<br /> Lee Letter: b146

Washington and Lee University

Sender: Richard Henry Lee
Recipient: William Whipple

My dear Sir,

I thank you sincerely for your obliging favor of the 8th instant which I received a few days past Nothing can be more pleasing to me in my retirement than to hear from my friends, and the pleasure will be increased when they inform me that the Vessel of State is well steered and likely to be conveyed safely and happily into port. My clear opinion is that this good work must be chiefly done by the Eastern Pilots.

They first taught us to dread the rock of despotism, and I rest with confidence on their skill in the future operations. I venerate Liberty Hall, and if I could envy its present inhabitants anything it would be the sensible sociable evenings they pass there. I have not yet been able to quit the entertainment of my prattling fireside, when I have heared every little story and settled all points, I shall pay a visit to Williamsburg where our Assembly is now sitting. Mrs. Lee remembers her friends from the East with great respect, and returns you thanks for the kind interest you are pleased to take of her. Before this reaches you, I hope your labors in the Hall will have put the finishing hand to our important business of finance – If our money matters were once in a good way, we should have the consent of our wise and cautious friend Mr. Sherman to the pushing forward with Zeal the Navy of the United States – An object in my opinion of great magnitude. I may be mistaken but I have thought our Sensible friend rather too cautious upon this head. A well managed force at Sea would not only make us very respectable, but presently repay its cost with interest. We shall surely err by reasoning from what has happened to what will happen because we have till now singly opposed our feeble force on the Sea to the overgrown power of Great Britain – But now, our Marine force, under the supporting wing of our great and good Ally will thrive I hope, and grow strong upon the spoils of our Common foe. I wish the Marine Committee may stoutly contend against all opposition, and vigorously increase the Navy. In favor of this System we may say that the wealth and glory of many States have been obtained by their Fleets, but none have immediately lost their liberty thereby. Let the Man be produced who can truly say as much of Standing Armies. I left my worthy Colleague of the Marine Committee well disposed to relieve us this winter from the depredations of Gutride’s fleet of Pirates, which infests the Coast extremely from New York to Cape Fear – They not only injure our Commerce greatly in these middle States, but they prevent in great measure the water communication between us and our Eastern friends. This fleet consists of one brig of 16 guns, a Schooner of the same force a Sloop of 12 guns, and the rest of little strength – . Whilst your Northern Seas are too tempestuous for cruising, this Southern Coast supplied with such convenient Harbors, may be visited by the Continental Frigates, making Chesapeak Bay their place of Rendisvous, to the exterpation of these Sea Banditti that disturb us so much at present. A stroke * * * of this sort would do credit to our Committee, and serve the Common cause. If the Frigates came 3 or 4 together, they would be ready for any small British force that might accompany the Gutridges. The fortifications of Portsmouth, Hampton & York, will afford them a sure asylum against any Superior force. Remember me with affection to the Society at Liberty Hall, to my friends of Connecticut, R. Island, Jersey, Pensyln’a & Delaware. I fancy this is as far as I can Safely go, unless I were to admit the good old President.

I sincerely wish you happy.

Richard Henry Lee

Notes:

Langdon CollectionPennsylvania Historical Society

Printed in James Curtis Ballagh, The Letters of Richard Henry Lee, Volume 1, 1762 – 1778, pp. 453 – 55. Addressed to Whipple, “Member of Congress at Philadelphia.” The copy in the Pennsylvania Historical Society is a transcript, and another transcript is in the Sparks Manuscripts, Harvard University Library.