<br /> Lee Letter: n138

Washington and Lee University

Sender: George Washington
Recipient: Henry Lee

Dr Sir:

Yours of the 31st. Ulto. was delivered to me yesterday. I never
hear of the intended resignation of a good Officer without feeling
pain, and shall be sorry for that of Captn. McLean’s; but if he is
resolved on the measure It is not in my power to prevt. it.

The same principle that actuates Captn. McLean would occasion the
resignation of half the Captains of the line, if it was to pervade the
whole; for the case of this Gentleman, when stripped of its colouring
and exposed in its natural form is simply this. His first appointment
as Captain was in one of the Additional Regiments, and by his own Acct.
(and as I know the fact to be) far from the oldest of that rank, had
these Corps therefore been kept up, he could not by the constitution of
them, have arrived to the rank he is now aiming at, till all the Capts.
older than himself had been promoted; but it being found impossible
under our Military system to support those Regiments, and equally so to
introduce Captn. McLean into the Delaware Battn. without disturbg. the
quiet of the Offrs., the expedient of annexing him to your Corps was
adopted, to avoid difficulties, at the same time that it would keep a
good Officer in Service. The motives which induced this, the obvious
views at the time (however they may have changed since) were too well
known to you, and to him, to need explanation. In what then is he
injured? Is it because his views have expanded, and he is not gratified
in them? This would be a reason that could not stand the test of
examination. Is it because some Junior Captains have obtained
majorities before him? let him look through the line of the Army and he
will find hundreds still holding the commissions of Captain who are his
Seniors in that line. Is it because he enlisted more Men than many
others? Though this is praiseworthy I hope never to see it made the
ladder to preferment; for we know from experience that some of the most
worthless characters we ever had among us were the most successful
recruiting Officers. In a word I see no injustice done Captn. McLean. I
see no cause of complaint that is not incidental to, and resulting
from, our Military constitution. I gave you my reasons against His
promotion when you first moved the matter; and when afterwards the
application was renewed at the Board of War and they requested my
opinion on the matter I transmitted, to the best of my recollection,
(for I have had no recurrence to papers) a copy of my letter to you to
them. This is all the Agency I have had in the business; and this,
unless circumstances shd. produce a change of sentiment, I shd. do
again.

I am etc.