<br /> Lee Letter: b140

Washington and Lee University

Sender: Richard Henry Lee
Recipient: Francis Lightfoot Lee

My Dear Brother,

I had prepared a letter to you three days ago intending to have sent it to Chantilly by a Mr. Muse, but he slipt me without calling for my letter. Since that the Count D’Esteing, with a french Squadron under his command has arrived in Delaware Bay, and last thursday morning he proceeded to N. York with determination to loose no time in attacking the English in that Harbour. On the 19th. of May he declared war against G. Britain on board his fleet then at Sea, and since that, he takes every English vessel that he meets with. The strength of this fleet is one 90, one 80, Six 74. Three 64 & one 50 with 4 frigates and between 10 and 12,000 men on board – In this fleet came the french Ambassador Monsr. Gerard who is expected in Town evry hour Carriages being sent to Chester for him. Silas Deane is also arrived in this fleet, and I expect that he & Carmichael will soon begin to intrigue. We have received a very polite Address from the Count D’Estaing enclosing us a copy of his powers from the King of France which are plenepotentiary to treat wth. Congress. The King styles us his most dear friends and great Allies. The Count says that nothing but the necessity of immediately executing the duties of his office as Commander of the Fleet would have permitted him to delay paying his respects Men famous thro Europe for their wisdom and, firmness. We have been very busy in Marine Committee this morning, altho ’tis Sunday, directing fresh provisions and Water to be sent to this fleet. Gen. Washington is directed to Cooperate with Count D’Estaing in offensive operations against the common enemy. We may expect good events from this if Keppel with his 11 Sail of the Line do not interrupt us too soon. He was in St. Helens the 19th. of May bound to N. America. But we expect he will be narrowly watched by the Brest fleet which consisted of 25 Sail of the Line ready for Sea. Thus the Ball begins to open, and the guilty Sons of G. Britain upon the eve of making severe retribution for the heavy crimes both in the east and the west. The Ambassador is arrived, and during the course of dinner I have had an opportunity of conversing largely with him. I find that the King of france considers the King of Englands message upon Marquis Noailles communication of our Alliance as announcing hostility and determines to act accordingly – With effective hostility indeed, but witht. formal declaration of war in Europe, for this he says, we must wait until Spain is ready – The flota was not arrived on the 10th. April. Monsr. Gerard seems rather above 50 years of age is as grave as a Frenchman can be, and he is a wise well bred Gentleman. We are told that many of the first Nobility of france solicited his missions in vain.

I am much grieved to hear that my honored friend Colo. Tayloe grows worse – Is it it impracticable for him to visit the Springs – The Indian irruptions I expect will be presently quieted by the Army under McIntosh going to Fort Detroit, and the expedition into the Seneca Country. These must wall and keep every Indian at home. My love to Mrs. Lee and respects to all friends.

Most affectionately yours.

Richard Henry Lee

P.S. The post this day brings me no letter from N. Nec<k> except from my friend Mr. Page I have none from Rappahanock or Potomac – From Boston we learn of a quick arrival that brings account Lord Chatham died on the 1st. of May, he was forming a party against the Independence of America, which he has lately thunder’d against in Parliamt. and was opposed by the Duke of Richmond with great spirit & force of Reason – Stocks fallen greatly, and the Kingdom in much confusion – 40 frigates recalled from N. America – But Coun<t D’Estaing> wont let them get out of the Harbour of N. York – <It is> true that Capt. Jones carried a 20 gun Ship of the Tyrants into Brest with 3 other prizes – He had a severe conflict with the Ship of War and killed the Captain and first Lieutenant, killed and wounded 42 men, – Lost 8 – He landed at Whitehaven and fired the Shipping in the Harbour, and did them other damage, where he also spiked 30 or 40 pieces of Canon.

Notes:

Lee PapersUniversity of Virginia Archives

Printed in James Curtis Ballagh, The Letters of Richard Henry Lee, Volume 1, 1762 – 1778, pp. 422 – 24. Addressed to Lee at Manokin, sent from the postmaster at Leeds Town, Westmoreland County, and conveyed by the “Chantilly Rider.”