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Henry Laurens Chapter five by Stanley L. Klos author, President Who? Forgotten Founders

Henry Laurens

2nd  President of the Continental Congress
of the United States of America
Served November 1, 1777 to December 9, 1778

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The First United American Republic
Continental Congress of the United Colonies Presidents

Sept. 5, 1774 to July 1, 1776

Peyton Randolph

September 5, 1774

October 22, 1774

Henry Middleton

October 22, 1774

October 26, 1774

Peyton Randolph

May 20, 1775

May 24, 1775

John Hancock

May 25, 1775

July 1, 1776

 

Commander-in-Chief United Colonies of America
George Washington:  June 15, 1775 - July 1, 1776

 

 

 

The Second United American Republic
Continental Congress of the United States Presidents 
July 2, 1776 to February 28, 1781

 

 John Hancock

July 2, 1776

October 29, 1777

Henry Laurens

November 1, 1777

December 9, 1778

John Jay

December 10, 1778

September 28, 1779

Samuel Huntington

September 29, 1779

February 28, 1781

Commander-in-Chief United Colonies of America
George Washington:  July 2, 1776 - February 28, 1781

 

Henry Laurens was born March 6, 1724 in Charleston, South Carolina and died there on December 8, 1792. His ancestors were French Protestants who were members of the Reformed Church established in 1550 by John Calvin. They left France at the revocation of the edict of Nantes and migrated to the British American Colonies.

Laurens, the son of John and Esther Grasset Laurens, was educated in Charles Town, South Carolina. Upon “graduation”, through the contacts of his prosperous father, he accepted a position at a local counting-house. In 1744 Laurens accepted a similar position in London to further his career in the promising field of international business. Upon his return in 1747 he opened an import and export business in Charles Town. Through his London contacts, Laurens entered into the slave trade with the Grant, Oswald & Company who controlled 18th century British slave castle in the Republic of Sierra Leone, West Africa known as Bunce Castle. Laurens contracted to receive slaves from Serra Leone, catalogue and marketed the human product conducting public auctions in Charles Town. Laurens also engaged in the import and export of many other products but his 10% commission from the slave auctions proved to be his major source of his income.

By 1750, Laurens was wealthy enough to win the hand of Eleanor Ball, the daughter of a very wealthy rice plantation owner. Laurens, who was also a rice planter, used his auction profits to purchase exceptional South Carolina farmland and slaves to expand his agricultural pursuits. This strategy culminated in his assemblage of the Mepkin Plantation where along with his mercantile pursuits Laurens earned a fortune.

As a businessman, Laurens was quite critical of British intervention in the Colonial economy. Laurens was a party to frequent lawsuits with the crown judges and had an exceptional understanding of law. Politically Laurens was especially critical of British judicial decisions regarding marine law. The pamphlets that Laurens authored and subsequently published in opposition to the crown’s interference in Colonial trade are exceptional legal accounts of Great Britain’s trade oppression of the Colonies.

Henry Laurens Letter

Autograph Letter Signed regarding financial matters from Charleston on 10 October 1765. In this detailed, closely-written business letter, Laurens tells of his plans to leave the following week on a visit to Georgia and possibly St. Augustine; explains why he was unable to deliver the strouds belonging to his correspondent (strouds were a coarse woolen cloth used in trade with the Indians). Laurens asks what "shall be done with them," adding "I believe I have not yet told you a large Quantity of Strouds belonging to the Provincial Cherokee have been brought to Charles Town & sold so low at Public Auction as 22 pds p[er] piece & some under that. They were in general very good & in good order, many pieces were of the best London & cost 4pds to 4 Guineas p[er] piece." Laurens goes on to inquire about his accounts with his correspondent for "the Muzlins & the Schooner East Florida," and asks whether a Mr.Cowles, with whom he also has accounts, plans to remain in business. - Courtesy of the Author

Henry Laurens served in a military campaign against the Cherokees. In this campaign he learned, first hand, on how to wage a battle in the Colonial Wilderness. He took the time during that campaign to keep a diary which still exists in its original manuscript form.

