George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Joseph Reed, 18 October 1780

To Joseph Reed

Head Qrs Passaic Falls Oct. 18th 1780

Dear Sir,

By your favor of the third from Bethlehem, I perceive my letter of the first had not got to your hands; but I have the pleasure to find that the business you were upon anticipated the purposes of it, and was in a fair way to answer the end.1

Arnolds conduct is so villainously perfidious, that there are no terms that can describe the baseness of his heart—That over-ruling Providence which has so often—and so remarkably interposed in our favor—never manifested itself more conspicuously than in the timely discovery of his horrid intention to surrender the Post & Garrison of West point into the hands of the Enemy. I confine my remark to this single act of perfidy, for I am far from thinking he intended to hazard a defeat of this important object by combining another with it, altho’ there were circumstances which led to a contrary belief. The confidence & folly which has marked the subsequent conduct of this Man, are of a piece with his villainy; and all three are perfect in their kind.2

The interest you take in my supposed escape, and the manner in which you speak of it, claim my thanks as much as if he really had intended to involve my fate with that of the Garrison—and I consider it as a fresh instance of your affectionate regard for me.

As I do not recollect ever to have held any very particular conversation with General Schuyler respecting Arnold, I should be glad to obtain a copy of the Letter in which you say my “opinion and confidence in him (Arnold) is conveyed in terms of affection and approbation.” Sometime before, or after Arnolds return from Connecticut (the conversation made so little impression on me that I know not which) General Schuyler informed me he had received a letter from Arnold intimating his intention of joining the Army & rendering such services as his Leg would permit—adding, that he was incapable of active Service—but could discharge the duties of a Stationary command with out much inconvenience, or uneasiness to his Leg—I answered, that as we had a prospect of an active & vigorous campaign I should be glad of General Arnolds aid & assistance, but saw little prospect of his obtaining such a command as appeared to be the object of his wishes, because it was my intention to draw my whole force into the field when we were in circumstances to commence our operations against New-York, leaving even West point to the care of Invalids and a small Garrison of Militia; but if after this previous declaration, the command of that Post—for the reasons he assigned—would be more convenient and agreeable to him than a command in the field, I should readily endulge him—having had it hinted to me by a very respectable character, a member of Congress (not Genl Schuyler) that a measure of this kind would not be unacceptable to the State most immediately interested in the welfare, & safety of the Post.

This, to the best of my knowledge and recollection, is every syllable that ever passed between General Schuyler and me respecting Arnold, or any of his concerns—the manner, & the matter, appeared perfectly uninteresting to both of us at the time. He seemed to have no other view in communicating the thing than because he was requested to do it—and my answer, dictated by circumstances, you already have—but how it was communicated the letter will shew.3

That this Gentn (Genl Schuyler) possesses a share of my regard & confidence I shall readily acknowledge—a pretty long acquaintance with him—an opinion of his abilities—his intimate knowledge of our circumstances—his candor as far as I have had oppertunities of forming a judjment of it—added to personal civilities—and proofs of a warm friendship, which I never had a doubt of, would leave me without excuse were I to with-hold these from him.

What ascendency he may have over the Army is more than I can tell4—but I should not be surprized if he stands in a favourable point of view with respect to their esteem. The means he took to acquire a true knowledge of their distresses, while he was with it—the representations he made to procure relief—and his evident endeavours to promote the objects for which he was appointed—seems to have made this a natural consequence.

That part of your Letter which respects the exchange of Prisoners will be made the subject of a particular Letter—& shall accompany this.5 With great esteem & regard I am—Dr Sir Yr most Obedt & Affe Hble Servt

Go: Washington

ALS, RPJCB; ADfS, DLC:GW; copy, PHi: Peters Papers; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

3New York delegates Robert R. Livingston and Philip Schuyler had given serious consideration to Maj. Gen. Benedict Arnold’s assignment to command at West Point (see Livingston to GW, 22 June, and notes 3 and 4).

4GW wrote and struck out at this place in his draft: “If an intimate knowledge of its distresses acquired by a residence of several Months with it—and a disposition, accompanied by endeavours, to procure it relief—has given him a credit in it, it is not to be wondered at. I wish the delegates in Congress would visit the Army in rotation—it might have very good effect.”

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