George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Henry Laurens, 3 October 1778

To Henry Laurens

Fish-kill, Octr 3d 1778.

Dear Sir

Your favor of the 23d Ult. came to my hands at Fredericksburg the Afternoon before I left it for this place.1 I thank you for the transmission of Mr Beresfords intelligence, tho I have not the smallest Idea that any thing more than a deception, is meant by it; and, that Mr Williams is either a voluntary Agent, or the innocent instrument, for carrying it on. Yet, as the case may be otherwise, common prudence bids us guard against the worst.

A conclusive evidence against the measure with me, is, his speaking of the Force as a detachment only2—I am well convinced myself, that the Enemy, long e’re this, are perfectly well satisfied, that the possession of our Towns while we have an Army in the field, will avail them little—It involves us in difficulty, but does not by any means insure them conquest.

They well know, that it is our arms, not defenceless Towns, they have to Subdue, before they can arrive at the haven of their wishes; and that till this end is accomplished, the superstructure they have been endeavouring to raise “like the baseless fabric of a vision”3 falls to nothing—But this, tho a reason operating powerfully with me, in deciding upon the point, is by no means the most weighty consideration in my mind. A measure of this kind, before the hostile disposition of France became so obvious, and before the French Squadron4 arrived upon our Coast, was probable, as their whole conduct was full of unaccountables; but to attempt now, to detach 10,000 Men (which is, I presume half their army) and to divide their Naval strength for Protection of it, would, in my judgment, be an act of insanity, & would expose one part, or the other, of both Land and Sea force, to inevitable ruin—I therefore conclude, that they will transport their whole, or no part of their force there. And yet, I may find myself mistaken.5

As you have not acknowledged the receipt of my letter by Major (now Lt Colo.) Morris, by whom I took the liberty of returning the first Paper parcel of gold you were so obliging as to send me—nor of one of posterior date by Colo. Hazen,6 inclosing the Letters of Govr Johnstone, Mr Manning &ca—I am somewhat fearful that they may have been mislaid, and forgot, as these Gentlemen were charged with other business of more consequence 7—With every Sentiment of esteem, regard, and Affection I am Dr Sir Yr Most Obedt & obligd Hble Servt

Go: Washington

ALS, PWacD: Sol Feinstone Collection, on deposit at PPAmP; ADfS, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. The ALS is docketed in part: “Received 7th Ansd 10th” (see Henry Laurens to GW, 10 Oct.).

1The draft reads: “the Evening before I left it for this place.” GW left Fredericksburg for Fish Kill on 30 Sept. (see GW to Charles Scott, that date).

2The draft reads: “speaking of the Troops destined for the Southward in the light of a detachment only.”

3GW apparently is quoting Prospero from Shakespeare’s The Tempest, 4.1.151.

4The draft reads: “the French Fleet.”

5The draft reads: “I therefore conclude, they will go there Wholly or not at all. Nevertheless, I may be mistaken.”

6The draft reads: “nor of a Subsequent Letter by Colo. Hazen.”

Index Entries