<br /> Lee Letter: n248

Washington and Lee University

Sender: Richard Henry Lee
Recipient: Catherine Macaulay

Dear Madam,

As a good Christian properly attached to your native Country, I am sure you
must be pleased to hear that North America is not fallen, nor likely to
fall down before the Images that the King hath set up. After more than
ten years abuse and injury on one side, of modest representation on the
other; Administration at length determine to try if the sword cannot
affect, what threatening Acts of Parliament had in vain attempted; that
is, the ruin of the just rights and liberty of this great Continent.
Lexington, Concord, and Bunkers Hill opened the tragic scene; and
clearly proved to the whole world that N. America had no reliance but
on its own virtue in Arms. The battle of Bunkers Hill, tho followed by
strong reenforcements, has not enlarged the prison of the Ministerial
Army many paces. After the clearest proofs that the Quebec Act was
going to be carried into effect by marching an Army of Canadians
&c. into these Colonies, and when every attempt had been made to
bring the Savages on the defenceless women and Children along our
extensive frontiers; it became high time, on principles of self
preservation, to avert the meditated [Evi] 1. The war was therefore
sent into their own Country having first, by proper Agents and
Memorials, explained to the Inhabitants of Canada and to the Indians,
the views and objects of the United Colonies. Success, equal to the
justice of the cause, has followed this undertaking. With indefatigable
zeal 3000 Men crossed Lake Champlain and laid siege to Fort St. Johns,
which place, as the key to Canada, had been made very strong by Govr.
Carlton, and garrisoned with 500 regular Troops and 100 Canadians.
During this siege, a detachment from the Army pierced further into the
Country, invested and took Fort Chamble (between St. Johns &
Montreal) that was garrison’d by about 80 Regulars. Gen. Carleton
having by this time collected 800 Men, marched to the relief of St.
Johns, when 600 of the Am. Troops met and defeated him. This was
presently followed by the surrender of St. Johns, with all the Garrison
prisoners of war, and there they found a plentiful supply of military
stores. A rapid march to Montreal was next made, and yesterd[ay]
brought the account of the surrender of that Town [to] General
Montgomerie on Monday the 13th instant upon condition that the people
should quietly enjoy their religion and not be molested in their
property. Gen. Carleton had escaped down the St. Laurence with 2 or 3
Vessels, but it was expected he would fall into the hands of Collo.
Arnold, then at Quebec, to which place he had penetrated with 1000 men
by the rivers Kenebec and Chaudiere. No doubt is entertained here, but
that this Congress will be shortly joined by Delegates from Canada,
which will then complete the union of 14 provinces. Thus have the evil
machinations of an unprincipled Administration been turned greatly to
the honor and security of the people they meant to ruin. The
proclamation that followed the receipt of so humble a petition has
determined the Councils of America to prepare for defence with the
utmost vigor both by Sea & Land. Altho’ upon the former of these
elements, America may not at first be in condition to meet the force of
G. Britain, yet as Hercules was once in his Cradle, so, time and
attention will, under the fostering hand of Liberty, make great changes
[in] this matter. The knowing Ones are of opinion that by next Spring
so many Armed Vessels will be fitted out as to annoy our enemies
greatly, and to afford much protection to the Trade of North America.
It is wonderful what great benefits have already been obtained by the
infant efforts of some Colonies in this way. Whilst this Country
abounds in Wood, iron & Artisans, whilst a soil and Climate fitted
for the abundant production of Hemp is possessed by an industrious
people, strength on the sea cannot long be wanting. The Congress has
ordered a suspension of all exportation for a certain time. This looks
like ruin to the West Indies. The almost infinite distress that these
Islands will feel in a short time is realy shocking to human[it]y, but
in this case, charity must begin at home, and the liberties of North
America be at all events secured.

The animation and perseverance that the spirit of Liberty and resentment
furnishes was well displaid in the seige of St. Johns. Twas a wet cold
season, and the Men thinly clothed, the ground so low & wet on
which they were placed, that they were compelled to lay heaps of brush,
and weeds on the Top of the brush, that they might sleep out of the
water at night. In this horrid situation they vigorously pressed the
seige for 47 days, when the Garrison surrendered prisoners of war.

Lord Dunmores unparallelled conduct in Virginia has, a few Scotch excepted,
united every Man in that large Colony. If Administration had searched
thro the world for a person the best fitted to ruin their cause, and
procure union and success for these Colonies, they could not have found
a more complete Agent than Lord Dunmore.

We regret not having heared from England since early in September, but our
Congress disregarding this, are proceeding with vigor, perseverance,
and judgement in effecting the great purpose for which they were

You know the Writer of this letter Madam, and therefore it is as
unnecessary to sign it, as it would be to assure you of his affection
and esteem for your whole self, and all your connections. We hope all
are well at St. Bees and that proper care will be taken there in this
tempestuous Season.

The last Post produces a proclamation from Ld. Dunmore declaring Liberty to
the Slaves and proclaiming the Law martial to be the only law in that
Colony-And all this he says is done “in virtue of the power and
authority to me given by his Majesty.1 Is it
possible that his Majesty could authorize him thus to remedy evils
which his Lordship himself had created? I would have inclosed you a
copy of this curious proclamation, had I not feared it would too much
increase the size of this packet.

The inhumanity with which this war (unprovoked as it has been on this side)
is prosecuted, is realy shocking. A few days since, in the midst of
winters […] that northern climate, did Gen Howe turn out of
Boston between two & three hundred Women and Children without even
the necessaries of life. Some of them died on the water side before
their hospitable Countrymen could relieve them. This cruelty is the
more unpardonable, as these unhappy people have been by violence
detained in Boston until now, contrary to the faith of a most positive
agreement entered into between the Town & Gen. Gage.

The inclosed printed papers will shew you Madam how successful the cause of
liberty has been in Canada. No doubt is entertained of Quebec &
Govr. Carleton having fallen into the hands of Gen. Mongomerie &
Colo. Arnold. A Valuable Artillery Store Ship is just fallen into our
hands and the Stores are at our Camp at Cambridge.

The Ship is the Nancy I think.


File copy, University of Virginia Archives.

Printed in James Curtis Ballagh, The Letters of Richard Henry Lee, Volume 1, 1762 – 1778, pp. 160 – 64.

1 Dunmore’s proclamation of 7 November 1775, is printed in American Archives, 4th
ser. 3:1385.