George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Brigadier General Samuel Holden Parsons, 1 October 1780

From Brigadier General Samuel Holden Parsons

Camp [Tappan] 1st October 80

Dr General

I beg you to excuse my not waiting on you with the inclos’d Letter: I am so exceedingly unwell as to be unable to go from my Quarters, if I should recover Strength enough & the weather should clear off serene I will ride down to Day.1 the inclos’d Letter is from General Arnold, the Cover & Seals as they came to me except their being broke you may still see the inward Seal has not been broken.2 I am Dr Sr yr Obedt Servt

Saml H. Parsons

ALS, DLC:GW. Parsons wrote “private” on the cover. GW’s aide-de-camp Richard Kidder Meade wrote on the docket: “Genl Parsons inclosing an intercepted letter from Gustavus (Arnold) to Mr Anderson merchant in New York.” For Maj. Gen. Benedict Arnold’s correspondence with the British preceding discovery of his treachery, see Major John André’s Capture and Execution, 23 Sept.–7 Oct., editorial note.

1A Continental soldier wrote “Pleasant weather” in his diary entry for this date (Nichols, “Doughboy of 1780,” description begins James R. Nichols, ed. “The Doughboy of 1780: Pages from a Revolutionary Diary.” The Atlantic Monthly: A Magazine of Literature, Science, Art, and Politics 134 (July–December 1924): 459–63. description ends 460). Parsons suffered from fever (see his letter to GW, 4 Oct., n.4).

2Parsons enclosed a letter from Gustavus (Arnold) to John Anderson (Maj. John André) dated 30 Aug.: “On the 24th Inst. I received a Note from you without date, in answer to mine of the 7th July, also a letter from your house of the 24th July, in answer to mine of the 15th, with a note from Mr B——of the 30th July; with an extract of a letter from Mr J. Osborn of the 24th: I have paid particular attention to the Contents of the several Letters: had they arived earlier, you should have had my answer sooner: a variety of Curcumstances has prevented my writing you before: I expect to do it very fully in a few days and to procure you an interview with Mr M——e, when you will be able to settle your commercial plan I hope agreable to all parties, Mr M——e assures me that he is still of opinion that his first proposal, is by no Means unreasonable and makes no doubt when he has a Conference with you that you will Close with it He expects when you meet that you will be ⟨fu⟩lly authorised from your house: that the risques and profits of the Co-partinership ⟨m⟩ay be fully and Clearly understood.

“A specculation might at this time be easily ⟨m⟩ade to some advantage with ready money. but there is not the quantity of goods at Market which your partiner seems to suppose and the Number of Speculators below I think will be against your making an immediate purchase, I apprehend goods will be in greater plenty and much Cheaper in the Course of the season; both dry and wet are much wanted and in demand at this Juncture. some quantity are expected in this part of the Country soon.

“Mr M——e flatters himself that in the Course of ten days he will have the pleasure of seeing you, He requests me to advise you that He has ordered a draught on you in favor of our mutual Friend S——y for £300—which you will change on Acco[un]t of the tobacco” (DLC:GW; the cover reads: “to the Care of James Osborn to be left at the Rev’d Mr Odells New York”). Parsons also wrote GW an undated letter: “About the 27th of August last a neighbour of mine shewed me a Letter which he received from a friend of his in New York, informing him that he had received the money on a Debt due to my Informant from a person lately dead; and that if he could procure a flag and come to New York he would pay it to him. He requested my assistance in procuring a flag for the purpose, I accordingly wrote to General Arnold in his behalf; informing him that I knew the person in question to be friendly to the Country and of such a character that he would faithfully perform whatever engagement he made. General Arnold after detaining him until the 30th of August, without giving him any reasons for his detention, granted him a flag; and then brought from his private room the letter addressed to John Anderson which has since been delivered to your Excellency. He informd the bearer that it was a letter from a friend of his which he had inspected, at the same time pointing that it had been sealed with a wafer which he had broken and afterwards sealed with wax. This he desired the bearer to be careful of and deliver with his own hand if he went into New York, or to the Commanding Officer of the out post if he did not. The person to whom it was committed went into New York and effected his business: but the extraordinary precaution which Arnold had used respecting the Letter excited his curiosity to examine the manner in which it was sealed, and finding the wafer had not been broken as Arnold had told him, he suspected it might contain something illicit; and upon consulting some of his friends there, concluded to bring it back again; and on the 10th of September brought it and delivered it to me. It should have been forwarded earlier to your Excellency, but as I supposed it to refer merely to commerce chose rather to make it a subject of private conversation than of letter; on my arrival your Excellency was just leaving camp, so that it was left to the ripening of the horrid event to detect this unsuspec⟨ted⟩ instrument” (LS, DLC:GW; GW’s secretary Robert Hanson Harrison wrote on the docket: “General parsons respecting the Intercepd Letter in his of the 1st of Octr”). Parsons mentions a letter he wrote Arnold from Redding, Conn., on 28 Aug. to request a flag for William Heron “for the Purpose of Securing a Debt” (DLC:GW; see also Hall, Life and Letters of General Parsons description begins Charles S. Hall. Life and Letters of Samuel Holden Parsons: Major General in the Continental Army and Chief Judge of the Northwestern Territory, 1737-1789. Binghamton, N.Y., 1905. description ends , 308–14, and depositions from Heron dated 26 Oct. and from GW’s secretary Robert Hanson Harrison dated 17 Oct. in Hart, Varick Court description begins Albert Bushnell Hart, ed. The Varick Court of Inquiry to Investigate the Implication of Colonel Varick (Arnold’s Private Secretary) in the Arnold Treason. Boston, 1907. description ends , 99–102, 105–6).

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