George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Lieutenant Colonel John Laurens, 6 November 1780

From Lieutenant Colonel John Laurens

Philadelphia 6th [Nov.] 1780.

My dear General.

Riveted to head quarters by my attachment to Your Excellency and the patronage with which you have been pleased to honor me, nothing but the approaching critical junction of southern affairs and the expectation of my countrymen could induce me to sollicit a farther leave of absence in case of my exchange1—I profess myself too much a continentalist to be affected by local interests—but I indulge a hope that my acquaintance with the country and connexions as a southern man may enable me to be of some ability in the new theatre of the war—and the present season of tranquility here, appears too favorable an opportunity to be overlooked—these motives which I submit to Your Excellency, prompt me to entreat your permission to join the southern army for the ensuing Campaign—if they are sanctioned by your answer, nothing will detain me in this city but your commands2—however remote from Your Excellency I shall invariably be warmed by those sentiments of gratitude and veneration which you alone have inspired—and be on all occasions ambitious to prove myself Your Excellencys faithful Aid.

John Laurens.

ALS, DLC:GW. Laurens mistakenly wrote “Octob.” for the month.

1For the prisoner exchange that included Laurens, see GW to Samuel Huntington, 7 Nov., and n.9; see also Nathanael Greene to GW, 3 Nov., n.1.

2GW replied to Laurens from headquarters at Passaic Falls on 12 Nov.: “A Letter of yours dated Octobr—but which I believe ought to have been November—the 6th, came to my hands last Evening. Every fresh assurance of your personal regard & attachment to me, gives me pleasure.

“The motives which lead you to the Southward are too laudable, and too important, not to meet my approbation. In that, or any other quarter in which you may act, my best wishes for your health, preservation & glory, will accompany you” (ALS [facsimile], advertised for sale by Sotheby’s, New York, Lot 289, December 2011; ADfS, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW; the ALS was addressed to Laurens in Philadelphia).

Laurens subsequently wrote GW from Philadelphia on 23 Dec.: “Your Excellency will be not a little surprised to learn that Congress have determined to send me to France, for the special purpose of representing the present state of our affairs, and solliciting the necessary succours—I was in great hopes that Congress would have availed themselves of the abilities of Colonel Hamilton for these important objects—and that I should have been suffered to persevere in a line of duty, to which I feel myself more adequate—but unfortunately for America, Col. Hamilt⟨on⟩ was not sufficiently known to Congress to unite their suffrages in his favor, and I was assured that there remained no other alternative to my acceptance than the total failure of the business. thus circumstanced I was reduced to submit—and renounce my plan of participating in the southern campaign.

“Devoted to the public service, my first wish is to be instrumental on all occasions in promoting it—but I feel a diffidence on the present, which nothing but Your Excellency⟨’s⟩ particular instructions and couns⟨el⟩ can counteract—this advantage) and the happiness of seeing my General so much sooner than I expected— are the only circumstances that reassure me on the subject of my new destination. I flatter myself with the hope of paying your Excellency my respects at Head Quarters in the course of next week” (ALS, DLC:GW). For the choice of Laurens, see 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 , 18:1130, 1138, 1141, 1177–78; see also James Lovell to Elbridge Gerry, 30 Nov., and n.3, and Huntington to Laurens, 14 Dec., in Smith, Letters of Delegates description begins Paul H. Smith et al., eds. Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774–1789. 26 vols. Washington, D.C., 1976–2000. description ends , 16:404, 406–7, 443. Laurens sought to meet GW at Morristown, N.J. (see his letter to GW, 7 Jan. 1781, DLC:GW; see also GW to Laurens, and to Benjamin Franklin, both 15 Jan. 1781, DLC:GW).

Index Entries