Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO THE CHEVALIER DE LA LUZERNE. - The Writings of George Washington, vol. VIII (1779-1780)
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
TO THE CHEVALIER DE LA LUZERNE. - 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).
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
TO THE CHEVALIER DE LA LUZERNE.
Major Galvan delivered to me the letter, which your Excellency did me the honor to write to me on the 23d of January, and to which I have paid all the attention the importance of its contents demands. I am much flattered by this commencement of a correspondence, from which I have every thing to gain; and equally indebted for the interesting communications it affords.
It is a happy circumstance, that the efforts made by the British court for obtaining troops in Germany are attended with so little success. This will naturally increase their exertions for procuring men in this country, and will no doubt make them more solicitous for effecting the exchange or release in some way or other of their prisoners in our hands. It will be well, if, in the negotiations on this subject, we can extract concessions favorable to those, which may take place in Europe, and you may depend the experiment shall be fully tried. But, from the aspect of the late propositions on the part of the enemy, I should not entertain any sanguine hopes of the success of this experiment. The reinforcement they would derive from a full compliance with their proposals is not calculated at more than ten or eleven hundred private men; and this seems hardly to be an object of sufficient magnitude to induce them to concede to points of the nature, which your Excellency’s information supposes; especially, as you emphatically express it, “after having sought with so much affectation to make the thirteen States be considered as subjected to the English domination.” The offers made through Major-General Phillips are far more moderate, than any that have hitherto come from them, and appear in a great measure to have been influenced by his personal solicitations, dictated by an extreme anxiety to be released from captivity. But notwithstanding the matter in its present form wears to me the appearance I have mentioned, I shall not neglect any measure, which it may be in my power to take to improve the intimation your Excellency has given; and I entreat you to be assured, that I shall endeavor to make the event confirm the opinion you do me the honor to entertain, that nothing will be done derogatory to the magnanimous part your court has acted, or to the honor or interest of the United States.1
The inconsistency of the court of London, so well delineated by that of Madrid in the extract you had the goodness to annex, would appear extraordinary, if their whole conduct in the course of the war did not exhibit many similar examples. But it is evident, that their refusing to consider these States as independent, of fact, during a negotiation, was a mere pretext to cover their unwillingness to concur in the pacific views of his Catholic Majesty; and the Memorial from the British ambassador shows, that they were artfully aiming to effect a separation of interests between France and these States, the better to prosecute their hostile designs against either or both.1
I thank your Excellency for the agreeable intelligence you give me, of his Most Christian Majesty’s intentions to send over succors of arms and ammunition. It is a new and valuable proof of his friendship, and will be of essential utility. I agree with you, that there ought to be no relaxation in the measures otherwise intended to be taken to procure the necessary supplies of those articles.
I am sensibly mortified, that the present situation of affairs will by no means suffer me to yield to the desire I have of paying you my respects in Philadelphia; and I shall impatiently look for the opportunity of doing it here, which your Excellency promises me in the course of this month. Besides the important objects of public utility, which I am authorized to hope from it, I shall take pleasure in every occasion of testifying to you those sentiments of respect and esteem, with which I have the honor to be your Excellency’s, &c. * * *
[1 ]M. de la Luzerne had represented in strong language the inexpediency of yielding to any but the most favorable terms in the exchange of prisoners. He had just received intelligence from Europe, that the British had failed in their application to the German courts for additional recruits, and that Sir Henry Clinton had been instructed to use all available means for effecting an exchange of all the prisoners. The Chevalier de la Luzerne took another view of the subject, also, as bearing on the independence and national dignity of the United States. He sent to General Washington an extract from the Memorial of the English ambassador in Spain to the court of Madrid, respecting a mediation for a truce with France, dated March 28th, in which the ambassador spoke of the colonies as subject to the English domination. M. de la Luzerne hence enjoined the importance of treating, in regard to the exchange of prisoners, on the footing of perfect equality. “An act of this nature,” said he, “may be of the greatest utility to the negotiation of Congress in Europe, when to all the facts, of which the court of Madrid makes mention, may be added a cartel regulated on the basis of a perfect parity, which would be judging beforehand the question of your independence. I congratulate myself, that the negotiation is in your hands; and I am well persuaded that nothing will pass derogatory to the part, which my court has taken in acknowledging the independence and the perfect sovereignty of the United States.”—Sparks.
[1 ]The court of Spain, in an Exposition of the Motives of their conduct, relative to England, had used the following language in regard to the state of the controversy between England and the United States: