<br /> Lee Letter: n189

Washington and Lee University

Sender: George Washington
Recipient: Henry Lee

Dear Sir:

I should have thanked you at an earlier period for your obliging
letter of the 14th. ulto. had it not come to my hands a day or two only
before I set out for Mount Vernon; and at a time when I was much
hurried, and indeed very much perplexed with the disputes, memorials
and what not, with which the Government were pestered by one or other
of the petulant representatives of the powers at War: and because,
since my return to this City (nine days ago) I have been more than ever
overwhelmed with their complaints. In a word, the trouble they give is
hardly to be described.

My journey to and from Mount Vernon was sudden and rapid, and as short as I
could make it. It was occasioned by the unexpected death of Mr.
Whirring (my manager) at a critical season for the business with wch.
he was entrusted. Where to supply his place, I know not; of course my
concerns at Mount Vernon are left as a body without a head; but this by
the bye.

The communications in your letter were pleasing and grateful; for, although
I have done no public act with which my mind upbraids me, yet it is
highly satisfactory to learn that the things which I do (of an
interesting tendency to the peace and happiness of this Country) are
generally approved by my fellow Citizens. But, were the case otherwise,
I should not be less inclined to know the sense of the people upon
every matter of great public concern; for, as I have no wish superior
to that of promoting the happiness and welfare of this Country, so,
consequently, it is only for me to know the means to accomplish the
end, if it be within the compass of my powers.

That there are in this, as well as in all other Countries, discontented
characters, I well know; as also that these characters are actuated by
very different views: Some good, from an opinion that the measures of
the General Government axe impure: some bad, and (if I might be allowed
to use so harsh an expression) diabolical; inasmuch as they are not
only meant to impede the measures of that Government generally, but
more especially (as a great mean towards the accomplishment of it) to
destroy the confidence, which it is necessary for the people to place
(until they have unequivocal proof of demerit) in their public
servants; for in this light I consider myself, whilst I am an occupant
of office; and, if they were to go further and call me their slave,
(during this period) I would not dispute the point.

But in what will this abuse terminate? The result, as it respects myself, I
care not; for I have a consolation within, that no earthly efforts can
deprive me of, and that is, that neither ambitious nor interested
motives have influenced my conduct. The arrows of malevolence,
therefore, however barbed and well pointed, never can reach the most
vulnerable part of me; though, whilst I am up as
a mark, they will be continually aimed. The
publications in Freneau’s and Beeche’s
papers1 are outrages on common decency; and
they progress in that style, in proportion as their pieces are treated
with contempt, and are passed by in silence, by those at whom they are
aimed. The tendency of them, however, is too obvious to be mistaken by
men of cool and dispassionate minds, and, in my opinion, ought to alarm
them; because it is difficult to prescribe bounds to the effect.

The light in which you endeavored to place the views and conduct of this
Country to Mr. G – – ;2 and the sound policy
thereof, as it respected his own, was, unquestionably the true one, and
such as a man of penetration, left to himself, would most certainly
have viewed them in; but mum on this head. Time may unfold more, than
prudence ought to disclose at present. As we are told, that you have
exchanged the rugged and dangerous field of Mars, for the soft and
pleasurable bed of Venus,3 I do in this, as I
shall in every thing you may pursue like unto it good and laudable,
wish you all imaginable success and happiness being,

with esteem


1 Philip Freneau’s National Gazette, Philadelphia, and
Benjamin Franklin Bache’s General Advertiser,

2 Genet.

3 Lee married, June 18, 1793, Ann Hill Carter, of “Shirley.”

4 From the “Letter Book” copy in the Washington