George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Elbridge Gerry, 7 February 1781

Boston Feby 7. 1781

Dear Sir,

Having lately seen an intercepted Letter of the 20th of November last, written by Mrs Lovell & published in Rivington Gazette, I wish to be indulged on making a few Observations on the Subject.

When General Knox was here, he informed me, that the paragraph of the Letter which respected a person’s being "popular", was supposed by some to refer to your Excellency; but the Date of the Letter from whence Mrs Lovell’s quotation was made, being a few Days after the general Election of this Commonwealth, must, I think, convince every attentive Reader, that the paragraph related to a civil officer who was then elected. This will more fully appear to every person acquainted with the Circumstances of the Election itself, the Popularity of the Officer mentioned, & the Preference I publickly gave to his Competitor. If however I could conceive, that your Excellency veiwed the paragraph in the Light first mentioned, I would desire Mrs Lovell, as I have not a Copy of my Letter to him, to send You the original; but should be exceedingly mortified to find, that any Transaction of mine had produced in your Excellency’s Mind, a Doubt of my Friendship towards You.

Mr Lovell promised in a former Letter to send me a curious Motion, made by a Gentleman lately from the Army, whom I then supposed to be General Sullivan, but no Mention was made of the purport of the Motion, or that it respected Your Excellency.

The paragraph on Mr Lovell’s Letter, subsequent to the Motion, is so enigmatical, that I have no Idea of his Intention, whether favorable or not. indeed, I have no Reason to suppose the latter from his former Conduct, which has ever appeared to me both friendly & respectful to your Excellency; but admitting that he has otherwise expressed himself in the intercepted Letter, surely, the Direction of it to a person unacquainted with the Contents, should not infer a Suspicion of his Want of Friendship for your Excellency. And here a question may arise, whether it is inconsistent with Friendship to receive a confidential Letter containing Strictures on the Conduct of a Friend? the person in this Case who receives the Letter, is in a delicate Situation; for by rejecting the Letter, he looses one Friend, by receiving it, may disaffect the other. Is it not the most eligible Mode of Conduct, under such unfortunate Circumstances, to hear confidentially what one Friend has to say against another, & to endeavour to cure the Animosity by a candid Consideration & State of the Facts? I must confess, that this has been my practice, & it has frequently afforded me an opportunity of restoring the Confidence of contending parties. if nevertheless, any Person however friendly to me, was publickly to reflect on the Character of another Friend, I should think it my Duty as publickly to resent such Conduct.

I have been thus explicit on the Subject because I should be exceedingly unhappy to find, that the intercepted Letter had produced in your Excellency’s Mind any unfavorable Sentiments respecting myself; but should this be the Case, I shall still continue to enjoy that disinterested Friendship & Respect, and that affectionate Regard, which I have ever entertained for your Excellency. I remain sir with every Sentiment of Friendship & Esteem your most obd. & very hume Sert

E. Gerry

PHi: Gratz Collection.

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