<br /> Lee Letter: n284

Washington and Lee University

Sender: Richard Henry Lee
Recipient: Samuel Purviance, Jr.

Dear Sir,

I received yesterday your favor of the 2d instant, and in answer to that
part of it desiring to know if Mr. Hancock gave a copy of your letter
to any person I must say that I do not know whether or not, but I am
inclined to think he has not.1 This business
appears to me thus. When Mr. Hancock received the dispatches from
Baltimore, he proceeded to read the whole in Congress, and among
others, a letter containing observations on the Council of Safety of
Maryland, relative to the timidity of their Councils; which it appears
he had not previously read in private, because, when he came to that
part of it which mentioned its being written in confidence, he stopt,
and observed it was private, and proposed it should be so considered;
but as he had read so much of it, he went on but read no name at the
bottom, & in the debate consequent upon it ’twas supposed to be
anonymous, and it was conjecture alone that fixed you as the Author. I
should have certainly informed you of this if I had then found myself
at liberty to do it, and when I heard from you of your summons before
the Council, it was too late for a letter to reach you before your
appearance at that board. But the idea of drawing from the mouth of a
person accused his own condemnation is reprobated by English
jurisprudence, and is the practise only of inquisitorial or Star
chamber Tyranny. I should incline to think that this persecution will
be carried no further; at least I am sure the time is quickly coming
when violence from without will render absolutely necessary a perfect
union within. A late arrival from Port L’Orient with 13 tons of powder
& 30 of Salt petre brings us a Cork paper near the middle of March,
by which we learn that more than 40,000 men would sail from Portsmouth
& Grenoch about the 1st of April for N. America. They consist of
Hessians, Hanoverians, Mechlenburghers, Scotch Hollanders, & Scotch
Highlanders, with some British Regiments. Their destination not
certain, but said to be N. York, New England, Canada, & 2
expeditions more South. Should the persecution go on against you, I
would advise answering no interrogatories, but plainly detail my
conduct, acknowledge such parts as were without the strict line of
duty, and lay it to the account of my zeal for the cause of America,
which I hoped a generous community would pardon and forget.

My time and attention is so taken up with public business, that I must now
conclude with referring you to my letter by Dr.

I am, with regard, Sir your friend and obedient servant,

Richard Henry Lee


Receiver’s copy, Maryland Historical Society.

Printed in James Curtis Ballagh, The Letters of Richard Henry Lee, Volume 1, 1762 – 1778, pp. 187 – 88. Addressed to Purviance at Baltimore.

1 See John Hancock to the Baltimore Committee, April 16, 1776, note.

2 See Lee to Purviance, May 1, 1776.