<br /> Lee Letter: b264

Washington and Lee University

Sender: Richard Henry Lee
Recipient: Samuel Adams

My dear Sir,

The same cause that deprived me of the pleasure of hearing from you sooner in answer to my former letter, has in great degree prevented me from sooner acknowledging the receipt of your favor of Sepr. 23d 1783; which I received in the following winter, when laboring under a long continued, severe illness, that had nearly ended my days. I thank God that I am now pretty well recovered. Insomuch, that I have been prevailed on, once more to take a seat in Congress; my brothers three years having ended with this federal year. I am much grieved my dear friend, to observe the wonderful lassitude that prevails in public affairs. It is now eighteen days since Congress ought to have assembled here, and as yet we have but five States – It surprises me that these five are all Southern. None but the worthy Dr. Holten from your State being yet arrived from the eastward; whence, formerly we used to derive most punctuality, alacrity, and judicious dispatch of public business. Yet there are many subjects of great importance, that demand the speedy, temperate, wise, and firm discussion of Congress. We have seen here the late report of a Committee of the Privy Council in G. Britain upon the petition of the W. India planters and merchants, soliciting an open and liberal trade with these United States. In this report, all the illiberal & senseless principles of commerce that are scattered thro Lord Sheffields book, are taken up and recommended – The report was laid upon the Table of the House of Commons – But it seems that the Parliament is prorogued without touching the subject of their Commerce with us. So that it remains on the old ground of proclamation, interdicting our trade with the B. West Indies, but thro the medium of British Vessels. It is not difficult for an attentive and diligent enquirer to discern the old Leaven working in the British councils. The same men still rule in secret, the same measures are wished to be practised upon – Nor does it signify much whether a Pitt or a North comes forward upon the Stage. The Nation too, like a strong, proud, & sullen Man angry from unexpected defeat, and imputing misfortunes to Casualties, would seem not averse to a second trial. I remember when once I detested the moderate character. At this moment I think that moderation, wisdom, firmness, and attention, are the principles proper for our adoption: and highly becoming the dignity of our successful situation. Being always prepared for the worst the best events will not be unpleasing. It is observable that great hopes are entertained beyond the water from the expectation of discord, disunion, & apathy on our part. I sincerely wish that they may be disappointed – We understand that Silas Deane & Arnold are in frequent conversation with the British Ministers – And it is said that the former composed part of the book adopted by Lord Sheffield. Indeed the principles of that book are precisely the same with those contained in one of Mr. Deanes intercepted letters in 1781. What kind of conduct are we to expect from G. Britain, when its councils are mixt with gall, and when the acrimony of blasted ambition and avarice is permitted to insinuate itself?

I shall be extremely happy to be aided by your counsels during my residence in Congress – Our letters may, in this direct line of post, be secure – especially as the times are not so inquisitive as formerly. I beg that my best respects may be presented to Mrs. Adams, and remember me, if you please, to Gen. Warren, to Mr. Gerry & Mr. Lovell. I am dear Sir

most sincerely and affectionately your friend.

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. 293 – 95.