By 1771, Laurens was so successful that he retired from business and sailed to England to direct the education of his sons. During this period he traveled throughout Great Britain and on the European continent. While in London he was one of the thirty-eight Americans who signed a petition in 1774 to dissuade parliament from passing the Boston Port Bill. Dismayed by the anti-colonial sentiment in Great Britain, Laurens returned to Charleston that same year. Three months later he was elected a member of South Carolina’s first Provincial Congress in 1775. He was elected President of that body in June 1775.

Delegate Laurens drew up a form of association to be signed by all the Friends of Liberty and also became President of the Council of Safety. He was elected a member of the Second South Carolina Provincial Congress from serving from November 1775 to March 1776. He also served as the president of the second council of safety and was elected Vice President of South Carolina serving from March 1776 to June 27, 1777.

Laurens was elected as a Delegate to the Continental Congress on January 10, 1777, and served until 1780. During his initial term he was forced to flee Philadelphia in the fall of 1777 to Lancaster. There he and his fellow delegates were unable to find ample rooms in the district for either lodging or convening the Continental Congress for more then one day, September 27th. Once again the Continental Congress packed up and move the seat of Continental government just across the Susquehanna River to a small village called YorkTown (now York, Pennsylvania). The River was deemed a natural barrier to a British attack providing the Continental Congress with plenty of time should British regulars launch a second campaign to capture the Delegates. Henry Laurens' letter to John Lewis Gervais on October 8th 1777 was particularly revealing of the freshman delegate's flight from Philadelphia to Lancaster:

The Evening of that day I went as far as Frankfort in order to see into the arrangement of my baggage and to Shift my apparel Suitable to the change of weather & had engaged to breakfast with an old friend at 1/2 past 8 next Morning in Philadelphia. About 4 o'Clock next Morning I was knocked up by Sir Patrick Houston who informed me that advice had been received of General Howe's crossing Schuylkill at 11 o'Clock & that part of his Army would be in the City before Sunrise. I could feel no impression, I judged differently from the City people who I had always expected would fall a prey to their fears, I considered the difficulty of crossing a ford with an Army of 6 or 7 Thousand Men, Cannon, Horses, Wagons, Cattle &ca &ca, the right disposition of the whole & detaching a respectable force to a distance of 22 Miles. While my Carriage & Wagon were preparing to go forward the Scene was equally droll & melancholy. Thousands of all Sorts in all appearances past by in such haste that very few could be prevailed on to answer to the Simple question what News? however would not fly, I stayed Breakfast & did not proceed till 8 o'Clock or past nor would I have gone then but returned once more into the City if I had not been under an engagement to take charge of the Marquis de Lafayette who lay wounded by a ball through his Leg at Bristol. My bravery however was the effect of assurance for could I have believed the current report, I should have fled as fast as any man, no man can possibly have a greater reluctance to an intimacy with Sir William Howe than my Self.

I proceeded to Bristol, the little Town was covered by fugitives, the River by Vessels of War & Store Vessels & others from Philadelphia, the Road choked by Carriages, Horses & Wagons. The Same was disgustingly Specked by Regimental Coats & Cockades, Volunteer blades I suppose who had blustered in that habit of the mighty feats they would perform if the English should dare to come to Philadelphia. Upon these I looked with deep contempt. From Bristol I had the honor of conducting the Marquis who is possessed of the most excellent funds [of] good sense & inexhaustible patience to Bethlehem where the Second day after our arrival I left him in Bed anxious for nothing but to be again in our Army as he always calls it, & proceeded through Reading to Lancaster, at Reading I learned of General Wayne's false step, a second hindrance to our driving the Invaders out of the Country.



 

Laurens, as a freshman delegate, went right to work in YorkTown impressing the members of Congress with his "nonpartisan" deliberations. His ideas especially stood out on the creation of the first constitution of the United States, the Articles of Confederation. Laurens remained steadfast against the nationalists' proposal to allow control of the proposed new federal government by the wealthy. He was also against Virginia's article to have one Delegate in Congress for every 30,000 of a state’s inhabitants, permitting each representative having one vote. On the Confederation Article that prohibited the federal government from making any foreign treaty preventing the individual States "from imposing such imposts and duties on foreigners as their own people are subject to", Laurens was the only Southern member to vote against the measure. Unfortunately only 3 other states, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, and Connecticut, voted with Laurens so the restrictive Amendment became a part of the confederation constitution shackling the future United States in Congress Assembled to properly control and conduct foreign affairs.

