To J.P.G. Muhlenberg Richmond, Jan. 31, 1781

The Letters of Thomas Jefferson


-- Acquainted as you are with the treasons of Arnold, I need say nothing for your information, or to give you a proper sentiment of them. You will readily suppose that it is above all things desirable to drag him from those under whose wing he is now sheltered. On his march to and from this place I am certain it might have been done with facility by men of enterprise & firmness. I think it may still be done though perhaps not quite so easily. Having peculiar confidence in the men from the Western side of the Mountains, I meant as soon as they should come down to get the enterprise proposed to a chosen number of them, such whose courage & whose fidelity would be above all doubt. Your perfect knowlege of those men personally, and my confidence in your discretion, induce me to ask you to pick from among them proper characters, in such number as you think best, to reveal to them our desire, & engage them to undertake to seize and bring off this greatest of all traitors. Whether this may be best effected by their going in as friends & awaiting their opportunity, or otherwise is left to themselves. The smaller the number the better; so that they be sufficient to manage him. Every necessary caution must be used on their part, to prevent a discovery of their design by the enemy, as should they be taken, the laws of war will justify against them the most rigorous sentence. I will undertake if they are successful in bringing him off alive, that they shall receive five thousand guineas reward among them. And to men formed for such an enterprise it must be a great incitement to know that their names will be recorded with glory in history with those of Vanwert, Paulding & Williams. The enclosed order from Baron Steuben will authorize you to call for & dispose of any force you may think necessary, to place in readiness for covering the enterprise & securing the retreat of the party. Mr. Newton the bearer of this, & to whom its contents are communicated in confidence, will provide men of trust to go as guides. These may be associated in the enterprise or not, as you please; but let that point be previously settled that no difficulties may arise as to the parties entitled to participate of the reward. You know how necessary profound secrecy is in this business, even if it be not undertaken.