.1714–1790), former receiver general of Virginia and GW’s early mentor. Though loyal to Great Britain, Corbin remained quietly at his estate in King and Queen County for the duration of the war.

7Robert Fauntleroy (1758–1832) of Richmond County, Va., had been appointed an ensign in the 5th Virginia Regiment in May 1777; he resigned at the end of May 1778.

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