<br /> Lee Letter: b199

Washington and Lee University

Sender: Richard Henry Lee
Recipient: Samuel Adams

My dear Friend

I send you the inclosed pamphlet, not to give you any information, or to remove any doubts that you can be supposed to have, or to fix in your mind a greater detestation of those wicked men, whose base arts we have long seen and much lamented; but that you may see a necessary step hath been taken here to disabuse the generality of mankind. The printer hath done his part most vilely, but you will correct his errors as you read, and I hope you will approve the caution of not inserting such things, as if made public, might offend our friends among the great in Europe. This omission has rendered the reputation less complete, but there is enough to carry conviction to every candid mind.

The faction have however gained their point of removing the man they feared and hated – some of them are above the apprehension of disgrace, and some are below it. S. Deane has avoided the consequences of a suit brot a ainst him in Philadelphia by Dr. Lee, and has fled to Franee, upon discovering that the want of fixed damages in an action of slander will prevent Bail from being accountable. This pamphlet has given me information in one point, wherein I own that 1 was before deceived – I mean concerning Berkenhouts mission – The artful knave had imposed on me a belief that he came here with a view to seek a convenient settlement for himself and his family in a land of liberty – I was taken with the generous sentiment – his tale was plain & probable – I knew he had been in the esteem of my brother, and to rivet the whole his pamphlet was delivered, contending with good force for the independence of our country. But however guilty the man realy was, this not appearing, the Magistrate of a free State should say; de non apparentibus, et non existentibus, eadem est ratio. Whigs always let proof precede punishment but the Tories have usually substituted imagination for proof and excess of punishment for that degree of it which is necessary only for prevention & example. This mission however proves to what extremity of folly the extreme of wickedness will carry men. No man with his heart and head properly regulated, could, or can devise a color of substantial good that would possibly flow from such a mission, at such a time, and in such a state of things. It is then no wonder that where other things conspired to induce a belief of good-sense and goodness in a man, that it was not presently suspected that he was come upon an errand compounded of folly and knavery. I may be mistaken, but I have Ion thought that I saw in this whole Denean faction the foul finger of British politics – I make no doubt but that it was contrived by Paul Wentworth at Paris, and that Deane knew perfectly what this State Doctor was at the moment that he arrived in Philadelphia – His silence at the time, the knowledge he confesses that he had, and the use that he made of this Phenomenon after it disappeared, all conspire to place Deane near the bottom of the System, after taking into the account the conferences that he held with Paul Wentworth before he left Paris. The thing itself too, seems to be confounded of Scottish fraud and the peculiar character of Deane for stratagem and wickedness – These base arts have here however answer’d the little business to our enemies of gratifying their revenge on two men who have with invariable zeal and good success opposed their system for enslaving America – And the Deneans or Commercial plunderers have obtained their point of removing the capital obstructions to their views of public rapine. I write this letter under a fit of the gout, & now affection for my friend supports me as well when writing to you, as pride formerly did the Stoic philosopher when disregarding the gouty pain he conversed with a great man of Antiquity – Indeed when I write to you, I seem as it were to be present with you and giving free scope to my mind, I restrain none of its operations – Policy may seem to forbid this in a letter that is to travel so far, but being satisfied that my sentiments of men and measures are justly founded, I am not apprehensive of ill consequences from impertinent curiosity. After a relaxation of 11 months, I think of returning to public business next spring by going into our New Assembly, for I shall continue to think in the American cause, that “Nothing is done whilst any thing remains to be done” I expect that the hard Winter has saved us the trouble and expence of meeting Gen. Clinton in the field, which we have been taught to expect without fail, and for which purpose one third of our Militia are in readiness. I grieve exceedingly for the poor of Boston in this rigorous Season and would willingly spare them part of my abundance of fuel if I could contrive it to them – I thank you Sir for your civility to Mr. Wm. Lee – he is the son of my old friend some years ago deceased – the youth was my Ward and went many years for education under the care of his Uncle Fairfax.

I expect my brother Dr. Lee with my Son will do themselves the honor of visiting you in the Spring in their way home from France. The pamphlet inclosed, if you approve, you will shew to such worthy Men in Boston as you choose.

I have sent one to Mr. Hancock and one to Mr. R. T. Paine as Members of Congress with whom I have long served –

Mrs. Lee joins me in presenting best respects to Mrs. Adams and wishing you both most cordially the return of many happy years. It will make me happy at all times to hear from you, and it will be very agreeable to be informed of any interesting news whether foreign or domestic – You live in the high road of intelligence, and I am situated in a very retired spot. The post comes pretty regularly as usual to Leeds Town (in the County of Westmoreland) where I send for letters constantly.

Farewell my dear Friend.

Richard Henry Lee

P.S. My little Son of 5 months old, whom I have christened Cassius, grows apace, & seems already to look as if he would be no Lover of Tyrants –

I shall be glad to know if you continue in Congress and if so, when you propose visiting Philadelphia?


Samuel Adams PapersNew York Public Library

Printed in James Curtis Ballagh, The Letters of Richard Henry Lee, Volume 2, 1779 – 1794, pp. 168 – 71. The enclosed pamphlet was one of 500 copies of Arthur Lee’s letter to Congress of 10 February 1779, answering Silas Deane. Lee had these pamphlets printed and distributed in America.