<br /> Lee Letter: n292

Washington and Lee University

Sender: Richard Henry Lee
Recipient: Charles Lee

My dear Friend

The inclosed intelligence lately received from England will give you a
better idea of the designs of our enemies than any we have before
received.

In a letter I have seen from London of unquestionable authority is the
following paragraph. “A General of the first abilities & experience
would come over if he could have any assurance from the Congress of
keeping his rank, but that being very high, he would not submit to have
any one but an American his Superior, and that only in consideration of
the confidence due to an American in a question so peculiarly American.
Let me have your opinion of this matter. Prince Ferdinand’s
recommendation of the General mentioned above is in these words. ‘Si
l’on veut un Officier approuvé, intelligent et brave; je ne scai si on
peut trouver un autre qui le vaille’.”1

There is no person in America can answer this paragraph so well as
yourself. Our friend Gates who with Generals Washington and Mifflin
(the latter lately made a Brigadier and Mr. Gates a Major General) are
now here is of opinion that the Officer desiring to come to America is
Majr. General Beckwith. But this is mere conjecture, founded on the
Mans political principles and his abilities as a Soldier. The papers I
formerly sent you, with the evening post now inclosed, will shew you
the political convulsions of this Province, but I incline to think that
this sensible spirited people will not long be duped by Proprietary
machinations whatever may be the fate of Maryland. Apropos what do you
think of the representative bodies of this latter Province? Of all the
extraordinary Phenomina of this extraordinary age, these are the most
extraordinary! Is the Convention of Maryland a Conclave of Popes, a
mutilated legislature or an Assembly of wise Men. By the manner in
which they dispense with oaths it wd. seem they conceived of themselves
as the first of these, for surely a mutilated legislature, an
unorganized Government, cannot do what these men by their Resolve of
May the 15th have undertaken. Nor is their 2d resolve of the 21st
better founded, unless they can shew, which I believe is not in their
power, that the people had in contemplation these things when they
chose them and elected them accordingly.2
What do these folks mean by a “Reunion with G. Britain on
constitutional principles?
” I profess I do not understand them, nor do
I believe the best among them have any sensible ideas annexed to these
terms. But I have done with them, being satisfied they will never
figure in history among the Solons, Lycurgus’s, or Alfreds. Our
Commissioners in Canada seem to be on the fright but I hope Thomas,
Sullivan, Thomson &c. will restore the spirits with our affairs in
that Province. The disgrace apart, our late capture of the valuable
Transport to the Eastward, much more than compensates for the loss
before Quebec. The Continental armed Ship Franklin has certainly
taken & secured a most valuable Transport with 75 Tons of Gun
powder, 1000 stand of arms and a variety of other useful articles,
valued at £50,000 this money.3 The
sensible and manly resolve of Virginia of the 15th instant has
gladdened the hearts of all wise and worthy Men
here.4 It will powerfully contribute to sett
things right in these Proprietary governments. We have here 4 Tribes of
the Six Nations Indians and yesterday we had between 2 & 3 thousand
men parading on the Common to their great astonishment and delight. We
hope effectually to secure the friendship of their people.

Farewell dear Sir, and be assured you have my hearty wishes for success and
happiness. Cant Clinton (if he is on Shore) be disturbed before the
rest of his Mirmidons join him? My compliments to Gen. Howe.

Richard Henry Lee

Gen Lee. Commander of the Continental Armies in the Southern Department at Williamsburg, Virginia.

Notes:

Receiver’s copy, Princeton University Library.

Printed in James Curtis Ballagh, The Letters of Richard Henry Lee, Volume 1, 1762 – 1778, pp. 193 – 95. Printed also in New York Historical Society Collections, The Lee Papers, 2:45.

1 Four delineated lines were left blank in MS at this point. For the letter
“from London of unquestionable authority,” written by Arthur Lee and
dated February 13, from which the quoted passage was taken, see Am.
Archives, 4th ser. 4:1126; and PCC, item 83, 1:5 – 8. See also Josiah
Bartlett to John Langdon, May 21, 1776, note 2.

2 The May 15 and 21 resolves of the Maryland Convention are in Am. Archives
4th ser. 5:1584 – 85, 1588 – 89.

3 The schooner Franklin, commanded by Capt. James Mugford, had captured the
British transport Hope near Boston harbor on May 17. See Clark, Naval
Documents, 5:134 – 35, 216 – 18.

4 See Lee to Edmund Pendleton, May 12, 1776, note 3.