<br /> Lee Letter: b403

Washington and Lee University

Sender: Richard Henry Lee
Recipient: Patrick Henry

Dear Sir,

My ill state of health, the inclemency of the season appointed for the meeting of Congress, which in this place is most severely felt by all, and absolutely destructive to valitudinary people, prevented me from reaching Congress, before the 20th of April. Previous to my coming, the cession of North Carolina had been received, and legalized by both houses; and a temporary government there, similar to that west of Ohio, established. This system included the appointment of a governor of that district, who by the same system is also Indian agent, and authorized to transact all affairs with the Indians, in a more extensive and absolute manner than such agents have been heretofore authorized to do. This then being an office of great consideration and importance, you may easily see that it would be earnestly sought after, and attainable only by great interest, and particularly such, as was supported by persons in office here from that state, which had made the cession, as well as by those from Georgia, who were hostile to General M – n. On my arrival here, and finding your two letters, that had been here some time before, I immediately caused Governor Martins to be P – d; the event has been, as apprehended, that your friend would fail, for Mr. William Blunt, of North Carolina, (heretofore in Congress, from that state,) has been appointed governor of the ceded territory, and, as I have observed above, that appointment includes the Indian agency; thus this business has terminated. I should have given you this information sooner, but quickly after my arrival here, I was, with many others, taken extremely ill, so that my life was long in danger, and I was confined for near a month. The effects of this malady are still upon me, and my weakness so considerable, as to render writing painful to me. With my letters, I found one from you to Colonel Grayson, which I secured, and now return to you, resuming, that you design it only for the inspection of the friend to whom it was addressed. It is impossible, for me to describe the scene here, the scene here, and shall I content myself with saying, that every thing met with in my former life is mere trifling, compared with this, and you know that I have been in very stormy legislative scenes. The active and persevering efforts of those who have engrossed the public securities for little or nothing, not content with that advantage, must have six per cent forever, on the full nominal value of their possessions; so that a vast monied interest is to be created, that will forever be warring against the landed interest, to the destruction of the latter; and this evil, great as it would be, by funding the debts of the United States only, is to be increased ten fold, by the assumption of the state debts. By this plan the monied and the political speculator, will both be gratified; the former, by the way I have already stated, and the latter, by possessing the general government, with the sole cause, and consequently, with the whole power of taxation, and so converting the state legislatures into mere corporations. That this will be the consequence of funding the continental and state debts, amounting to about eighty millions of specie dollars, there can be in foreseeing. There appears to be no prospect of further amendments to the constitution, this session, and I own, ’tis my wish, that the amendments generally, as proposed at the last session, had been adopted by our legislature; for although there is much force in your observations, upon that subject, yet when I consider one great object of declarations beyond which government may not go, to wit: that they inculcate upon the minds of the people, just ideas of their rights, it will always be hazardous for rulers, however possessed of means, to undertake a violation of what is generally known to be right, and to be encroachments on the rights of the community; besides that by getting as much as we can at different times, we may at last come to obtain the greatest parts of our wishes. It would probably contribute as much to this end, if at the ensuing election of representatives, instructions were given by the people of those districts that send influential members here, to exert themselves to procure such additional amendments as have not yet been made. Such bad use has so often been made of my letters, that I am sure, the bare hint of this, is sufficient to secure your remembrance, that when I write to you, ’tis always in confidence. I shall be at all times happy to hear from you, being very sincerely, dear sir,

Your affectionate friend and ob’t serv’t.

Richard Henry Lee



Printed in William Wirt Henry, Patrick Henry, 3:421. Printed also in James Curtis Ballagh, The Letters of Richard Henry Lee, Volume 2, 1779 – 1794, pp. 522 – 25. A variant copy is printed in R. H. Lee, Memoir of Richard Henry Lee, 1:80.