In a usual position Laurens voted for the United States in Congress Assembled to have the authority to decide disputes between the states but then voted nay on the establishment of the "elaborate machinery" necessary for such judicial matters to be employed. This failure to separate the judicial duties of government from the proposed legislative/executive federal body plagued the United States until the adoption of its 2nd constitution in 1789.

Henry Laurens in a final constitutional act, voted against Virginia's last attempt to gain more power in the federal government based on population. Specifically, Virginia's amendment proposed that the nine votes necessary to determine matters of importance in the United States in Congress Assembled must be from the states containing a majority of the white population in the new "Perpetual Union". The measured failed largely because of Laurens and the other smaller states objections.

This vote did not follow the “southern block” clearly indicating Laurens was free from sectional bias. Laurens stood out time and time again putting forth and supporting articles and ideas that attempted to forge 13 individual States into one unified nation. He envisioned and worked diligently to form a Constitution that empowered a new central government to act for the benefit of all States equally. This philosophy, unknowingly, made him a leading candidate for the Presidency to replace the ailing John Hancock in 1777.

On October 29th, John Hancock, resigned from the Presidency. The powerful Adams-Lee coalition decided to back Francis Lightfoot Lee as chosen as Hancock's successor. Laurens did not support the Virginian’s nomination moving that Congress solicit Hancock to remain. The motion was only seconded and no failed to win a majority. To Laurens astonishment, the Chair nominated him, a vote was taken and he became the 2nd President of the Continental Congress of the United States of America.

This was a high tribute as Laurens was a freshman delegate and not a signor of the Declaration of Independence. Clearly, his character, independent thinking and businessman's no nonsense approach to the confederation constitution impressed the Delegates that Laurens could lead this fledgling nation to complete the 1st Constitution of the United States andwin the war with Great Britain. Delegate Roberdeau wrote:

"Henry Laurens, Vice President of South Carolina, a worthy, sensible, indefatigable Gentleman, was this day chosen by a unanimous vote, except his own, President of Congress."

Henry Laurens was elected to the Presidency on November 1, 1777 and in letter to the Carlisle Committee on the 4th he hints at one major reason for Hancock's resignation:

"Your Letter of the 22nd was duly received & taken under Consideration by Congress.

The delay of a reply is imputable to the bad State of health of the late president The Honorable John Hancock Esquire who having Suffered under the Gout Several days before he retired from this place could not have discharged every branch in his department with his wonted facility & precision."

Henry Laurens first official act as the President was to preside over and vote for a Day of Thanksgiving and "to adore the superintending providence of Almighty God". He was also a devoutly religious Christian. In his first letter to the States as President he wrote:

"Dear Sir, The Arms of the United States of America having been blessed in the present Campaign with remarkable Success, Congress have Resolved to recommend that one day, Thursday the 18th December next be Set apart to be observed by all Inhabitants throughout these States for a General thanksgiving to Almighty God. And I have it in command to transmit to you the inclosed extract from the minutes of Congress for that purpose.

Henry Laurens Picture
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Day of Thanksgiving

Forasmuch as it is the indispensable duty of all men to adore the superintending providence of Almighty God; to acknowledge with gratitude their obligation to him for benefits received, and to implore such farther blessings as they stand in need of; and it having pleased him in his abundant mercy not only to continue to us the innumerable bounties of his common providence, but also to smile upon us in the prosecution of a just and necessary war, for the defence and establishment of our unalienable rights and liberties; particularly in that he hath been pleased in so great a measure to prosper the means used for the support of our troops and to crown our arms with most signal success: It is therefore recommended to the legislative or executive powers of these United States, to set apart Thursday, the eighteenth day of December next, for solemn thanksgiving and praise; that with one heart1 and one voice the good people may express the grateful feelings of their hearts, and consecrate themselves to the service of their divine benefactor; and that together with their sincere acknowledgments and offerings, they may join the penitent confession of their manifold sins, whereby they had forfeited every favour, and their humble and earnest supplication that it may please God, through the merits of Jesus Christ, mercifully to forgive and blot them out of remembrance; that it may please him graciously to afford his blessing on the governments of these states respectively, and prosper the public council of the whole; to inspire our commanders both by land and sea, and all under them, with that wisdom and fortitude which may render them fit instruments, under the providence of Almighty God, to secure for these United States the greatest of all human blessings, independence and peace; that it may please him to prosper the trade and manufactures of the people and the labour of the husbandman, that our land may yet yield its increase; to take schools and seminaries of education, so necessary for cultivating the principles of true liberty, virtue and piety, under his nurturing hand, and to prosper the means of religion for the promotion and enlargement of that kingdom which consisteth "in righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Ghost."

