Shooters Hill 15th Decr 1793
My Dear Uncle/
I believe it to be a very just observation that the more we progress in error, the more difficult it is to get into the right way again. I feel & have felt this strongly in the business of writing to those who have more claims than one upon my epistolary attentions. Shame for the long delay, & an utter impossibility of framing an excuse keeps me from paying a fulfillment of my duty. I must attempt none now, but only assure you that the via inirtia, & not want of true affection has been the cause of my failures hitherto.
I inclose you an accepted draft of Col Lee which will be due by the time you can send it to Richmond. He assures me that the money shall be ready for you as soon as it is presented. This is the most convenient plan I could fall upon to transmit your money to you. It would give me sincere pleasure had I it in my power to discharge the principal of my Bond to you – as the business of being in debt, is one very disagreeable to me. But my crops have this year fallen very short of what they were last – only two thousand bushels of wheat for sale, which is appropriated to the payment of my debt to Mr Fendall.1 I have a large crop in the ground, having sown 630 bushels which with the benign assistance of heaven may enable next year to go a great way into the discharge of it.
The truce which Portugal & Holland have made with the Algerines,2 has let these robbers loose upon the trade of America. This will defeat in a great measure the benefits we derive from our Neutrality. and
(For want of room below, I must take the top of the page to assure of Mrs. Lees love & the good health of us all.)
I can see no way of getting out of the mischief but by purchasing their friendship as others have done. Indians & Algerines will give us our hands full without meddling with the hot headed frenchmens affairs.
You have seen I suppose by the papers that Dallas, the first propagator of the story about Genets appeal, has denied the whole business. Jay & King are in a pretty hobble.3 However the President has given Mr. Genet a pretty decent dressing in his Letter to Congress upon the views of foreign Powers towards us.4 Political storms seem forming round us. the death of George Washington would let loose the Dogs of war. Upon what a slender tie does the Peace of the New World depend, perhaps its hard earned Independance & the fairest prospect of human liberty & happiness. I am lost in conjecture & in apprehension. However I wish you a merry Christmas & am ever affy Yrs
Source: The Archives of the Robert E. Lee Memorial Foundation, Papers of the Lee Family, Box 6, M2009.085
Uploaded by Caitlin Connelly, 2016 June 3
1. Philip Richard Fendall (1734-1805) was a banker, lawyer, and merchant in Alexandria, VA. His mother was Eleanor Lee.
2. Older form of “Algerian.”
3. Chief Justice John Jay (1745-1829) and New York Senator Rufus King (1755-1827) were involved in a long dispute with French Ambassador Edmond-Charles Genêt (1763-1834) during 1793-94. They publically claimed that Genêt had announced to Alexander J. Dallas, the first US Supreme Court Reporter, that he (Genêt) would “appeal from the President to the People,” a charge which Genêt denied. Such a claim would presumably imply that Genêt was acting with the consent or encouragement of George Washington, thus threatening American neutrality abroad. Dallas’s report was crucial to Jay and King’s claim as they charged that Genêt had made the remark to him.
4. Reference to the “Citizen Genêt Affair,” in which French Ambassador Edmond-Charles Genêt was dispatched to the United States to rally support for France’s wars with Britain and Spain. He commissioned and organized several American privateer ships and militias in South Carolina before sailing to the then-capital of Philadelphia to meet with George Washington. Genêt’s actions seriously endangered American neutrality in these conflicts, which Washington had declared in his Neutrality Proclamation of April 22, 1793. Complaints to the French government resulted in an arrest warrant being issued in 1794, but Genêt, fearing he would be sent to the guillotine, requested and was granted asylum.