Front Page Titles (by Subject) FORGED LETTER. TO LUND WASHINGTON. - The Writings of George Washington, vol. IV (1776)
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FORGED LETTER. TO LUND WASHINGTON. - George Washington, The Writings of George Washington, vol. IV (1776) 
The Writings of George Washington, collected and edited by Worthington Chauncey Ford (New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1889). Vol. IV (1776).
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New York, 15 July, 1776.
Last Friday, the British fleet was seen off Staten-Island; they have since been employed, uninterrupted by us, in debarking their men, stores, &c. And as they must now, I should imagine, be pretty nearly as strong as they expect to be this campaign, no doubt we shall soon hear of their motions, I have reason to believe, their first essay will not be on this, but on Long-Island; where injudiciously I think, we also are, or soon shall be in force, Yet, if we do but act our parts as becomes us, be the issue as it may, we shall at least give them no pleasing earnest of what they have to expect in the course of the War. But there is no relying on any plan that is to be executed by raw men.
You have heard much of the powers with which commissioners were to be invested for the purpose of settling this dispute. Like most other things belonging to it, these too have made a much greater figure in talk, than they do in fact. There are but two commissioners, the two Howes; and their powers are extremely vague and undefined. It is a pity, methinks, that Congress had not had better information on this subject; if they had, it is to be presumed, they would not have precipitated the declaration of independency, so as to preclude all possibility of negotiation. I may venture to whisper in your ear, that this excepted, I firmly believe, that America might have carried every other point: and, certainly, there was a time when this would have been deemed a conquest beyond the warmest wishes of the warmest American. Whether in the present posture of affairs, it still be so, is another question: I can answer only for myself, that I would not even ask so much. Different men will judge differently with respect to this conduct, on the part of Great Britain; I own I am bewildered and puzzled to account for it. After such an astonishing expence as they have been at, and with such fair prospects as they have before them of being soon in a capacity to prescribe their own terms, it certainly is extraordinary to find them condescending to be friends with us, on conditions as mortifying and degrading to them, as they are flattering to us. I can account for it but in one way; I really ascribe it to their magnanimity. It must be an unpleasant contest to the nation: I say the nation; for however expedient it may be for us to have it called a ministerial war, no man who knows anything of the English government, can imagine, that the ministry, could have moved a step in it, if it had not been the sense of the nation. It must, too be a most fruitless, and unprofitable war; since every advantage they can gain, must in fact be a loss, as being gained over themselves. No wonder, therefore, they have been slow and backward to enter into it; no wonder they would be glad to be well rid of it, on almost any terms. I have ever been of this opinion, and it was this persuasion alone that reconciled me to the measure of taking up arms. I see, however, the world around me viewing it in a different light: every concession that is made to us, they attribute to timidity only, and despondency. I own appearances make for this conjecture; and no doubt Congress will give it its sanction.
I have not adopted this opinion, that we might have peace with Great Britain on terms which would once, have been thought most honorable, on slight grounds. Yesterday, a letter was brought to me, making overtures for a negotiation, from Lord Howe. I had expected it; and had my instructions. It was addressed to me, as I had foreseen as in a private character only. On the ground of independency if we chose to maintain it this was not a mere matter of punctilio; it was the critical moment of trial, whether we would assert, or recede from our pretentions. Never did men sit in debate on a question of higher magnitude: and, when they had once determined to declare their country free, I see not why they might not support this their declaration, by this as well as other means. A contrary conduct would certainly have indicated some want of firmness. Yet I confess to you, I felt aukward upon the occasion, the Punctilio seemed, and it could not but seem, to be my own; and as such-it looked, methought, as though I were proud of my titles. Put yourself in my place; and see me, longing as you know I do most earnestly for peace, yet turning my back on a gentleman, whom I had reason to consider as the harbinger of it, only because he asked for Mr. and not, General Washington. How often it is my lot to find it my indispensible duty to act a part contrary to both my own sentiments and inclinations. But, if I mistake not, it is in such instances only, that, properly speaking, we manifest our fortitude and magnanimity.
