George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General Thomas Conway, 27 January 1778

From Major General Thomas Conway

yorcktown [Pa.] the 27th january 1778.


General Gates Deliver’d to me the Letter which I had Directed to him Last october, and of Which I had Kept no Copy. I find With great satisfaction that the paragraph so much spoke of Does not exist in said Letter nor anything Like it. The Letter was communicated before my arrival to several members of congress, and as soon as I receiv’d it, I Deliver’d it to three other members who have perus’d it. as this calumny had gain’d ground, and was spread through the army, I mean’t to have the Letter publish’d with the certificate of General gates, but Was prevented by president Laurens and some other members whom I had consulted on the subject, and who Were of opinion that such a measure would inform the ennemy of a misunderstanding prevailing among the generals of the american army.1 therefore, sir, I must Depend upon your justice, candour, and Generosity for putting a stopp to this forgery. I am a Victim to calumny these two months pass’d and perhaps Longer. I met with a reception from your excellency such as I never met with before from any General During the course of thirty years in a very respectable army. your mind has been embitter’d and prejudic’d against me; now that you are undeceiv’d, I hope that your resentment will fall upon the authors of the forgery. I Do not Know what prediction you have made concerning me in one of your Letters, neither Do I Desire ever to Learn it: if it is a Disagreeable one, I wish it may not be accomplish’d;2 although I am no prophet, I can foretell that your virtues will acquire new Lustre and shine in a greater Light, if you guard against flattery and Calumny, which have too often Led a stray the Best of men. I am With Much respect sir your Excellency’s Most obedt humble servant

Ths Conway

if your Excellency thinks proper to honour me with an answer I wish you Would be so Kind as to inclose it to president Laurens.


1Henry Laurens wrote Isaac Motte on 26 Jan. that “Gen.∼ Conway has been with me assured me Gen.∼ Washington had been deceived & imposed on, that his Letter contained no such expressions as had been reported to the General, he was pleased to ask my sentiments upon the propriety of printing the Letter but did not offer to shew it me—these I delivered in every dissuasive argument to the measure, & added all the reasoning I was capable of to press the necessity for drawing a Veil before the Eyes of our Enemies, who from the very appearance of so capital a division would collect fresh encouragement for continuing their attempts to destroy our Independence.” Later in the same letter Laurens wrote: “I have seen the Letter this day (the 27th.) it is true Gen.∼ Washington—was misinformed, the Letter—does not contain the words which had been reported to him—but—ten times worse in every view” (Laurens Papers description begins Philip M. Hamer et al., eds. The Papers of Henry Laurens. 16 vols. Columbia, S.C., 1968–2003. description ends , 12:347–48). John Fitzgerald eventually obtained from Laurens an abstract of Conway’s letter (see John Fitzgerald to GW, 16 February).

2In his letter to Horatio Gates of 4 Jan., which he forwarded through Congress, GW referred to Conway as a “secret enemy; or, in other words, a dangerous incendiary; in which character, sooner or later, this Country will know Genl Conway.”

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