George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Henry Laurens, 17 June 1778

From Henry Laurens

York Town [Pa.] 17th June 1778.


On the 14th I had the honor of writing to Your Excellency, & sent the dispatches by Messenger Petit.1

Yesterday I sign’d a Commission to William Malcom Esquire to Rank Colonel, by order of Congress, from the 11th March 17762 & if I do not mistake Congress have agreed to confirm your Excellency’s intimation relative to Colo. Campbell which rests at the Board of War—or is referred there.

Your Excellency will be pleased to receive within the present Inclosure.

1—An Act of Congress of this date approving Your Excellency’s conduct in refusing a passport to Doctor Ferguson.3

2—An Act of the same date intended to put a stop to all correspondence between the Inhabitants of these States & the Enemy; Your Excellency will clearly understand the views of Congress & will take the most effectual measures for preventing the evil in Camp.4

I beg leave to add a Copy of the Letter which Congress has written in Answer to the British Commissioner’s Address—the Letter will also be inclos’d with this—Your Excellency will be pleased to send it forward immediately.5 I have the honor to be with the highest Esteem & Regard Sir Your Excellency’s Obedient humble servt

Henry Laurens.
President of Congress.

ALS, DLC:GW; LB, DNA:PCC, item 13.

1This may be Nathaniel Petit (c.1750–1810), who was a private in the 4th Continental Dragoons.

2On 2 June, Congress had appointed Col. William Malcom deputy adjutant general of the northern department, and on 19 June it resolved to permit him to retain his army rank while assuming the new office (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 , 11:560, 625). Malcom’s commission as colonel, dated 16 June, is in DNA:PCC, item 78.

3See 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 , 11:616.

4See ibid.

5For references to the letter from the British peace commissioners to Congress, see Henry Clinton to GW, 9 June, n.1. The enclosed copy of Laurens’s reply of this date to the commissioners, “Signed by order of the unanimous Voice of Congress,” reads: “I have received the letter from Your Excellencies of the 9th Inst. with the Inclosures and laid them before Congress.

“Nothing but an earnest desire to spare the farther effusion of human Blood could have induced them to read a paper containing expressions so disrespectful to his Most Christian Majesty, the good and great Ally of these States, or to consider propositions so derogatory to the honor of an Independent Nation.

“The Acts of the British Parliament, the Commission from Your Sovereign and Your Letter, suppose the People of these States to be Subjects of the Crown of Great Britain, and are founded on the Idea of dependence which is utterly inadmissible.

“I am further directed to inform Your Excellencies that Congress are inclined to Peace, notwithstanding the unjust Claims from which this War originated, and the Savage manner in which it hath been conducted; they will therefore be ready to enter upon the consideration of a Treaty of Peace and Commerce, not inconsistent with Treaties already subsisting, when the King of Great Britain shall demonstrate a sincere disposition for that purpose.

“The only solid proof of this disposition will be an explicit acknowledgement of the Independence of these States, or the withdrawing his Fleets and Armies” (DLC:GW).

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