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opinion and advice; evidently as a matter of form. The latter expressed himself obliged by the "polite request," but observed that, as he neither knew the extent of the objects in view, nor the means to be employed to effect them, it was not in his power to pass any judgment upon the subject. He wished success to the enterprise, "both as it might advance the public good and confer personal honor on the Marquis de Lafayette, for whom he had a very particular esteem and regard."

The cabal, however, had overshot their mark. Lafayette, who was aware of their intrigues, was so disgusted by the want of deference and respect to the commander-in-chief evinced in the whole proceeding, that he would at once have declined the appointment, had not Washington himself advised him strongly to accept it.


pointed to the expedition; whose commission
being of older date than that of Conway,
would give him the precedence of that officer,
and make him second in command.
This was
reluctantly ceded by the cabal, who found them-
selves baffled by the loyalty in friendship of
the youthful soldier.

Lafayette set out for Albany without any very sanguine expectations. Writing to Washington from Flemington, amid the difficulties of winter travel, he says: "I go on very slowly; sometimes drenched by rain, sometimes covered with snow, and not entertaining many handsome thoughts about the projected incursion into Canada. Lake Champlain is too cold for producing the least bit of laurel; and, if I am not starved, I shall be as proud as if I had gained three battles."*


He accordingly proceeded to Yorktown, where Gates already had his little court of schemers and hangers on. Lafayette found him at table, presiding with great hilarity, for he was social in his habits, and in the flush of reWASHINGTON's letter of the 4th of January, cent success. The young marquis had a cordial on the subject of the Conway correspondence, welcome to his board, which in his buoyant had not reached General Gates until the 22d of conviviality contrasted with the sober decen- January, after his arrival at Yorktown. No cies of that of the thoughtful commander-insooner did Gates learn from its context, that chief in his dreary encampment at Valley all Washington's knowledge of that correspondForge. Gates, in his excitement, was profuse ence was confined to a single paragraph of a of promises. Every thing was to be made letter, and that merely as quoted in conversasmooth and easy for Lafayette. He was to tion by Wilkinson, than the whole matter aphave at least two thousand five hundred fight-peared easily to be explained or shuffled off. ing men under him. Stark, the veteran Stark, was ready to co-operate with a body of Green Mountain Boys. "Indeed," cries Gates, chuckling, "General Stark will have burnt the fleet before your arrival!

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It was near the end of the repast. The wine had circulated freely, and toasts had been given according to the custom of the day. The marquis thought it time to show his flag. One toast, he observed, had been omitted, which he would now propose. Glasses were accordingly filled, and he gave, "The commander-inchief of the American armies." The toast was received without cheering.

Lafayette was faithful to the flag he had unfurled. In accepting the command, he considered himself detached from the main army and

under the immediate orders of the commanderin-chief. He had a favorable opinion of the military talents of Conway, but he was aware of the game he was playing; he made a point, therefore, of having the Baron de Kalb ap

He accordingly took pen in hand, and addressed
Washington as follows, on the 23d of January:

"The letter which I had the honor to receive
yesterday from your Excellency, has relieved
me from unspeakable uneasiness. I now an-
ticipate the pleasure it will give you when you
discover that what has been conveyed to you
for an extract of General Conway's letter to
me, was not an information which friendly
motives induced a man of honor to give, that
injured virtue might be forearmed against se-
cret enemies. The paragraph which your Ex-
cellency has condescended to transcribe, is spu-
rious. It was certainly fabricated to answer the
most selfish and wicked purposes."

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He then goes on to declare that the genuine letter of Conway was perfectly harmless, containing judicious remarks upon the want of discipline in the army, but making no mention of weak generals or bad counsellors. "Partic

*Sparks' Cor. Am. Rev. vol. ii., p. 74.

ET. 46.]



ular actions rather than persons were blamed, | had been committed, but I concealed from him but with impartiality, and I am convinced he did not aim at lessening, in my opinion, the merit of any person. His letter was perfectly harmless; however, now that various reports have been circulated concerning its contents, they ought to be submitted to the solemn inspection of those who stand most high in the public esteem.

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the measures I was pursuing to unmask the author. Wilkinson answered, he was assured it never would come to light; and endeavored to fix my suspicions on Lieutenant-Colonel Troup, who, he said, might have incautiously conversed on the substance of General Conway's letter with Colonel Hamilton, whom you had sent not long before to Albany. I did not listen to this insinuation against your aide-decamp and mine."

