George Washington Papers
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From George Washington to Major General Alexander McDougall, 25 March 1779

To Major General Alexander McDougall

Head Quarters Middle Brook March 25, 79

Dear Sir,

I duly received your favour of the 20th instant—Mr H—— has just delivered me that of the 22d—The letter and inclosures referred to in it have not yet come to hand.1

I have had a good deal of conversation with Mr H—— He appears to be a sensible man2 capable of rendering important3 service; if he is sincerely disposed to do it4—From what you say—I am led to hope5 he is; but nevertheless, if he is really in the confidence of the enemy; as he himself believes to be the case, it will be prudent to trust him with caution and to watch his conduct with a jealous eye.

I always think it necessary to be very circumspect with double spies. Their situation in a manner6 obliges them to trim a good deal in order to keep well with both sides; and the less they have it in their power to do us mischief, the better; especially if we consider that the enemy can purchase7 their fidelity at a higher price than we can. It is best to keep them in a way of knowing as little of our true circumstances as possible; and in order that they may really deceive the enemy in their reports, to endeavour in the first place to deceive them—I would recommend, that the same rule should be observed in making use of Mr H——8 who notwithstanding the most plausible appearances may possibly be more in earnest with the enemy than with us—By doing this we run the less risk and may derive essential benefit. He is gone on to Philadelphia.

Inclosed is a copy of a resolve of Congress of the 15th; which so far as it affects the troops under your command you will be pleased to assist me in executing as speedily as possible.9 With real regard & esteem I am D. Sir Your most Obedt servt

Go: Washington

LS, in Alexander Hamilton’s writing, PPRF; Df, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

1GW inserted this sentence in his own writing on the draft. GW, however, wrote “are not” rather than “have not.” GW is referring to McDougall’s letter to him of 21 March, which he received on the evening of 27 March (see GW to McDougall, 28 March).

2At this place on the draft, Hamilton first wrote “fellow.” He then struck out that word and wrote “man” along the line to the right.

3At this place on the draft, Hamilton first wrote “a good deal of.” He then struck out those words and wrote “important” above the line.

4At this place on the draft, Hamilton wrote and then struck out a sentence: “But is there not something mysterious in his case.”

5At this place on the draft, Hamilton first wrote “believe” as part of an insertion above the line. He then struck out that word and wrote “hope” above the interlineation.

6At this place on the draft, Hamilton first wrote “cannot fail to.” He then struck out those words and wrote “in a manner” above the line.

7At this place on the draft, Hamilton first wrote “give a more tempting price for.” He then struck out those words and wrote “purchase” above the line.

8At this place on the draft, Hamilton wrote out the full name, but a subsequent heavy strikeout leaves all the letters unreadable after the initial capital. The spy under scrutiny is Elijah Hunter.

9GW is referring to a resolution of 15 March that called for the apportionment of Continental troops to the states so that all who served would be eligible for state benefits and that the number of men raised in each state would be known with greater precision (see John Jay to GW, 15 March, n.1).

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