Henry Laurens Thanksgiving Proclamation

November 1, 1777 Thanksgiving Proclamation - Library of Congress, Rare Book and Special Collections Division.

President Laurens's office and lodging at YorkTown were not as large, he claimed, as the center hall in his South Carolina home. Laurens noted he often dined on only bread and cheese with a glass of grog which he believe appropriate with George Washington and the soldiers at Valley Forge faring so much more worst. Laurens learned the burden of the office very quickly being the conduit between Congress and the have starved Commander-in-Chief. In addition to this Laurens was responsible for the diplomatic correspondence, chairing the meetings, the granting and refusal of favors to be heard by Congress.

In the first part of December 1777 he, like his predecessor, had a severe attack of the gout which confined him to his room. For the next three months he walked with a limp. At the crisis over the Saratoga Convention he was carried into the YorkTown Courthouse to preside over the crucial meeting. He wrote I am:

"… sitting eighteen or nineteen, sometimes twenty hours in twenty-four. This encourages horrible swellings which are not quite dispersered with the short respite in bed."

On December 12th, a mere 42 days after his election, he asked Congress to elect him a successor. Laurens’ request was postponed by Congress, in a very complimentary style, refusing to accept it. He then settled into the presidency for his "year" term.

President Laurens was an active participant in debate especially, when he the sole delegate represented by South Carolina. His Presidency drew criticism by his fellow delegates, as he was not hesitant to use his chair to make timely and uncomplimentary remarks about his colleagues. As President, Laurens opposed any expeditions against Florida urging Congress instead to defend Georgia and South Carolina from Native Americans and Tory resistance.

In his book the President of the Continental Congress 1774 - 1789 Jennings B. Sanders writes:

Laurens is unique among the … Presidents … His letters give an insight into the workings of Congress and the Presidential office … As President, he was intimately acquainted with all Congressional affairs; indeed, many matters were necessarily known only to him until their presentation from the chair. Congressional leadership must not be construed to mean merely the activities of members on the floor of that body. One gains the impression from a perusal of the correspondence of the day, that important matters were discussed informally outside Congress by coteries, fractions, and cliques as they ate their meals together or visited their rooming places. Action in Congress, therefore, might at times be little more than formal recognition of what had already been agreed upon outside. Through this type of leadership a President might exercise great influence, and yet never participate in debate from the chair.

For example, Henry Laurens wrote on April 7, 1778 to James Duane that "… The Letter has not yet been presented to Congress, but has undergone severe strictures from knot of our friends who call here late at night and conned it over." On another matter Laurens writes on April 28, 1778 concerning his reasoning for delay of Louis Fleury’s petition "…these I say are private Sentiments drawn from friends among my Coadjutors in Congress." The fact that the President, for the most part, received all official correspondence gave him the discretion to choose when and if it should be brought before Congress for consideration. Laurens expertly utilized this power throughout his Presidency to accelerate or impede the consideration of all official business of the United States of America.

Henry Laurens tenure as President was during one of most stormy periods in the Revolutionary War. He seemed to align himself against John Jay, Robert Morris and Silas Deane (conservatives) but kept his distance from the Adams-Lees Faction. A major test of his “non-partisan” leadership erupted just nine days into his Presidency. The plan for the displacement of George Washington for Horatio Gates came to light on November 9th. The controversy then exploded occurring during the same period that President Henry Laurens was occupied with the Saratoga Convention, negotiating the surrender settlement of British General Burgoyne and his army. .

