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Colonial and State Records of North Carolina
Letter from Henry Laurens to Richard Caswell
Laurens, Henry, 1724-1792
January 12, 1778
Volume 13, Pages 8-10

[From Executive letter book.)

York Town 12th January 1778.


I had the honor of your Excellency's letter of the 27th Dec. last evening, brought to me by Mr. John Folger, who delivered me a Packet which he said contained despatches from the Commissioners of these States at Paris, and in the same Instant, intimated that the packet had been opened, by your Excellency, and found to cover nothing more than a number of pieces of blank paper. To my great grief and mortification I presently discovered the latter part of his information to be true, and accordingly reported to Congress this morning. The House was exceedingly chagrined

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by the disappointment, and suspicions were so strong the man, as to occasion an immediate examination into particulars, which ended in an order to confine his person until some further inquiry shall be made into this mysterious circumstance.

Congress requests your Excellency will be pleased to transmit as early as possible all the information you can collect from the Master and passengers of the vessel in which Mr. Folger came from France, concerning despatches which they may have seen or heard from him were in his possession, and also such as your Excellency can give from your own knowledge.

Upon his examination he declared—“within eight miles of New Bern I met Gov. Caswell on the 26th Decr. and two other Gentlemen, one a Col. Alcot, they questioned me so closely that after some time I told them I came from France, in a French vessel, the Captain of which was a stage behind on his way to see his Excellency. One of the Gentlemen told me that was his Excellency pointing to Gov. Caswell. We, all lodged at the same house that night. I showed Gov. Caswell the letter I had from Mr. Deane. I desired the Governor's passport which he gave me. I asked his Excellency, not knowing whether he might suspect me as Mr. Deane's letter was unsigned, whether he had a mind to see my papers, and took out the main packet directed “despatches,” and did not think of his breaking it open. We were in a private room together, the Governor broke it open. I informed him it never had been broke open before. After he had broke open the three seals with which the wrapper was sealed, he run over the directions on the letters. He resealed the packet marked “despatches A” putting into it the same letters. When the Governor saw the Blank paper, he said he was surprised and did not know the service of sending clean paper so far. I answered that I was surprised, I did not know that I had clean paper under my care. We both assisted in repacking the letters, and the next morning the Governor gave me the papers.”

The line marked ‘A’ and the next following contains information which implies that letters were put into the packet of clean paper, but when that packet came to my hands it certainly contained nothing but 35 pieces of blank french paper. There was another packet about the size of, or a little larger than the first, which contained foreign news papers and letters as Congress have

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been informed, but that was directed to Robert Morris, Esq., and I sent it to his Clerk with eight other letters, and packet which Folger had laid upon my Table.

By the main packet he means this and that, and intimates that your Excellency opened both, but the man's behavior is such as induces the Members of Congress to believe him an arch knave affecting the Fool, my private opinion is that he is a very confused stupid creature altogether unfit for the charge which Mr Deane committed to him, and that some Emissary of the British Court, played him a trick before he left France, by robbing him of the original Packet, and planning this counterfeit on him if he is a knave, he has pressed and prevailed on your Excellency to look into this packet in order to gloss his roguery. I will trouble you no further Sir, with conjectures, but conclude by subscribing with great respect and esteem, your Excellency's most Ob. &. huml. Servt.

Presdt. of Congress.