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From George Washington to Major General Lafayette, 29 December 1778

To Major General Lafayette

Philada 29 Decemr 1778

This will be accompanied by a letter from Congress, which will inform you, that a certain expedition, after a full consideration of all circumstances has been laid aside1—I am sorry however for the delay it has occasioned you by remaining so long undecided.

I am persuaded My Dear Marquis, there is no need of fresh proofs to convince you either of my affection for you personally or of the high opinion I entertain of your military talents and merit—Yet as you are on the point of returning to your native country, I cannot forbear indulging my friendship by adding to the many honorable testimonies you have received from Congress, the inclosed letter from myself to our minister at your court2—I have there endeavoured to give him an idea of the value this country sets upon you; and the interest I take in your happiness cannot but make me desire you may be equally dear to your own.

Adieu my Dear Marquis, My best wishes will ever attend you—May you have a safe and agreeable passage and a happy meeting with your friends! Yrs.

Df, in Alexander Hamilton’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. Tench Tilghman wrote the dateline on the draft.

1On 1 Jan. 1779 Congress agreed to the following report of the committee of conference conferring with GW on plans for the 1779 campaign: “The Committee appointed to confer with the Commander in Chief on the Operations of the next Campaign having held such Conferance beg leave to report.

“That the Plan proposed by Congress for the Emancipation of Canada in Cooperation with an armament from France was the principal Subject of the said Conference.

“That Impressed with a strong Sense of the Injury and Disgrace which must attend an Infraction of the proposed Stipulations on the part of these States, your Committee have taken a general Review of our Finances—of the Circumstances of our Army—Of the Magazines of Cloathing, Artillery, Arms and Ammunition; and of the Provisions in Store and which can be collected in Season. your Committee have also attentively considered the Intelligence and Observations communicated to them by the Commander in Chief respecting the Number of troops & Strong Holds of the Enemy in Canada, their Naval Force and entire Command of the Water Communication with that Country—The Difficulties while they possess so signal an advantage of penetrating it with an army by Land; The Obstacles which are to be surmounted in acquiring a naval Superiority—The hostile Temper of many of the surrounding Indian Tribes towards these States—And above All the Uncertainty whether the Enemy will not persevere in their System of harrassing and distressing our Sea Coast and Frontiers by a predatory War.

“That upon the most mature Deliberation your Committee cannot find Room for a well-grounded Presumption that these States will be able to perform their part of the proposed Stipulations. That in a Measure of such Moment, and calculated to call forth and divert to a single Object a considerable Proportion of the Force of our Ally which may otherwise be essentially employed, nothing less than the highest Probibility of it’s Success coud Justify Congress in making the Proposition.

“Your Committee are therefore of Opinion that the Negociation in question however desireable and interesting shoud be deferred till Circumstances shall render the Cooperation of these States more certain practicable & effectual.

“That the Minister Plenipotentiary of these States, at the Court of Versailles, the minister of France in Philadelphia, & the Marquiss of Fayette be respectively informed that the Operations of the next Campaign must depend on such a Variety of Contingencies to arise as Well from our own internal Circumstances, & distant Resourses, as the Projects and Motions of our Enemies, that Time alone can mature and point out the Plan which ought to be pursued. That Congress therefore cannot with a degree of Confidence answer to the Magnitude of the Object decide on the Practicability of their Cooperating the next Campaign in an Enterprize for the Emancipation of Canada That every Preparation in our Power will nevertheless be made for acting with Vigour against the Common Enemy & every favourable Incident be embraced with Alacrity to facilitate and hasten the Freedom & Independance of Canada & her Union with these States—Events which Congress from Motives of Policy with respect to the United States as well as of Affection to their Canadian Brethren have greatly at Heart.

“Your Committee subjoin the draft of a Letter to the above Purpose to the marquiss of Fayette and not having compleded the whole of the Business Committed to them beg Leave to sit again” (DNA:PCC, item 33; 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 , 13:11–14).

John Jay wrote to Lafayette on 3 Jan. 1779 about the cancellation of the Canadian expedition, but Lafayette did not receive Jay’s letter until after he had arrived in France (see Lafayette Papers description begins Stanley J. Idzerda et al., eds. Lafayette in the Age of the American Revolution: Selected Letters and Papers, 1776–1790. 5 vols. Ithaca, N.Y., 1977-83. description ends , 2:217; 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 , 11:408–9). For the origins of the Canadian project, see GW to Henry Laurens, 11 Nov. 1778.

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