This scheme to replace Washington stemmed from the Adams-Lees Faction, the "liberals", who wanted to keep all executive business in the hands of Congress through committees and boards. They strove for a strict system of control over the Commander-in-Chief. The other faction is best described as the "constructive party" and its leaders included George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, John Jay, Robert Morris and Robert Livingston. The Adams-Lee Faction was comprised of men who were the "Zealots" of revolution and forced altercation with Great Britain. It was the constructive faction who transformed the fitful rebellion into an organized and successful revolution. President Henry Laurens’ politics, however, was an enigma and thought by each camp to be partial to their respective faction.

The Adams-Lee Faction steadily worked, after General Gates' Victory at Saratoga, to bring Congress to the opinion that the safety of the country demanded Horatio should replace George as Commander-in-Chief. The plot, however, had few active supporters in Congress. The Continental Army. chief supporters of the Gates scheme, rounded off some impressive patriots supporting General Gates including James Lovell, Benjamin Rush, General Thomas Mifflin and their organizer General Thomas Conway, a French officer of Irish lineage. The movement to displace Washington began before the Victory at Saratoga. Even John and Samuel Adams contributed powerfully to hostility against George Washington by ridiculing his "Fabian Policy" calling for "a short and violent war" and preaching according to Henry Laurens historian D. D. Wallace " … that the worship of a man amounted to amounted to the sin of idolatry which would certainly call down the curse of Heaven"

John Adams exclaimed on the repulse of the British from Delaware River Forts:

"Thank God the glory is not immediately due to the Commander-in-Chief, or idolatry and adulation would have been so excessive as to endanger our liberties."

As the attacks on Washington mounted the plotters made wild charges of his incompetence. It was asserted that cowardice restrained Washington from driving General Howe out of Philadelphia in 1777 even though he had two to three times more forces than the British. For example, James Lovell the delegate from Massachusetts maintained that Washington marched his army up and down with no other purpose then to wear out their clothing, shoes, and stockings. The facts on this particular case, however, were that General Howe's foraging parties had greater numbers than Washington's entire army encamped in Valley Forge. An attack on Philadelphia would have decimated the Continental Army.

The Continental Congress, to make matters more complex for Washington, bestowed upon Gates and his supporters a series of appointments and promotions. Most notably, Generals Gates and Mifflin were placed upon the Board of War and Conway was elected against Washington's protest as Inspector General of the Continental Army. In these influential positions the scheme to replace Washington was pressed forward by a series of "interferences, shackles, vexations and slights to resign his command" according to Revolutionary War Historian Wallace. Their incompetence of managing the Board of War, Commissary and Quartermaster departments left wagon loads of clothing and provisions standing in the woods much to the chagrin of Henry Laurens. The now historic sufferings of Washington and his troops at Valley Forge were due to these men's incompetence and burning desire to replace the Commander-in-Chief with Horatio Gates. The Valley Forge tragedy was NOT a product of the new nation’s poverty or the refusal of its citizens to contribute to the War effort.

Irrefutable proof of a conspiracy against George Washington came to light when General Stirling sent the Commander-in-Chief a quote from Thomas Conway's letter to Gates:

"Heaven has been determined to save your country, or a weak general and bad counselors would have ruined it."

Washington’s only response was to send the quote back to Conway on November 9, writing only: “A letter, which I received last night, contained the following paragraph.”

On November 28, Q.M. Gen. and future President Thomas Mifflin sent a letter to Gates alerting him that the extract from Conway’s letter had been sent to Washington, and how the Commander-in-Chief responded. Mifflin’s letter indicated he agreed that Conway’s letter was just. In this letter he cautioned Gates to be careful; as such open correspondence will “injure his best friends.”

Washington never made this letter public. Gates, however, did not heed Mifflin’s advice and wrote Washington a letter ranting about a so called scoundrel who supposedly leaked the Conway letter to the public. To Washington’s amazement, Gates copied Congress thus making the letter public.

Henry Laurens learned of this through his son, a Washington Aide-to-Camp. John Laurens wrote to his father from headquarters on January 3rd, 1778 giving this assessment in a brief sentence identifying the Cabal’s true “head”.

"Conway has weight with a certain party, formed against the present Commander-in Chief at the head of which is General Mifflin."

