<br /> Lee Letter: b217

Washington and Lee University

Sender: Richard Henry Lee
Recipient: Samuel Adams

My dear friend,

It has given me great pleasure to hear that you are once more returned to Congress. That perseverance which can patiently encounter so many obstacles for the attainment of public good deserves great applause, and must surely in the end be crowned with success. There are two things that in my opinion deserve present and close attention. I mean the confederation, and restoring the credit of our paper money. The powers of Europe (to say nothing of our own quarrels) ambitious, avaritious, and unprincipled as they are, may be induced to consider us as easy & therefore fair prey, so long as we continue in the discordant, jarring and unorganized state in which we now are. The confederation alone can give us system, strength, and respectful consideration –

This necessary coalition has been hitherto ostensibly prevented by the claim of Virginia to all the western lands within her charter on this side the Mississippi. The present time appears to me to be a favorable crisis for Congress to open a treaty with Virginia upon this subject. I hope that a cession of the fine country northwest of Ohio may be obtained from this State on the following easy conditions. That the ceded lands be sold fairly, and the purchase money bona fide applied to the extinguishing the Continental debt – that not fewer than two or three States be there established – And that Virginia be reembursed the expence she has actually incurred in wresting that country from the British possession by her arms alone. These appear to me very equitable conditions, and as far as I can discover the sentiments of the most wise and virtuous men amongst us, I am inclined to think that if Congress makes these propositions to our ensuing Assembly, the consent of that body may be obtained to them. If therefore you and your friends approve the plan, no time should be lost in having it settled in Congress. When this is agreed to, Maryland can have no just objection to signing the Confederation – Should she refuse after this, I realy think that it behooves the other states to take care of themselves by confederating without that refractory sister. My reason for pressing the proposition during the next session of our Assembly arises from my apprehension that some able friends to the scheme will retire from the Assembly at the end of this year, which may render its success doubtful hereafter. Our Assembly meets the 2d. of next month, and will probably not rise before the end of November.

To restore the credit of our currency is indeed of great and necessary consideration – So far as I am able to judge, the plan of Congress recommended the 18th. of March for that purposey is as good a one as our actual circumstances admit of – but unfortunately the whole race of Tories, Speculators, and those who mean to defraud creditors are combined against it – You may have heared with what difficulty an acquiescence was obtained in this and some other States – Our act adopts the plan when “a Majority of the United States of America (except Georgia & S. Carolina) have actually or conditionally approved of and acceeded to the said resolutions of Congress” & If therefore it is deemed of consequence that this State should effectually adopt the plan, I must entreat you Sir to procure me authentic documents against the 10th. of October, if it can be done so soon, or as soon thereafter as possible, what the States north of Maryland have certainly done in this business. I have a letter from one American gentleman to another in France, dated Novr. 26th., wherein is the following passage “Dr. Franklin, Chaumont, & Dr. Bancroft, have held a Court of enquiry on Capt. Landais, & the report of this respectable board, it is said, is to be laid before Congress. The Owner of a french privateer (Chaumont) sits in judgement upon the Captain of an American ship of War for disobeying the orders of the Captain of that privateer; nothing can be more consistent with the dignity of a sovereign state, or tend more to promote our Marine and render it respectable.”

How long my dear friend must the dignity, honor, and interest of these United States be sacrificed to the bad passions of that old man under the idea of his being a philosopher? That philosophy which does not rectify the heart is not the kind of wisdom which it befits republicanism to cherish and to confide in. If this man must be retained in the public service with all his imperfections on his head, let him be sent to some Court, causa honoria, where he can do neither good nor harm – the Emperors for instance, or her of all the Russias – But to let him remain, immersed in indolence & inattention (to say no worse) with such prime Ministers as Chaumont, Bancroft, Petrie &c. &c. about him at the very centre of most active and interesting politics, is really a burlesque upon all policy, & may finally produce most fatal mischief to our cause. I fear that you are not now in the Marine Committee, and my friend General Whipple is away, so that this dishonorable and degrading manner of treating our Navy Captains, by submitting them to the command of privateers, will probably be not only overlooked, but applauded. Colo. Geo. Mason who is as wise and worthy a man as any we have requests me to recommend Mr. Richard Harrison a native of Maryland, now a Merchant in Cadiz, to the office of Consul for Spain – Colo. Mason knows Mr. Harrison to be a Man of integrity, and Commercial ability, and he esteems him a very fit person to discharge the duty of Consul for America in that Kingdom – I beg leave Sir to recommend Mr. Harrison to your friendship and the patronage of your friends in Congress. Give me leave now to return you my thanks for your civilities to my cousin and ward Mr. William Lee – the young gentleman is very grateful for your kindness which rescued him from much distress.

I hope you left Mrs. Adams and your family well – How does Gen. Warren and did he receive Dr. Lees pamphlet that I sent him on Deanes libel? Be so kind as deliver the inclosed, and present my thanks to Mr. Lovell for his favor, laconic as it was, by the last post – I shall return him my thanks under my own Rand next post – With the warmest sentiments of friendship and the truest esteem I am my dear Sir

your very affectionate.

Richard Henry Lee


Samuel Adams PapersNew York Public Library

Printed in James Curtis Ballagh, The Letters of Richard Henry Lee, Volume 2, 1779 – 1794, pp. 200 – 203.