<br /> Lee Letter: n293

Washington and Lee University

Sender: Richard Henry Lee
Recipient: Thomas Ludwell Lee

My Dear Brother,1

This is Post morning and I am obliged on a Committee of
conference2 with the Generals Washington,
Gates, & Mifflin by 9 on the operations of this Campaign, so that I
cannot possibly write to many of my friends and particularly Colo
Mason. Pray make my compliments to him, let him have the news sent, and
apologize for me. Colo Nelson is not arrived, but I suppose he will by
this day sennight, about which time I shall sett out for Virginia, and
after resting at home a day or two, will attend the Convention at
Williamsburg.3 The sensible and spirited
resolve of my Countrymen on the 15th has gladdened the heart of every
friend to human nature in this place, and it will have a wonderful good
effect on the misguided Councils of these Proprietary
Colonies.4 What a scene of determined rapine
and roguery do the German treaties present to us, and Ld Dartmouths
answer to the Duke of Graftons motion, 16th March, has shut the mouths
of all Gapers after Commissioners.5 The
transport Prize taken to the Eastward is extremely apropos. The vessel
and Cargo are valued at £50,000. We are not without hopes of
getting some more of the same flock, if fortune should have separated
them from the Shepherd, they will most probably fall. This is the
Campaign that we shall be most tried in probably, and we should
endeavour as far as human care can go to be more invulnerable than
Achilles, not exposing even the heel, where the stake is so immense. We
have not lately heard from Canada, but we hope for better news soon
than our last. A potent push will assuredly be made there this Summer
by our enemies, and if we can prevent them from communicating with the
Upper Country, and thereby debauching the Indians, we shall answer
every good purpose there. The Roebuck is gone from here crippled, but
the Liverpoole remains thinly manned and in want of provisions. It is
to be hoped that the death of the King of Portugal will produce
something in Europe favorable to us. Let no consideration interrupt
your attention to the making of Common Salt, Salt Petre & Arms; and
every kind of encouragement should be given to all sorts of useful

Farewell my dear brother,
Richard Henry Lee.

[P.S.] Our brothers in London were well, the 13. Febry. last. I write Gen.
Lee by this post-do see that the letter is forwarded from
Williamsburg.6 R. H. Lee.

Thomas Lud Lee, Esqurie, at Williambsburg, in Virginia.


Printed in New York Historical Society Collections, The Lee Papers, 2:47 – 48.

Printed also in James Curtis Ballagh, The Letters of Richard Henry Lee, Volume 1, 1762 – 1778, pp. 196 – 97.

1 Thomas Ludwell Lee (ca. 1730 – 77), who represented Stafford County at the
Virginia Convention then convened at Williamsburg, had been appointed
on May 15 to the committee charged with drafting a declaration of
rights and a plan of government for Virginia. Appleton’s Cyclopaedia
of American Biography; and Am. Archives, 4th ser. 6:1524.

2 The May 29 report of the Committee of Conference, in Lee’s hand, is in PCC,
item 19, 6:185 – 87; and JCC, 4:399 – 401. For further information on the
work of this committee, see JCC, 4:406 – 14.

3 Although Thomas Nelson was not mentioned in the journals until June 12, he
listed expenses for “Attendance from 9th June 76 till Aug. 11th, 62
days” in his later account with Virginia. Emmet Collection, NN. Lee
left Philadelphia on June 13. See Lee to Washington, June 13, 1776.

4 Lee had been at work for some time in the struggle to change “the misguided
Councils of these Proprietary Colonies.” The following undated note
in the hand of Benjamin Rush among the Lee Family Papers, ViU,
subscribed only “Wednesday evening” but obviously written on May 22.
1776, illustrates the shape of such activities.

“A Memorial will be presented by our assembly tomorrow to the Congress,”
Rush wrote, “praying an explanation of your resolve of the 15th
instant. The Motion for the Application (which came from one of the
Allens) Shews a design to enslave the people of Pennsylvania. I
conjure you by your past & present affection for our common
mistress not to desert us in this trying exigency. 4/5 of the
inhabitants of our colony will fly to the ultima ratio before they
will submit to a new government formed by the present Assembly.
Please to circulate the papers you will receive herewith [not found]
among all the Southern delegates tomorrow morning. Mr. Hews must not
be neglected. Yours Affectionately, B R-h.”

Rush’s note had been prompted by the Pennsylvania Assembly’s appointment on
May 22 of a committee charged with drafting a memorial to Congress to
clarify the May 15 resolve recommending new governments and to obtain
“an Explanation in such Terms as will not admit of any Doubt, whether
the Assemblies and Conventions, now subsisting in the several
Colonies, are or are not the Bodies, to whom the Consideration of
continuing the old, or adopting new Governments, is referred.” The
committee had been appointed in response to receipt of a petition
from “the Inhabitants of the City and Liberties of Philadelphia,”
which had itself been a reaction to Congress’ resolve of the 15th,
and Rush obviously assumed that the assembly would the next day adopt
a memorial to Congress prepared by the committee. Although his note
betrays a sense of alarm, he had nothing to fear. The committee
reported “an Essay” on May 24, which was “read by Order, and referred
to further Consideration,” but no further action was ever taken upon
it. The campaign to overthrow proprietary government in Pennsylvania
was already well under way, and even a series of petitions from
several counties protesting Congress’ resolution of May 15 could not
divert the movement against the traditional order. Ironically, the
next petition from Pennsylvania laid before Congress was not from the
assembly but from the Philadelphia committee. Dated May 24 and signed
by chairman Thomas McKean, it was elicited by the discovery “that the
Assembly of this Province are about to present a Memorial to your
honourable body, in consequence of a Remonstrance delivered to them
from a number of the inhabitants of the City of Philadelphia, in
which they are said to request an explanation of your resolve of the
15th instant.” See Pa. Archives, 8th ser. 8:7516, 7519, 7521ff.; JCC,
4:390; Am. Archives 4th ser. 6:560 – 61; and David Hawke, In the Midst
of a Revolution (Philadelphia. University of Pennsylvania Press,
1961), pp. 156 – 57.

Rush’s note to Lee, a patent attempt to ensure that Congress would ignore
any such memorial from the assembly, is additional evidence that this
movement was receiving important support from many delegates in
Congress. The reference to Joseph Hewes is especially interesting
since little other evidence survives to indicate that on this issue
he might be enlisted to support the position taken by men of Rush’s
and Lee’s persuasion.

5 During a debate in the House of Lords on a conciliatory resolution offered
by the duke of Grafton, Lord Dartmouth, former secretary of state for
America, had declared that “this country cannot … consent to
lay down our arms, or suspend the operations now carrying on, till
the Colonies own our legislative sovereignty; and, by the acts of
duty and obedience, show such a disposition as will entitle them to
the favour and protection of the parent State.” Am. Archives, 4th
ser. 6:323.

6 See Lee to Charles Lee, May 27, 1776.