To Robert Morris February 20, 1782

To Robert Morris February 20, 1782


I communicate to you my sentiments on the subjects and conversation of last evening and on such other circumstances as appear to be connected therewith.

It is to me, and must to every sensible mind, be a pleasure when men having the same public good in view, and capable, according to their several talents, to promote it, come to understand and place confidence in each other. Good opinion is the true foundation of acquaintance and when that takes place good designs may be promoted with the greatest ease.

It is upwards of seven years since I came to America, and above six since I published Common Sense. My situation from the time of my becoming a public man has been exceedingly inconvenient, and nothing but the purest attachment to, and a natural affection for, a cause which I knew and felt to be right, and in which I found I could be useful, could have held me so long and so invariably under such difficult circumstances; yet these I have carefully and constantly concealed, because it could answer no service to the interest of America to represent her under the character of ingratitude. I am sensible that he who means to do mankind a real service must set down with the determination of putting up, and bearing with all their faults, follies, prejudices and mistakes until he can convince them that he is right, and that his object is a general good-and I am persuaded from your own experience that you are of the same opinion.

We have now got rid of two traitors Arnold and Deane, and though the event so far as respects the latter, has proved me right, it has at the same time proved nobody wrong. That they were alone in their crimes every one must see, and thus the mischiefs of their secret defection being remedied in their detection, the minds kept asunder by their contrivance unite with ease, confidence and satisfaction.

General Washington is the only person (except Col. Laurens) to whom I fully and unreservedly communicated my situation, and I was under a pressing necessity of doing it. I found my mind burdened and my situation difficult: and as sincerely as I wished the prosperity of a just cause-I had it no longer in my power to go on as I had done. My reason for mentioning it to him in preference to any other was, because his judgment or his friendship in the case, would and must also be supposed to operate free and clear from himself under no other influence than that of his own mind. I am therefore under no difficulty of accepting the proposal, because I will know that it is not only put of friendship to me, but out of Justice to me, and without which I must be obliged to withdraw my mind from that line in which I can best serve the Community and apply myself to the thought of getting a livelihood. I have the honest pride of thinking and ranking myself among the founders of a new Independent World, and I should suffer exceedingly to be put out of that track.

As I am now speaking my mind and situation very unreservedly, I take the liberty of mentioning for reasons I shall hereafter assign, that I wish that either some allowance could be made for my going to France, or that the salary might take place from the time of my returning to America. I shall state the manner how that business arose, and the inconvenience it has occasioned to me, which has thrown me so back that it will be some time before I get clear, and I should like to feel myself clear at once.

Seeing the distressed situation of the Army and the country at the time I was clerk of the House of Assembly, last September was a twelve month, and seeing no prospect of its being better, and that the matter was not sufficiently taken to heart, I drew up the Crisis Extraordinary, to show the necessity as well as the advantage of taxation, and likewise wrote a letter addressed to Count Vergennes, which is enclosed; but not willing to presume on my own opinion in a matter of such nicety, I showed it to some Members of Congress, and after several conversations the proposition of sending a person over to France was adopted. Col. Laurens was exceedingly averse to going. He mentioned to me that though he was well acquainted with the military, he was not with the political line, and proposed my going with him as secretary. As I was unwilling to give umbrage to several who at that time, from mistake, were not my friends, I declined appearing officially, but agreed to go as a companion. I was then on the point of establishing a newspaper, had purchased twenty reams to begin with, and Mr. Izard sent to St. Eustace for fifty more, but this I relinquished to go [on] the voyage. After settling you my pay with the House of Assembly, and discharging everything I owed, I had as much left as purchased me ninety dollars in bills of exchange, which I got cash for of Mr. Moylan the instant I arrived at L’Orient. As we were not always together, I paid my separate expenses as long as this money lasted without thinking anything about the matter. When the business was finished, I was very desirous, as I was in Europe, to write a pamphlet and send it over to Almon in London to be printed, and to return in the frigate which was to bring the second supply of money. But Col. Laurens was so exceedingly anxious for my returning with him, and as he had nobody to confide in, in case any thing had happened to him on the passage, I quitted my design at his request. It was his intention to mention the matter to Congress, or at least to some of the Members but his haste to get away, and his passion to join the army, put everything else out of his mind, and I forbore to mention the least hint on the subject. Enclosed is his last letter to me, of December 13th, when he left me to set off. I had only two L’or’s and have been ever since upon expense. Mr. Ferguson, General Gadsden and several of the South Carolina gentlemen proposed my coming to Charlestown, in case they should get possession, and to draw on them here for what money I might want for that purpose, but their disappointment became mine.

I have now circumstantially related to you my situation, which will of itself point out the reason why I should wish some advances might be made in either of these modes I have mentioned, for although I shall feel myself under perplexities, or be obliged to lay myself under obligations for a considerable time, whereas I would wish to stand clear at once and think no more about past embarrassments, for although I have had a hard time of it [in] America, I would gladly forget it, and you will please to observe that the inconveniences which I mention are from the very service on which I was employed.

I am, Sir, your obedient humble servant,


P. S. I received a packet from Mr. G[ouverneur] Morris for which I am obliged to him.