George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Major General Lafayette, 14 December 1780

To Major General Lafayette

New Windsor 14th Decr 1780.

My dear Marqs

Soon after dispatching my last letter to you, your favor dated at Paramus was put into my hands by Colo. Gouvion—Yesterday brought me your letters of the 4th 5th & 5th in the Evening—and this day I have received another of the 9th.1

The Chevr De la Luzerne’s Dispatches came in time for the Post, which is the only means left me for conveyance of letters—there not being as much money in the hands of the Q.M. Genl—I believe I must go further, & say in those of the whole Army—as would bear the expence of an Express to Rhode Island.2 I could not get one the other day to ride as far as Pompton!

I am now writing to the Count de Rochambeau & Chevr de Ternay on the Subject of your Several letters—when their answr arrives, I will communicate the Contents to you.3 You must be convinced—from what passed at the interview at H——, that my command of the F——T——ps at R——Is——d stands upon a very limited scale, and that it would be impoliticly fruitless in me, to propose any measure of co-operation to a third power without their concurrence;4 consequently an application from you, antecedent to an official proposition from his Excellency the Minister of France—The Gentn at the head of the French Armament at Rhode Island—The Congress—or myself—cou’d only be considered as coming from a private Gentn; It is therefore my advice to you, to postpone your corrispondence with the Spanish Genals, & let your influence come in hereafter as auxiliry to something more formal & Official—I do not hesitate in giving it clearly as my opinion to you but this opinion, and this business, should be concealed behind a curtain—that the favourable moment of the Spanish Operations in the Floridas ought to be improved to the utmost extent of our means; provided the Spanish, by a junction of their Maratime force with that of his Christn Majesty undr the Commd of the Chevalr De Ternay will give us a secure convoy, and engage not to leave us till the operations of the Campaign are at an end or it can be done by consent of parties.

I am very thankful to the Minister for permitting, & to you for communicating to Genl Greene the intelligence of the Spanish movements towards the Florida’s—it may have a happy influence on his measures—It may be equally advantageous to the Spaniard.5

Your expressions of personal attachment to me, & affection, are flattering & pleasing & fill me with gratitude—It is unnecessary I trust, on my part to give assurances of Mutual regard because I hope you are convinced of it and as I have already put it absolutely in your choice to go to the Southern Army or stay with this circumstans. & Inclination alone must govern you—It would add to my pleasure if I could encourage your hope of Colo. Nevilles exchange—I refused to interest myself in the exchange of my own Aid6—Genl Lincoln’s were exchanged with himself—and upon that occasion (for I know of no other) Congress passed a resolve prohibiting exchanges out of the order of captivity.

Under one general head I shall express my concern for yr disappointment of Letters. our disappointment of Cloaths disappt in the mode of raising men—&ca &ca but shall congratulate you on the late change in the Administration of France as it seems to be consonant to your wishes & pregnant of hope.7 I am much pleased at the friendly disposition of Portugal—much good I hope, will result from this combination of the Maritime powers.

I am in very confined Quarters—little better than those at Valley Forge8—but such as they are I shall welcome into them your friends on their return to Rhode Island.9 I am—&ca

G: W——n

ADfS, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. Maj. David S. Franks carried the recipient’s copy of this letter (see GW to Lafayette, 26 Dec.).

3See GW to Rochambeau and Ternay, 15 Dec.; see also Rochambeau to GW, 22 Dec., and n.11. GW never wrote Lafayette about the replies.

4GW refers to the Hartford Conference and his control over the French expeditionary force as the formal allied commander (see The Hartford Conference, 20–22 Sept., editorial note).

5GW refers to a letter from Lafayette to Maj. Gen. Nathanael Greene that has not been identified. Lafayette summarized that letter when he wrote Greene from Philadelphia on 25 Dec. (see Lafayette’s second letter to GW, 5 Dec., n.3).

6See GW to John Laurens, 13 Oct.; see also Greene to GW, 3 Nov., and n.1 to that document.

7GW comments on the change of the French minister of marine from Sartine to Castries.

8For GW’s headquarters at the Valley Forge, Pa., winter encampment, see General Orders, 20 Dec. 1777, n.1. A later visitor to New Windsor described GW’s headquarters at that place as “a plain Dutch house, long since decayed and demolished.” He also used the phrase “humble tenement” (Lossing, Pictorial Field-Book description begins Benson J. Lossing. The Pictorial Field-Book of the Revolution; or, Illustrations, by Pen and Pencil, of the History, Biography, Scenery, Relics, and Traditions of the War for Independence. 2 vols. New York, 1851–52. description ends , 2:113).

9Colonel Noailles and Captain Damas did not visit GW on their return to Newport (see GW to Lafayette, 26 Dec. 1780; see also Damas to GW, 19 Dec., and the source note to that document).

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