General Conway's letter gave George Washington no other option but to defend himself openly against the conspiracy as it was now in the public eye. Washington wrote to Laurens on January 4th, 1778 that it was “beyond the depth of my comprehension” that Gates would make public the correspondence. Washington wrote a letter to Gates and copied Congress notifying him that it was his own aide, Wilkinson, who had been indiscreet and not anyone in his camp.

President Laurens wrote to his son:

"Talking of General Conway's Letter which has been circulating as formerly intimated, & of which General Gates declared both his ignorance & disapprobation, I took occasion to say, if General Conway pretends sincerity in his late parallel between the Great F____ [Fredrick] & the great W____ [Washington] he has, taking this Letter into view, been guilty of the blackest hypocrisy - if not, he is chargeable with the guilt of an unprovoked sarcasm & is unpardonable. The General perfectly acquiesced in that sentiment & added such hints as convinced me he thought highly of Conway. Shall such a Man seperate friends or keep them asunder? It must not be. My Dear son, I pray God protect you."

Laurens was anxious to play the role of "peacemaker" between Gates and Washington walking the middle ground. In the end Laurens neutrality embolden the Cabal but the scheme to replace George Washington with Horatio Gates fell apart in early 1778 when the plan was made public. One after another the delegates and generals hasten to disclaim any connection to the Conway and Gates. The reaction of the people was clear, George Washington was strongly entrenched in the minds and hearts of the common man and they wanted him to remain the Commander-in-Chief. The public's affection towards Washington did not "endanger our libertieis" as Adams predicted but rather gave them new support as the people rallied around the Commander-in Chief. The Cabal was dead, the people had spoken this lesson culminated to finally combining the the office of the U.S. Presidency with the power of Commander-in-Chief in the 2nd Constitution of 1787. The 2nd Constitutional Convention in 1778 was still 9 years away with the States still debating ratifying the 1st Constitution, the Articles of Confederation. Despite Washington holding on as Commander-in-Chief the country fell into desperate times over the divisive philosophies in Congress on how to conduct business while it awaited the ratification of the 1st Constitution. President Laurens' remarked during this devise period that the fledgling confederation held together only because the enemy "keeps pace with us in profusion, mismanagement and family discord"

Despite the challenges, Henry Laurens, remained positive turning to the business of the Presidency. The "Conway Cabal" was now behind him, the Articles of Confederation before the States for ratification, and the Victory at Saratoga was a military coo so impressive that the French were now ready to sign a series of Commerce and Alliance Treaties with the Continental Congress. President Laurens, an astute businessman, believed that commerce provisions in one of the treaties were seriously flawed. Specifically he objected to the Confederation abandoning, by treaty, its claims over the control of Florida and the Bahamas which were important future sources of federal revenue in trade duties and land sales. Additionally Laurens believed that French interest in these territories was political cautioning his fellow delegates that once the treaties were ratified Spain would be lay claim to Florida. France would remain neutral on Spanish land accession due to a clandestine "side" agreement between the two European Powers. Laurens was heavily ridiculed by his peers and out maneuvered on measures to correct these inadequacies.

The treaties were executed on February 6, 1778 and despite his doubts, President Laurens expressed a "most hearty congratulations" to Commissioners Silas Deane, Benjamin Franklin and Arthur Lee. Time, however, proved Laurens right as the United States loss the valuable southern port of St. Augustine and large tracts of land which, were both direly needed to fund the fledging government.

In the spring of 1778, Laurens letters spoke continuously of the deficiency of State representation in Congress. He found fault in both the bare necessity of delegates to make quorums and the inexperience of Congress. He believed the inexperienced delegates were not capable of dealing with important commercial treaties between America and Denmark, Russia, Spain, Holland and Sweden. He ardently sought more experienced representation from the state legislatures in numerous letters to their leaders.

By the summer of 1778 his letters blossomed into the formation of a considerably strengthened Congress. Samuel Adams returned after an absence of six months. Gouvernor Morris and Roger Sherman also returned along with Thomas Heyward. The brilliant young William Henry Drayton, Richard Hutson and John Matthews all took their seats in YorkTown.

