<br /> Lee Letter: b423

Washington and Lee University

Sender: Richard Henry Lee
Recipient: Henry Lee

Mr dear Sir,

I think you are a letter in my debt, however that is a trifle among friends, and perhaps it might have been many more if my time had not been most laboriously engaged with Congressional affairs, and most of all with the Representatives bill. It was an endless work almost, to pursue thro the various detours and meandring in this business – The bill has finally past the 2 houses, by which Virginia has 21 Members & Kentucky 2 – but 6 eastern States have one a piece more than they ought, Jersey & Delaware the same, and N & S. Carolina each I more also than these States would any of them have had, if the plain Constitutional mode had been pursued of dividing the number of people in each State Respectively by the agreed Ratio of 30,000 But by a certain Arithmetico political Sophistry an arrangement of 6 to 2 in favor of the North against the South has been made of the 8 Members gained by this Sophism – They first divide the whole or aggregate number of the people in the U.S. by 30,000 which produces 120 members instead of 112 which would have come from dividing the people in each State by 30,000 – leaving large fractions with some States. After having obtained the 120 Members they apply different Ratios to different States so as to give one Member for that Ratio which in each, should approach nearest to 1 for 30,000 and leaving smaller fractions. This ingenious Theory may hereafter change when the fractional application shall be found to benefit the South as now it does the North. For then it may appear improper, tho now it does not, to change a Real into a Virtual Representation so far as fractions are employed. This bill went by a Majority of 1 in the Senate and 2 in the H. of R. three of the Members of the latter against it being Sick, or out of the way.

I do apprehend, however, that when a full representation comes into the two houses after the next election, that all this arithmetical sophistry will vanish before truth and the Constitution, as Mists are dispersed by the rising Sun. This Bill, that for the frontier defence, and the Post Office bill being past, and the Militia an[d] Coinage bills in great forwardness, we may rise by the Middle of April, which will give time enough for the Ways & Means bill – But I fear the Speculators will agitate a fresh Assumption which they are very intent upon, but which hitherto they have not ventured to bring forth from out of the Treasury Report. Gen. Knox told us the other day that the extra pay of our Militia the last year would be all allowed except about 230 dollars which would require a legislative provision, and that he thought it would not be worth while to apply for it. The list of Claims remain yet with Colo. Davis, who has waited for a bill now passed for removing the limitation law two years to come, which will let in the greater part of them – Such as are founded on ideas not warranted by the former Acts of Congress, the Legislature will not now open a door for the admission of, apprehending a great increase of the public debt thereby. The Military Claim of Land South of Ohio yet lays before the house of Representatives, and I fear that the violation of an Indian Treaty in the present Critical State of Indian Affairs will prevent anything effectual from being now done in that business. A prodigious Shock has lately assailed the Speculators, and Stocks of all kinds wonderfully fallen, but I fancy the Spirit will soon again revive, for I see that 26/ is now offered for 6 per. Cents payable & deliverable in January next. An Amazing profit this to those who have money, for at this Moment the same 6 per. Cents may be purchased for 21/9 and sold directly again with 9 Months credit for 26/ –

Who shall be Commander in Chief of the Western Expedition is now a matter of Town talk – They say it will lay between yourself – Gen Putnam, General Pinkney, & Gen. Wayne – Nothing transpires from the Cabinet. Your friends are clear for you, but each has his Partisans. I do not know where to direct the enclosed so that it may soon reach my brother, and I wish him to get it as quickly as possible. I have therefore taken the liberty of enclosing it to you, and request that you will have the goodness to contrive it to him with all the expedition in your power. I am, with great affection,

Yours sincerely.

Richard Henry Lee

Remember me cordially to my friends in Richmond among whom I count particularly Mr. Marshall, the Treasurer, Mr. Harvey with Colo. Carrington. –


Myers CollectionNew York Public Library

Printed in James Curtis Ballagh, The Letters of Richard Henry Lee, Volume 2, 1779 – 1794, pp. 547 – 49.