Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO MAJOR-GENERAL GREENE. - The Writings of George Washington, vol. X (1782-1785)
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TO MAJOR-GENERAL GREENE. - George Washington, The Writings of George Washington, vol. X (1782-1785) 
The Writings of George Washington, collected and edited by Worthington Chauncey Ford (New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1890). Vol. X (1782-1785).
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TO MAJOR-GENERAL GREENE.
Mount Vernon, 8 March, 1785.
Mount Vernon, 20 May, 1785.
My dr. Sir,
Since my last to you, I have been favored with several of your letters, which should not have remained so long unacknowledged, had I not been a good deal pressed by matters which could not well be delayed; and because I found a difficulty in complying with your request respecting the profiles. The latter it is not in my power to do now satisfactorily. Some imperfect miniature cuts I send you under cover with this letter. They were designed for me by Miss D’Hart of Elizabethtown, and given to Mrs. Washington, who, in sparing them, only wishes they may answer your purpose. For her I can get none cut yet. If M. Du Simitiere is living, and at Philadelphia, it is possible he may have miniature engravings of most if not all the military characters you want, and in their proper dresses. He drew many good likenesses from the life, and got them engraved at Paris for sale. Among these I have seen General Gates, Baron Steuben, and others, as also of your humble servant. The Marquis de Lafayette had left this before your request of his profile came to hand.
After a long and boisterous passage, my nephew, G. A. Washington, returned to this place a few days since, and delivered me your letter of the 25th of April.
You ask if the character of Colonel John Laurens, as drawn in the Independent Chronicle of the 2d of December last, is just. I answer, that such parts of the drawing, as have fallen under my own observation, is literally so; and that it is my firm belief his merits and worth richly entitle him to the whole picture. No man possessed more of the amor patriæ. In a word, he had not a fault, that I ever could discover, unless intrepidity bordering upon rashness could come under that denomination; and to this he was excited by the purest motives.
Under the state of the case between you and Capt. Gun, I give it as my decided opinion that your honor and reputation will not only stand perfectly acquitted for the non-acceptance of his challenge, but that your prudence and judgment would have been condemnable for accepting of it in the eyes of the world:—because, if a commanding officer is amenable to private calls for the discharge of public duty, he has a dagger always at his breast, and can turn neither to the right nor to the left without meeting its point; in a word he is no longer a free agent in office, as there are few military decisions which are not offensive to one party or the other.
The order alluded to in my private letter, a copy of which you requested, I now send. You might have observed, for I believe the same private letter takes notice thereof, that it was consequent of a resolve of Congress, that Fort Washington was so pertinaciously held, before the ships passed that post. Without unpacking chests, unbundling papers, &c., I cannot come at, to give you a copy of, that resolve; but I well remember, that, after reciting the importance of securing the upper navigation of the Hudson, I am directed to obtain hulks, to sink them for the purpose of obstructing the navigation, and to spare no other cost to effect it. Owing to this, the posts of Forts Washington and Lee, on account of the narrowness of the river, some peculiarity of the channel, and strength of the ground at those places, were laboriously fortified. Owing to this, we left Fort Washington strongly garrisoned in our rear, when we were obliged to retreat to the White Plains; and owing to this, also, Colonel Magaw, who commanded at it, was ordered to defend it to the last extremity.
However just Capt: Gun’s claim upon the public might have been, the mode adopted by him (according to your account) to obtain it, was to the last degree dangerous. A precedent of the sort once established in the army, would no doubt have been followed; and in that case would unquestionably have produced a revolution; but of a very different kind from that which, happily for America, has prevailed.
But when, maugre all the obstructions which had been thrown into the channel, all the labor and expense which had been bestowed on the works, and the risks we had run of the garrison theretofore, the British ships of war had passed, and could pass those posts, it was clear to me from that moment, that they were no longer eligible, and that that on the east side of the river ought to be withdrawn whilst it was in our power. In consequence thereof, the letter of the 8th of November, 1776, was written to General Greene from the White Plains; that post and all the troops in the vicinity of it being under his orders. I give this information, and I furnish you with a copy of the order for the evacuation of Fort Washington, because you desire it, not that I want to exculpate myself from any censure, which may have fallen on me by charging another. I have sent your recipe for the preservation of young plants to the Alexandria printer, and wish the salutary effect which the author of the discovery in the annual register has pointed to may be realized, the process is simple and not expensive which renders it more valuable.
It gives me real concern to find by your letter, that you are still embarrassed with the affairs of Banks; I should be glad to hear, that the evil is likely to be temporary only; ultimately, that you will not suffer. From my nephew’s account, this man has participated of the qualities of Pandora’s box, and has spread as many mischiefs. How came so many to be taken in by him? If I recollect right, when I had the pleasure to see you last, you said an offer had been made you of back lands, as security or payment in part for your demand. I then advised you to accept it. I now repeat it—you cannot suffer by doing this, altho’ the lands may be high rated.—If they are good I would almost pledge myself that you will gain more in ten years by the rise in the price, than you could by accumulation of interest.
Some accounts say, that matters are in train for an accommodation between the Austrians and Dutch. If so, the flames of war may be arrested before they blaze out and become very extensive; but, admitting the contrary, I hope none of the sparks will light on American ground, which, I fear, is made up of too much combustible matter for its well-being.
The Marqs. de la Fayette is safe arrived in France, and found his Lady and family well. From his letters, those of the Chevr. de la Luzerne, Count de Rochambeau and others to me, dated between the middle and last of Feby., I think there will be no war in Europe this year, but some of the most intelligent of these writers are of opinion that the Emperial Court and Russia will not suffer matters to remain tranquil much longer. The desire of the first to annex the Dutchy of Bavaria to its dominions in exchange for the Austrian possessions in the Netherlands is very displeasing, it seems, to the military powers, which added to other matters may kindle the flames of a general war.
Your young friend is in high health, and as full of spirits as an egg shell is of meat. I informed him I was going to write to you, and desired to know if he had any commands. His spontaneous answer, “I beg he will make haste and come here again.” All the rest of the family are well, except Mrs. Washington, who is too often troubled with bilious and colicky complaints to enjoy perfect health. All join in best wishes for you and yours, with dear Sir, &c.
Few matters of domestic nature are worth the relation; otherwise, I might inform you, that the plan for improving and extending the navigation of this river has met a favorable beginning. Tuesday last was the day appointed by law for the subscribers to meet—250 shares were required by law to constitute and incorporate the company; but upon comparing the Books, it was found that between four and five hundred shares were subscribed.