George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Marie-Joseph-Paul-Yves-Roch-Gilbert du Motier, marquis de Lafayette, 30 March 1782

Antony March the 30th 1782

My dear General

The sailing of the Alliance Has Been So Unexpected that Mr Franklin and Myself Have not Been Able to Send the dispatches we intended to forward By that Opportunity. There is now a French cutter that is pretty Suddenly Sent of to America—I expected to write By a frigat Which is to Sail in a Short time, But Cannot let this Opportunity slip a way, Before I have the pleasure to Remember me to you, and let you Hear of my Wellfare.

The taking of Mahon Has taken place Sooner than was generally expected. Genl Murray and Genl Draper are about quarrelling, as generally Happens after a Misfortune Betwen British Commanders. The Siege of Gibraltar is going on—the Capture of St Kitts Has Been the Better felt in England As upon a letter from Sir Samuel Hood the Sanguine part of the Nation Had Conceived Hopes to preserve this island. Many provinces in Holland are About Aknowledging American Independance. There is a great Confusion Among the Parliamentary Part of the British Nation. Some are of opinion this is a finesse of Lord North, who wishes to throw upon Parliament the Blame of Having given up their Colonies—it Has Been long said He would Retire—But e Has Hitherto kept His place, and the Opposition Members do Not Well Agree together. However we Have just got intelligence that a change of ministers was going to take place.

I Have wrote to Mr Lewingston Robert R. Livingston about negociations of peace, about F. money and about Spain and Have Requestd He would Communicate My letter to Your Excellency. We must not Hope for Spanish money nor Notwithstanding their Compliments for Dutch money.

As to the ideas you gave me in writing, I Have Represented them in the Strongest light imaginable. I Had with King of France a long Conversation About it. I Had Many with French ministers. They Have plans about West Indies—they also are Stopped By Spain and without Spanish ships—I am affraid Brith Fleet there will Somewhat exceed French Ships, or at least be upon a parr—Dutch ships are not to Be Retaned—to get Sph ships in America is the great affair. Without it maritime superiority is very difficult, the More So, as they are not Stranger to Some ideas About Great Britain which However Appears to me far from Being Settled. Tho’ Nothing is fixed upon the Afore Mentionned points, I am inclined to Believe in Chs Town more than in N. York. For my part I much prefer the former—but am affraid Spain will offer obstacles, they alwais are for W. Indies. Had I only to manage French Ministers it would be a much easier work. I think we may Hope for operating in Septembr.

Many people are of opinion the ennemy Mean to evacuate Newyork and Charlestown—for my part I am not So Sanguine, and think it would Be a great Mistake for us to Calculate upon this Supposition either in France or in America.

Under the present Circumstances, My dear General, those of foreseen negociations, or at least possible, and the Unfixed Situation of those I Have just now Mentioned I think it Consistent with your instructions, and perhaps useful to America that I Should Remain some time in Europe, that I May Avail Myself of Circumstances and Opportunities. I Hope, My dear General, you will approuve of My Conduct. May I flatter Myself that an expectation of Being Useful, Having Some what detained My departure, I will Nevertheless Be Considered as a Candidate for the Command of the Light Infantry—a Command Which is the utmost of My Ambition, which will not displease that Corps—and as on the Moment I Cease to be Useful, the Moment a determination is taken, I hope Sailing for America, I flatter Myself the Infantry will not be drawn out Before I can present Myself Among the Candidates.

There will Be a decision Before May and one Fh ships May Carry it immediately for W. Indies and an other do same for America—I will Have no time lost.

In the present Situation of Affairs, we must, I think, prepare Vigourously, and I Hope to fulfill your Wishes, at least so far as Respects Chs Town.

I so perfectly know the Sentiments of Congress, and those of the Nation that I am sure not only their desicions upon political points, But also the expression of them will add a new lustre to the idea they Have given of their liberality and Noble Spirit. I am sure, my dear General, that every thing Considered, you will find I am much in the Right to waït a few weeks, and See what turn affairs are taking. To Serve our Noble Cause is the Utmost of My Ambition, and I will embrace every Measure that May Be productive of that end.

I will also add, my dear General, that every thing I write in this letter Being the Result of the Confidence that Has Been placed in Me, I must write for you Alone, and this is as Confidential as the most secret parts of our Correspondance.

Since I left America, I Had one letter from you By the Hermione. I am very Happy to Hear that a Spirit of Oeconomy and Arrangement is diffused through out every departement, and for Many Reasons I Hope we May Have a Numerous Army for the operations of the Campaign.

I Have Been for a few days at this Country Seat with Marquis de Castries who during the Holy days Comes to take some Respite of Ministerial Cares. We are United by an intimate friendship, and am Happy to find that Since He is at the Head of the Navy we Have had a Serie of Successes. Had it not Been for the storm that Mr de Guichen met with on his leaving Brest, we should not, independant of the Spaniards, Have lost an instant of Maritime Superiority in the West Indias.

Now, My dear General, I will speack to you of My private Concerns. Independant of My Situation at Court, and Among My Societies, the Marks of affection I every day Receive from the people at large, Render me as Happy as I can possibly Be—Such influence as I May Have will Be truly precious to me whenever it Can do some little good to our Adorable Cause. I am perfectly Satisfied with the dispositions of this governement. Both Nations will for ever Be attached to each other—and I see Both are so much the object of British envy and treachery that it will Ciment Among them an eternal Amity and Alliance.

Mde de Lafayette Requests I will present to you Her most Affectionate and Respectfull Compliments and Also to Mrs Washington whom she most fervently prays to make after the war a Voyage to France, and spend some time in our family where we would be so very happy to Receive you. Be pleased, my dear General, to Remember me most Affectionately to the family, and to present my Best Respects to Mrs Washington. My Compliments wait upon George—I Had a letter from Him and wish I Had Received one from my friend Tilmangh—Be so kind my dear General, to pay my most affectionate Compliments to Genl Green Genl Knox, and all my friends in the Army. I am so hurried this time, that I Cannot write to them. When Tilmangh writes to McHenry and Hamilton I beg He will Remember me to them. Adieu, my dear General, most Respectfully and affectionately, I have the Honor to be, Your tender and for ever your Best friend


Vicount de Noailles, Count de Charlus, Duke de Lauzun and all the officers of your Army request their best respects to be presented to Your Excellency. The officers are about returning to join their respective Corps.

Words in square brackets are translations of code.


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