<br /> Lee Letter: b145

Washington and Lee University

Sender: Richard Henry Lee
Recipient: Patrick Henry

My dear Sir,

I send you by this opportunity the trial of Gen. Lee, which be pleased to let our friends Colo. Mason, Mr. Wythe, and Mr. Jefferson see, after you have read it. I will not anticipate your judgement, the thing speaks fully for itself. In my public letter to you, I observe that the enemy still continue at N. York. Their reason for so doing is not obvious. Their exposure to almost certain destruction destruction in the West Indies, their exceeding weakness in every part of the world where they have possessions, seems to demand their quitting us for other objects, and this I should suppose they would do if their hopes were not sustained by other causes than the expectation of conquest by force of arms. Division among ourselves, and the precipice on which we stand with our paper money, are, I verily believe, the sources of their hope. The former is bad, but the latter is most seriously dangerous! Already the continental emissions exceed in a sevenfold proportion the sum necessary for medium; the State emissions added, greatly increase the evil. It would be well if this were all, but the for cries of our currency are still more mischievous. They depricate not only by increasing the quantity, but by creating universal diffidence concerning the whole paper fabric. In my opinion these Miscreants who forge our money are as much more criminal than most other offenders, as parricide exceeds murder. The mildness of our law will not deter from this tempting vice. Certain death on conviction seems the least punishment that can be supposed to answer the purpose – I believe most nations have agreed in considering and punishing the contamination of money as the highest crimes against Society are considered and punished. Cannot the Assembly be prevailed on to amend the law on this point, and by means of light horse to secure the arrest, and punishment of these Offenders, witht. giving them the opportunity to escape that now they flatter themselves with. I hope Sir you will pardon my saying so much on this subject, but my anxiety arises from the clear conviction I have that the loss of our liberty seems at present more likely to be derived from the state of our currency than from all other causes – Congress is fully sensible of this, and I do suppose, that in order to detect forgeries and reduce the quantity, it will be requested of all the States to call into the Loan Offices the Continental emissions previous to april last, by compulsory laws – This is a bold stroke in finance, but necessity, and experience in the Eastern States, sanctify the measure. The next cause that threatens our infant republics, is, division among ourselves. Three States yet refuse to Confederate, Maryland Delaware, & Jersey – Indeed N. York can scarcely be said to have confederated since that State has signed with this condition, to be bound in case all the States confederate. Maryland, I fear will never come in whilst our claim remains so unlimited to the westward. They affect to fear our power, and they are certainly envious of the wealth they suppose may flow from this source – It is not improbable that the secret machinations of our enemies are at the bottom of this – Some of the most heated Opponents of our claim, say that if we would fix a reasonable limit, and agree that a new State should be established to the Westward of those limits, they would be content to confederate. What do you think Sir of our proposing the Ohio as a boundary to the Westward, and agreeing that the Country beyond shd. b<e> settled for common good and make a new State on condition that compensation reasonable should be made us for Dunmores, Colo. Christians, and our late expedition. This might perhaps be agreed to and be taken well as coming freely from us. When we consider the difficulty of republican laws and government piercing so far from the seat of Governmen<t> and the benefit in point of economy from having a frontier state to guard us from Indian wars and the expence they create, I cannot help thinking that upon the whole this would be our wisest course. We should then probably unmask those who found their objection to Confederacy upon the extensiveness of our claim, and by having that bond of Union fixt foreclose forever the hopes of our enemies<.> I have a prospect of paying my respects to you and the Assembly between this and Christmas, if the distracted state of my plantation affairs can soon be put in reasonable order. I am, with sincere affection and esteem, dear Sir

your 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. 451 – 53. Printed also in William Wirt Henry, Patrick Henry, 2:10.