To Benjamin Franklin
Philadelphia Decr 28th 1778.
The Marquis de la fayette having served with distinction as Major General in the army of the United States, two Campaigns—has been determined by the prospect of an European War to return to his native Country.1
It is with pleasure that I embrace the oppertunity of introducing to your personal acquaintance a Gentn whose merit cannot have left him unknown to you by reputation.
The generous motives which first induced him to cross the Atlantic—The tribute which he paid to gallantry at Brandy-wine—his success in Jersey before he had recovered of his Wound, in an affair where he commanded Militia against British Grenadiers—the brilliant retreat by which he eluded a combined manœuvre of the whole British force in the last Campaign2—his services in the enterprize against Rhode Island—are such proofs of his Zeal, Military ardour & talents as have endeared him to America, and must greatly recommend him to his Prince.
Coming with so many titles to claim your esteem—it were needless for any other purpose than to endulge my own feelings to add that I have a very particular friendship for him—and that whatever services you may have it in your power to render him will confer an obligation on one who has the honor to be with the greatest respect, esteem & regard Sir—Yr Most Obedt H. Ser.
ALS, in private hands; ADfS, DLC:GW; Df, dated 29 Dec. 1778, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, dated 29 Dec. 1778, DLC:GW. GW enclosed this letter in his letter to Lafayette of 29 December.
1. In May 1778, when the American alliance with France made a war between his country and Great Britain inevitable, Major General Lafayette decided to return home in order to tender his services to King Louis XVI. The Monmouth and Rhode Island campaigns then intervened in the summer of 1778, but Lafayette wrote to then president of Congress Henry Laurens on 13 Oct., submitting a letter of recommendation from GW and requesting leave to return to France in order to “present myself before the king, and know in what manner he judges proper to employ my services” (see Lafayette Papers description begins Stanley J. Idzerda et al., eds. Lafayette in the Age of the American Revolution: Selected Letters and Papers, 1776–1790. 5 vols. Ithaca, N.Y., 1977-83. description ends , 2:48–49, 190–91; and GW to Laurens, 6 Oct.).
Congress responded on 21 Oct. by granting Lafayette leave to go to France and return “at such time as shall be most convenient to him”; the delegates also resolved that Franklin, recently appointed minister plenipotentiary to the Court of France, should “be directed to cause an elegant sword, with proper devices, to be made and presented, in the name of the United States, to the Marquis de la Fayette” (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 , 12:1034–35).
Lafayette immediately left for Boston, but during his time in Philadelphia “he had stayed up all night, had drunk freely, and worked very hard”; and during his journey he was forced to ride “on horseback with a fever in a heavy autumn rain.” At Fishkill, Lafayette developed a severe illness that forced him to halt on 2 Nov. (see GW to D’Estaing, 5 Nov.). The Marquis “believed he was dying, but he did not for a moment lose his clarity of mind”; and, tended by Dr. John Cochran and buoyed by at least one visit from a purportedly teary-eyed GW, he recovered in time to resume his journey on 29 Nov. (see GW to Alexander McDougall, 8 Nov., n.1; and Lafayette Papers description begins Stanley J. Idzerda et al., eds. Lafayette in the Age of the American Revolution: Selected Letters and Papers, 1776–1790. 5 vols. Ithaca, N.Y., 1977-83. description ends , 2:17–18). Lafayette departed Boston on the frigate Alliance on 11 Jan. 1779, arriving in Brest on 6 February.