<br /> Lee Letter: b121

Washington and Lee University

Sender: Richard Henry Lee
Recipient: Thomas Johnson


Passing thro this Country in my way home from Congress, I find it the common talk here, that many avaricious, inconsiderate, and illdesigning people, have practised largely the carrying live stock and other provisions to the enemies ships of war, now in Potomac river opposite our Boyds Hole. In particular, I am told of many boats loaded with provisions going to these ships from your shore, somewhere, I think, about halfway between Cedar point and Wicomico. I have already written to the Governor of Virginia on this subject, and I hope your goodness will pardon me for giving you the same information. It appears to me of much consequence to the common cause, as well as to the reputation of our respective governments, that this pernicious traffic should be prevented in future; and that those who have now offended against the laws of their country by supplying its enemies, should be punished for so doing. The artful enemy pretend they want to injure no body, desiring only to get fresh water, purchase provisions & that they would, if permitted, land Salt for the use of the poor &c – Many are taken in by this plausibility, and tempted by Salt, Rum, Sugar &c. &c, which are first taken from us, or from our friends coming to trade with us, and made the means of procuring provisions that enable them to remain here distressing and destroying our commerce. When provisions come slowly, they encourage the Slaves to runaway, and keep them, as they say, to be redeemed by provisions. It is easy to see, besides the ill consequence above pointed out, how this kind of Trade may in time debauch the minds of the people, and produce extensive mischief. It appears to me, that if some of your Gallies, joined by some of ours, were constantly to attend upon the Men of War when they come up this river, and by keeping near the shore and abreast of the Ships, out of reach of harm from them; they might effectually obstruct this evil working trade.

I have proposed this to Governor Henry, who I am sure will, with pleasure, cooperate with you in this salutary work. I have the honor to be, with great esteem, Sir Your excellencies

most obedient humble Servant.

Richard Henry Lee


Myers CollectionLenox Library

Printed in James Curtis Ballagh, The Letters of Richard Henry Lee, Volume 1, 1762 – 1778, pp. 369 – 70. Endorsed as received on 21 December. An autograph draft of this letter is in the Lee Papers, American Philosophical Society.