<br /> Lee Letter: b364

Washington and Lee University

Sender: Richard Henry Lee
Recipient: William Shippen, Jr.

My dear Sir

I thank you very sincerely for your last letter and its enclosures which are now returned. It is indeed a great addition to my happiness to know that my dearest Nephew is so pleasingly and improvingly placed – for I have not a doubt but that he will make the best use of his situation which being so well contrived to delight the Mind, must necessar<il>y render its improvement more certain.

I am much obliged by your assurance that you will have the small pox directions ready for me. I desired my friend Starr to have the Boots ready for me against my return to Phila. on the 6th. of next Month in my way home – But upon further consideration, I shall want the Boots here to travel in to Phila. as the Season will be cool – Will you be so kind as tell him this, and that I desire he will have them made immediately with a pair of proper bootstraps fitted to them, so that you or he may take the opportunity of some safe and friendly person coming here who may bring them to me before the 3d. of November, or as soon after this as possible, that I may not be disappointed.

I have considered the new Constitution wi[th] all the attention and candor that the thing and the times render necessary, & I find it impossible for me to doubt, that in its present State, unamended, the adoption of it will put Civil Liberty and the happiness of the people at the mercy of Rulers who may possess the great unguarded powers given – And I assure you that confidence in the moderation or benignity of power is not a plant of quick growth in a reflecting bosom – The necessary alterations will by no means interfere with the general nature of the plan, or limit the power of doing good; but they will restrain from oppression the wicked & tyrannic – If all men were wise and good there would be no necessity for government or law – But the folly & the vice of human nature renders government & laws necessary for the Many, and restraints indispensable to prevent oppression from those who are entrusted with the administration of one & the dispensation of the other – You will see herewith the amendments that appeared to me necessary, they are submitted to you and my Excellent old friend at German Town – Perhaps they may be submitted to the world at large. My good old friend has made himself better acquainted with Hippocrates than with Plato, and relying upon the goodness of his own heart, witht. reflecting upon the corrupting & encroaching nature of power, he is willing to trust to its fangs more than experience justifies – The malady of human nature in these States now, seems to be as it was in the years 1778 & 1779 with respect to the effect produced by a certain Combination – the Malady that I mean is a temporary Insanity – I wish that the present may subside with as little public injury as it formerly did, altho that was not small in all its branches. Give my love where it is due, and be assured that

I am unalterably yours.

Richard Henry Lee

Notes:

Shippen PapersHistorical Society of Pennsylania

Printed in James Curtis Ballagh, The Letters of Richard Henry Lee, Volume 2, 1779 – 1794, pp. 440 – 44.

Lee apparently enclosed a copy of his Proposed Amendments to the Federal Constitution, c.1 October 1787, which is in the Shippen Papers, Historical Society of Pennsylvania.