George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Thomas Paine, 2 October 1783

Philadelphia Octr 2d 1783


I have drawn up the inclosed with a design of presenting it to the Committee to whom a letter of mine to Congress was referred, and who have delivered in a report, as mentioned in my former letter to your Excellency. I have not read the Narrative over since I wrote it. A Man’s Judgment in his own behalf, situated as I am, is very likely to be wrong, and between the apprehensions of saying too little, or too much, he probably errs in both.

What I can best say in favor of it, is, that it is true, and contains matters which I wish Congress to know, and tho’ there is an awkwardness in the information coming from me, yet, as it cannot come from any body else, I feel an excuse to myself in doing it.

I have shewn it to no person whatever, nor mentioned it to any one except Mr R. Morris who advised the measure, and for that reason wished it to be done without his knowing any thing further of it. Therefore as it is yet in Embryo, should there be any thing in it that might be thought improper I shall be much obliged to you to point it out to me.

The Case, as it appears to me turns thus. If Congress and the Country are disposed to make me any acknowledgments, it is right and necessary they should know what the narrative mentions and if not, it will serve to exculpate me, in the opinion of future Congresses, from the implied demerit which the neglect of former ones serve to lay me under, and these are the points I chiefly had in view in drawing it up.

Mr Clarke and Mr Peters, who are of the Committee, were earnest with me to communicate myself to them freely and had proposed my meeting them on the Monday on which the Alarm of the soldiers happened at Philadelphia. This of Consequence prevented it, and I then proposed doing it in writing, and, therefore as I am under the obligation of presenting something to the Committee, from whom it will probably come before Congress, my wish to your Excellency is that you would give me your Confidential opinion whether I am acting in or out of Character in what I have drawn up for that purpose.

My Land-lord where I lodged at Philadelphia having removed from the house, occasioned my coming to Town to pack up my things, after which I shall return to Borden Town, and hope, in a few days to have the happiness to see you well at Rocky Hill.

I am now at Col. Biddle’s-- General Greene is come to Annapolis, and I hope for the opportunity of seeing him before I leave Town, as I understand from Col. Pettit that his health is on the recovery.

We have no news here. The definitive Treaty and Treaty of Commerce are long in compleating. I suppose the British begin to find out the weak part of America: the imprudent Conduct and publications of Rhode Island have, among other things, served to shew it. The British, I believe, would have had no Idea of superior advantages in a Treaty of Commerce, had they not discovered, that the authority of Congress was not sufficient to control or prevent them.

Tho’ I am most exceedingly obliged to you for your good opinion and kind disposition towards me, yet I have not a great deal of expectation from Congress. The Constant Coldness they have shewn in every thing which respects me, does not, I am apt to think, arise from my not having done enough, but too much; Many of them, hitherto, were not friends to [fame] in Individuals, and perhaps less so to me, because that which I gained, or rather, could not avoid, tho’ a service to them, was in a line which bordered too nearly on their own. So far as this is a reason it makes the Case the harder; yet I cannot help thinking there is some truth in it. I am, with every Wish for your Health and Happiness your Excellency’s much obliged and obt Humble servant

Thomas Paine

DLC: Papers of George Washington.

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