<br /> Lee Letter: b234

Washington and Lee University

Sender: Richard Henry Lee
Recipient: George Washington

My dear Sir,

Altho our correspondence has been long interrupted I hope that our friendship never will, notwithstanding the arts of wicked men who have endeavored to create discord and dissention among the friends of America. For myself, having little but my good wishes to send you, it was not worth while to take up your attention a moment with them. The contents of this letter will I am sure require no apology, because you always approve that zeal which is employed in the public service, and has for its object the public good. The present state of our country Sir is such as to demand the most immediate and most effectual interposition to prevent the numerous resources of Virginia from becoming means in the hands of our enemies for subduing the liberties of North America.

For tho the efforts of this State have been not quite so strong as its abilities warranted, yet when it shall be placed under the sword of a Conqueror, such resources will be found, and such powers drawn from it, as will put the liberties of North America in eminent peril.

My following opinion is not founded upon vain apprehensions, but upon good materials and attentive observation. Virginia it is true has nine times the number of men that now threaten its ruin, but they are dispersed, unarmed, without system, government, and very little probability at present of the Legislature assembling. The enemies army is in the heart of the country, employing with exquisite industry every engine that force and fraud can move to effect a conquest of the whole or far greater part immediately. I think Sir that they will succeed if adequate prevention be not presently applied. When the enemies arm began to move after the junction of their troops, in force much superior to the Marquis, the Assembly adjourned to Charlottesville, where they were never able to collect members sufficient to form the Legislature before they were dispersed by 500 of the enemies light horse with as many light infantry mounted behind as we learn from some of the flying delegates. The Governor had resigned his office, but no successor had been appointed, and Mr. Digges the Lieut. Governor it seems has been made a prisoner and released upon parole, whilst there is in the present state of things1 little chance for a meeting of the Assembly to apply the feeble remedy which their choice of a Governor would amount to.

Thus, we remain without government at a time when the most wise and most vigorous administration of public affairs can alone save us from the ruin determined for us by the enemy. I have taken the liberty of communicating my thoughts on this subject to Mr. Lovell in a letter, copy of which I have now the honor to inclose you, together with a letter from your brother who agrees perfectly with me in sentiment, and I verily believe there is not a good citizen or friend to the liberty of America in this state who does not wish that the plan proposed may be immediately adopted. I have written in the same manner to Colo. Bland and Mr. Jones our delegates in Congress. It would be a thing for angels to weep over, if the goodly fabric of human freedom which you have so well labored to rear, should in one unlucky moment be levelled with the dust. There is nothing I think more certain than that your personal call would bring into immediate exertion the force and the resource of this State and its neighboring ones, which directed as it would be will effectually disappoint and baffle the deep laid schemes of the enemy. By seizing the fine horses on James river they have mounted a gallant and most mischievous Cavalry of 5 or 600 in number. We have plenty of horses left to be sure, but we are deficient in proper accoutrements, tho I understand that the Marquis is endeavoring to mount a thousand men as quickly as possible to controul the boundless ravage of the enemies horse. Some of the dispersed delegates report it as extremely probable that our collected Stores in the north fork of James river have fallen into the enemies hands, as their cavalry were a little above, and the main body of their army not far below directing its course to the north fork, which was guarded only by 7 or 800 new levies under Baron Steuben

Our country is truly Sir in a deplorable way, and if relief comes not from you it will probably come not at all – I have heard it reported in this country that Gen. Wayne dislikes being commanded by the Marquis – if this should be unhappily true, the consequences will be obvious to you. I have the honor to be with sentiments of the most perfect esteem dear Sir

your most affectionate friend and most obedient Servant.

Richard Henry Lee


George Washington PapersLibrary of Congress

Printed in James Curtis Ballagh, The Letters of Richard Henry Lee, Volume 2, 1779 – 1794, pp. 233 – 35.