In the original draft of this letter, which we have seen among the papers of General Gates, he adds, as a reason for not listening to the insinuation, that he considered it even as ungenerous. "But," pursues he, "the light your Excellency has just assisted me with, exhibiting the many qualifications which are necessarily blended together in the head and heart of General Wilkinson, I would not omit this fact; it will enable your Excellency to judge whether or not he would scruple to make such a forgery as that which he now stands charged with, and ought to be exemplarily punished." This, with considerable more to the same purport, intended to make Wilkinson the scape-goat, stands cancelled in the draft, and was omitted in the letter sent to Washington; but by some means, fair or foul, it came to the knowledge of Wil

Memoirs, and who, it will be found, resented the imputation thus conveyed.

"Honor forbids it, and patriotism demands that I should return the letter into the hands of the writer. I will do it; but, at the same time, I declare that the paragraph conveyed to your Excellency as a genuine part of it, was, in words as well as in substance, a wicked forgery. "About the beginning of December, I was informed that letter had occasioned an explanation between your Excellency and that gentleNot knowing whether the whole letter or a part of it had been stealingly copied, but fearing malice had altered its original texture, I own, sir, that a dread of the mischiefs which might attend the forgery, I suspected would be made, put me some time in a most painful situa-kinson, who has published it at length in his tion. When I communicated to the officers in my family the intelligence which I had received, they all entreated me to rescue their characters from the suspicions they justly conceived themselves liable to, until the guilty person should be known. To facilitate the discovery, I wrote to your Excellency; but, unable to learn whether General Conway's letter had been transmitted to you by a member of Congress, or a gentleman in the army, I was afraid much time would be lost in the course of the inquiry, and that the States might receive some capital injury from the infidelity of the person who I thought had stolen a copy of the obnoxious letter. Was it not probable that the secrets of the army might be obtained and betrayed through the same means to the enemy? For this reason, sir, not doubting that Congress would most cheerfully concur with you in tracing out the criminal, I wrote to the president, and enclosed to him a copy of my letter to your Excellency.

"About the time I was forwarding those letters, Brigadier-General Wilkinson returned to Albany. I informed him of the treachery which

General Conway, also, in a letter to Washington (dated January 27), informs him that the letter had been returned to him by Gates, and that he found with great satisfaction that the paragraph so much spoken of did not exist in the said letter, nor any thing like it." He had intended, he adds, to publish the letter, but had been dissuaded by President Laurens and two or three members of Congress, to whom he had shown it, lest it should inform the enemy of a misunderstanding among the American generals. He therefore depended upon the justice, candor, and generosity of General Washington, to put a stop to the forgery.

On the 9th of February, Washington wrote Gates a long and searching reply to his letters of the 8th, and 23d of January, analyzing them, and showing how, in spirit and import, they contradicted each other; and how sometimes the same letter contradicted itself. How in

* At that time an aide-de-camp of Gates.



the first letter the reality of the extracts was by implication allowed, and the only solicitude shown was to find out the person who brought them to light; while, in the second letter, the whole was pronounced, "in word as well as in substance, a wicked forgery." "It is not my intention," observes Washington, "to contradict this assertion, but only to intimate some considerations which tend to induce a supposition, that, though none of General Conway's letters to you contained the offensive passage mentioned, there might have been something in them too nearly related to it, that could give such an extraordinary alarm. If this were not the case, how easy in the first instance to have declared there was nothing exceptionable in them, and to have produced the letters themselves in support of it? The propriety of the objections suggested against submitting them to inspection may very well be questioned. The various reports circulated concerning their contents,' were perhaps so many arguments for making them speak for themselves, to place the matter upon the footing of certainty. Concealment in an affair which had made so much noise, though not by my means, will naturally lead men to conjecture the worst, and it will be a subject of speculation even to candor itself. The anxiety and jealousy you apprehend from revealing the letter, will be very apt to be increased by suppressing it." We forbear to follow Washington through his stern analysis, but we cannot omit the concluding paragraph of his strictures on the character of Conway.

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Gates evidently quailed beneath this letter. In his reply February 19th, he earnestly hoped that no more of that time, so precious to the public, might be lost upon the subject of General Conway's letter.

"Whether that gentleman," says he, "does or does not deserve the suspicions you express, would be entirely indifferent to me, did he not possess an office of high rank in the army of the United States. As to the gentleman, I have no personal connection with him, nor had I any correspondence previous to his writing the letter which has given offence, nor have I since written to him save to certify what I know to be the contents of that letter. He, therefore, must be responsible; as I heartily dislike controversy, even upon my own account, and much more in a matter wherein I was only accidentally concerned," &c., &c.

The following was the dignified but freezing note with which Washington closed this correspondence.

