George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Henry Laurens, 8–9 April 1778

From Henry Laurens

York Town [Pa.] 8[–9]th April 1778


I had the honour of writing to Your Excellency the 4th by Jones, since which I have presented to Congress Your Excellency’s favors of the 1st 3d & 4th. Upon reading the first I took occasion to intimate to Mister Duer the distressed situation of his friend General Scuyler as described by the General himself in a late Letter of 15th March1 & this Morning suggested again to the House the demands of all the General Officers subjects of the suspended Enquiry—I shall repeat the same to Morrow & having just now obtained the concurrence of Gentlemen in private conversation that Congress are Guardians of the Honor of their Officers I flatter myself there will be no further delay of this business.

Your Excellency will receive under the present Inclosure an Act of Congress of the 7th for promoting Captain Lee to the Rank of Major of Horse & to the Command of a seperate Corps2—I perceive it is not expressed in the Act but I am warranted to assure Your Excellency it is the particular desire of Congress that suitable declarations of that Gentleman’s Merit should be expressed either within the intended Commission or by annexing to it the abovementioned Act a Certified Copy of which Major Lee will receive by the present dispatch.

Consideration of Colonel Lee & Major Swasey’s applications is postponed a few days for particular reasons.

I shall direct the Secretary of Congress to collect the dates of late Resignations of Colonels in the Virginia line & transmit an Account to Your Excellency when obtained.

Your Excellency’s last Letter of the 4th is at present the subject of a special Committee, ’tis probable a Report will be offered to Morrow Morning.

previous to the receipt of Your Excellency’s advices Congress had determined to make a purchase of divers articles set forth in Capt. Cottineau’s schedule of his Cargo & for this purpose a Gentleman will proceed to morrow on his journey to Cape Lookout by whom Your Excellency’s Letters will go forward.3 I have the honour to be With the highest Esteem & Regard Sir Your Excellency’s Obedient & humble servant

Henry Laurens, President of Congress

I detained the Bearer hereof4 to this hour 3 oClock the 9th hoping to have transmitted an answer to Your Excellency’s Letter of the 4th.

ALS, DLC:GW; LB, DNA:PCC, item 13.

1At the end of a long letter reporting on Indian negotiations, Philip Schuyler wrote Laurens on 15 Mar., “Eight Months hav⟨e⟩ already elapsed since the Appointment of the Committee to enquire into the Causes of the Loss of Tyonderoga and no Report as yet made—What I have suffered in the Interim, altho’ supported by an approving Conscience; will be more easily Conceived by every Man of Sentiment than described by any—Let it suffice for me to observe, that to a Man far from being indifferent as to the Manner in which his Character may be handed down to posterity, the Reflection that he may be called from the Stage of Life, before his Superiors have justified him to the world or before he has had an opportunity given him to do it himself creates the most disagreeable Feelings and these, if possible encreased by the Reflection that a young Family may be deeply injured, and the supposed Guilt of the Father (however unjust the Suspicion) embitter the Lives of his Children—Let me then most humbly entreat Congress, that the Committee may be ordered to report without Delay” (DNA:PCC, item 153).

2The enclosed extract from the minutes, signed by Secretary of Congress Charles Thomson, is in DLC:GW; see also 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 , 10:314–15. In promoting Lee “to reward merit,” Congress declared that during the last campaign he had “proved himself a brave and prudent officer, rendered essential service to his country, and acquired to himself and the corps he commanded, distinguished honor.” In addition Congress resolved that Lt. William Lindsay “be promoted to the rank of capt., & have the command of one of the troops under Major Lee” and that “cornet Peyton” (Lt. Henry Peyton) “be promoted to the rank of capt. lieutenant, and have the command of the other troop under Major Lee.” GW was to appoint the other officers of Lee’s corps.

3For discussion of the disposition of the cargo, see Denis-Nicolas Cottineau de Kerloguen to GW, 26 Feb., n.1, and GW to Cottineau, 4 April, and notes. The forwarded letters were GW’s of 4 April to Cottineau and to Cambray-Digny.

4A notation on the letter-book copy indicates that this letter was sent “by Ross.” Richard Ross was employed by John Hancock as an express rider for Congress in January 1777 and continued in that service at least until October 1778.

Index Entries