Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Horatio Gates, 2 August 1781

From Horatio Gates

Berkely 2d: August 1781.

Dear Sir

Your Favour of the 17th: Febry: and the many Marks of Respect and Attention with which you at Times have Honoured me, claim my most Thankfull Acknowledgements. I went to Philadelphia in April. Inclosed are Copies of what passed, in respect to my particular Affair between Congress, General Washington, and Myself. I earnestly Hoped, that (without being covered with Disgrace) I could have been indulged to have served this Campaign. A Motion for rescinding the Resolve of the 5th: of October has been several Times made in Congress, but once to my Astonishment was prevented being Carried by a Mr: Maddison of This State, a Gentleman I do not know, and who I am satisfied does not know me. But the Spirit of party, and Cabal, will constantly infest all popular Government. Without their balefull influence, The World had long ago been all Republican; Heaven Grant They may not in the End Poison all we have been doing and at length leave us a prey to Avarice, Ambition and Tyranny.

I am exceedingly Anxious to know how things are circumstanced from James River to Charles Town. Cornwallis has Spun his Thread too Fine. I think it must break somewhere, but His Escapes renders him confident.

Report says the French Fleet are Triumphant in the West Indies; Tobago and Barbadoes taken by the Marquis de Bouille. Our Main Army, Join’d by the French Troops from R: Island, are at Kingsbridge; Reinforced by Mr: La Touche Treville. With a Fleet Superior to the British, and 10,000 more French Troops, New York and Long Island must Fall; but are these two last mention’d Succours to be depended upon. In the mean Time, the Year Wears. By the last Account all things looked well in Europe. England notwithstanding every Ministerial Boast, without an Ally upon that Continent.

You will Oblige me by shewing the inclosed papers to The Governour, Mr. Henry, Rich. H. Lee, and General Lewis; and any unprejudiced Gentleman of your acquaintance.1 The Bearer has something to say in regard to his late Office, but as I am resolved for the Future to be carefull not to be thought Officious, I shall leave him to tell his own Tale.

Should the Warm Springs, or any other inducement, bring you and Mrs. Jefferson into Berkeley, I beg you to take up your Quarters at my House, in this, as well as in most respectfull Compliments to Your Lady, I am joined by Mrs. Gates.

With Great regard I am Dear Sir, Your Obliged Humble Servant,

Horatio Gates

RC (DLC); at foot of text: “Honourable Thomas Jefferson Esq.” Dft (NHi); with numerous deletions and corrections, only one of which has been noted here (note 1). Enclosures (DLC): Copies of (1) Gates to Samuel Huntington, 24 Apr. 1781, requesting that immediate consideration be given his case. (2) Gates to Washington, 29 Apr. 1781, stating that Gates can testify concerning his conduct to the satisfaction of his superiors, but that he hopes it will not be his lot to continue in stagnation until he has proved himself. (3) Washington to Gates, 12 May 1781, replying that he was in no way responsible for the delay in the investigation and adding, “No particular Charges having been Lodged with me, I neither had nor have I any to make” (printed in Writings, ed. Fitzpatrick, XXII, 76–8). (4) resolution of Congress of 21 May, “That the Resolutions of the 5th: of October last, directing a Court of Inquiry to be Held on the Conduct of Majr: Gen: Gates, as Commander in Cheif of the Southern Army; and Directing The Commander in Chief to appoint an Officer to Command the Southern Army, in the room of Maj: Gates, until such Inquiry be made, did not operate as a Suspension of General Gates from His Command in the Line of The Army at Large, as a Major General; And as from the Situation of Affairs in Said Department, such Court of Inquiry cannot be Speedily Held, that Major Gen: Gates be inform’d he is at Liberty to repair to Head Quarters, and take such Command, as the Commander in Chief shall direct” (printed in JCC description begins Worthington C. Ford and others, eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, Washington, D.C., 1904–37, 34 vols. description ends , xx, 521–2). (5) Huntington to Gates, 22 May, transmitting the resolution of Congress of 21 May (printed in Burnett, Letters of Members description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress description ends , vi, No. 118). (6) Gates to Huntington, 22 May, stating that he regrets the inquiry must be postponed because “the uninformed public still believe that the Resolve which recalled me from the Command of the Southern Army was Grounded upon positive Charges against me” and that he cannot resume his position in the army before he is “Publickly restored to Esteem of the Soldiers.” (7) Gates to Washington, 22 May 1781, informing Washington that he can “neither with Advantage to The Public nor Honour” to himself accept under the present circumstances “the proferred indulgence of Congress” (printed in Sparks, Correspondence of the American Revolution, iii, 319–20).

The bearer has not been identified but it is obvious from the remark in Gates’ letter to TJ of 15 Nov. 1781 that the present letter, together with its packet of enclosures, was carried to Richmond and back again to Gates. The motion for rescinding the resolution of 5 Oct. 1780 is printed in JCC description begins Worthington C. Ford and others, eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, Washington, D.C., 1904–37, 34 vols. description ends , xx, 533, note 2, and was introduced by James Mitchell Varnum. This letter, therefore, arrived when TJ was in the midst of his own tribulations at the hand of political opposition; see his reply to Gates, 14 Dec. 1781. general lewis was probably Gen. Andrew Lewis.

1At this point the following is deleted in the draft: “Columbus was rewarded with Chains for adding a World to His Masters Dominions. The Great Raleigh was Sacrificed to Gondomar [Spanish minister], and Sydney for His patriotism. You see Congress have Great Examples before their Eyes of the Corruption of all Good Government.”

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