<br /> Lee Letter: b184

Washington and Lee University

Sender: Arthur Lee
Recipient: Lord Shelburne

My Lord, – A very few hours after my last letter to your Lordship, brought me the desire of my country to serve here in a public character. Your Lordship, I hope, thinks too well of me to suppose I could hesitate a moment. In fact, almost the same moment saw me bid adieu, perhaps forever, to a country where, from choice, I had fixed my fortunes, and to a people whom I most respected and could have loved. But the first object of my life is my country; the first wish of my heart is public liberty. I must see, therefore, the liberties of my country established, or perish in her last struggle.

In truth, I have long despaired even of a struggle for liberty in England. I will not insult Scotland with the idea. It is not the subtle Wedderburn poisoning the fountain of public security; nor the ruthless Thurlowe, deliberately butchering the liberties of his country, that makes me despair; but – and yet, perhaps, the people are only not virtuous, and America may yet, with a sort of filial piety, reanimate her expiring Constitution.

Our pater patriot, with whom and Mr. Deane, I am  joined in power, is in good health and spirits. If Fate will have it that America, as she has reared her temples and her altars to Liberty, must furnish her victims too, I know not where she can find a sacrifice more respectable.

Should the event of this measure be found fatal to England, it is the perfidy of her Ministers, which would never offer anything that could be trusted, which compels it, and to which the consequences are justly imputable.

I beg your Lordship to remember me as one who can never cease to have the most perfect esteem for you. I have communicated to the Abbè Raynal all the facts I could collect, in answer to his questions. He will write to you soon.

May I beg to be remembered to our friends in the College, and to those out of it, who, I hope, will always do me the honor of remembering me – Col. Barré, Mr Dunning, Doctor Priestly, Doctor Price, &c.

I have the honor to be, &c.

Arthur Lee



Printed in James Curtis Ballagh, The Letters of Richard Henry Lee, Volume 2, 1779 – 1794, pp. 127 – 28.