George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Henry Laurens, 20 August 1778

To Henry Laurens

Head Quarters [White Plains] Augt 20th 1778

Dear Sir

I am now to acknowledge my obligations for your favor of the 31st Ulto & for its several Inclosures.

The conduct of Governor Johnstone has been certainly reprehensible—to say no worse of it—and so I think the world will determine. His Letters to Messrs Morris and Reed are very significant and the points to which they conclude quite evident. They are, if I may be allowed so to express myself, of a pulse-feeling cast, and the offer to the latter thro the Lady, a direct attempt upon his integrity.1 When these things are known, he must share largely in public contempt—and the more so from the opposite parts he has taken.

I am sorry you troubled yourself with transmitting me copies & extracts of your Letters to the French Officers, in answer to their applications for Rank. Your word, Sir, will always have the fullest credit with me whenever you shall be pleased to give it upon any occasion; and I have only to regret that there has not been the same degree of decision and resolution in every Gentleman, as you have used in these instances. If there had, it would not only have contributed much to the tranquility of the Army—but preserved the rights of our own Officers. With respect to Brevet Commissions, I know many of the French Gentlemen have obtained nothing more. That these were intended as merely honorary—and that they are not so objectionable as the other sort; however these are attended with great inconveniencies, for the instant they gain a point upon you, no matter what their primary professions and engagements were, they extend their views and are incessant in teasing for actual command. The reason for their pressing for printed Commissions in the usual form, in preference to the Brevits you give them is obvious. The former are better calculated to favor their Schemes as they import an idea of real command—and of consequence afford them grounds for their future sollicitations for the purpose. I am well pleased with Monsr Girards declaration—and if he adheres to it, he will prevent many frivolous & unwarrantable applications; for finding their pursuits not seconded by his interest, many of the Gentlemen will be discouraged, and relinquish every hope of success. Nor am I insensible of the propriety of your wish respecting our friend the Marquis. His Countrymen soon find access to his heart and he is but too apt afterwards to interest himself in their behalf, without having a sufficient knowledge of their Merit—or a proper regard to their extravagent views. I will be done upon the Subject. I am sure you have been severely punished by their importunities as well as myself.

The performance ascribd to Mr Mauduit is really curious as coming from him, when we consider his past conduct. He is a sensible writer—and his conversion at an earlier day, with many others that have lately happened, might have availed his Country much. His reasoning is plain & forcible and within the compass of every understanding.

I have nothing new to inform you of. My public Letter to Congress yesterday contained my last advices from Rhode Island. I hope in a few days from the high spirits and expectations of General Sullivan, that I shall have the happiness to congratulate you on our success in that Quarter. I am Dr Sir With the most perfect esteem & regard Yr Most Obedt & Obliged Sert

Go: Washington

ALS, NNPM; Df, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. The letter is docketed in part, “Rec’d 25th.”

1The lady was Elizabeth Graeme Fergusson, wife of the British commissary of prisoners Henry Hugh Fergusson. For Joseph Reed’s account of her involvement with this controversy, see Reed, Joseph Reed description begins William B. Reed. Life and Correspondence of Joseph Reed, Military Secretary of Washington, at Cambridge; Adjutant-General of the Continental Army; Member of the Congress of the United States; and President of the Executive Council of the State of Pennsylvania. 2 vols. Philadelphia, 1847. description ends , 1:381–87. For discussion of the letters from George Johnstone to Reed and to Robert Morris, see Laurens to GW, 13 Aug., n.6.

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