George Washington Papers
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To George Washington from Major General Lafayette, 27 April 1780

From Major General Lafayette

At the Entrance of Boston harbour 27th April 1780

here I am, My dear General, and in the Mist of the joy I feel in finding Myself again one of your loving Soldiers I take But the time of telling you that I Came from france on Board of a fregatt Which the king Gave me for my passage1—I have affairs of the utmost importance that I should at first Communicate to You alone—in Case my Letter finds you Any where this side of philadelphia, I Beg You will wait for me, and do Assure You A Great public Good May derive from it2—to Morrow we Go up to the town,3 and the day after I’ll Set off in My usual way to join My Belov’d and Respected friend and General. Adieu, My dear General, You will Easily know the hand of Your Young Soldier

Lafayette

My Compliments to the family.

ALS, PEL. GW apparently received this letter at 9:00 A.M. on 6 May (see GW to Samuel Huntington, 5–6 May, postscript, and to La Luzerne, same date, postscript). For an indication that GW received Lafayette’s letter on 7 May, see his reply to Lafayette dated 8 May.

1Lafayette had sailed from France aboard L’Hermione. Inclement weather and damage to the ship delayed his departure until 20 March (see Lafayette to his wife, 18 March, and to Benjamin Franklin, 20 March, in 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 , 2:379–80).

2Lafayette carried instructions from the Comte de Vergennes, dated 5 March, that directed him to “hasten to join General Washington. He will inform him confidentially that the king, wishing to give the United States a new testimony of his affection and his concern for their security, has resolved to send to their aid six ships of the line and 6,000 regular infantry troops at the onset of spring.

“The convoy is ordered to land at Rhode Island, if there is no obstacle, in order to be better able to assist the American army and to join it if General Washington considers it necessary. …

“The corps of French troops will be purely auxiliary, and in this capacity it will act only under General Washington’s orders. The French land general will take orders from the American commanding general for everything that does not relate to the internal regulation of his corps, which on the whole is to retain its system of justice and govern itself by the laws of its country. The naval general will be enjoined to support with all his power all operations in which his cooperation is required. It is understood that the Americans will be concerned to plan and consult with him and to listen to objections that he might make to them.

“Since operations must depend upon circumstances and local possibilities, we do not propose any. It is for General Washington and the council of war to decide which operations will be most useful. All the king wishes is that the troops he sends to the assistance of his allies, the United States, cooperate effectually to deliver them once and for all from the yoke and tyranny of the English. His Majesty expects that the reciprocal attention that friends owe each other will assure that General Washington and the American general officers see that the officers and the French troops enjoy all the amenities that are consistent with the good of the service.

“It is indispensable that General Washington advise on the means to facilitate the subsistence of the French troops. For this purpose, he must have provisions assembled in advance for the crews and the troops and suitable places prepared to receive the sick at the place where he expects the squadron to land and the troops to disembark. In short, he must take the necessary precautions so that the corps of French troops can be assured of its subsistence and at a reasonable price.

“When M. le Marquis de Lafayette has agreed with General Washington on all the measures to take with respect to the arrival of the corps of French troops and to the security of their disembarkation, he will go to Congress; but first he will decide with the American general to what extent he is to reveal to Congress the secret of our arrangements.

“When he has arrived in Philadelphia, M. le Marquis de Lafayette will first of all see M. le Chevalier de La Luzerne; he will communicate to him his instructions and any additional instructions that may be given to him; he will confide to him everything that has passed between him and General Washington and will take no step without the concurrence and cooperation of the king’s minister, by whose counsels he should guide himself. His Majesty honors his minister with his esteem and wishes him to have a part in everything that needs to be arranged with the United States. …

“If the land operations do not require the support of the squadron, it will be free to initiate cruises, at whatever distance from the coasts the commander judges proper to inflict the greatest possible harm on the enemy. He will be especially ordered not to go too far off and not to decide upon any course except in concert with and with the consent of the land generals” (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 , 2:364–68; see also GW’s draft letter to Samuel Huntington, 13 May, DLC:GW).

3For Lafayette’s arrival in Boston on 28 April, see William Heath to GW, 30 April, and n.9.

Maj. Gen. William Heath’s aide-de-camp Maj. Thomas Cartwright wrote to Heath from Boston on 27 April, 4:00 P.M.: “On my arrival in Kingstreet, I waited on the Marquis de Lafayette at Mrs Frazier’s—I found him in close conversation with Gen. Hancock—On my appearing he flew to me & began his salutation with How does Genl Heath? The Marquis is in good health but I think not so fat as when he left us. He is engaged for this afternoon—but will do himself the honor to wait on you in Roxbury tomorrow after breakfast at 10 or 11 oClock. I shall attend him as will his Aids de Camp. … the Marquis & Suite present their comp[limen]ts & respect” (MHi: Heath Papers). Lafayette visited the widow Sarah Ingraham Frazier (see Leach, Frazier and His Descendants description begins Josiah Granville Leach. Some Account of Capt. John Frazier and His Descendants with Notes on the West and Checkley Families. Philadelphia, 1910. description ends , 12–14).

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