<br /> Lee Letter: b128

Washington and Lee University

Sender: Richard Henry Lee
Recipient: William Lee

My dear Brother

Referring you to the many letters I have lately written several of which have I hope reached you, this shall be chiefly confined to private business. My ill state of health obliging me to leave Congress the 6th. of last december, I returned to Chantilly where I found yours from Nantes with the pamphlets, for which I thank you. Your packet for our brother Frank I have opened and delivered the various Accounts of Sale, as Loudon was absent at Congress – I have already paid Colo. Geo Lee’s estate 900 dollars, or £200 Sterling on your account, and the ballance of my debt to you on that account shall be soon applied as you desire. Colo. Mason has delivered me the orders you gave him on Triplet & Thornton & Mr. Mills, as he says he would rather choose the money should rest in your hands until he has occasion to draw for it. The Colo. says that his only reason for drawing on you formerly in favor of Pliarne Gruel & Co. was because he apprehended you still continued in London and fearing that our enemies might proceed to confiscation of American property in their power, but since you are in France he is Well satisfied that you did not pay the draught, as he is better pleased with the money being in your hands – The bill was not remitted to that house in payment, but for Colo. Masons own use, in order to remove his money from England – So that matter stands right. Our Assembly having just risen, I am now here on my way home, and I have directed Ellis to make out his accounts and write you fully concerning your affairs under his direction Considering the most infamous condition in which Fauntleroy left everything here, I think Ellis has done well, and he is going on to do much better – I assure you, that as far as I am able to judge, you have got a prize in him, and I hope soon to see your affairs here in a flourishing way. To the things Ellis has written for I think you should add a small box of well assorted medicines for the Use of your people – This is certainly a very sickly place, and medicine here is now so scarce and so excessive dear, that in this way they are without remedy.

Once more I must propose to you the plan of selling all your property in this Country, & for the following reasons, which are now abundantly more powerful than ever the reasons for this measure were formerly – In the first place you may rely upon it that the Western people will soon force a removal of the Seat of Government, in which case, the quality of these lands being but very indifferent, your interest here will be depreciated some hundred per cent – But this is not all, we have now began from the necessity of the case to impose extensive Taxes – And the mode adopted is an assessment of Lands, Slaves of all Ages, Cattle, Horses &c. &c. &c. – The excessive quantity of paper currency in circulation has raised the value of everything 4 or 5 hundred per Cent above its natural Standard – In this unnatural tumid State of things, & the contiguity of this Estate to the Seat of government, the Assessed value of your estate will be exceeding great & the ½ per cent Tax upon the whole will call for an annual large sum. Should the Seat of government be removed, I verily believe there would with good management, not be much more made than would discharge the Annual Tax. My plan then is, to take advantage of the present inordinate value of things, sell the whole & as it will produce a very large sum put it immediately into the Continental Loan Office where it will draw six per Cent paid in draughts on France at 5 livres money of France for every dollar of interest. You will have ½ per Cent tax to pay on this, & when the Taxes by lessening the quantity of money shall have restored its value, you will then remained possessed of the large sum at interest which the present advanced rates would produce – Nor would any injury be risked from the removal of the Seat of Government. If the American cause succeeds this Bank will be infallibly secure, if the cause fails, neither Bank nor Land will avail you – But then this plan if adopted, should be quickly put in practice, & proper powers signed by Mrs. Lee & yourself sent over. I think the act passed for this purpose under the new Government makes three witnesses necessary and that the Feme be privily examined by a Magistrate of the place & the whole authenticated by the Seal of the Corporation where the parties reside. – Against this I think the only objection is the parting with the Negroes, upon principles of humanity, but a few of the oldest & best Servants may be kept & placed in good families until they may be wanted – Heareafter money will rise in value & land fall, so that if it be necessary, other & better lands may be purchased for less than what these will now fetch.1

I have written you so frequently about my Sons that I think you must fully possess my ideas respecting them. I wish Ludwell to study eloquence and lay the foundation for practising law in this Country which is the ready way to honor & to fortune – Military exercises may be his amusement – Thom I wish to be expert in business – But it is impossible to make remittances now, and at any rate, I fear the expence – Perhaps it might be the best way, if the eldest cannot be employed so as to prevent the whole expence of his stay in France from falling on me, and if any consignments come here which with proper assistance he might manage, it would be better to send him over, and let Ludwell finish his Studies. I wish you would pursue that plan respecting them which your judgment shall approve as most fit for all parties joining together œconomy & solid good for them –

I have orders on you from Colo. Hulls estate, from Capt. John Hull & Mr. Charles Bell amounting in the whole to £22 or 3 pounds sterling which from the necessity of the case I must assign to Miss Panton for her wages as Tutoress to my children – She is going to Europe & there is neither Specie nor bills to be had here, and our paper money will do her no good. The Squire desires the inclosed bill may be put to his credit if you can receive the money, and he requests that the small inclosed invoice may be complied with by the first opportunity. For the greatest part of my life I have been used to Wine & to Jesuits Bark & now I have neither – It goes hard with me – But the establishment of public liberty smooths all ways however rugged – I shall return shortly to Congress and shall continue there longer than I expected when last I wrote you on this subject – I hope e’er now. [The remainder of the manuscript is missing.]

Notes:

Lee PapersVirginia Historical Society

Printed in James Curtis Ballagh, The Letters of Richard Henry Lee, Volume 1, 1762 – 1778, pp. 381 – 85.

1 Another copy of this paragraph was sent to William Lee by his brother Arthur.