George Washington Papers

From George Washington to John Jay, 19 February 1779

To John Jay

Head Quarters Middle Brook Feby 19th 1779


I have been successively honored with your two favours of the 8th and 15th instant, with their several inclosures; to all which due attention shall be paid1—The Court Martial in the case of the officers conducting the public works at Springfield, shall be immediately directed.2

A letter of the 11th Ultimo from General McDougall contains the following paragraph, “If Congress will order me one thousand dollars in hard cash without delay, I will pledge myself to make such use of it, as will abundantly compensate for it to the Continent, divert them and the army”—I have since sent him fifty guineas, which were all I could spare out of my stock.3 With the greatest respect & esteem—I have the honor to be Sir Your most Obedt servant

Go: Washington

LS, in Alexander Hamilton’s writing, DNA:PCC, item 152; copy, DNA:PCC, item 169; Df, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

On 22 Feb., Congress read “A letter, of 19, from General Washington … enclosing unsealed letters from New York to Major General Lee” and ordered “That the president forward to Major General Lee the letters directed to him, and inform him that Congress have no doubt but he will explain the transaction therein mentioned” (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 , 13:218; a copy of these minutes is in DLC:GW). These letters, which had been sent to Maj. Gen. Charles Lee by friends in New York City, concerned the negotiation of bills of exchange for hard money. The following day Jay forwarded the letters to Lee, who was in Philadelphia, and conveyed to him Congress’s request for an explanation (see 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 , 12:106–7). Lee explained to Congress in an undated letter, presumably written between 23 and 27 Feb., that he needed hard money “to purchase two or three Negroes, without whom my farm is rather an encumbrance than the means of subsistence” (DNA:PCC, item 158; copy in DLC:GW). For Lee’s additional pleading, see his letter to Jay of 27 Feb., in Morris, John Jay: The Making of a Revolutionary description begins Richard B. Morris et al., eds. John Jay: The Making of a Revolutionary. Unpublished Papers, 1745–1780. New York, 1975. description ends , 564–67). Congress agreed on 27 Feb. to advance Lee 300 pounds sterling in gold (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 , 13:253–55, 259–60).

1At this place on the draft manuscript, Hamilton wrote and then struck out the phrase “and the measures necessary in consequence shall be taken.”

2For Jay’s letter to GW of 15 Feb. and GW’s directions regarding this case, see GW to Israel Putnam, 22 Feb., and n.2 to that document.

3For GW’s sending of this money, which was to be used for intelligence purposes, see his letter to McDougall of 9 Feb., and n.19. For Congress’s response to McDougall’s request, see Jay to GW, 23 February. McDougall discussed his need for this money in his letter to George Clinton of 20 Jan. (see Hastings and Holden, Clinton Papers description begins Hugh Hastings and J. A. Holden, eds. Public Papers of George Clinton, First Governor of New York, 1777–1795, 1801–1804. 10 vols. 1899–1914. Reprint. New York, 1973. description ends , 4:501–2).

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