George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Henry Knox, 1 June 1786

To Henry Knox

Mount Vernon June 1st 1786.

My dear Sir,

The Post of last week brougt me (by way of New York) a letter, of which the inclosed is a Copy. I transmit it, not only for your perusal, but for information, and advice.1 All the papers respecting the Soci[e]ty of the Cincinnati being in possession of the Secretary Genl or the Assistant Secretary, and my memory very defective, I cannot speak with precision to Mr Jefferson, or decide on any thing which is pleasing to myself. From what I can recollect of the matter, all the Officers who chose to make use of Major L’Enfant’s Agency to obtain the badge of the Society, not only commissioned him to bring them from France, but furnished him with the means. I did this myself for 6 or 8. He brought many more. I have some reason to beleive on a speculating Scheme; and demanded so much for them, as, if my Memory serves me, to disgust many Members of the Society, and induce them to apply to an Artist in Philadelphia, who, it was said, would not only execute them as well, (and without the defect which was discovered in the French ones) but furnish them cheaper. This and L’Enfant’s misapplication of the money (if the fact is so) for those he did receive, may have been the Sources of the present difficulty. On the one hand, it will be very disagreeable to the American Officers to be freely spoken of on this occasion. On the other, it may not only be hard but distressing to comply with the demands of the Parisian Artisan, as we are not only unacquainted with the extent, but in some measure with the nature of them. What is become of L’Enfant? I have not seen him since the general Meeting of the Society which was held at Philadelphia in May 1784, nor, that I recollect, have heard of him ’till Mr Jefferson’s Letter came to hand.2

Mrs Washington joins me in every affectionate wish for Mrs Knox, yourself, & family. And with sentiments of the warmest friendship I am ever your’s

Go: Washington

By forwarding the inclosed letter you will oblige G.W.

LS, in William Shaw’s hand, NNGL; ADfS, Netherlands: Koninklijk Huisarchief. This is one of the rare drafts of a letter by GW from these years to have survived. Except for slight changes in capitalization and punctuation, and the omission of a letter in two words, the copy by GW’s secretary, William Shaw, is entirely faithful to the draft. On the other hand, a comparison of GW’s autograph letters in 1786 with the letter-book copies of these letters reveals that the copyists were often both inaccurate and careless.

1GW is referring to Thomas Jefferson’s letter of 7 Jan. 1786. See note 1 of that document.

2See Knox’s reply of 13 June, and notes.

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