<br /> Lee Letter: b331

Washington and Lee University

Sender: Richard Henry Lee
Recipient: – – – –

Dear Sir.

The public papers will have informed you of my having left New York, and the cause – The benefit that I received from the use of the Chalybeate waters in the vicinity of Philadelphia has been very flattering and has enabled me to return to this City with a store of health that I hope will be sufficient at least to carry me triumphantly thro my Presidential year. The circumstance of ill health has been the principal cause that has prevented me from replying sooner to your favor of August the 8th last. Indeed the current news here has been too unimportant to trouble you with reading or myself with writing it, S especially as it is well detailed in the newspapers. It is with infinite pleasure I learn that our church convention at Philadelphia have concluded their business with great conord, the surest pledge of the future success of their system. It was a circumstance of much advantage that their council were not disturbed by the mischievous high church principles that prevail with the nonjuring Episcopalians of these Northern regions, who, with Bishop Seabury at their head would have been very sufficient to disturb the Moderate Councils of any Whig assembly in the world.

Our public letters of this day from the officers of the U. States at Pittsburg & its neighborhood, represent the Indian Nations, as Nations, in a friendly point of view, and seem to promise success as well to our treaty at the Mouth of Great Miami this month, as to the progress of business in surveying the Territory appointed for Sale northwest of Ohio. You have been misinformed with respect to the violent proceedings at Boston – Both in that State & N. Hampshire they have indeed passed lately Commercial Acts respecting foreign trade generally that do not accord with our Commercial treaties both with France & Sweden, which have already produced memorials to Congress from the Consuls of these nations – However as these laws were probably the product of haste & inattention, I have no doubt but that they will rectify the evil upon a proper representation from the federal head – So essential is the difference between the Northern & Southern productions and circumstances relative to Commerce, that it is not easy to adopt any general system that would well accord with all; and the Staple States should be feelingly alive to the proposed plan of vesting powers absolute for the restraint & regulation of Commerce in a Body of representatives whose Constituents are very differently circumstanced – Intrigue and coaliton among the No Staple States, taking advantage of the disunion and inattenti[on] of the South, might fix a ruinous Monopoly upon the trade & productions of the Staple States that have not Ships or Seamen for the Exportation of their valuable productions – You know Sir that the Spirit of Commerce is a Spirit of Avarice, and that whenever the power is given the will certainly follows to monopolise, to engross, and to take every possible advantage. I am free therefore to own that I think it both safest & best to give no such power to Congress, leave it to that Body to point out what is fit to be done in this [line], and founding their plans on principles of moderation and most accordant to the actual state & situation of the different States, to recommend their systems for the general adoption. I am persuaded that this plan would be successful to every good purpose. A contrary one would, I verily believe, be more hurtful, much more hurtful to us, than even the crabbed selfish system of Great Britain – Mr Adams in a late letter to me from London, writing of Britain he says “the Nation must be made to feel – but this is a work of time, and it is dangerous work, because it may in such inflammable circumstances provoke War” – Indeed our proceedings with that Nation should be well considered, and cautiously practised upon –

I am very fearful of the proceedings of our approaching session – Breach of Treaty – Paper Money – Violation of public faith – are all, I am informed, much talked of – Either of the three will be sufficient to injure us greatly, as well as the U. States – and I assure you Sir, from the best authority, that such things as these have already deeply & essentially injured the American character in Europe generally. Mr. Adams says in the same letter “I hope that persons & property in America will be held sacred”

On the 8th. of next month I shall return to Virga. after thirteen months absence from my family. With very great respect & esteem I have the honor to be dear Sir

your most obedient and very humble Servant

Richard Henry Lee


Washburn MansuscriptsMassachusetts Historical Society

Printed in James Curtis Ballagh, The Letters of Richard Henry Lee, Volume 2, 1779 – 1794, pp. 387 – 90.