I shall astonish you, when I inform you, that this first rebuff abated not the ardor of the noble commissioner. His deputy paid us a second visit, and vouchsafed to honor me with the appellation of General. What name will you give to this condescention? I own it hurt me; and has well nigh led me into a train of thinking very different from all my former opinions. The gentleman who brought the message, is a Colonel Patterson, Adjutant-General, and a sensible well informed man. He requested to speak to me alone; and I was glad he did. After the first salutations, he told me the purport of the letter which had been refused; and his errand now was to ask me to point out the most eligible means of opening a negociation, for the purpose of accommodating the unhappy dispute. I replied that I knew of but one way, and that was by application to Congress. He said, the King’s Commissioners would have no objection to treating with the members who composed the Congress, provided only that they came with legal authority from the regular legislatures of their respective countries. I answered, they, doubtless would come with such authority; as, indeed, they could come with no other. I evidently saw his drift in the exception, as he did mine: and so put a stop to all possibility of mistake; he declared it impossible for his masters ever to acknowledge the Congress, as such, a legal, and constitutional body of men, and as it seemed to be rather a punctilio of pride, than of any real importance, he hoped it might be waved. I stared: How, Sir, have you not already acknowledged the powers of Congress, by acknowledging the honorable rank I hold, and which I hold from them, and them only? That said he, was the concession merely of politeness; and made for the purpose only of getting access to me; and he was persuaded, I was too sensible a man to lay any stress on so mere a trifle, I thanked him for his compliment, but assured him, that I meant to lay the most serious stress on it. If he really had that opinion of my understanding which he was pleased then to express, he must have supposed, that though a trifle in itself, it ceased to be so after I had made a point of it.
Words could not have told him more strongly that our resolutions were to assert and maintain our independency. And if the Commissioners of the King of Great Britain found themselves either unable or unwilling to give up this, as a preliminary article, they, and he must pardon me for saying, that I could but think them very idly employed in soliciting an interview with me. On this he prepared to take his leave, first adding, with a degree of sharpness and animation, that I own affected me. Sir, said he, you are pleased to be cavalier with me: I consider you as a well-meaning—I wish I could say, well-informed man; yet, I am mistaken, if your head, as well as your heart, would not, at this moment, dictate a very different language. There may be heroism, for ought I know, in desperately resolving to go all lengths with the men with whom you have connected yourself; but it is madness: and you may be thankful if posterity gives no worse name to a man who has no judgment of his own. Wrong, Sir, your judgment no longer. We certainly stooped as low as the proudest wrong-head among you could ask us; but, if you really think as you seem to effect to do, that we have made these overtures either from meanness, from a distrust of our cause, or our ability to make good our just claims you are out in all your reckoning. That the mean and narrow minded leaders of your councils may disseminate such opinions, in your unhappy country, I can easily suppose; but remember Sir, you, and your party, owe some account to the world? and when the world shall come to know your infatuated insolence in this instance before us, as know it they must, think how you will excuse yourselves? I replied with no less warmth, nor I trust, dignity. I was, indeed, stung: for after once having owned me as a General, you must confess there was something singularly contemptuous in presuming thus to school me. A few personal civilities put an end to the conference.
I have transmitted a faithful account of it to Congress; but as I can hardly suppose, they will judge it expedient to make it public, I thought I owed to you, not wholly to disappoint your curiosity. You will not, therefore, need me to caution you to be secret, as well on this as on other things, which I write to you.
One thing more I must not omit to mention to you. In my conference with Colonel Patterson, I thought I could discover that it was intended I should be impressed with a persuasion that the Commissioners thought not unfavorably of our pretensions, as urged in the beginning of the dispute. This is to be accounted for. They are Whigs; and if I am rightly informed, the General owes his seat in Parliament to the interests of the dissenters. But why approve of our first pretensions only? Surely if we were then right, we are not now wrong; I mean as to what we have a right to, by the principles of the constitution; the expediency of our measures is now out of question. I cannot dissociate the ideas between our having a right of resistance in the case of taxation, and the same right in the case of legislating for us. You know I am no deep casuist in political speculations, but having happily been brought up in revolution principles, I thought I trod surely when I traced the footsteps of those venerable men. Wonderful! These too are the principles of our opponents; so that all our misfortune and fault is the having put in practice the very tenets which they profess to embrace.
But I shall exhaust your patience; which I should not do, foreseeing as I do, that I shall, hereafter, have occasion to put it to the trial.
I am with the truest regard,