<br /> Lee Letter: b317

Washington and Lee University

Sender: Richard Henry Lee
Recipient: Lafayette

My dear Sir –

I have been lately honoured with your letter of March 16th, from Paris, and I thank you for it; as I feel myself much interested in your happiness, so your letter gave me singular pleasure, when it informed me of your “being well and happy, with your family and friends,” and the more so, because a rumor had prevailed, of some accident having happened at sea, to the frigate that carried you from hence. It is with great satisfaction, that I consider any action of my life, that has proved agreeable to you, and I am very sure, that the good you have done for my country, has much more than repaid my attentions to you. I am pleased that you think of coming to see us again; it is certain, that numbers will be made happy here, when ever you are pleased to visit these United States. Much praise is due to those, by whose humanity, and powerful agency, a war in Europe has been prevented, For had it taken place, I apprehend that the evil would have been great and very extensive. It is unfortunate for the friendly intercourse, and general benefit of mankind, that the avaricious spirit of commerce, always aiming at monopoly, should be permitted to interpose such obstructions as too frequently take place in the intercourse of nations, much to the injury of human nature, in general. It seems to me, that whilst the European nations have it in their power, to supply these states so largely with manufactures, that it is unwise to adopt such regulations as cramp the American trade, and thereby render us incapable of purchasing, and paying for, those manufactures in so extensive a manner, as would certainly be done, if commercial restraints were removed; this conduct on the part of Europe tends to injure their manufactures, by lessening their sales, at the same time, that it very much forces the Americans from agriculture to arts, thus rendering scarcer and dearer, the American productions that are wanted in Europe, and lessening the use of European manufactures in America, which it should be the policy of Europe to encourage the use of. It is very obvious, why the merchants of France, have not so great a share of our commerce as they wish; the staple states, or those which have much valuable produce to export, have at present but few ships and seamen of their own, and consequently, do not now export themselves much of their own produce; those nations, therefore, that push the trade with them, by sending ships and merchandise to them, will for the reason above, certainly possess at this time, the greatest share of their trade; so that the fact is, that the British merchants, are those chiefly, who bring us the cambricks and many other manufactures of France, which the French merchants failed to export themselves, although they might afford to sell them cheaper and better, than the English, and of course drive the latter from this branch of trade at least. The plan for opening the navigation of the western waters, goes on well – already more than 40,000 pounds are subscribed for opening the Potomac, and General Washington, is chosen president of the society, that superintends that business. The settling a mode for surveying and selling the fine country, north-west of Ohio river, for the purpose of discharging our public debt, is an object that hath engaged much attention of Congress, and promises, we think, in due season, to remove the debts created by the last war. Mr. Gardoque, from Spain, is arrived at Philadelphia, and we daily expect him in this city; it is to be hoped, that the good sense and honour of his court, will finally settle into such measures, as are just and reasonable. I have the honour to be, my dear sir, with sentiments of the truest affection, esteem and regard,

Your most obedient and very humble servant,

Richard Henry Lee



Printed in R. H. Lee, Memoir of Richard Henry Lee, 2:66. Printed also in James Curtis Ballagh, The Letters of Richard Henry Lee, Volume 2, 1779 – 1794, pp. 369 – 71.