<br /> Lee Letter: b159

Washington and Lee University

Sender: Richard Henry Lee
Recipient: Henry Laurens

My Dear Sir,

Our news here is most excellent; both from Williamsburg and from Richmond it comes, that our countrymen have given the enemy in the South a complete overthrow, killed many and taken many prisoners, with the cannon, stores, baggage & waggons of their army – One of my letters says, it is expected the whole will be made prisoners. This, if true, will be the more glorious as we shall have done it ourselves, and on that account more productive of useful consequences. Heaven grant it may be so, I shall then, with infinite pleasure congratulate my friend on the recovery of his property, and our common country on so great a step towards realy putting a period to the war. I think that in this case we may insist on our full share of the Fishery, and the free navigation of the Mississippi. These are things of very great and lasting importance to America, the yielding of which will not procure the Congress thanks either from the present age or posterity. Yet it appears to me that Congress will suffer themselves to be wriggled (for I can hardly call it by so rough a name as jostling) out of both these momentous rights. Rights say the other side of the House, we deny that &c. – Softly gentlemen, I have had so many sickening doses of your jargon on this subject, that I do not mean to interrupt my present happy state by suffering such nauseous intrusion – Nature and reason have given us both, no Attorneys quirks can shake titles derived from such sources. I arrived here in five days from Philadelphia, where I learned that the enemy had quitted this State with a good deal of plunder on the 26th. of may. I wish this had been known to me before I left Philadelphia. – I should certainly have remained to see the foreign business finished – However, after all that has happened I cannot help yet hoping, that a majority will be found among the representatives of young Republics who will support able and honest servants, whilst they properly censure and discountenance the knavish abusers of public trust. Methinks our Congress should direct to be written in large characters and placed in the most visible part of their Session Hall the following just sentiment of the excellent Montesquieu “There is no great share of probity necessary to support a Monarchical or Despotic government. The force of laws in one, and the Princes arm in the other, are sufficient to direct and maintain the whole. But in a popular state, one spring more is necessary, namely Virtue.” If he had added Vigilance his fabric would have been complete. I know there are Mandevilles among you who laugh at virtue, and with vain ostentatious display of words will deduce from vice, public good! But such men are much fitter to be Slaves in the corrupt, rotten despotisms of Europe, than to remain citizens of young and rising republics. The Committee of Philadelphia have my free consent to send all such within the enemies lines. I think this useful Committee would have no difficulty in saying with certainty Thou, & Thou, & Thou, & Thou, & Thou, & Thou, & Thou art the man. Tho not perfectly pure after this selection, such a Load would be removed, that a young and vigorous constitution might soon work itself clean and perfect health take place.

I contemplate with much satisfaction the time when our Cottage shall be honored with your company, and if you can enable me to judge when you will be at Hooes ferry on Potomac, I would send a Guide there to shew the way to this place. You have been so extremely kind in furnishing me with copies of many papers, that I know not how to request a copy of Mr. Deanes letter of december the 1st. 1777 wherein he writes “Not ostensibly to the Court but to a private company” And a copy of R. Morris’s letter suggesting Deanes partnership with Williams. I observe that frequent mention is made of Deanes agreement with Beaumerchais – If any such was made, surely it is in writing and ought to be produced. I should be very glad to have a copy. Or is this an ideal thing that we are insulted with so frequently, as indeed we have been by many other visions, such as with [“]Mr Deanes great services and virtuous transaction of the public affairs committed to him – Mr. Holkers disinterested furnishing of cloaths – Mr. Monthieus ‘better deaths no army ever wore’ – Mr. Williams’s able services for the public,” evidenced by his sending Cargoes without Invoices, and Chartered Ships without copy of the Charter party or a word explanatory of the contract made for the Ship! These numerous instances of audaciously attempting to make vice virtue proves, either a very bad opinion of Congress, or the very bad composition of those who practise such things. I shall be much obliged to you Sir if you will find some opportunity of getting the papers read in Congress that shew the wicked attempt to destroy the reputation of Mr. Schweighausers house by Chaumont and his friend at Nantes. Nor shall I be less thankful for your obtaining a report and conclusion upon the papers I had the honor to send you from hence last december on the subject of Penns purchase of Tobo. in this State under Braxtons direction. I remember well the kind promise you made to favor me now and then with a letter and with the news, as well as the determinations relative to our foreign affairs. There are three houses on your way from Philadelphia here, the Masters of which are my friends, and where yourself, your people, and horses will be kindly and hospitably entertained – Mr. Jacob Giles just on this side Susquehannah ferry – Mr. Stephen West about 5 miles on this side Upper Marlborough in Maryland, and the honorable Richard Lee esqr. near Hooes ferry on the north side of Potomac. I mention these, because the public houses afford very indifferent entertainment for Man or horse. I am, with very great esteem and affection,

dear Sir yours most sincerely.

Richard Henry Lee


Laurens CorrespondenceLong Island Historical Society

Printed in James Curtis Ballagh, The Letters of Richard Henry Lee, Volume 2, 1779 – 1794, pp. 61 – 64.