"VALLEY FORGE, 24th Feb., 1778. "SIR:-I yesterday received your favor of the 19th instant. I am as averse to controversy as any man; and, had I not been forced into it, you never would have had occasion to impute to me even the shadow of a disposition towards it. Your repeatedly and solemnly disclaim"ing any offensive views in those matters which have been the subject of our past correspondence, makes me willing to close with the desire you express of burying them hereafter in silence, and, as far as future events will permit, oblivion. My temper leads me to peace and harmony with all men; and it is peculiarly my wish to avoid any personal feuds or dissensions with those who are embarked in the same great national interest with myself, as every difference of this kind must, in its consequences, be very injurious. I am, sir," &c.

"Notwithstanding the hopeful presages you are pleased to figure to yourself of General Conway's firm and constant friendship to America, I cannot persuade myself to retract the prediction concerning him, which you so emphatically wish had not been inserted in my last. A better acquaintance with him, than I have reason to think you have had, from what you say, and a concurrence of circumstances, oblige me to give him but little credit for the qualifications of his heart, of which, at least, I beg leave to assume the privilege of being a tolerable judge. Were it necessary, more instances than one might be adduced, from his behavior and conversation, to manifest that he is capable of all the malignity of detraction, and all the meanness of intrigue, to gratify the absurd resentment of disappointed vanity, or to answer the purposes of personal aggrandizement, and promote the interest of faction."

Among the various insidious artifices resorted to about this time to injure the character of Washington and destroy public confidence in his sincerity, was the publication of a series of letters purporting to be from him to some members of his family, and to his agent, Mr. Lund Washington, which, if genuine, would prove him to be hollow-hearted and faithless to the cause he was pretending to uphold. They had appeared in England in a pamphlet form, as if printed from originals and drafts found in possession of a black servant of Washington,

ET. 46.]


who had been left behind ill, at Fort Lee, when it was evacuated. They had recently been reprinted at New York in Rivington's Royal Gazette; the first letter making its appearance on the 14th of February. It had also been printed at New York in a handbill, and extracts published in a Philadelphia paper.

Washington took no public notice of this publication at the time, but in private correspondence with his friends, he observes: "These letters are written with a great deal of art. The intermixture of so many family circumstances (which, by the by, want foundation in truth) gives an air of plausibility, which renders the villany greater; as the whole is a contrivance to answer the most diabolical purposes. Who the author of them is, I know not. From information or acquaintance be must have had some knowledge of the component parts of my family; but he has most egregiously mistaken the facts in several instances. The design of his labors is as clear as the sun in its meridian brightness."* And in another letter, he observes, "They were written to show that I was an enemy to independence, and with a view to create distrust and jealousy. It is no easy matter to decide whether the villany or the artifice of these letters is greatest." +

The author of these letters was never discovered. He entirely failed in his object; the letters were known at once to be forgeries.

* Letter to General Henry Lee, Virginia.-Sparks' Writings of Washington, vol. v. 378.

† Letter to Landon Carter. Idem, p. 391.

The introduction to the letters states them to have been transmitted to England by an officer serving in Delancey's corps of loyalists, who gives the following account of the way he came by them :-Among the prisoners at Fort Lee, I espied a mulatto fellow, whom I thought I recollected, and who confirmed my conjectures by gazing very earnestly at me. I asked him if he knew me. first, he was unwilling to own it; but when he was about to be carried off, thinking, I suppose, that I might perhaps be of some service to him, he came and told me that he was Billy, and the old servant of General Washington.


He had been left there on account of an indisposition which prevented his attending his master. I asked him a great many questions, as you may suppose; but found very little satisfaction in his answers. At last, however, he told me that he had a small portmanteau of his master's, of which, when he found that he must be put into confinement, he entreated my care. It contained only a few stockings and shirts; and I could see nothing worth my care, except an almanack, in which he had kept a sort of a journal, or diary of his proceedings since his first coming to New York; there were also two letters from his lady, one from Mr. Custis, and some pretty long ones from a Mr. Lund Washington. And in the same bundle with them, the first draughts, or foul copies of answers to them. I read these with avidity; and being highly enter


Letters received at this juncture from Lafayette, gave Washington tidings concerning the expedition against Canada, set on foot without consulting him. General Conway had arrived at Albany three days before the marquis, and his first word when they met was that the expedition was quite impossible. Generals Schuyler, Lincoln, and Arnold, had written to Conway to that effect. The marquis at first was inclined to hope the contrary, but his hope was soon demolished. Instead of the two thousand five hundred men that had been promised him, not twelve hundred in all were to be found fit for duty, and most part of these were "naked even for a summer's campaign; " all shrank from a winter incursion into so cold a country. As to General Stark and his legion of Green Mountain Boys, who, according to the gasconade of Gates, might have burnt the fleet before Lafayette's arrival, the marquis received at Albany a letter from the veteran, "who wishes to know," says he, "what number of men, for what time, and for what rendezvous, I desire him to raise.”