The Conway Cabal emerged once again in the summer of 1778 when Thomas Mifflin, a general who sided with Gates against Washington, was addressed as "pivot" in this Laurens letter to his son in June. In this letter Laurens writes about Congress's call for an investigation into General Mifflin's quartermaster activities:

"If you were here in this Room I could entertain you five minutes with description of an excellent attempt in favor of pivot which was not only ousted but brought on a proposition which, as a Man of honor he must have wished for, as a Man of politeness he must have wished for it, because all the World wished for it. Your antagonists I find have not yet turned their backs, the more motions they make the more I suspect them. When they shall be fairly gone I will sing te deum, but 'till then my duty & my Interest dictate infidelity & command me to be watchful. The long continuance of repeated accounts marking their intended embarkation has injured our Cause more than you are aware of. Adieu."

Laurens according to the Library of congress

"… was alluding to the call for an investigation of former quartermaster general Thomas Mifflin that Congress approved this day."

In previous correspondence with his son, Laurens had used the term "pivot" to designate Mifflin's role in the so-called Conway Cabal. That John Laurens understood the use of it in the present letter as a reference to Mifflin is indicated by this statement in his June 14th reply:

"The inquiry into the conduct of the late quarter masters, must give pleasure to every man who wishes to see the betrayers of public trusts brought to condign punishment."

General Mifflin would later be exonerated of these charges and go on to serve as President of the United States in Congress Assembled. George Washington, however, remained cool to Mifflin throughout the rest of his days never forgetting his role in the Conway Cabal. In an ironic twist a fate when George Washington finally resigned his office of Commander-in-Chief in 1783 it was done ceremoniously to the President of the United States, Thomas Mifflin.

October 31, 1778 marked Laurens completion of his one-year term prescribed in the un-ratified Articles of Confederation. Laurens had often referenced his approval of the Confederation Constitution’s provision forbidding a delegate to hold the Presidency more than one year in three and accordingly he offered his resignation. The constitution, however, was not ratified and no Perpetual Union or it governing body, the United States of America in Congress Assembled, was formed. The Continental Congress still existed and operated under the Articles of Association so Laurens was not required to step down from this presiding office. It was reported that the members gathered in a circle to discuss his resignation and Samuel Adams communicated their unanimous desire for Laurens to serve until the Articles were ratified by all the States creating the new United States of America in Congress Assembled. Laurens according to biographer D. D. Wallace:

"Expressed his pleasure at being able to balk 'his quondam friend' in the newspaper and acceded to the request of the members, but declined to approve a minute of the proceedings saying 'he had no anxiety for obtaining complimentary records.' The Journals thus contain no suggestion of the incident."

The Deane-Lee foreign affairs controversy also fell into the lap of President Laurens. Silas Deane was one of the commissioners who negotiated the February Treaty with France. Deane had also contracted the services of Lafayette, De Kalb, and other foreign officers, personally, to the cause for Independence. These contracts were subsequently made the basis of charges against him by congress on the grounds of extravagance. Deane was recalled in consequence by resolution passed and signed by Laurens.

Reaching Philadelphia in 1778, Deane found that many reports had been circulated to his discredit. These seem to have originated with his late colleague, Arthur Lee, who had quarreled with him in Paris. Henry Laurens received Deane and went over all his affairs in a two-hour private interview. Henry Laurens reported that he believed Dean supporting his account.

Deane had presented a signed statement from Grand, the commissioners' Paris Banker, of all funds spent. Banker Grand, however refused to part with the original vouchers until the final accounting. President Laurens found this inappropriate as Deane had disbursed 250,000 pounds sterling and had no excuse for coming without accounts and vouchers. Arthur Lee reiterated his charges and Deane's advocates failed to rally his cause squarely before Congress causing Lauren's to side against Silas Deane.

A Congressional inquiry into the state of foreign affairs also included a thorough examination of Mr. Deane's role. He was regularly notified to attend the sessions in an attempt to discern the facts of the controversy. On December 4th Deane wrote again to Congress, acquainting them with his having received their notification of another session and expressing his thanks for the ongoing investigation. On the following day, to almost everyone's surprise, Deane published his extraordinary address in the Pennsylvania Packet, which attacked Congress, President Henry Laurens and his accusers.

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