Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO THE MARQUIS DE LAFAYETTE. - The Writings of George Washington, vol. VII (1778-1779)
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
TO THE MARQUIS DE LAFAYETTE. - George Washington, The Writings of George Washington, vol. VII (1778-1779) 
The Writings of George Washington, collected and edited by Worthington Chauncey Ford (New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1890). Vol. VII (1778-1779).
About Liberty Fund:
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
TO THE MARQUIS DE LAFAYETTE.
Fredericksburg, 25 September, 1778.
My dear Marquis,
Since my last to you, I have been honored with your several favors of the 1st, 3d, and 21st of this month. The two first came to hand before I left the White Plains, and the last at this place. * * *
The sentiments of affection and attachment, which breathe so conspicuously in all your letters to me, are at once pleasing and honorable, and afford me abundant cause to rejoice at the happiness of my acquaintance with you. Your love of liberty, the just sense you entertain of this valuable blessing, and your noble and disinterested exertions in the cause of it, added to the innate goodness of your heart, conspire to render you dear to me; and I think myself happy in being linked with you in bonds of the strictest friendship.
The ardent zeal, which you have displayed during the whole course of the campaign to the eastward, and your endeavors to cherish harmony among the officers of the allied powers, and to dispel those unfavorable impressions, which had begun to take place in the minds of the unthinking, (from misfortunes, which the utmost stretch of human foresight could not avert,) deserves, and now receives, my particular and warmest thanks. I am sorry for Monsieur Tousard’s loss of an arm in the action on Rhode Island; and offer my thanks to him, through you, for his gallant behavior on that day.1
Could I have conceived, that my picture had been an object of your wishes, or in the smallest degree worthy of your attention, I should, while Mr. Peale was in camp at Valley Forge, have got him to have taken the best portrait of me he could, and presented it to you; but I really had not so good an opinion of my own worth, as to suppose that such a compliment would not have been considered as a greater instance of my vanity, than a mean of your gratification; and, therefore, when you requested me to sit to Monsieur Lanfang, I thought it was only to obtain the outlines and a few shades of my features, to have some prints struck from.1
If you have entertained thoughts, my dear Marquis, of paying a visit to your court, to your lady, and to your friends this winter, but waver on account of an expedition into Canada, friendship induces me to tell you, that I do not conceive that the prospect of such an operation is so favorable at this time, as to cause you to change your views. Many circumstances and events must transpire to render an enterprise of this kind practicable and advisable. The enemy, in the first place, must either withdraw wholly, or in part, from their present posts, to leave us at liberty to detach largely from this army. In the next place, if considerable reinforcements should be thrown into that country, a winter’s expedition would become impracticable, on account of the difficulties, which will attend the march of a large body of men, with the necessary apparatus, provisions, forage, and stores, at the inclement season. In a word, the chances are so much against the undertaking, that they ought not to induce you to lay aside your other purpose, in the prosecution of which you shall have every aid, and carry with you every honorable testimony of my regard and entire approbation of your conduct, that you can wish. But as it is a compliment, which is due, so I am persuaded you would not wish to dispense with the form, of signifying your desires to Congress on the subject of your voyage and absence.
I come now, in a more especial manner, to acknowledge the receipt of your obliging favor of the 21st by Major Dubois, and to thank you for the important intelligence therein contained. I do most cordially congratulate you on the glorious defeat of the British squadron under Admiral Keppel, an event which reflects the highest honor on the good conduct and bravery of Monsieur d’Orvilliers and the officers of the fleet under his command; at the same time that it is to be considered, I hope, as the happy presage of a fortunate and glorious war to his Most Christian Majesty. A confirmation of the account I shall impatiently wait and devoutly wish for. If the Spaniards, under this favorable beginning, would unite their fleet to that of France, together they would soon humble the pride of haughty Britain, and no longer suffer her to reign sovereign of the seas, and claim the privilege of giving law to the main. * * *
You have my free consent to make the Count d’Estaing a visit, and may signify my entire approbation of it to General Sullivan, who, I am glad to find, has moved you out of a cul de sac.1 It was my advice to him long ago to have no detachments in that situation, let particular places be never so much unguarded and exposed from the want of troops. Immediately upon my removal from the White Plains to this ground, the enemy threw a body of troops into the Jerseys; but for what purpose, unless to make a grand forage, I have not been able yet to learn. They advanced some troops at the same time from their lines at Kingsbridge towards our old encampment at the Plains, stripping the inhabitants not only of their provisions and forage, but even the clothes on their backs, and without discrimination.
The information, my dear Marquis, which I begged the favor of you to obtain, was not, I am persuaded, to be had through the channel of the officers of the French fleet, but by application to your fair lady, to whom I should be happy in an opportunity of paying my homage in Virginia, when the war is ended, if she could be prevailed upon to quit, for a few months, the gayeties and splendor of a court, for the rural amusements of an humble cottage.2
I shall not fail to inform Mrs. Washington of your polite attention to her. The gentlemen of my family are sensible of the honor you do them by your kind inquiries, and join with me in a tender of best regards; and none can offer them with more sincerity and affection than I do. With every sentiment you can wish, I am, my dear Marquis, etc.
[1 ]M. Tousard was a French office attached to the family of the Marquis de Lafayette. In the action on Rhode Island he rushed forward very courageously in advance of the troops, when an attempt was made to take a cannon, and found himself surrounded by the enemy. His horse was killed under him, and he lost his right arm, but escaped from capture. As a reward for this brave act, Congress granted him the rank of lieutenant-colonel by brevet, and a pension of thirty dollars a month for life.—Journals, October 27th.
[1 ]Mr. Hancock had presented Count d’Estaing with a copy of General Washington’s portrait at Boston, and had promised another to Lafayette.
[1 ]After the evacuation of Rhode Island, General Sullivan retired with a part of the army to his former encampment at Providence. Lafayette was left with the remainder of the troops at Bristol, near the enemy’s lines, with orders to watch their motions. This was an exposed situation on the neck of land between the bay and a river. He was afterwards removed farther up the country, behind the town of Warren. General Greene had left the army and gone to Boston, with the view of facilitating, in his capacity of quartermaster-general, the supply of Count d’Estaing’s fleet.—Sparks.
[2 ]Several ladies had lately come out from New York, who reported that a vessel had been captured and brought to that city, in which was contained a present from the Queen of France to Mrs. Washington, as “an elegant testimonial of her approbation of the General’s conduct,” and that it had been sold at auction for the benefit of the captors. This intelligence was so confidently affirmed, and from such a respectable source, that General Washington had requested the Marquis de Lafayette to make inquiry as to the truth of it, through the medium of the Marchioness at Versailles.