George Washington Papers

To George Washington from John Jay, 10 May 1779

From John Jay

Philadelphia 10th may 1779


Enclosed is a Copy of a Letter from the minister of France to Congress of the 9th Inst. and of an act of this Day expressing the Sense of Congress that your Excellency consider yourself at Liberty to direct the military operations of these States in such manner as you may think expedient.1

The Intelligence conveyed by the Letter from the minister is important, and may occasion alterations in the Plan for the ensuing Campaign. Congress confide fully in your Excellency’s Prudence and Abilities; and I am directed to signify to you their wish, that neither an undue Degree of Delicacy or Diffidence may lead you to place too little Reliance on your own Judgment, or persuade you to make any further Communications of your Designs than necessity or high Expedience may dictate. I have the Honor to be with the greatest Respect & Esteem your Excellencys most obt Servt

John Jay

ALS, DLC:GW; LB, DNA:PCC, item 14.

1The enclosed copy of a letter from the French minister to the United States, Conrad-Alexandre Gérard, to the Continental Congress, dated 9 May at Philadelphia, reads: “When the congress of the united states did me the honor of asking my concurrence to engage Monsr the Count d’Estaing to succour Georgia, I assured them that the vice admiral conformably to the intentions of the king would do all that circumstances would permit At the same time I proposed the means of proceeding to the execution of that plan, but the Congress preserved the most absolute silence and would not deign to inform me of their resolution I learned only from the public voice that they had abandoned their design, but my zeal having led me to write to the count d’Estaing and the answer of that vice admiral having reached me, I do not think, Sir, that the interest of the alliance and of these states will permit me to conduct myself according to the presumed negative resolution of Congress and in Consequence I beseech you to lay before them the annexed memoire” (DLC:GW).

The enclosed copy of the “annexed memoire,” dated 9 May at Philadelphia, reads: “The minister plenipotentiary of France having thought it his duty to inform the count d’Estaing of the desire which Congress had testified to him, that the squadron of the King should be destined to the succour of Georgia, the vice admiral hath answered, that the superiority of the enemy had not hitherto permitted him to leave those shores. But that in consequence of his majesty’s intentions, which are to grant to the united states his allies all the succour compatible with the security of his own possessions and the general position of affairs, he proposes immediately to come to the southern coast of the states and labour for the deliverance of Georgia and the preservation of South Carolina. From thence his majesty’s squadron will repair to the mouth of the Delaware, and their ulterior operations will depend upon the concert, which shall be taken between the Congress and the commander of his majesty’s forces and shall be calculated for the greatest advantage of the united states.

“The under written makes no doubt but that this new proof of his majesty’s generous and disinterested friendship will fortify that Confidence which his engagements and his conduct ought to have inspired in the government and the people of America. Facts so evident will serve on the other hand to confound those evil minded persons, who, by absurd and clandestine insinuations, void not only of all proof but of all probability only directed by private views and clearly opposed to the honor and interest of the confederated republic, endeavour to sow doubts & jealousies of which the common enemy alone will reap the fruits.

“The under written must add to these details, that it is impossible for the count d’Estaing to bring a sufficiency of provisions from Martineque to serve for the campaign, which he proposes to make in the north American seas. He hopes the Congress will be pleased to give the most precise & efficacious orders to procure them and place them on the coasts in such situation as that the squadron may easily take them on board. The under written minister flatters himself that the Congress will be pleased to inform him from time to time of what shall have been done in the premisses particularly as the minister must answer personally for measures the ill success of which would expose to the greatest misfortunes a force which the king has destined for the direct and immediate succour of the united states, although his engagements, which he will always religiously fulfil, do not impose on him any obligation to do it” (DLC:GW).

Also enclosed was a copy of a resolution that Congress adopted on this date in response to Gérard’s letter and memorial, ordering that a copy be sent to GW and that he be told to “consider himself at liberty so to direct the military operations of these states as shall appear to him most expedient” (DLC:GW; see also 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 , 14:568).

For Gérard’s arrival in camp and subsequent discussions with GW and Congress on strategy for the coming campaign, see Gouverneur Morris to GW, 26 April; GW to Gérard, 1 May, and source note; General Orders, 2 May; Gérard to GW, 5 May; GW to Gouverneur Morris, 8 May; and John Armstrong to GW, 10 May.

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