George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Henry Laurens, 2 January 1778

To Henry Laurens

Valley Forge January 2d 1778


I take the liberty of transmitting to you the Inclosed Copies of a Letter from me to Genl Conway since his return from York to Camp, and of Two Letters from him to me, which you will be pleased to lay before Congress.1 I shall not in this Letter animadvert upon them, but after making a single observation2 submit the whole to Congress.

If General Conway means by cool receptions mentioned in the last paragraph of his Letter of the 31st Ulto, that I did not receive him in the language of a warm and cordial Friend, I readily confess the charge. I did not, nor shall I ever, till I am capable of the arts of dissimulation. These I despise, and my feelings will not permit me to make professions of friendship to the man I deem my Enemy, and whose system of conduct forbids it. At the same time, Truth authorises me to say, that he was received & treated with proper respect to his Official character, and that he has had no cause to justifye the assertion, that he could not expect any support for fulfilling the duties of his Appointment.3 I have the Honor to be with great respect Sir Your Most Obedt Servt

Go: Washington

P.S. The Inclosed Extract from the proceedings of a Council of Genl Officers will shew, the Office of Inspector Genl was a matter not of such modern date as Genl Conway mentions it to be, and that it was one of the Regulations in view for the reform of the Army. The Foreign Officers who had Commissions & no Commands and who were of ability, were intended to be recommended to execute it—particularly the Baron D’Arendt with whom the Idea originated, and whose capacity seemed to be well admitted.4

LS, in Robert Hanson Harrison’s writing, DNA:PCC, item 152; Df, DLC:GW; copy, DNA:PCC, item 169; copy, ScHi: Henry Laurens Papers; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. Congress read this letter on 7 Jan. and referred it to the Board of War (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 , 10:27).

1The enclosures were copies of Conway’s letters to GW of 29 and 31 Dec. 1777 and GW’s letter to Conway of 30 Dec. 1777. John Laurens wrote his father on 3 Jan. that Conway’s “Last Letter which is a most insolent attempt at what the French call Persiflage or humoring a man—affects the Genl very sensibly—it is such an Affront as Conway would never have dared to offer if the General’s Situation had not assured him of the impossibility of it’s being revenged in a private way—the Genl. therefore has determined to return him no answer at all—but to lay the whole matter before Congress they will determine whether Genl W. is to be sacrificed to Gnl C. for the former can never consent to be concern’d in any transactions with the latter from whom he has received such unpardonable Insults” (Laurens Papers, description begins Philip M. Hamer et al., eds. The Papers of Henry Laurens. 16 vols. Columbia, S.C., 1968–2003. description ends 12:246).

2Harrison inadvertently wrote “obversation” on the manuscript.

3Conway wrote Gates on 4 Jan. after his arrival at Valley Forge: “I have been coolly receiv’d at my arrival here. I ask’d Leave of the commander in chief to Beginn without Delay the instruction of the troops, as the Different returns necessary for the reviews were not yet readdy. He answer’d that when the Regulations for the purpose would be issued by the Board of War he would give the necessary orders to have them carried into execution. He added some remarks upon my appointment, which Does not seem to please him” (NHi: Gates Papers).

4In his letter to GW of 31 Dec. 1777, Conway wrote that his appointment to inspector general on 13 Dec. was “very plain” rather than extraordinary, the only remarkable thing being that the office had not been conceived sooner. As the enclosed extract from the proceedings of a Council of War on 29 Oct. 1777 was intended to point out, however, the office of inspector general, which GW had proposed in his Circular to the General Officers of 26 Oct., was advocated in the army long before Congress appointed Conway. Henry Laurens wrote his son John Laurens on 8 Jan. that while reading GW’s letter to Congress the previous day, “it produced a striking evidence of party-affection & prejudice, to say nothing of Ill manners & breach of Order, when I had read the name of Bar.∼ d’Arendt. it was instantly followed in a loud voice, ‘as great a Rascal as any in the Army.’ pray Sir, tell me who is this Baron d’Arendt who is also Stigmatized by the same tongue, as an Indolent worthless Creature. G W. must be willfully blind if he cannot discover such glaring defects in a Mans character as denominate him a first rate Rascal—I have no apprehensions that he is so—it is impossible that he should recommend such a Character to an important trust” (Laurens Papers description begins Philip M. Hamer et al., eds. The Papers of Henry Laurens. 16 vols. Columbia, S.C., 1968–2003. description ends , 12:273).

Index Entries