<br /> Lee Letter: b384

Washington and Lee University

Sender: Richard Henry Lee
Recipient: Patrick Henry

Dear Sir,

Your favour of March the 23rd was yesterday delivered to me, about eight weeks from its date. The Public good, and your recommendation, are motives so powerful with me, that General Martin will be sure of my friendship whenever the time shall come that I can serve him. How the business of appointment to the office he wishes, or any other, will go on, it is not easy to say, because nothing of that kind has yet come upon the tapis. If the constitutional nomination takes I am inclined to think that the approbation of the Senate will not be withheld, unless some palpable impropriety should mark the nomination, which is hardly to be supposed. If, however, it should so turn out as to be in my power to serve General Martin, I shall assuredly do it. I have seen very few of the scurrilous papers that you allude to, but from those I have seen, it is my opinion that neither you nor I may be much disturbed at their effects, since it is not possible that they can have influence with any whose good opinion is worth having. Of all the anonymous nonsense and adulation that I have met with, Decius is the most contemptible; his effusions, nevertheless, are pretty similar to the genius and spirit that has animated the rest of his party. Nothing more than report of the Spanish proceeding have reached me; the public consideration here has never yet turned upon any thing of that kind. The state of Georgia did, last July, make an offer to the then Congress, of ceding part of her western territory to the if United States; but the terms of cession were then clogged with so many oppressive conditions, that the cession was not accepted. I do not know that the state has since receded from the terms it then proposed; whenever any thing relative to that business shall come on the carpet, I will inform you. An act has passed the Congress for administering the constitutional oath, and an impost bill is now before the Senate, from the House of Representatives; the duties are thought too high, and we are proposing a reduction. A long regulating bill, for securing the collection, is now in the House of Representatives; and in the Senate, a plan is forming for establishing the judiciary system. So far as this has gone, I am satisfied to see a spirit prevailing that promises to send this system out free from those vexations and abuses that might have been warranted by the terms of the constitution. It must never be forgotten, however, that the liberties of the people are not so safe under the gracious manner of government, as by the limitation of power. Mr. Madison has given notice, that, on Monday s’n-night he will call for the attention of the house to the subject of amendments. I apprehend that his ideas, and those of our convention, on this subject, are not similar. We shall carefully attend to this, and when the plan comes to the senate, we shall prepare to abridge, or enlarge, so as to effect, if possible, the wishes of our legislature. I think, from what I hear and see, that many of our amendments will not succeed, but my hopes are strong that such as may effectually secure civil liberty will not be refused. As two thirds of the legislatures have refused to apply for a general convention, the Congress, it seems, can constitutionally only submit their propositions of amendments to the legislatures, or to state conventions; but, I suppose, neither of these modes will fail, where the design is more effectually to secure civil liberty; the wish to do which, was, I assure you, the sole reason that could have influenced me to come here, for I agree perfectly with you, that your time of life and mine, after the turbulence we have passed through, renders repose necessary to our declining years. From what you write of the lands on the western frontier of Georgia, I suppose that you have views of family settlement there; as in that case, the Spaniards will be neighbours, I submit to your consideration, to reflect on the national character of that people, which seems to be firm and immovable in friendship, but very inveterate in enmity, peaceable and honest in their dealings, but jealous to an extreme of attempts upon their territory, especially that from whence they derive their wealth. Will it not be prudent, for such as are their neighbours, to cultivate their friendship, rather than provoke their enmity? It appears to me, that a judicious procedure of this kind, may get every thing from their good will, whilst it will not be pleasant to be in enmity with them; more especially as there is little doubt, but that in case of quarrel with us, France will upon principles of the Bourbon alliance, inevitably join them. The English court have, for some time past, been assiduously courting the court of Spain to a commercial treaty, and I fear, that our conduct has favoured their views; such a treaty would hurt us, in the same proportion that it will benefit our former enemies. The eyes of Europe are now turned upon the meeting of the states general in France. If that people succeed in restoring their ancient liberty, France will be the most potent empire in Europe. The war in the north of that part of the world, seems likely to continue, unless the peculiar state of England and of France should be the means of restoring peace. My brother Arthur desires his compliments to you; he has read your debates in convention, and accords with you in opinion about the probable issue of the present system. I am, with great esteem and regard, dear Sir,

Your affectionate friend and servant,

Richard Henry Lee



Printed in William Wilt Henry, Patrick Henry, 3:387. Printed also in James Curtis Ballagh, The Letters of Richard Henry Lee, Volume 2, 1779 – 1794, pp. 486 – 89. A variant copy is printed in R. H. Lee, Memoir of Richard Henry Lee, 2:95.