Another officer, who was to have enlisted men, would have done so, had he received money. "One asks what encouragement his people will have; the other has no clothes; not one of them has received a dollar of what was due to them. I have applied to every body, I have begged at every door I could these two days, and I see that I could do something were the expedition to be begun in five weeks. But you know we have not an hour to lose; and, indeed, it is now rather too late had we every thing in readiness."

The poor marquis was in despair—but what most distressed him was the dread of ridicule. He had written to his friends that he had the command of the expedition; it would be known throughout Europe. "I am afraid,” says he, "that it will reflect on my reputation, and I shall be laughed at. My fears upon that subject are so strong that I would choose to become again only a volunteer, unless Congress offers the means of mending this ugly business by some glorious operation."

tained with them, have shown them to several of my friends, who all agree with me, that he is a very different character from what they had supposed him.

In commenting on the above, Washington observed that his mulatto man Billy, had never been one moment in the power of the enemy, and that no part of his baggage nor any of his attendants were captured during the whole course of the war.-Letter to Timothy Pickering, Sparks, ix. 149.

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Washington, in a letter to General Armstrong, writes, "I shall say no more of the Canada expedition than that it is at an end. I never was made acquainted with a single circumstance relating to it."*

LAFAYETTE'S PERPLEXITIES AND WASHINGTON'S COUNSELS THE CABAL. [1778. A subsequent letter is in the same vein. | in command at Albany, "where there would The poor marquis, in his perplexity, lays his be nothing, perhaps, to be attended to, but whole heart open to Washington with childlike some disputes of Indians and tories." simplicity. "I have written lately to you, my distressing, ridiculous, foolish, and indeed nameless situation. I am sent, with a great noise, at the head of an army for doing great things; the whole continent, France and Europe herself, and, what is worse, the British army, are in great expectations. How far they will be deceived, how far we shall be ridiculed, you may judge by the candid account you have got of the state of our affairs. I confess, my dear general, that I find myself of very quick feelings whenever my reputation and glory are concerned in any thing. It is very hard that such a part of my happiness, without which I cannot live, should depend upon schemes which I never knew of but when there was no time to put them into execution. I assure you, my most dear and respected friend, that I am more unhappy than I ever was. * * I should be very happy if you were here, to give me some advice; but I have nobody to consult with."

* *

Washington, with his considerate, paternal counsels, hastened to calm the perturbation of his youthful friend, and dispel those fears respecting his reputation, excited only, as he observed, "by an uncommon degree of sensibility." "It will be no disadvantage to you to have it known in Europe," writes he, "that you have received so manifest a proof of the good opinion and confidence of Congress as an important detached command. * * * However sensibly your ardor for glory may make you feel this disappointment, you may be assured that your character stands as fair as ever it did, and that no new enterprise is necessary to wipe off this imaginary stain."


The project of an irruption into Canada was at length formally suspended by a resolve of Congress; and Washington was directed to recall the marquis and the Baron de Kalb, the presence of the latter being deemed absolutely necessary to the army at Valley Forge. Lafayette at the same time received assurance of the high sense entertained by Congress of his prudence, activity, and zeal, and that nothing was wanting on his part to give the expedition the utmost possible effect.

Gladly the young marquis hastened back to Valley Forge, to enjoy the companionship and find himself once more under the paternal eye of Washington; leaving Conway for the time


THE Conway letter was destined to be a further source of trouble to the cabal. Lord Stirling, in whose presence, at Reading, Wilkinson had cited the letter, and who had sent information of it to Washington, was now told that Wilkinson, on being questioned by General Conway, had declared that no such words as those reported, nor any to the same effect, were in the letter.

His lordship immediately wrote to Wilkinson, reminding him of the conversation at Reading, and telling him of what he had recently heard.

"I well know," writes his lordship, "that it is impossible you could have made any such declaration; but it will give great satisfaction to many of your friends to know whether Conway made such inquiry, and what was your answer; they would also be glad to know what were the words of the letter, and I should be very much obliged to you for a copy of it."

Wilkinson found that his tongue had again brought him into difficulty; but he trusted to his rhetoric, rather than his logic, to get him out of it. He wrote in reply, that he perfectly remembered spending a social day with his lordship at Reading, in which the conversation became general, unreserved, and copious; though the tenor of his lordship's discourse, and the nature of their situation, made it confidential. "I cannot, therefore," adds he, logically, "recapitulate particulars, or charge my memory with the circumstances you mention; but, my lord, I disdain low craft, subtlety, and evasion, and will acknowledge it is possible, in the warmth of social intercourse, when the mind is relaxed and the heart is unguarded, that observations may have elapsed which have not since occurred to me. On my late arrival in camp, Brigadier-General Conway informed me

+ Sparks' Writings of Washington, vol. v., p. 300.

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