<br /> Lee Letter: n57

Washington and Lee University

Sender: George Washington
Recipient: Richard Henry Lee

Dear Sir:

If any thing of greater moment than declaring that every word
contained in the Pamphlet, you were obliging enough to send me, was
spurious, had occurred, I should not have suffered your favor of the
6th instant to remain so long unacknowledged. These letters are written
with a great deal of art. The intermixture of so many family
circumstances (which, by the by, want foundation in truth) gives an air
of plausibility, which renders the villainy greater; as the whole is a
contrivance to answer the most diabolical purposes. Who the author of
them is, I know not. From information, or acquaintance, he must have
had some knowledge of the component parts of my family; but he has most
egregiously mistaken facts in several instances; Tho’ the design of his
labors is as clear as the sun in its meridian brightness.

The favourable issue of our negotiation with France is matter for heartfelt
joy, big with important events, and it must, I should think, chalk out
a plain and easy road to independence, from which I hope we shall not
depart, from a mistaken opinion, that the great work is already
finished; or, to finish it, adopt measures of precipitation. That G.
Britain would have submitted to any indignity from France, in or to
reek her vengeance upon America, I have not the smallest doubt, but
since the declaration of the King of France through the Marquis de
Noailles, they have no choice but war; But how under their present
circumstances, how they will conduct it, is a matter not so easily
understood, as all their ways have been ways of darkness. That they
will be under a necessity of giving up the Continent, or their Islands,
seems obvious to me, if the accounts we have received of the French
force in the West Indies be true. Hallifax and Canada will, I presume,
be strengthened; and if they can afford a garrison sufficient, they may
attempt to hold New York, unless every idea of subjugating America is
given up, in that case their whole resentment will be levelled at

The enemy are making every preparation for, and seem to be upon the point
of leaving Philadelphia. In my own judgment, and from many
corresponding circumstances, I am convinced they are bound to New York;
whether by land or water, whether as a place of rendezvous, or to
operate on North River, is not yet clear. Our situation here, on
account of the sick and stores, is embarrassing, as I dare not detach
largely to harass the enemy, in case of a land movement through the
Jerseys, before they have actually crossed the Delaware; and then it
will be too late, as their distance to South Amboy will be much less
than ours, and nothing to obstruct, To which may be added the advantage
of a day’s march, which they must gain of us. Were it not for the
number of our sick (upwards of 3000 in camp), and security of stores,
which are covered by our present position and strength, I could take
such a post in Jersey, as would make their passage through that State
very difficult and dangerous to them. But the impracticability of doing
this, without exposing this camp to insult and injury is well known to
them; and some part of their conduct justifies a report, that, in all
events, they will aim a blow at this army before they go off.

If Congress were fully impressed with the disadvantages, and real injury
which the service sustains for want of the regimental regulations, the
inconvenience to, and dissatisfaction of the officers, on account of
the uncertainty they are under with respect to their continuing, or
not, when the reduction of Regiments and Officers in each Regiment are
made. I think they would not delay from day to day for upwards of three
Months, a Measure which a few hours if set about would accomplish; but
I have so often, and so fully represented this matter that I shall give
them no further trouble on this head as a body. happy I own it would
be, if the regulations and our Military arrangements were made, it
would be a Means of relieving me from a number of perplexing
applications, and the service of much embarrassment.

I am Dr. Sir, etc.

P.S. I observe what you say respecting the Recruits, rather draughts, in
and from Virginia. I was never called upon by the State for Officers,
or directed by Congress, to send any to aid in their business; but,
thinking such a measure might be necessary, I ordered the Officers of
the disbanded Regiments, and such as had gone to Virginia on furlough,
to call upon and receive the Governor’s orders, with respect to the
marching of them to camp. That something has been wrong in conducting
the draughts, and assembling the Men &c. admits of no doubt; for,
out of the 1500 ordered last fall, and the two thousand this spring, we
have received only 1242 which is so horrible a deficiency, that I have
made a representation thereof to the State. I most sincerely condole
with you on the loss of your Brother.1 I am,


1 Thomas Ludwell Lee, who died in April, 1778.

2 The text is from a copy in the Washington Papers,
indorsed in pencil by Jared Sparks: “Denial of file Spurious