<br /> Lee Letter: n227

Washington and Lee University

Sender: Richard Henry Lee
Recipient: Francis Lightfoot Lee

Dear Brother

An Express is just arrived here from Williamsburg informing of the Assembly
being called to the 1st of June, Which carries our Speaker away. We
suppose the design is chiefly to lay Ld. Norths conciliatory plan
before the house. Tis most <sure> that if this is done you should,
after making […] proper spirited observations on the folly,
injury and insidiousness of the proposition; refer him to the united
opinion of N. America in Congress. Many and powerful are the reasons
that render it necessary you should fully approve in Gen. Assembly of
the proceedings of last Continentl. Congress, of this present
appointment and of your Delegates. Ministry and their Tools have
constantly informed the Nation that the Provincial Conventions were
factious meetings, that their proceedings were not the sense of the
people, and that the Constitutional Assemblies (as they contrast the
two) would not be of such opinion. To prevent a contradiction of this
they have prevented the meeting of Assemblies, unless when they had
some special wicked purpose to answer. The Assemblies that have been
allowed to meet, all except New York, have reprobated this Ministerial
lye, and have resolved as above mentioned. For heavens sake avoid
compliments (except to the Soldiery) on the Indian expedition last
summer. Nothing has given more concern and disgust to these northern
Colonies than our unhappy vote of that sort in last
Convention.1 Yesterday one of the first Men
on the Continent for wisdom sound judgment, good information, and
integrity said to me “I was much grieved and concerned for the honor
and good sense of Virginia, when I saw that ill founded ill judged
Compliment.” Perhaps the scheme is to get another invasion Law and your
approbation of another ruinously expensive excursion on the frontiers.
A few <inter-loping> Indians will never be wanting to commit
irregularties for the encouragement of these Land exploring schemes.
But the Land hunter ought to accomplish his purpose upon terms less
destructive than £100,000 charge to the public annually. Never
encourage by complimenting the last, a second tour among the Indians
and Frontier men. The Continent looks with jealous eyes on the visits
of Governors to such places at this crisis. “We know the plan of
ministry is to bring Canadians and Indians down upon us. For this
reason the Provincial Troops of Connecticut & Massachusetts have
wisely taken by a brave coup de Main, possession of the Forts at
Ticonderoga & Crown Point. In the former they got 200 pieces of
large Cannon, some field pieces, Swivels, Powder &c. The Congress
have directed N. York, Connecticut & Massachusetts to remove these
Stores &c. to the South end of Lake George and take strong post
there to intercept the communication and march of Canadian & Indian
forces into those Colonies. The taking of Ticonderoga last war cost CT.
Britain many thousand lives and an immense expence, but now it has been
taken from them, tho strong & well garrisoned, by the bravery and
enterprise of a few Provincials and at a very small expence. There
never was a more total revolution at any place than at New York. The
Tory’s have been obliged to fly, the Province is arming, and the
Governor dares not call his prostituted Assembly to receive Ld. Norths
foolish plan. Two Delances, Watts, Cooper, Riv ington, Colo. Philips
& the rest of the Tory Leaders are fled some to England and some to
private places in the Country where they are not
known.2 The Congress have advised the
Yorkers to make provision for carrying their Women & Children into
the Country, and to remove their warlike stores before the arrival of
Troops there, whom they are not to suffer to encamp, or commit with
impunity any hostilities against the
people.3 The latest and best accounts from
Boston make the loss of Regulars in killed, wounded, & missing 1000
Men. The Provincial loss was trifling. 10,000 Men are now encamped
before the Town between which and the Country there is no intercourse.
G. Gage refuses to let the people out in consequence of which their
distress presently must be grievous indeed. The Beseiging Army keep the
one Beseiged in constant alarm, so that ’tis said, they rest neither
Night nor day. Every day is expected to bring 2000 Men more from
Ireland, and seven Regiments to N. York where the Torys had informed
Ministers they would be well received, but now behold they come to a
Country universally hostile, and in Arms to receive them. Connecticut
has 12000 Men in Arms, the Jerseys a good many, and this Province at
least 8000. There are 2000 in this City well armed and disciplined Men.
In short every Colony this way is well prepared for War and appear to
be secure against any Force likely to be sent against them. It would
seem as if the Southern Colonies were alone vulnerable at present, and
this should be remedied as soon as
possible.”4 We are just informed that the
Dutch have imported a large quantity of powder into Statia and that two
English Men of War are laying off the Island to prevent its exportation
to N. America – That a large quantity is also landed at Cape Francois
where no guard is yet placed. The Treasurer should be prevailed with to
employ a Mr. Goodrich in Norfolk, a famous Contraband Man, to send
immediately some swift sailing Pilot Boats for 20 or 30000 weight to
supply the Counties whose money will no doubt be collect ed before the
powder arrives. I hope Capt Brown is near full by this time and I
suppose Mr. Lees charterd Ship, as well as Outram, is ar rived in York
River. You will have time to load these Vessels as it is not now
probable that the Congress will stop the Exports sooner than the 10th
of September, except provision to the British fishery on the Banks of
Newfoundland. “It seems the Bill for restraining the Trade of the
Colonies is not to have force until a certain time after its arrival in
N. America. So that in this instance the whole power of the Legislature
is given to Ministry, for it will depend on them when the Act shall
arrive here since they may send it when, or never, as they please.” Mr.
Brown should be immediately informed that there is no prospect of
exportation being stopt, that he may act on full knowledge about buying
or not Tobacco. “We find by the late accounts that Ministry will be
more puzzled than they imagine to accomplish their detestable purposes
against us. Mr. (Lee)5 writes the 26 March,
that the embarquement from England has been delayed by the
impossibility of getting Seamen for the Ships, but he adds, let not
this delay your vigorous efforts for defence. From Ireland we learn,
that the people there have interposed to prevent the embarquement, and
that a contest has happened in which several lives were lost on both
sides. The other clay G. Gage (hearing that all the provincial Troops,
except 1500 were retired to sign an association prepared for them at
some distance from the Encampment,) marched with his whole force out of
Boston, but seeing the 1500 Provincials drawn up in order of Battle,
and disliking their Countenance, he returned within his Lines.

