George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Silas Deane, 13 August 1777

To Silas Deane

Camp in Bucks County [Pa.] 13th Augt 1777

Sir

I have had the pleasure of receiving several of your favs. by the hands of Gentlemen coming to America with a desire to enter into our Service, but as they were merely introductory, I hope I shall be excused for not answering them in regular order.1

The difficulty of providing for those Gentlemen in a manner suitable to the former ranks of some, and the expectations of many, has not a little embarrassed Congress and myself. The extravagant Rank given to the Officers who first came over from France, most of whom have turned out but little better than Adventurers, made those of real Merit and long Service, who came over with proper credentials, naturally conclude that they should enjoy the highest posts in our Army; indeed it could not be expected that they would consent to serve in this Country in an inferior Station to those whom they had commanded in France. Had not this difficulty been in the way, it would have been in a great measure impossible for us to have provided for them all in the line of the Army, for the following Reasons. When Congress at length determined to establish the Army upon a permanent footing, the Regiments and Feild Officer’s Commissions were naturally given to those Gentlemen in the different States who had stepped forward and distinguished themselves from the beginning of the contest. All that could then be done was to give those, that came well recommended, Commissions in the Continental Army, from whence they derived Rank & Pay, but as they were assigned to no particular Corps, they were in a great measure excluded from any real command. This, to those who came over upon Motives of interest only, was not unsatisfactory, but it was very irksome to men of real spirit who wanted to distinguish themselves, and who could not brook the thoughts of drawing pay without rendering Service for it. From this State of the Case you will plainly perceive, that had applications for employment in our Service been but few, it would not have been easy to have granted them in a proper manner; but when they have been so extremely numerous (and scarce a Man willing to accept of any thing under the degree of a feild Officer) it has been really distressing, especially when it is considered that many of the Gentlemen are men of Merit and who have come from home out of a desire of serving our Cause—I have often expressed my Sentiments to Congress upon this head, and have wished them to take some measures to make Docr Franklin and yourself acquainted with our difficulties. If the Gentlemen in France were properly informed that our Army was fully officered and that all Vacancies are filled by Succession, none would come out but those in particular Branches with whom particular Stipulations are made. I make no doubt but you are sufficiently importuned for Letters of recommendation, which I am confident you grant to none but those whom you think worthy of them. But I hope you will in future let the Gentlemen who apply for them, into a true State of the nature of our Service and of the difficulty of getting into it, in any but an inferior Station; if, after that, they choose to come over upon a Risque, they cannot complain if their expectations are not answered. Altho letters of recommendation are not binding, yet if the parties that bring them have not their wishes fully complyed with, they are apt to attribute their disappointment to slight of them and want of attention to the Gentlemen recommending. I have laid this matter thus fully and candidly before you that you may endeavour to prevent the fruitless applications and great Expence that those Gentlemen must incur who cannot be provided for. I am &c.

Df, in Tench Tilghman’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

1The letters referred to by GW probably included Deane’s letters to GW from Paris of 5 and 8 April 1777. The letter of 5 April was written to introduce the marquis de Lafayette to GW: “It was with great satisfaction and the most flattering prospects of serving my Country, that I lately recommended to your particular notice the Marquis de La Fayette, a young Nobleman of the first rank, family, and fortune, and who adds to all these the most ardent zeal to distinguish himself in a cause which is justly considered as the most noble and generous. But, when I recommended this gallant young hero, I little thought of any subsequent difficulty. Such, however, has arisen, and the enclosed letters, I am assured, announce to him his recall. Moreover, I am directed to inform your Excellency that his going, being without the approbation or knowledge of the King, is disagreeable, and that his Majesty expects that you will not permit him to take any command under you; but that he should be directed immediately to return. However disagreeable this may be to Monsr La Fayette, I am confident that the respect he will pay to the requisition, which I have the honor to enclose, will induce him to comply therewith in the most ready and agreeable manner, and that you will effect it so as to give satisfaction to his Majesty, and without occasioning public observations or reports disagreeable to the Marquis, who, I am sure, will comply with the orders sent without giving you or any one in power in the United States the disagreeable task of interposing” (Isham, Deane Papers description begins Charles Isham, ed. The Deane Papers. 5 vols. New York, 1887-91. In Collections of the New-York Historical Society, vols. 19–23. description ends , 2:39–40). The enclosures alluded to by Deane in the above letter were not sent (see Deane to Joseph-Matthias Gérard de Rayneval, 2 April 1777, and note 3, 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 , 1:40–41). Marie-Joseph-Paul-Yves-Roch-Gilbert du Motier, marquis de Lafayette (1757–1834), the highest ranking foreigner to serve in the Continental army, was born at Chavaniac, in Auvergne, into a family belonging to the French nobility. Lafayette arrived at Georgetown, S.C., on board his ship, La Victorie, on 13 June 1777, and two weeks later he set off from Charleston for Philadelphia, where he arrived on 27 July. The intimate and permanent friendship between Lafayette and GW began a few days later when GW arrived at the city, an event which Lafayette describes in his memoirs: “The two Howes had appeared off the Delaware capes, and General Washington came to Philadelphia. There M. de Lafayette saw that great man for the first time. Although he was surrounded by officers and citizens, the majesty of his figure and his height were unmistakable. His affable and noble welcome to M. de Lafayette was no less distinguished, and M. de Lafayette accompanied him on his inspections. The general invited him to establish himself in his household, and from that moment he looked upon it as his own; it was with such simplicity that two friends were united whose attachment and confidence were cemented by the greatest of all causes” (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 , 1:91). The Continental Congress resolved to commission Lafayette a major general in the Continental army on 31 July, with the understanding that the appointment was honorary and that Lafayette would soon be returning to France (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 , 8:592–93), but Lafayette soon began dropping hints to GW that he expected to command a division in the future (see GW to Benjamin Harrison, 19 Aug., and Harrison to GW, 20 Aug. 1777). For a description of the initial reception that Congress gave Lafayette and his party at Philadelphia, see the chevalier Dubuysson’s memoir 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 , 1:77–82).

Deane’s letter of 8 April was written to cover a letter from the comte de Broglie to GW of the same date recommending Charles-Louis, vicomte de Mauroy (Montroy; 1734–1813), a French lieutenant colonel who came to America with Lafayette and who returned to France in late 1777. Both of those letters are in DLC:GW.

Deane also wrote to GW on 14 June to recommend the comte de Kotkouski, a Polish officer who “has been a very great sufferer in the contest in Poland where he unsuccessfully struggled against Tyranny” (DNA:PCC, item 103). Kotkouski, who also had been recommended to GW in one of two letters written by Benjamin Franklin on 13 June 1777, served briefly as a captain in Pulaski’s regiment in 1778 before being court-martialed for abusing a civilian, and he later returned to Europe. Franklin’s letters of 13 June, located in DNA:PCC, item 82 (see also Franklin Papers description begins William B. Willcox et al., eds. The Papers of Benjamin Franklin. 40 vols. to date. New Haven, 1959—. description ends , 24:156–57, 157–58), were part of a series of letters that Franklin had written to GW that month on behalf of French officers. The other letters were written on 11 June (DLC: Benjamin Franklin Papers; see also Franklin Papers description begins William B. Willcox et al., eds. The Papers of Benjamin Franklin. 40 vols. to date. New Haven, 1959—. description ends , 24:147–48) and 21 June (PPAmP: Benjamin Franklin Papers; see also Franklin Papers description begins William B. Willcox et al., eds. The Papers of Benjamin Franklin. 40 vols. to date. New Haven, 1959—. description ends , 24:205–6).

Index Entries