<br /> Lee Letter: b177

Washington and Lee University

Sender: Richard Henry Lee
Recipient: Thomas Jefferson

Dear Sir,

A few days ago Mr. Ford (late Secretary to Dr. Lee) arrived at my house in 7 weeks from France with many letters for Congress, and one packet for the Governor of Virginia which accompanies this. Mr. Ford came to my house with a design to proceed to Congress with the dispatches for that body. They had not heared in France when Mr. Ford came away of the charges that have been exhibited against him. I have advised him to discontinue his journey to Congress, leaving the transmission of their packets to me, and repair immediately to Williamsburg, there to request of the Governor and Council a full hearing on the subject of the charge against him, that his innocence may be vindicated in the fullest manner before the most respectable Tribunal. That Mr. Ford has enemies is unquestionable, and that these will endeavor to browbeat him, and suppress truth and fair enquiry by infusing prejudices, and by various other arts is equally certain. But, whilst the protection of innocence is, at least, as considerable a duty as the punishment of guilt, the respectable Tribunal to which he means to appeal will protect him in displaying the means necessary for his defence. I have the pleasure to inform you that my two brothers have sent to Congress the most full and complete vindication of themselves accompanied with conclusive vouchers, against Mr. Silas Deanes libel published on the fifth day of december last – Dr. Lees defence has been received by Congress two or three weeks ago. Mr. Wm. Lees is now on its way –

Hear if you please what a genuine whig in Congress writes me on the subject of Dr. Lees vindication – “I did not return from the Conclave ’till 5 oClock, hard duty for an infirm man. I there heard the vindication read, but there is a man who can never read distinctly & deliberately when he does not like the subject – long debates, whether the vouchers should be read, at length carried in the affirmative. I received much satisfaction, but not so with every body. one seemed to be on a gridiron, another in purgatory, another attempting to take notes, but the subject was painful, he sickened and threw down his pen. one looked to be in a situation in which he ought long since to have been – , suspended – from his eternal versatility I suspect he will become a reconvert. . . . I feel myself happy in finding I have taken the honest side, and that I may therefore congratulate with your families & all your friends. I should have crept into an Augur hole had it appeared that I had (altho mistakenly) been an advocate for a rogue – little as I have left of worldly wealth, I would give 500 guineas for Arthur Lees company to night in this room. he should not leave Philadelphia until he had pointed out the way for obtaining justice to his injured country; his country would not part with him until they had done him honor – An honest man’s the noblest work of god. If Congress now suffer Mr. Deane to leave the American shore, before he shall have settled his accounts, or shall have given good and sufficient security to account for all the public money which has passed thro his hands, we shall have to account for our own conduct to people at large.” I wait to see whether Congress mean to publish this defence or not, if they do not, I most certainly will – It is indeed unhappy for my brother, that some very important vouchers must, for the present, not be published, least, whilst he is vindicated his country should be injured by the promulgation of State secrets, which would give displeasure to foreign courts. enough however can safely be given to the public, to shew his innocence and the wickedness of his Adversaries – You Sir will be concerned for the cause of philosophy in one Man – Franklin –

If pans allure thee, think how Bacon shined

The wisest, greatest, meanest of mankind –

I turn with horror from this most degrading view of human nature – To a more pleasing contemplation of the good news that Mr. John Adams <v>erbally sends word he is bringing to Congress – This honest Whig is <ei>ther arrived, or near it, in the same frigate that brings the Chevalier de la Luzerne Minister Plenepo. from France to Congress, who takes the place of Monsr. Gerard, the latter being recalled – It is supposed for his factious support of Deane here – I have some reason to suppose the good news Mr. Adams brings, is the accession of Spain to our union – The preliminaries being signed between the Emperor & Prussia, it is not improbable that these Courts will presently acknowledge our independency – I rejoice that the States of Holland have at last resolved to protect their Trade from the British search, and it is said the Northern Courts are coming to the same point – It is certain that they begin in England seriously to debate about treating with us as as Independent Sovereign States – They are in great distress & confusion – God grant these may increase, until they learn to substitute reason justice & humanity for madness, pride, & cruelty – I hope to see you sometime in the Fall, when I will shew you all the papers relative to the innocence of Dr. Lee &c. and the wickedness of others – In the mean time it may not be amiss to send you the inclosed, displaying a most wicked plot to injure an honest man – It was quashed by the Gentleman accused insisting on being brought face to face with his Accuser – Monsr. by St. Patrick declined it – Dr. Franklin lives in the house with this Chaumont who is undoubtedly a very bad man – Be so kind Sir as present my compliments to Mr. Page & Colo. Digges – I should have written to them, but I am very much indisposed – Be pleased to preserve the inclosed papers concerning Monsieur Schweighauser for me – Should any Soldiers be procured by our last Act for laying off the Militia into divisions of 25, I am at a loss what to do with the Men, how to get them provided for – the Act having made no provision, directing only that they shall be delivered to the County Lieutenant. I am, with very sincere esteem and respect, dear Sir

your affectionate friend.

Richard Henry Lee


Thomas Jefferson PapersLibrary of Congress

Printed in James Curtis Ballagh, The Letters of Richard Henry Lee, Volume 2, 1779 – 1794, pp. 112 – 15.