<br /> Lee Letter: b382

Washington and Lee University

Sender: Richard Henry Lee
Recipient: Samuel Adams

My much esteemed friend.

I have received one short letter from you since my arrival here, and I value it greatly because it came from a friend I much esteem and because it shew’d me that I was still in your remembrance. As my enquiries are often about you, I learn that it is more difficult for you to write than it formerly was, and therefore your letters are received as greater testimonials of friendship.

I find that you continue determined to do all the good you can to Mankind by your continuing in public service – The issue of your government election gives me singular pleasure for many reasons, and especially because the hot headed federalists as they call themselves, placed the contest upon Mr. Hancocks proposition to your Convention for amendments to our new Constitution.

This procedure argues the extremity of Art, deception, and impudence in these people – because they joined with the idea as a most happy means of procuring Union, and obtaining a ratification of the proffered plan – But now that they have gained their point, they are traducing the Men, and wish to neglect the condition upon which probably their success was founded. Deceit, whether in public or in private life, seldom fails in the end to injure those who practise it. I observe that you mention efficient government – I assure you my dear friend that there lives not a Man who more cordially wishes for a Government possessed of the fullest means of procuring the happiness, prosperity, and security of our union – But for these salutary ends it is not in my judgement necessary to establish a system full of ambiguity respecting old and long esteemed Safeguards, whilst the ways, in some instances, to pernicious exertions of power are left much too open. I might object some fundamental errors, such as the idea too prevalent, of One Government founded on the ruin of State Governments – The want of safety to Elections, and the utter want of Responsibility. I hope the idea of Amendments is not lost in Massachusetts where we have been used to find the firmest defenders of Civil liberty. It is probable that this Session of Congress will pass Laws of a nature so gracious as to quiet alarms amongst those who reflect not, that “the safety of liberty depends not so much upon the gracious manner, as upon the Limitation of Power.” I heartily wish you health, and I beg my respectful compliments to Mrs. Adams. I am dear Sir,

sincerely and affectionately yours.

Richard Henry Lee

P.S. If you please, let me know if you receive this letter.


SamuelAdams PapersNew York Public Library

Printed in James Curtis Ballagh, The Letters of Richard Henry Lee, Volume 2, 1779 – 1794, pp. 483 – 84. Addressed to Adams “in Boston.”