<br /> Lee Letter: b198

Washington and Lee University

Sender: Richard Henry Lee
Recipient: Henry Laurens

My dear Sir,

I should not so long have denied myself the pleasure of corresponding with you in this way had I not expected daily a more agreeable personal communication of sentiments, and I am the more reconciled to my disapointment by the consideration of your being probably to remain longer in Congress – I thank you Sir for your favor of September the 28th., which by an interruption of the post I did not receive until 4 days ago. It seems that the Rider between Leeds and Fredericksburg is stopped because the postmaster at the former place is two quarters in arrear to the Rider and he has written to Philadelphia upon the subject, but can get neither letter nor money in answer – Will you be pleased Sir to speak to Mr. Baynton and Mr. Hazard about this that I may again have the pleasure of corresponding with my friends. It is true that this route, altho it communicates between three of our trading towns does not now pay the expences of the Rider &c. but is this not the case with almost every post in the United States? When others become valuable by the restoration of peace and commerce this will also, and in the mean time the Post is an expence defrayed by all the Citizens of the United States, and it is not fair that so many as live in the lower parts of the Northern Neck should be deprived of its benefits. Whilst many of the States send to Congress such stuff as they do, I shall despair of seeing virtue encouraged and protected, or vice frowned upon and punished, it is therefore Sir that I think the report that you have with great justice proposed in Deanes case will stand a poor chance of being adopted – However, individual, if not congressional honor, may be saved by taking the yeas & nays on the question. I have received many messages from Mr. Cabell about the depositions that he sent so long since as last december concerning a Mr. Penns misconduct in public trust. Mr. Cabell is a very honest, worthy country gentleman, and having no conception that Congress can ballance a moment about reprehending the misconduct of their immediate servants, he may conjecture illy concerning the manner in which I have acted with those papers. Is it impossible Sir that Congress should censure offence or Offenders of any kind? – I judge of the contents of those papers which your honor prohibited you from sending, since a Mr. Francis (agent for Beaumerchais) has informed Williamsburg that Dr. Lee is – – and that Jay is to go Minister to Spain – The party, glutted even to satiety with revenge, have vomited those things which the hushing dose of honor could not keep down – It is realy a very laughable business this obligation of honor as used in Congress, for generally the very men impose it who resolve to disregard it, and use it to restrain the virtuous, whilst the wicked ones communicate as they please, and in such a manner as to do ten times more public injury that than the most unreserved publication would do. In short I believe our affairs will not go on well until the plotting secret Divan is converted into an open Assembly of the peoples representatives. It was a thing of too much moment for the whole race of Defaulters & Plunderers, not to be told that Congress had by their treatment of one man given the most instructive lesson to all the public servants in their power, that the faithful discharge of duty and presuming to complain of public peculation, were not to be admitted in a Congressional servant, but surely to draw after them ruin & disgrace. ‘Tis therefore that the news flies on Eagles wings to the remotest parts where the business of Congress is transacted – There is one comfort in all this, which is, that when things get to their worst they must mend – that Crisis is now at hand, and therefore we may hope that the Navigation of Mississippi, the subsidy from spain and the most faithful application of the money, the fisheries, and every other good will result from the late Manoeuvres – One thing more is necessary to be done, it is to take, in a whisper, Mr. Deanes nomination of the person or persons who is to settle his accounts for the expenditure of 3 millions – whence will result the clearest proof that it is not necessary to order in the most peremptory manner that all the moneys borrowed in Europe shall be immediately placed in the hands of a most approved Banker and not one livre of it to be touched but by draught of Congress, and the Banker to send quarterly accounts to Congress of the state of their bank, always paying the usual interest where money lays uncalled for. I say that a judicious well chosen Denean would, by settling Mr. Deanes accounts prove this to be unnecessary – but Sir, until this is done, will it not be wise, considering how experience points, to adopt this precaution – especially as our holy religion teaches us to pray “Lead us not into temptation.” I had almost forgot to mention how very important it is to select most wise and virtuous men as Secretaries to the Embassies – I think you have had experience of one or two in Congress who have displaied such intergrity, candor and disinterestedness that it will be strange if you do not force these appointments upon them.

Until I hear that the Leeds rider is restored, be pleased Sir to direct your letters for me to the care of James Hunter Esqr. near Fredericksburg – Certain intelligence that a fleet of 30 large Ships has entered & anchored within Chesapeake Bay – it was not known what they were when my letter came from Williamsburg – I am with the sincerest esteem and affection my dear Sir

Your much obliged and obedient servant.

Richard Henry Lee


Laurens CorrespondenceLong Island Historical Society

Printed in James Curtis Ballagh, The Letters of Richard Henry Lee, Volume 2, 1779 – 1794, pp. 159 – 62. Endoresed “Recd by Colo. Loyaute the 26th. answd 1st. Novem – – .”