George Washington Papers

To George Washington from William Gordon, 25 August 1779

From William Gordon

Jamaica Plain [Mass.] Aug 25. 1779

My dear Sir

Your obliging letter of the 3d instant afforded me peculiar pleasure,1 & more especially the close of the postscript, as it furnished me with authority for the removal of prejudices, wherever I found any had been produced against your Excellency, by the idle & foolish expressions of individuals. I am not insensible of the delicate situation you have been in, between the Congress & the Army; & that it hath required the greatest exertions of prudence to keep all things easy, under that amazing depreciation that hath taken place, & the numerous evils that have poured in upon the troops thro’ that went like a torrent. I hope the junction of Spain, upon which I congratulate you, will afford us the opportunity of getting out of present difficulties. Your excellency must have observed, how often Providence hath remarkably interposed when our affairs have been extremely critical.

Your intelligence respecting the designs of the enemy was too long neglected, so that the expedition to Penobscot has turned out disgracefully.2 However the capture of ten Jamaica vessels, & their safe arrival, together with Count D’Estaings success, is more than a counterbalance: besides I am told that there has been a pritty little successful manoeuvre at Powles Hook. I hope you will be able in one place & another to pick up such a number of the enemy, as that when Arbuthnot arrives, they will be but where they were.3

Count de La Luzern continues to retain his private character—makes himself very agreeable—& appears to be much esteemed. He is a well made gentleman, something lusty for a Frenchman, & of a florid complexion. I hear not a word of his going on to Philadelphia. If Monsr Gerrard is not in haste to return, Monr Luzern will probably make some tarriance in each state through which he passes.4

We are endeavouring to check the depreciation & to appreciate the money by regulations. I wish the virtue of the people may revive & become more vigorous than ever. Heaven I believe will save us, tho’ we do not deserve it, & do much towards hindering it.

I have sent the enclosed open, which I pray ⟨your⟩ Excellency to read before delivery.5 Would have sent you Col. Hamiltons & Mr Dana’s letters, but ⟨mutilated⟩th copies of them, thought it needless, & perhaps you may not choose to run them over.

Shall be glad to hear of your Ladys health ⟨&⟩ welfare. Trust you have the happiness of receiving pleasing accounts from her.

Mrs Gordon & Mr Hazard, who for the present makes one of our family, join in wishing your Excellency the best of blessings, & among these a successful & glorious campaign without much mortality by the sword or the hospital. I remain, my dear Sir, your sincere & affectionate friend & humble servant

William Gordon

Mr Hazard bears Clinton & Tryon a grudge, & prays you if possible to prevent their safe return to Great Britain.

ALS, DLC:GW. GW docketed this letter “25th Augt 1780,” but its contents make it clear that the date is 1779.

1Gordon is referring to GW’s letter of 2 Aug., the receiver’s copy of which may have been dated 3 Aug. (see the source note to that letter).

2This may be a reference to GW’s letter to the Massachusetts Council of 3 August. For the military and naval operations at Penobscot Bay in present-day Maine that resulted in a disastrous defeat for the Massachusetts forces, see n.3 to that document.

3On 23 August the Independent Ledger, and the American Advertiser (Boston) reported: “Saturday last arrived here the Continental frigates Providence, Queen of France and Ranger; during their cruize they fell in with a Jamaica fleet of upwards of 100 sail, under convoy of several frigates—This favourable opportunity they improved as well as circumstances would admit—They picked out 9 ships and one brig deeply laden with rum, sugar &c. 4 of which has arrived here, 2 into Portsmouth and one into Cape-Ann. It is said the rum and Sugar, captured in the above prizes amount to upwards of 5000 hogsheads.” Saturday last was 21 August. See also Allen, Naval History, 2:382–85.

For Vice Admiral d’Estaing’s capture of the West Indian islands of St. Vincent and Grenada and for the subsequent engagement between d’Estaing’s fleet and that of British admiral John Byron, see John Jay to GW, 10 Aug., n.1. For GW’s defensive preparations for the long-expected arrival of the British army reinforcements being convoyed by the squadron under the command of Vice Adm. Marriot Arbuthnot, see GW to John Jay, 11 Aug., n.5.

4For the August arrival and visit of La Luzerne, France’s new minister plenipotentiary to the United States, at Boston and for La Luzerne’s September journey from Boston to Philadelphia, see GW to Robert Howe, 18 Aug., n.1.

5The enclosed letter was most likely Gordon’s letter to Alexander Hamilton of 25 Aug., in which Gordon defended his charge that Hamilton had declared that the people should join GW and overthrow Congress. Hamilton vociferously denied Gordon’s charges and, in turn, charged Gordon with “calumny” (see Hamilton Papers, description begins Harold C. Syrett et al., eds. The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. 27 vols. New York, 1961–87. description ends 2:141–43, 224). Gordon had alluded to the issue in his letter to GW of 15 Dec. 1778 when he accused unnamed officers of speaking “very unguardedly,” and Gordon had gone on to assert that some officers “who have rank in the field” desired to prolong the war. For GW’s remarks on Gordon’s assertions, see the postscript of his letter to Gordon of 2 August. Gordon subsequently tried to involve GW directly in his dispute with Hamilton, submiting copies of their correspondence and asking GW to obtain Hamilton’s acknowledgment of his “injurious treatment” of Gordon and a retraction of Hamilton’s assertion that Gordon was the author of the reports against him. But, after receiving Hamilton’s report on the affair—which stated that GW was “too well acquainted with my way of thinking to entertain the least doubt of my innocence” and accused Gordon of “malignity and intrigue” in the affair—GW responded to Gordon with a refusal to become involved in “so disagreeable a business.” GW further asked Gordon to either bring formal charges against Hamilton for a court-martial or confine his correspondence on the subject to the officers concerned. After receiving this response, Gordon informed GW that he had sent copies of all the correspondence in the matter to the Massachusetts delegates to Congress asking them “to use their influence that the whole affair may be examined into by Congress.” The delegates, however, decided not to bring the matter before Congress. See Gordon to GW, 29 Feb.–1 March 1780 (DLC:GW); GW to Hamilton, 2 May 1780 (DLC:GW); Hamilton to GW, 2 May (DLC: Alexander Hamilton Papers); GW to Gordon, 3 May 1780 (DLC:GW); Gordon to GW, 12 June 1780 (DLC:GW); and Artemas Ward to Gordon, 25–30 Nov. 1780 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 16:381–82.

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