1821 Oct. 9
From H. Lee to Dr Mayo (fr. original)
I can hardly describe the emotions with which the kindness of your letter affects me. After compassing near the 3rd of a century – for the greater part of which I roved gaily through a galaxy of friends – for one transgression, one fatality rather, I was left in total darkness and destitution when in a distant part of the horison, a new & unexpected light appears beaming with warmth & benevolence. My acquaintance with you will be a memorable event in my life & an epoch in my heart. I sincerely hope it may figure as conspicuously in a fairer destiny, & I am sanguine enough, while I abhor myself as the evil spirit of the little sphere which I write, to believe that you are the good spirit destined to repair the injury I caused. Be patient & circumspect, & certainly be here the first week in December.
As to my suit – It is for a false and malicious prosecution - & prays for damages for injury occasioned by the plaintiffs obtaining by false statements the process of the court of this county ordering the sheriff of the county to him all my personal & real property of every description upon the ground that he as my security was likely to be greatly injured - & that I had left the state & was no longer an inhabitant thereof merely because about a week before I had gone to Washington. But I can send the record. Before I recd your letter (direct in future to Westmld Ct House, the post mark on my letter to the contrary notwithstanding) I had written to Mr. Leigh fearing you might have been absent from Richmond & of course I must wait to hear from him, a reasonable time. That time will have elapsed when you receive this letter, & if Mr. Leigh should not then have returned to Richmond, I must accept the offer you make of engaging Mr. Tazewell or Genl. Taylor for me taking them in the order in which they are named. & this must be done quickly. As the Judge has allowed 60 days from the 15th Sept. last to amend my declaration so should you succeed in getting either of them please instantly inform Mr. Carter L. Stevenson of Fredericksburg who will send a copy of the declaration to the gentleman for inspection & amendment.
To do this I hope it will not be necessary for you to go to Norfolk but if you should you must be fair enough to charge all your expenses to me, bearing in mind that although a singular course of events has embarrassed not only my moral ability but my pecuniary resources that in themselves these latter means are ample but at present unfortunately though but nominally encumbered. Should you go to Norfolk I wish you wd if not too inconvenient endeavor to ascertain whether it wd be possible to borrow 750 or 1000 on real or personal security – that is personal chattels such as furniture, plate, stock or even slaves. Since you were judgments have been obtained against me for 300 on my own acct. 450 in acceptc of an unfortunate uncle in Washington & after relying too long on his promise to pay both his & mine – I having in my prosperity advanced him $6000 – I am just informed that he has failed altogether & is giving up his property to his creditors.
Norfolk being an outpost & therefore more likely to be engaged in an active commerce I have supposed it might be more easy to get an accommodation there than in Richmd or Fredericksg. Mr. Beverly has agreed to join me in a note or to accept my draft at 6 months, within which time my finances will have become liberated. My suit is of great magnitude – I am taught to expect the recovery of $10000 at least so that I must have one of the three gentlemen if possible. & although I must beg you to regulate the understanding as to a fee by the hardness of the times & the peculiar pressure & persecution under which I labour, yet you must fail if necessary at any fee to engage one of them. The Judge of this circuit being connected with the opposite party of his own motion removed the case to Caroline Supreme Court for trial in April next. It is thus nearer to Richmd & Norfolk & accessible readily from either, a consideration which ought to diminish the fee. Mrs. Lee and Mrs. Beverly are well & the former very much pleased with the prospect of seeing you here again. I have not disclosed to her your view but I see she faintly suspects it. Her piano was put in fine tune by Mr. Retzer that service & his appearing to be a man of modesty & merit in his way induced me to task your benevolence with his occupation in Richmd. Mrs. Lee plays a great-deal & seems to forget our late calamities in the melody of her music. I hope to God you may make her forget them forever.
The negotiation for the loan must be effected within 4 or 5 weeks as on the 24th of next month my property – piano and all will be sold inevitably & profaned & possessed by those beggarly villains around me & for a song. I think my duty for the sake of my wife to make every honest effort to avert such a blow & having done so – if I fail I shall know how to bear it.
God bless you.
Sincerely yr friend
Stratford 9th Oct. 1821
Source: The Archives of the Robert E. Lee Memorial Foundation, Papers of the Lee Family, Box 7, M2009.140
Transcribed by Caitlin Connelly, 2016 June 14