Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO THE MARQUIS DE LAFAYETTE, PARIS. - The Writings of George Washington, vol. VIII (1779-1780)
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TO THE MARQUIS DE LAFAYETTE, PARIS. - George Washington, The Writings of George Washington, vol. VIII (1779-1780) 
The Writings of George Washington, collected and edited by Worthington Chauncey Ford (New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1890). Vol. VIII (1779-1780).
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TO THE MARQUIS DE LAFAYETTE, PARIS.
West-Point, 30 September, 1779.
My dear Marquis,
A few days ago I wrote you a letter in much haste. The cause, a sudden notification of Monsr. Gerard’s having changed the place of his embarkation from Boston (as was expected) to Philadelphia, and the hurry Monsr. de la Columbe was in to reach the latter before the minister should have left it. Since that, I have been honor’d with the company of the Chevalier de la Luzerne, and by him was favord with your obliging letter of the 12th of June, which filled me with equal pleasure and surprise; the latter at hearing that you had not received one of the many letters I had written to you since you left the American shore. I cannot at this time charge my memory with the precise dates of these letters. But the first, which ought and I expected would have reached you at Boston, and I much wished it to do so, (because it contained a Letter from me to Doctr. Franklin expressive of the Sentiments I entertained of your Services and Merit) was put into the hands of a Capt. McQueen, of Charles Town, who was to sail from Phila. soon after. In March again I wrote you once or twice, and in June, or the first of July, following, (when it was reported that Monsr. Gerard was about to leave us I took the liberty of committing to his care another of my letters to you), which several efforts, though they may have been unsuccessful, will exhibit no bad specimen of my having kept you constantly in remembrance, and a desire of giving you proofs of it.
It gave me infinite pleasure to hear, from yourself, of the favorable reception you met with from your sovereign, and of the joy, which your safe arrival in France had diffused among your friends. I had no doubt, but that this wou’d be the case. To hear it from yourself adds pleasure to the acct.; and here, my dear friend, let me congratulate you on your new, honorable, and pleasing appointment in the army commanded by the Count de Vaux, which I shall accom’y with an assurance, that none can do it with more warmth of affection, or sincere joy, than myself.1 Your forward zeal in the cause of liberty; Your singular attachment to this infant world; your ardent and persevering efforts, not only in America, but since your return to France, to serve the United States; your polite attention to Americans, and your strict and uniform friendship for me, has ripened the first impressions of esteem and attachment, which I imbibed for you, into such perfect love and gratitude, that neither time nor absence can impair. Which will warrant my assuring you, that, whether in the character of an officer at the head of a corps of gallant French, (if circumstances should require this,) whether as a major-genl. commanding a division of the American army, or whether, after our Swords and spears have given place to the ploughshare and pruning-Hook, I see you as a private gentleman, a friend and companion, I shall welcome you in all the warmth of friendship to Columbia’s shores; and, in the latter case, to my rural cottage, where homely fare and a cordial reception shall be substituted for delicacies and costly living. This, from past experience, I know you can submit to; and if the lovely partner of your happiness will consent to participate with us in such rural entertainment and amusem’ts, I can undertake, in behalf of Mrs. Washington, that she will do every thing in her power to make Virginia agreeable to the Marchioness. My inclination and endeavors to do this cannot be doubted, when I assure you, that I love every body that is dear to you, consequently participate in the pleasure you feel in ye prospt. of again becoming a parent, and do most sincerely congratulate you and your Lady on this fresh pledge she is about to give you of her love.
I thank you for the trouble you have taken and your polite attention, in favoring me with a copy of your letter to Congress; and feel, as I am persuaded they must do, the force of such ardent zeal as you there express for the interests of this Country. The propriety of the hint you have given them must carry conviction, and I trust will have a salutary effect1 ; tho there is not, I believe, the same occasion for the admonition now, there was several months ago. Many late changes have taken place in that honorable body, which have removed in a very great degree, if not wholly, the discordant spirit which, it is said, prevailed in the winter; and I hope measures will also be taken to remove those unhappy and improper differences, which have extended themselves elsewhere, to the prejudice of our affairs in Europe. * * *
I have had great pleasure in the visit, which the Chevalier de la Luzerne and Monsieur Marbois did me the honor to make at this camp; for both of whom I have imbibed the most favorable impressions, and I thank you for the honorable mention you made of me to them. The Chevr., till he had announced himself to Congress, did not choose to be received in his public character. If he had, except paying him military honors, it was not my intention to depart from that plain and simple manner of living, which accords with the real Interest and policy of men struggling under every difficulty for the attainment of the most inestimable blessing of life, Liberty. The Chevalier was polite enough to approve my principle, and condescended to appear pleased with our Spartan living. In a word, he made us all exceedingly happy by his affability and good humor, while he remained in camp.
You are pleased, my dear Marquis, to express an earnest desire of seeing me in France, (after the establishment of our independency), and do me the honor to add, that you are not singular in your request. Let me entreat you to be persuaded, that to meet you any where, after the final accomplishment of so glorious an event, would contribute to my happiness; and that to visit a county, to whose generous aid we stand so much indebted, would be an additional pleasure; but remember, my good friend, that I am unacquainted with your language, that I am too far advanced in years to acquire a knowledge of it, and that, to converse through the medium of an interpreter upon common occasions, especially with the Ladies, must appear so extremely awkward, insipid, and uncouth, that I can scarce bear it in idea. I will, therefore, hold myself disengaged for the present; but when I see you in Virginia, we will talk of this matter and fix our plans.
