George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Jean-Baptiste Ternant, 21 March 1778

To Jean-Baptiste Ternant

[Valley Forge, 21 March 1778]

Knowing it to be the intention of Congress to employ no more foreigners except such as come under special engagements or whose recommendations & former Services speak so powerfully as scarce to leave a choice I coud not undertake to give Mr T—— any assurance of a permanent appointment much less the promise of Rank without authority of Congress. Nor could I stand justified upon any principle for employing a stranger without recommendation on any other acct than his profound knowledge in the business intended for him to execute. how far this is the case with Mr T—— he alone can tell—if upon tryal he shd be found deficient, the folly of the undertaking would be charged equally to us both—he for undertaking what he should be found unequal to, & me for imploying a Gentn of whose capacity I had no proofs. Mr T—— informed me that he had never been in any other Service than in the Engineering departmt—If so I think he must be much at a loss in practice let his theoretical knowledge be What it will—and if this should be the case would lay us both open to censure & give disgust as it is not a very desirable thing to set aside our own Officers unless there are obvious reasons to justify the measure.

Thus much condor commands me to say—& under its influence Mr T—— should act the duties of the Office of Sub-Inspector he (if fit for the place) ought to know—the pay will be abt 60 Dollars.

ADf, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. The draft is docketed, “Substance of a Letter written to Mr Ternant on the Subject of the Subinspectors Place 21st March 1778.”

On 25 Sept. 1778 Congress appointed Ternant (1751–1816) a lieutenant colonel and inspector of the troops in South Carolina and Georgia, with pay from 26 Mar., and he was taken prisoner at Charleston in May 1780. After his exchange he became lieutenant colonel of Armand’s Legion, in which rank he remained throughout the war, although in April 1784 Congress gave him a long-sought promotion to colonel, backdated to March 1783. He returned to France in 1784 and remained in the French army until 1791. In August of that year Ternant was named minister to the United States; when notified of his recall in 1793, he chose to remain in America.

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