George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Henry Laurens, 20 March 1779

To Henry Laurens

Middlebrook Mar. 20th 1779

Dear Sir

I have to thank you and I do it very sincerely, for your obliging favors of the 2d & 16 Inst. & for their several inclosures, containing Articles of intelligence.

I congratulate you most cordially on Colo. Campbells precipitate retreat from Fort Augusta—what was this owing to—it seems to have been a surprize even upon Williamson. But I rejoice much more on acct of his disappointed application to the Creek Indians—this I think is to be considered as a very important event and may it not be the conjectural cause of his (Campbells) hasty return1—this latter circumstance cannot but be a fresh proof to the disaffected in that Country that they are leaning upon a broken Reed. severe examples should in my judgment be made of those who are aggressors in this way the second time.2

The policy of our arming Slaves is in my opinion a moot point, unless the enemy set the example, for should we begin to form Battalions of them I have not the smallest doubt (if the war is to be prosecuted) of their following us in it, and justifying the measure upon our own ground. The upshot then must be who can Arm fastest—and where are our Arms? besides I am not clear that a descrimination will not render Slavery more irksome to those who remain in it—Most of the good and evil things of this life are judged of by comparison, and I fear comparison in this Case will be productive of Much discontent in those who are held in servitude—but as this is a subject that has never employed much of my thoughts, these are no more than the first crude Ideas that have struck me upon the occasion.3

I had [not]4 the smallest intimation of Monsr Gerards passing through Jersey till I was favoured with your letter and am now ignorant of this cause further5 than by conjecture. The inclosed I return as Mr Laurens left this some days ago for Philadelphia on his way to the Southward.6

Mrs Washington joins me in respectful compliments to you & with every sentiment of regard & attachment. I am Dr Sir Yr Most Obedt Servt

Go. Washington

Copy, ScHi: Henry Laurens Papers; ADfS, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. The Sotheby’s, New York, catalog no. 6250, item 145, December 1991, includes a partial facsimile of the ALS, which is described as “severely stained (evidently the result of a nineteenth-century attempt to use a reagent to darken faded ink).”

1GW is referring to the part of the extract of Brig. Gen. Andrew Williamson’s letter to John Lewis Gervais of 16 Feb., enclosed in Laurens’s letter to GW of 16 March, that reads: “Colonel [Daniel] McMurphy set out with a Party Yesterday for Mr Galphings [George Galphin’s] Place at Old Town [Ga.] to bring down some Creek Headmen to hold a conference in Camp and establish our communication with them. Colonel [Archibald] Campbell sent to them but only one came to him—they absolutely refused to assist in the War. When they are convinced that the British forces cannot support themselves in the Country and carry the account of their retreat into the [Creek] Nation I hope it will produce favorable effects and those who were inclined to go to War may adopt different sentiments” (DLC:GW). Galphin had established a trading post at the Creek village Old Town, located on the Ogeechee River about seven miles southeast of present-day Louisville, Georgia.

2On the draft manuscript, the ending of this sentence reads: “who were forgiven former offences and again in Arms against us.”

3For Lt. Col. John Laurens’s earlier suggestions to raise a black regiment in South Carolina and GW’s previous views on the subject, see Henry Laurens to GW, 16 March, n.2.

4This word, which GW inadvertently omitted on the ALS manuscript and which accordingly was not included on the copy in ScHi, is supplied from the draft manuscript.

5At this place on the draft manuscript, GW wrote “otherwise” rather than “further.”

6For John Laurens’s recent departure from GW’s headquarters in order to help defend his home state, South Carolina, from British invasion, see GW to John Rutledge, 15 March. The enclosure has not been identified.

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