The declaration of Spain, in favor of France has given universal joy to every Whig; while the poor Tory droops, like a withering flower under a declining Sun. We are anxiously expecting to hear of great and important events on your side the Atlantic. At present, the imagination is left in the wide field of conjecture. Our eyes one moment are turned to an Invasion of England, then of Ireland, Minorca, Gibraltar, &c. In a word, we hope every thing, but know not what to expect, or where to fix. The glorious successes of Count d’Estaing in the West Indies, at the same time that it adds dominion to France, and fresh lustre to her arms, is a source of new and unexpected misfortune to our tender and generous parent, and must serve to convince her of the folly of quitting the substance in pursuit of the shadow; and, as there is no experience equal to that which is bought, I trust she will have a superabundance of this kind of knowledge, and be convinced, as I hope all the world and every tyrant in it will, that the best and only safe road to honor, glory, and true dignity, is justice.
We have such repeated advices of Count d’Estaing’s being in these seas, that, (though I have no official information of the event,) I cannot help giving entire credit to the report, and looking for his arrival every moment, and am preparing accordingly. The enemy at New York also expect it; and, to guard against the consequences, as much as it is in their power to do, are repairing and strengthening all the old fortifications, and adding new ones in the vicinity of the City. Their fears, however, does not retard an embarcation, which was making, (and generally believed) to be for the West Indies or Charles Town. It still goes forward; and, by my intelligence, will consist of a pretty large detachment. About 14 days ago, one British Regiment (44th compleated) and 3 Hessian regiments embarked, and are gone, as is supposed to Halifax,1 under convoy of Admiral Arbuthnot about the 20th of last month. The Enemy recd. a reinforcemt. consisting of 2 new raised Scotch Regts. some drafts and a few recruits amounting altogether to about 3,000 men; and a few days ago Sir Andw. Hammond arriv’d with (as it is said) abt. 2,000 more. Many of these new Troops died on their passage and since landing ye rest are very sickly—as indeed their whole army is, while ours keeps remarkably healthy. The operations of the enemy this campaign have been confined to the establishment of works of defence, taking a post at King’s Ferry, and burning the defenceless towns of New Haven, Fairfield, and Norwalk, &c. on the Sound within reach of their shipping, where little else was or could be opposed to them, than the cries of distressed women and helpless children; but these were offered in vain. Since these notable exploits, they have never stepped out of their works or beyond their lines. How a conduct of this kind is to effect the conquest of America, the wisdom of a North, a Germaine, or Sandwich best can tell. It is too deep and refined for the comprehension of common understandings and general run of politicians. * * *
But to conclude you requested from me a long letter—I have given you one—but methinks my dear Marquis I hear you say there is reason in all things—that this is too long—I am clearly in sentiment with you and will have mercy on you in my next—But at present must pray your patience a while longer, till I can make a tender of my most respectful compliments to the Marchioness.—Tell her, (if you have not made a mistake and offered your own love instead of hers, to me) that I have a heart susceptable of the tenderest passion, and that it is already so strongly impressed with the most favorable ideas of her, that she must be cautious of putting loves torch to it, as you must be in fanning the flame.—But here again methinks I hear you say, I am not apprehensive of danger—My wife is young—you are growing old and the Atlantic is between you—All this is true, but know my good friend that no distance can keep anxious lovers long asunder, and that the wonders of former ages may be revived in this—But alas! will you not remark that amidst all the wonders recorded in holy writ no instance can be produced where a young Woman from real inclination has prefered an old man—This is so much against me that I shall not be able I fear to contest the prize with you—yet, under the encouragement you have given me I shall enter the list for so inestimable a jewell.
I will now reverse the scene and inform you that Mrs. Washington, (who set out for Virginia when we took the field in June,) often has in her letters to me inquired if I had heard from you, and will be much pleased at hearing that you are well and happy. In her name, (as she is not here,) I thank you for your polite attention to her, and shall speak her sense of the honor conferred on her by the Marchioness. When I look back to the length of this letter, I am so much astonished and frightened at it myself that, I have not the courage to give it a careful reading for the purpose of correction. You must, therefore, receive it with all its imperfections, accompanied with this assurance, that, though there may be inaccuracies in the letter, there is not a single defect in the friendship of, my dear Marquis, yours, &c.
[1 ]Lafayette described himself as the aide-maréchale-général des logis, “a very important and agreeable place” in the French service.
[1 ]“I will frankly tell you, sir, that nothing can more effectually hurt our interests, consequence and reputation, in Europe, than to hear of disputes or divisions between the Whigs. Nothing could urge my touching upon this delicate matter but the unhappy experience of every day on this head, since I can hear myself what is said on this side of the Atlantic, and the arguments I have to combat with.”—Lafayette to the President of Congress, 12 June, 1779. “There is another point for which you should employ all your influence and popularity. For God’s sake prevent their loudly disputing together. Nothing hurts so much the interest and reputation of America, as to hear of their intestine quarrels.”—Lafayette to Washington, 12 June, 1779.
[1 ]These troops were actually designed for Canada, being the reinforcement requested by General Haldimand. They sailed on the 10th of September.