<br /> Lee Letter: b246

Washington and Lee University

Sender: Richard Henry Lee
Recipient: William Davies


I am honored with your favors of Septr. the 25th. and October the 1st., for the latter I thank you & I will discharge the duties of the former to the utmost of my power. I am not unapprized of the distressed state of our finances, but extraordinary exertions must be made or they will grow worse, even to ruin. My plan consisted of two parts, the one for the restoration of our finances, the other, for the security of the people, and of course for the honor of government. The last would not probably be productive of very great expence, at least the expence would probably not be commensurate to the benefits, which at once comprehend security to the people and safety to the commerce of the State. I mean the proposal to purchase ready fitted Vessels to cruise in our Bay and entrance of our rivers to suppress small privateers and piratical vessels that have obstructed Commerce, plundered the shores, and created great expence of Militia to give ineffectual security. I admit with the Commercial Agent (of whose diligence & ability I have a high opinion) that the difficulty of getting Seamen will be great, but he will agree with me that the two difficulties are greater than one; that we may more easily get Seamen than build vessels and get Seamen besides – The fact is, that if we do not mean to have our trade destroyed, our shores evacuated and destroyed, we must exert every effort to obtain some marine security. The difficulties I know are great, but I apprehend not so great as to be unsurmountable by zeal, wisdom, and well directed industry. The plan of transmitting our Tobacco for the purpose of a pledge to borrow money upon for the redemption of our ruined finances is a greater object; and will require much wisdom in the design, and very great integrity, celerity, and secrecy in the execution. But experience has proved that it is not impracticable. In public as well as in private life I dislike being in debt, but in both cases debt may with advantage be incurred; and here perhaps we may find a singular instance of being indebted to a foreign power with advantage for the purpose of accomplishing the two beneficial purposes that I have suggested – But then, the disadvantage of foreign debt, especially between State & State, can only be compensated by wisdom in the purpose and honesty in the execution – When I came to retirement from Congress in 1779 I found our Militia in a very & defenceless condition – I applied to the then Board of War for materials of defence, they kindly furnished some things and desired we would procure others and rely upon the public support – Encouraged by this, our Officers prevailed with workmen to make Cartridge boxes where they could not otherwise be obtained, and lately the Auditors have refused paying for some of these – I applaud the circumspection of the Auditors, but where they throw difficulties in the way of our defence in a state of war, I fear that they misapply their caution and aid the enemy to effect our destruction – for surely such checks must discourage the efforts of those who mean firmly & effectually to resist the variety of wickedness with which we are encompassed.

I understand that the Assembly will adjourn to Novr, before which time I shall endeavor to comply fully with your Official directions. I have the honor to be with great esteem Sir

your most obedient and very humble Servant.

Richard Henry Lee


Dreer CollectionHistorical Society of Pennsylvania

Printed in James Curtis Ballagh, The Letters of Richard Henry Lee, Volume 2, 1779 – 1794, pp. 258 – 59. Endorsed “Octr. 7 – 1781 – From Colo. R. H. Lee recommending the purchasing prize vessels for the security of our Bay and rivers – “