George Washington Papers

From George Washington to John Fitzgerald, 27 April 1794

To John Fitzgerald

Philadelphia 27th April 1794

Dear Sir

Your letter of the 14th instant ⟨ca⟩me to hand in due course of Post, and ⟨w⟩ould have received an earlier acknowledgment had I not been pressed with other business.

I have no hesitation in declaring, ⟨t⟩hat the conduct of Mr Thomas Digges towards the United States during the War (in which they were engaged with Great Britain) and since, as far as the same has come to my knowledge, has not only been friendly, but I might add zealous.

When I conversed with you on this subject in Alexandria,1 I thought I recollected a special, & pointed instance of beneficial service he had rendered this Country in sending me, between the leather & paste-board cover of a book, ⟨some⟩ important intelligence; but upon ⟨ref⟩lecting more maturely on the matter since, I am unable to decide positively whether it was from him, or another gentleman this expedient was adopted, to elude the consequences of a search. Be this however as it may, it is in my recollection that various verbal communications came to me, as from him, by our captives who had escaped from confinement in England;2 and I think I have received written ones also: but the latter, (if at all) must have been rare on account of the extreme hazard of discovery, & the consequences which would follow, both to the writer and bearer of such corrispondences.

Since the war, abundant evidence might be adduced of his ac⟨ti⟩vity and zeal (with considerable risk) in sending artisans and machines of public utility to this Country—I mean by encouraging and facilitating their transporta⟨tion⟩ as also of useful information to the Secretary of State, to put him on his guard ⟨aga⟩inst nefarious attempts to make Paper &ca, for the purpose of counterfeiting our money.3 Until you mentioned the doubts which were entertained of Mr Digges’s attachment to this Country, I had no idea of its being questioned. With esteem and regard I am—Dear Sir Your Obedient Hble Servt

Go: Washington

P.S. Since writing the foregoing letter, I have seen & conversed with Mr John Trumbull respecting Mr T. Digges. The former, before he was committed to the Tower of London, was well acquainted with the latter, in England, and much in his company. To him, Mr Digges always appeared well attached to the rights & Interests of the United States. Knows that he was active in aiding our citizens to escape from their confinement in England; and believes he was employed to do so by Doctr ⟨Fran⟩klin. Mr Trumbull has never seen Mr Digges since he left the Tower, but has heard that a difference arose between him and the Doctr not from any distrust entertained by the latter ⟨of⟩ disaffection in the former; but on the ⟨s⟩ettlement of their accounts.4

G. W——n

The preceeding statement is made from the best recollection I have of the Subject. The expression might (if I had had more leisure) been more correct, but not more consonant with truth. Such as it is you are welcome to make what use you please of it.

Go: Washington

ALS (letterpress copy), ViMtvL; LB, DLC:GW. The text in angle brackets is from the letter-book copy.

1GW may have conversed with Fitzgerald at Alexandria, Va., while he was at Mount Vernon between mid-September and 28 Oct. 1793 (JPP description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed. The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797. Charlottesville, Va., 1981. description ends , 239–41).

2One prominent American captive was Henry Laurens, the former president of Congress, 1777–78, and later one of the commissioners who signed the preliminary peace treaty with Great Britain in 1782. He was held prisoner in the Tower of London from 6 Oct. 1780 until 31 Dec. 1781.

3On Digges’s encouraging skilled artisans to emigrate to the United States, see Digges to Thomas Jefferson, 28 April 1791, and editorial note. His letter to Thomas Pinckney of 13 Aug. 1793 and its enclosed memorandums on counterfeiting were enclosed in Pinckney’s letter to Jefferson of 28 Aug. 1793 (Jefferson Papers description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 40 vols. to date. Princeton, N.J., 1950—. description ends , 20:313–22; 26:776–82).

4The artist John Trumbull, the youngest son of former Connecticut governor Jonathan Trumbull, was studying in London in November 1780 when he was arrested and tried on suspicion of treason before being released. On the assistance that Digges provided Americans during the Revolutionary War and his relationships with John Trumbull and Benjamin Franklin, see “Introduction,” Elias and Finch, Digges Letters description begins Robert H. Elias and Eugene D. Finch, eds. Letters of Thomas Attwood Digges (1742–1821). Columbia, S.C., 1982. description ends , xxxviii–lv.

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