<br /> Lee Letter: n249

Washington and Lee University

Sender: Committee of Secret Correspondence
Recipient: Arthur Lee


We have the honor to be appointed by the Congress a Committee of
Correspondence with the friends of America on the other side of
the – .1 Our institution is with design to
preserve secresy, & thereby secure our friends, who we suppose may
be endangered and alarmed by the late
proclamation.2 It is considered as of the
utmost consequence to the cause of Liberty, that an intercourse should
be kept up, and we shall be obliged by your sentiments of the most
probable and secure method of effecting it. If any should be certainly
resolved on which you may think much concerns America to be apprised
of, we shall consider it within the power of our appointment to pay the
expence of an Express Boat, if you can provide one under proper

We are Sir your most obd. servants.3


Transcription, University of Virginia Library. In the hand of Richard Henry

1 John Dickinson, Benjamin Franklin, Benjamin Harrison, John Jay, and Thomas
Johnson were appointed on November 29 to correspond “with our friends
in Great Britain, Ireland, and other parts of the world.” JCC, 3:392.
Additional inforrnation on the selection of the committee is
available in the autobiography of John Adams, who reported that soon
after it was formed John Jay came to him to apologize for his “being
omitted in the Choice of the two great Secret Committees of Commerce
and Correspondence.” “He said in express terms,” Adams explained,
“that my Character stood very high with the Members, and he knew
there was but one Thing which prevented me from being universally
acknowledged to be the first Man in Congress, and that was this,
there was a great Division in the House, and two Men had effected it,
Samuel Adams and Richard Henry Lee, and as I was known to be very
intimate with those two Gentlemen, many others were jealous of me.”
Adams, Diary (Butterfield), 3:340 – 41.

2 On November 13 Congress appointed a committee consisting of Richard Henry
Lee, William Livingston, and James Wilson to respond to “sundry
illegal ministerial proclamations that have lately apppeared in
America.” The committee’s report, a “declaration” focusing upon the
royal proclamation of August 23, 1775, was submitted on November 29,
adopted on December 6, and subsequently distributed in the form of a
broadside. See Am. Archives, 4th ser. 3:24 – 41; and JCC, 3:353, 392,
409 – 12, 513.

3 Lee added the following note at the bottom of this document, probably
sometime after September 29, 1779, when William Carmichael was
elected secretary to the minister plenipotentiary to negotiate a
treaty with Spain. See JCC, 15:1127. “Copy of a letter from the
Committee of Secret Correspondence to Dr. Lee soon after the first
institution of this Committee – its members then were Mr. Harrison, Dr.
Franklin, Mr. Dickinson, Mr. Johnson, Mr. Jay. The correspondence
here requested was entered upon by Dr. Lee, and one of his dispatches
being committed to the care of Mr. Carmichael, he with Mr. Deane in
concert opened, and detained this dispatch for two years and made use
of its contents to create enemies to Dr. Lee Dr. Franklin knew of
this proceedure and expressed not his disapprobation, but on the
contrary continued the patron, friend, and intimate of Mr. Deane. The
Congress being made thoroughly acquainted with this whole proceedure,
instead of censuring the authors of an injury done to their pledged
faith, were not only silent, but rewarded Mr. Deane, and advanced Mr.
Carmichael to an office of high trust.”