<br /> Lee Letter: b097

Washington and Lee University

Sender: Richard Henry Lee, for the Committee of Secret Correspondence
Recipient: Commissioners in France

Honorable Gentl<em>en –

You will be pleased to receive herewith copies of our last letter of the 21st. instant, and of its inc<los>ures, which we recommend to your attention. Since that letter was written, Gen. Washn. having been reenforced by the troops lately commanded by Gen. Lee, and by some Corps of Militia, crossed the Delaware with 2500 men and attacked a body of the enemy stationed at Trenton, and with the success that you will see related in the inclosed hand bill. We hope this blow will be followed by others, that may leave the enemy not so much to boast of as they some days ago expected, and we had reason to apprehend –

Upon mature deliberation of all circumstances, Congress deem the speedy declaration of France, and European assistance so indispensably necessary to secure the independence of these States, that they have authorized you to make such tenders to France and Spain as they hope will prevent any longer of delay of an event that is judged so essential to the well being of N. America. Your wisdom we know will direct you to make such use of these powers as will procure the thing desired on terms as much short of the concessions now offered as possible, but <illegible> no advantages of this kind are proposed to be contemplated at the risk of a delay that may prove dangerous to the end in view. It must be very obvious to the Court of France, that if G.B. should succeed in her design of subjugating these States, that their inhabitants now well trained to the use of Arms, might be compelled to become instruments for making an conquest of the French possessions in the West Indies; which would be a sad reverse of that security, and commercial benefit that would result to France from the Independen of N. America. By some accident, in removing the papers from Phila. to this place, the Secretary of Congress has mislaid the additional instruction formerly given you, by which you were empowered to negotiate with others Courts than France, We think it necessary to mention this to you, least the paper should get into wrong hands, and because we wish to have a copy sent us by the first good opportunity. We observe that Mr. Deane sent his dispatches for this committee open to Mr. Bingham, but we have a good opinion of that Gentleman, yet we think him rather too young to be made acquainted with the business passing between you and us, and therefore wish this may not be done in cases of much importance. The next opportunity will bring you the determination of Congress concerning the persons that are to be sent to the Courts of Vienna, Prussia, Spain & the Grand Duke of Tusany. In the mean time it is hoped that thro the medium of the Ambassadors from those Courts to that of France, you may be able to procure their friendly mediation for the purposes proposed by Congress. One of our Continental Armed Vessels of 14 Guns lately met with a Kings Sloop of War of 12 guns and after a smart engagement the Sloop was brought into the Delaware – In our last we say the prisoners made by the Enemy at Fort Washington were near 3000, but the number is fixt at 2600, and the number of West Indiamen taken by our Cruisers amounts to 256 – Wishing you health & success,

we remain Honorable Gentlemen &c.

Notes:

Lee PapersAmerican Philosophical Society

Printed in James Curtis Ballagh, The Letters of Richard Henry Lee, Volume 1, 1762 – 1778, pp. 241 – 43. Printed also in Wharton, Diplomatic Correspondence, 2:240. Lee drafted this letter for the committee, which consisted of Lee, Benjamin Harrison, John Witherspoon, and William Hooper. Another draft is in the papers of the State Department.