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TO RICHARD HENRY LEE. - George Washington, The Writings of George Washington, vol. V (1776-1777) 
The Writings of George Washington, collected and edited by Worthington Chauncey Ford (New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1890). Vol. V (1776-1777).
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TO RICHARD HENRY LEE.
Middlebrook, 1 June, 1777.
By your favor of the 22d ultimo, I perceive my letter of the 17th has been expressed in too strong terms. I did not mean by the words, “to get rid of importunity,” to cast the smallest reflection; indeed the hurry with which I am obliged to write the few private letters I attempt, will not allow me to consider the force and tendency of my words; nor should I have been surprised, if the fact had really been so, if I am to judge of their, I mean foreigners’ applications to Congress, by those to myself; for it is not one, nor twenty explanations, that will satisfy the cravings of these people’s demands.
You will, before this can reach you, have seen Monsieur Ducoudray. What his real expectations are, and what his agreements with Mr. Deane, I know not; but I fear, if his appointment is equal to what I have been told is his expectation, it will be attended with unhappy consequences. To say nothing of the policy of entrusting a department, on the due execution of which the salvation of the army depends, to a foreigner, who has no other tie to bind him to the interests of this country than honor, I would beg leave to observe, that, by putting Monsieur Ducoudray at the head of the artillery, you will lose a very valuable officer in General Knox, who is a man of great military reading, sound judgment, and clear conceptions. He has conducted the affairs of that department with honor to himself, and advantage to the public, and will resign if any one is put over him.1 My last return of the army will give you our strength, and show the state of the recruiting service, which seems to be at an end. The regiments of Pennsylvania, indeed, appear to be growing worse; and, unless some coercive method can be hit upon to complete battalions, I see no chance of doing it. General Howe’s encouragement, by proclamation, has occasioned great desertions from our army to his, with the loss of arms; this I have represented to Congress, and submitted to them the propriety of offering something back by way of counteraction, but have received no answer; and this, being frequently the case, leaves me often in a very disagreeable state of suspense, from which a simple yea or nay would relieve me.
If some effectual mode is not devised to fill the regiments, it is impossible, at least very unlikely, that any effectual opposition can be given to the British army with the troops we have, whose numbers diminish more by desertion, than they increase by enlistments. I have requested the director-general of the hospital here, as it is properly within his line, to take notice of the report, which you say prevails to the southward concerning the sick, and to remark upon it in the gazettes. I am, &c.
[1 ]A month later a report reached the camp, that Congress had appointed Ducoudray a major-general in the American army, and that he was to take command of the artillery. Without waiting to have this rumor confirmed from any official source, Generals Greene, Sullivan, and Knox wrote each to Congress a laconic epistle, dated on the same day, and requested, that, should the fact be so, they might have permission to retire from the army. The following is a copy of General Greene’s letter to the President of Congress:
“Camp atMiddlebrook, 1 July, 1777.
“A report is circulating here at camp, that Monsieur Ducoudray, a French gentleman, is appointed a major-general in the service of the United States, his rank to commence from the 1st of last August. If the report be true, it will lay me under the necessity of resigning my commission, as his appointment supersedes me in command. I beg you will acquaint me with respect to the truth of the report, and, if true, enclose me a permit to retire. I am, with great respect, your most obedient humble servant.
N. Greene.”The letters of General Sullivan and General Knox were of the same purport, and clothed in nearly the same language. After taking the subject into consideration, Congress, on the report from John Adams, resolved, “That the President transmit to General Washington copies of the several letters from Generals Sullivan, Greene, and Knox to Congress, dated July 1st, 1777, with directions to him to let these officers know, that Congress consider the said letters as an attempt to influence their decisions, an invasion of the liberties of the people, and as indicating a want of confidence in the justice of Congress; that it is expected by Congress, the said officers will make proper acknowledgments for an interference of so dangerous a tendency; but, if any of those officers are unwilling to serve their country under the authority of Congress, they shall be at liberty to resign their commissions and retire.”—Journals July 7th. The report was unfounded, Congress having made no such appointment; nor, when the letters were written, had the case of Ducoudray been brought in a formal manner before them. It was called up, however, about the same time, and after three or four days’ debate, Congress determined not to ratify the treaty entered into between Mr. Deane and Monsieur Ducoudray.
