George Washington Papers

From George Washington to William Livingston, 22 April 1778

To William Livingston

[Valley Forge, 22 April 1778]

Dr Sir

Inclosed I transmit you a philadelphia Paper, containing the Draughts of Two Bills introduced into parliament by Lord North, and his speech upon the occasion.1 Their authenticity in philadelphia is not questioned, and I have not the smallest doubt, but there will be some overtures made us, similar or nearly so, to the propositions held forth in the Draughts. You will see there aim is, under offers of peace, to divide and disunite us, and unless their views are early investigated and exposed in a striking manner and in various shapes, by able pens, I fear, they will be but too successful, and that they will give a very unhappy, if not a ruinous cost to our affairs. It appears to me, that we have every possible motive to urge us to exertion. If they are still for War, and of which there can be no doubt, since they are straining every sinew & nerve to levy troops, it behoves us to be prepared—If for peace—our preparations are equally essential, as they will enable us, to treat with honor, dignity & I trust to freedom. There are many important concessions in the speech, and which I hope will be improved to our advantage. If your leisure will possibly permit, I should be happy that the whole should be discussed by your pen.2 I am Dr sir with great esteem & regard

Go: Washington

Dr Sir After I had closed the foregoing Letter and when I was just about to dispatch it by Express, I received your favors of the 17th & 20 Inst.3 with Governor Tryon’s Letters, both of the same import.4 I inclose you a Copy. The inclosures alluded to are the Draughts of the Two Bills. Can you conceive anything equal to the Shifts & Stratagems of the British Ministry? If we conduct our affairs with firmness & wisdom, we must do well. The Resolution, so called, in Town’s paper, must be an arrant forgery, as I never had the least intimation of it, and to suppose such a One could have passed, is to suppose almost the existence an impossibility.5 The forgery is calculated for the most wicked purposes—to excite an opposition in the people to the measures for drafting and to render them ineffectual. There is nothing the Enemy will not attempt to carry their ends.

The only proceedings of Congress for drafting that I have seen were passed the 26 Feby and are a recommendation to the several States.

“To fill up their respective Regiments by drafts from the Militia—to serve 9 Months after they appear at the places appointed for their Rendezvous—dischargeable before the end of that period, in proportion as recruits inlisted for three years or during the War may join the Regiments in which they are.”6 What a contrast between these proceedings and the Forgery. I shall transmit the paper to Congress immediately, that they may pursue proper steps for counteracting this wicked—infernal publication.7 As these propositions & the speech of Lord North must be founded in the despair of the Nation of succeeding against us—or from a rupture in Europe that has actually happened or that certainly will, would it not be good policy to avail ourselves of the occasion and for the several States to hold out pardon &c. to all delinquents returning by a certain day? It appears to me upon a short consideration of the matter, that such a measure would detach the Tories from the Enemy and give them a further shock. I am Dr Sir with great regard Yr Most Obedt Servt

Go: Washington

Df, in Robert Hanson Harrison’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. The date of this letter was taken from the Varick docket with the draft, which is consistent with the content of the letter.

1The drafts of the two bills and Lord North’s speech appeared in the Philadelphia papers Pennsylvania Evening Post, 17 April, Royal Pennsylvania Gazette, 17 April, and Pennsylvania Ledger, 18 April. For the texts, see GW to Henry Laurens, 18 April, n.6, and GW to Laurens, 20 April, n.2.

2For discussion of Livingston’s publications on the peace proposals, see his letter to GW of 27 April, and note 3 to that document.

3Livingston’s letter of 20 April has not been found.

5For the purported congressional resolution published in the Pennsylvania Evening Post (Philadelphia) of 3 April, see Livingston to GW, 17 April, and note 1 to that document.

6For a summary of the resolution of 26 Feb., see Henry Laurens to GW, 1 Mar., and note 1 to that document. The text within quotation marks is a paraphrase of the recommendations in that resolution.

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