[“]A Man of Wars Tender at Rhode Island lately Seized a Vessel loaded with
provisions for the Army at Boston and the Country People in Boats
attacked and took both the provision Vessel and the Tender, having
wounded the Lieutenant of the M. of War and taken his Men prisoners
whom they conveyed Captives into the Country. Thus you see our infant
Struggles on the water are not unsuccessful.” You have all the news of
this place. I am hurried, as I suppose you will be tired, with the
length of this Letter. Let me know by every Post how you go on at
Williamsburg & the objects of your deliberations. Remember me to
all Friends and particularly to Mr. Treasurer.

Richard Henry Lee


Receiver’s copy, Harvard University Libraries. Endorsed: “Liberty, Quos
nolumus, Arthur Lee” in the hand of Arthur Lee. However it is obvious
from the content of the letter that the recipient was Francis
Lightfoot Lee, who was currently representing Richmond County in the
Virginia Assembly.

1 On March 25, 1775, the Virginia Convention had passed a resolution praising
Lord Dunmore’s expedition against the Indians. Am. Archives, 4th ser.
2:170. See also Lee to John Dickinson, April 7, 1775.

2 For further comment on New York loyalists, see George Read to Gertrude
Read, May 18, 1775.

3 See JCC, 2:52.

4 An extract of this letter, comprising the three portions within quotation
marks, was printed in the Virginia Gazette (Pinkney), June 1, 1775.

5 In the extract printed in the Virginia Gazette, Pinkney substituted “A
gentleman of the strictest veracity” for “Mr (Lee).”