The Commissioners in France had been instructed by Congress to procure a few good engineers for the American service. They engaged four officers of this description, who held commissions in the French army, namely, Duportail, Laumoy, Radière, and Gouvion.—See Diplomatic Correspondence, vol. i., p. 265. These officers came to the United States with the knowledge and approbation of the French government, and were the only ones engaged by the express authority of Congress. The contract made between them and the Commissioners, Franklin and Deane, was confirmed; and Duportail was appointed colonel of engineers, Laumoy and Radière lieutenant-colonels, and Gouvion major. They proved to be valuable officers, and their services in the engineer department were of essential importance during the war.—Journals, July 8th, October 2d.
“I have no wish to see such a large proportion of important offices in the military department in the hands of foreigners. I cannot help considering them as so many spies in our camp, ready to take their measures as their interest may direct. If foreigners are introduced, their command should not be very extensive, then the injury cannot be great; but even in this case it is an injury to America, for the multiplying foreign officers gives us no internal strength. A good nursery of officers, nursed by experience, firmly attached to the interest of the country, is a great security against foreign invaders. The only tie that we have upon foreigners, is the sentiment of honor, too slender for the happiness of a country to depend upon,—while officers created from among the people are bound, not only by the ties of honor, but by that of interest and family connection. We, in many instances, see the power of British gold; let us not neglect to guard against its influence. I have no narrow prejudices upon this subject, neither have I any private differences with any of those gentlemen. My opinion is founded upon the general conduct of mankind.”—General Greene, 28 May, 1777.
“I must again repeat the impropriety of creating so many foreign officers. A very considerable part of our force will get into their hands. What method can Great Britain take to defeat us more effectually than to introduce a great number of foreigners into the army, and bind them to their interest by some very interesting considerations? That this is practicable, nobody will doubt. That we ought to guard against it, everybody must allow. British gold may reason forcibly with those whose hopes and future expectations are not connected with the people they betray.”—Greene to John Adams, 28 May, 1778.
“Congress in the beginning, went upon a very injudicious plan with respect to Frenchmen. To every adventurer that came, without even the shadow of credentials, they gave the rank of field officers. This circumstance, seconding the aspiring disposition natural to those people, carried the expectations of those who had really any pretensions to the character of officers to a length that exceeds all the bounds of moderation. As it was impossible to pursue this impolitic plan, the Congress have begun to retrench their excessive liberality; and the consequence has been, universal disgust and discontent.
“It would, perhaps, be injurious, as the French are much addicted to national punctilio, to run into the opposite extreme to that first embraced, and, by that mean, create a general clamor and dissatisfaction. Policy suggests the propriety of discriminating a few of the most deserving, and endeavoring to keep them in temper, even by gratifying them beyond what they can reasonably pretend to. This will enable us to shake off the despicable part with safety, and to turn a deaf ear to the exorbitant demands of the many. It will easily be believed in France that their want of merit occasioned their want of success, from the extraordinary marks of favor that have been conferred on others: whereas, the united voice of complaint from the whole, might make ill impressions in their own country, which it is not our interest should exist.
“We are already greatly embarrassed with the Frenchmen among us; and, from the genius of the people, shall continue to be so. It were to be wished, that our agents in France, instead of courting them to come out, were instructed to give no encouragement, but where they could not help it; that is, where applications were made to them by persons countenanced and supported by great men, whom it would be impolitic to disoblige. Be assured, Sir, we shall never be able to satisfy them; and they can be of no use to us, at least for some time. Their ignorance of our language; of the disposition of the people; the resources and deficiencies of the country; their own habits and tempers: all these are disqualifications that put it out of their power to be of any real service to us. You will consider what I have said entirely as my own sentiments.”—Hamilton to Duer, 6 May, 1777.