<br /> Lee Letter: b437

Washington and Lee University

Sender: Richard Henry Lee
Recipient: George Washington

Dear Sir,

Not having enjoyed one days health since I had the honor of seeing you at Shuters hill, and closely confined at home, I knew not until yesterday that Mr. H. Muse the Collector of Rappahannock had put his place in jeopardy by a conduct certainly very full of danger to the public affairs. A young Man of the same name and family has requested me to lay before you the reputation for fitness rightly to discharge the duties of this Office that he has acquired by doing the business of it for a considerable time past. That if you have not one more worthy in view he may have a chance to find favor with you. Doctr. Brokenbrough who lives in the Town where Mr. Lawrence Muse has kept the Office; and whose judgement and opinion, I think, deserve attention, writes thus to me, “If I had not been well satisfied of his merit, I should not have taken this liberty; but I know him to be a young Man of strict integrity, and that his abilities in this Line are at least equal to any persons on Rappahannock” – My brother Frank o f Menoken, who is not much disposed to give characters writes me “This young Man is generally very well spoken of, particularly for his dilligence and punctuality” It is true that I have not had much business with him, but at such times he has appeared expert and clever. Were I called upon to give my opinion concerning the late Malversation in that Office I think I could venture to say that I judged this person to have had no concern in the affair. I have spoken with him concerning his ability to give adequate security. Upon this point he appears to have no difficulty.

I am very happy to hear of Genets recall. And hope it may prove a lesson to others, however justified by instructions, or seeming to be so, that they may not with impunity trample upon all the forms of decency and respect, that have hitherto been practised in the World.

Is it possible that there can be any rational proof of the Court of London intriguing with Algiers and Portugal to hound out the former against our Trade. In any way that I can view the subject I cannot see the great interest that stimulate a conduct so unjustifiable, so contrary to Neutrality, and at a peculial crisis too, when our friendship not our enmity is to be desired. It is chiefly flour and grain that are sent to the South of Europe, in which articles, I believe, we have not the smallest competition with G. Britain. At the same time that the profits of this Trade enable our Merchants to pay for the immensity of British Manufactures that Messrs. Jefferson & Madison say we import from thence. I confess that I do not by any means approve the Trade Resolves introduced to Congress by the latter. They appear to me to be partial, very illtimed, and totally unnecessary. Because, the fact, (admitting it to be one, on which this whole Theory is built, and when by the bye Theories & the practise of Commerce have seldom agreed well) of our Commerce being so very highly beneficial to G. Britain as is stated, this fact, from the nature of things, must be continually increasing; so as to put the Gainers greatly too much in our power to permit them the idea of refusing our reasonable desires.

And this without proceeding, at a time and in a manner, evidently to shew a prejudiced, hostile temper of mind. But what astonishes me is, to see so many of our Virginia Representatives voting for this most pernicious policy! For certainly Virginia will feel the ruinous consequences of this Crambo Trade fatally and quickly. I hope your goodness will excuse my writing so much on this subject – The plan has often engaged the public attention, and been generally reprobated.

The Newspapers tell us that the present Minister of France condemns in toto the conduct of his predecessor, and in the same unlimited manner approves the proceeding of our government especially in what relates to our avoiding War. That he is right in both these points is incontestable. But attending to all we have seen, what consistent judgement can be formed to reconcile such contrarieties. I here lay aside the Crafty, deep and intricate politics that have distingished the genius of France thro all the Annals of history; by which she has duped so many Nations for her own advantage, and to their great injury. I have never heard it denied or doubted but that the instructions published by Genet were the genuine orders of his Masters, and altho in his conduct you discover the furious Zeal of a mad Precursor, yet it is impossible not to see thro the whole of the instructions the most decided determination to put us into the War by every possible means. The words of the instructions are, “we ought to excite by all possible means the Zeal of the Americans” &c &c Fortunately, very fortunately for these States, the Wisdom and Patriotism, firmness & vigilance of our Government hath frustrated the destructive design. But it is possible that this Minister can speak the sentiments of his Masters when he approves the condemnation of what they so warmly & evidently desired. It is here again lucky for us that we are fairly put upon our guard against all the Arts and Detours of the subtlest policy.

The success & happiness of the United States is our care, and if the nations of Europe approve War, we surely may be permitted to cultivate the arts of peace. And it is really a happiness to reflect that if War should befall us, our Government will not promote it; but give cause to all who venerate humanity to revere the Rulers here.

I be leave to present my best respects, and those of this family to your Lady. I have the honor to be dear Sir with the most respectful sentiments of affection esteem

your friend & Servant.

Richard Henry Lee


George Washington PapersLibrary of Congress

Printed in James Curtis Ballagh, The Letters of Richard Henry Lee, Volume 2, 1779 – 1794, pp. 580 – 83.