<br /> Lee Letter: n282

Washington and Lee University

Sender: Richard Henry Lee
Recipient: Robert Carter Nicholas

Dear Sir,

I thank you for your kind favor by last Post, and I am well pleased to hear
that Gen. Lee is exerting himself for the security of our country. His
military talents are considerable, and his zeal in the American cause
equal to his martial accomplishments. His plan for securing our rivers
with armed boats, from piratical ravage, is very wise, and I hope it
will meet the countenance and support of our convention. The manner of
making common salt, as practised in France, and well described in a
pamphlet we sent the Committee of Safety, seems to deserve the most
serious attention of the public.1 Our water
is more salt & our sun hotter than in France, nor are they much
less subject to rains, but from this interruption we need not fear much
inconvenience, where the evaporation from the suns heat is so great as
in Virginia. I realy think that revenue as well as supply of the
commodity may be obtained from public works of this kind. Salt petre
too, is an object of great consequence, but I incline to believe that
bounties to encourage the making this in private families will more
certainly produce it in large quantities than any other plan. We are
told that Massachusetts Government alone, will in this way furnish 100
Tons by midsummer. But Sir, do you not see the indispensable necessity
of establishing a Government this Convention? How long popular
commotions may be suppressed without it, and Anarchy be prevented,
deserves intense consideration. A wise and free government may now be
formed, and the sensible advantages soon derived from it, will, added
to the Magistrates authority, effectually prevent the numerous evils to
be apprehended from popular rage & licence whenever they find the
bonds of government removed, as is certainly the case, by the last
wicked Act of Parliament. We cannot be in rebellion, and without the
Kings protection; and Magistrates acting under his authority at the
same time. Would not the President act as Governor, if chosen by the
Convention? I sent you a small pamphlet by Squire Lee, written here by
a very sensible Gentleman on the subject of Government. His plan, with
some variation, would in fact, be nearly the form we have been used to.

Our enemies are at this time holding a treaty with the Indians at Detroit,
and propose another at Niagara the 1st of May, to persuade these
Savages to join them in the war against us. This mischief will forever
attend us whilst one of the Forts are suffered to remain in possession
of the enemy in that Country. However, I expect an expedition will soon
be sett on foot that will effectually oust them. Gen Howe is certainly
gone to Hallifax to refresh his dispirited, fugitive army, but his
distress there must be considerable, as the climate is bad, and the
scarcity of provisions considerable. We conclude here that Quebec and
Hudsons river will be their great objects this Campaign, and we are
preparing to give them a proper reception both in Canada and New York.
I think Ld. Germains intercepted letter shews us pretty clearly that
the 7 regiments under Cornwallis are all that are intended for the
Southern Colonies this year, and their insufficiency is very apparent.
But this is one good consequence arising from Ld. Dunmores vain
boasting of his own prowess, and what he could do in Virga. with a few
troops, He has led his friends into another scrape. We have sent 8
Gallies & 2 Ships of war down after the Roebuck as she is reported
to be on Shore near the Capes of Delaware. Should this prove true, it
will be a fine acquisition.2

Colo. Harrison told me you desired the account of each Delegate to be sent
you. I have accordingly inclosed you mine.3
The general Account of the disposition of the money obtained from the
bills you have sent here, will likewise be transmitted. I had, in my
last account sent you when in Virga., stated our allowance at half a
joe per day because I was informed that was the sense of Convention.
But since the Ordinance mentions forty five shillings we must abide the
loss. The Congress has sent 250,000 dollars to the Paymaster in Virga.
& 50,000 to the Committee of Safety to get changed for specie to
support the Troops in Canada. From this quantity of Continental money
in Virginia you will have no difficulty hereafter I suppose Sir [in]
procuring as much as will pay our wages.

[You]r goodness will, I am sure, pardon the length [of] this letter.

I am dear Sir your affec[tionate] and obedient servant,
Richard Henry Lee

[P.S.] Mr. Ro. Morris purchased the bills you sent by me and the exchange
was 77½.

Notes:

Jefferson PapersMassachusetts Historical Society

Addressed “Robert
Carter Nicholas Esqr., Treasurer of Virginia at Williamsburg.”

Printed in James Curtis Ballagh, The Letters of Richard Henry Lee, Volume 1, 1762 – 1778, pp. 183 – 86.

1 In his April 20 letter to Richard Henry Lee, Edmund Pendleton, chairman of
the committee of safety, had endorsed the construction of public
saltworks and requested information on the “approved method of making
it.” Edmund Pendleton The Letters and Papers of Edmund Pendleton
1734 – 1803, ed. David J. Mays, 2 vols. (Charlottesville: University
Press of Virginia, 1967), 1:163 – 65. See also Robert Treat Paine to
the Massachusetts General Court, April 15, 1776.

2 Lee discussed similar topics in his letter of this date to John Page, which
is extracted in Stan V. Henkels Catalog, no. 712 (December 14, 1893),
item 30.

3 Lee’s copy of his account, endorsed “R. H. Lee’s Accot. with Treasury
Virga. 30 April 1776,” includes a charge for 145 days of service as a
delegate for the period September 1775 through April 1776. Lee Family
Papers, ViU.