TO LORD DRUMMOND.
New York, 17 August, 1776.
I have your Lordship’s favor of this day, accompanied by papers on subjects of the greatest moment, and deserving the most deliberate consideration. I can allow much of your Lordship’s well-meant zeal on such an occasion, but I fear it has transported you beyond that attention to your parole, which comprehends the character of a man of strict honor. How your Lordship can reconcile your past or present conduct with your engagement, so as to satisfy your own mind, I must submit to your own feelings; but I find myself under the disagreeable necessity of objecting to the mode of negotiation proposed, while your Lordship’s conduct appears so exceptionable. I shall, by express, forward to Congress your Lordship’s letter and the papers which accompanied it. The result will be communicated as soon as possible. I am sorry to have detained your Lordship so long, but the unavoidable necessity must be my apology. I am, my Lord, &c.
For various particulars respecting Lord Drummond, see vol. III., p. 420.
“They will observe my answer to Lord Drummond, who I am pretty confident has not attended to the Terms of his parole, but has violated it in several Instances. It is with the rest of the papers, but if my Memory serves me he was not to hold any correspondence directly or indirectly with those in arms against us, or to go into any port or harbor in America where the Enemy themselves were or had a Fleet or to go on board their Ships.
“The late conduct of Lord Drummond is as extraordinary as his motives are dark and mysterious. To judge the most favorably of his intentions, it would seem, that an overweening vanity has betrayed him into a criminal breach of honor. But whether his views were upright, or intended only to mislead and deceive, cannot at present be a matter of any importance. In the mean time, I have the pleasure to acquaint you, that Congress highly approve the manner in which you have checked the officious and intemperate zeal of his Lordship. Whether his designs were hostile or friendly, he equally merited the reproof you gave him, and I hope for the future he will be convinced, that it is highly imprudent to attract the attention of the public to a character, which will only pass without censure when it passes without notice.
“The Congress, having considered the matter thoroughly, are of opinion to decline taking any public or further notice of his Lordship, or his letters, and particularly as you have so fully expressed their sentiments on the subject in your letter to him.—Hancock to Washington, 24 August, 1776.
Thus ended Lord Drummond’s proposals to act the part of a negotiator. He attempted to vindicate himself from the charge of having broken his parole, and to explain his conduct, but without success. The facts in the case were too obvious and indisputable to be extenuated by any testimony he produced, or by the mere assertion of honorable motives. When General Lee was a prisoner in New York the summer following, he became acquainted with Lord Drummond, and was prevailed upon by him to solicit from Washington a re-examination of the affair, stating that his Lordship felt wounded at the treatment he had received, and expressing a conviction of his innocence. Washington replied with his usual firmness, that he had thoroughly investigated the subject at the time, that he had no disposition to injure Lord Drummond, that the impression left on his mind was deep and decided, and that no circumstances had since come to light, which tended to alter his opinion. Sparks.
“I do myself the honor to transmit the enclosed letter from Major French, and at the same time to inform you, that his exchange for Major Meigs, whose parole I am advised you have, will meet my approbation. I would take the liberty also to propose an exchange of any captain you may choose for Captain Dearborn, whose parole I have heard was delivered to you with Major Meigs’s. Give me leave to assure you, Sir, that I feel myself greatly obliged by the polite conclusion of your letter of the 1st instant, and have a high sense of the honor and satisfaction I should have received from your personal acquaintance. The different state of the colonies from what it was last war, and which has deprived me of that happiness, cannot be regretted by any one more, Sir, than by your most obedient humble servant.”—Washington to Lieutenant General Howe, 17 August, 1776.
“The General being informed, to his great surprise, that a report prevails and is industriously spread far and wide, that Lord Howe has made propositions of peace, calculated by designing persons probably to lull us into a fatal security; his duty obliges him to declare, that no such offer has been made by Lord Howe, but, on the contrary, from the best intelligence he can procure, the army may expect an attack, as soon as the wind and tide shall prove favorable. He hopes, therefore, that every man’s mind and arms will be prepared for action, and, when called to it, show our enemies and the whole world, that freemen contending on their own land are superior to any mercenaries on earth.”—Orderly Book, August 20th.
“The Resolution they have entered into respecting the Foreign Troops, I am persuaded would produce Salutary Effects, if it can be properly circulated among them. I fear it will be a matter of difficulty—However, I will take every Measure that shall appear probable to facilitate the End. . . .
“I am exceedingly at a loss to know the motives and causes Inducing a proceeding of such a nature at this Time and why Lord Howe has not attempted some plan of negotiation before, as he seems so desirous of it. If I may be allowed to conjecture and guess at the cause, it may be that part of the Hessians have not arrived as mentioned in the examination transmitted Yesterday; or that Genl. Burgoyne has not made such progress as was expected, to form a junction of their Two Armies; or, what I think equally probable, they mean to procrastinate their operations for some Time, Trusting that the Militias which have come to our Succor, will soon become tired and return home, as is but too usual with them. Congress will make their observations upon these several Matters and favor me with the Result as soon as they have done.”—Washington to the President of Congress, 18 August, 1776.