<br /> Lee Letter: n297

Washington and Lee University

Sender: Francis Lightfoot Lee
Recipient: Richard Henry Lee

Dear Brother,

Our affairs in Canada are at length brot to a conclusion, and we have now
to contend with all the bad consequences which have been apprehended
from the Enemy’s being in possession of that Country. You will see by
the papers that Genl. Thomson was sent with 2000 men to dislodge a
party of the Enemy at Trois Rivieres, but Genl. Burgoine having arrived
with a considerable body of troops, our men were obliged to retreat
with the loss of 150, leaving the Genl. & a few others in
captivity. Burgoine pursued his advantage, and our Generals found it
absolutely necessary to retire out of the Country with their sick &
dispirited Army. The accounts of Burgoine’s force are from 8 to 10,000.
We cou’d not muster above 3000, all the rest being in the small pox.
Our Army, being 7000 brot off all their artillery, stores, baggage
& provisions; having destroyed all the forts & bridges behind
them. They are now at Crown Point, where they propose to make a stand
against Burgoine’s Army, assisted by Canadians & Indians, by
keeping the mastery of Lake Champlain, if possible which is much to be
doubted, as he has bro’t with him a great number of vessells ready
framed. At New York Genl. Washington has not 19000 men, & 50 of
Howe’s fleet are now at the hook. None of the militia is yet come in,
& Genl. Washington is apprehensive they will not, till it is too
late, and there is reason to fear they will never join the Army at
Crown Point for fear of the small pox, or if they do, that they will be
rendered useless by it. Add to all this, that it is certain great
numbers in the Province of N York will join the Enemy. A horrid plot
was lately discoverd in the City, to deliver up our Army to the Enemy
by spiking the Cannon & blowing up the Magazine & some say to
assassinate the Genl. We have not yet the particulars but many are in
goal. They had debauched two of the Genl’s guards, one of whome is
executed.1 Thus you have a full view of the
situation of our affairs, from which I dare say you will agree with me,
that we are in a most perilous state, from which nothing but some
extraordinary event, can extricate us. We have advice, that the crew of
one of the Ships that sailed from this port last winter, loaded by the
Congress, confined the Capt. & carried her into Bristol and
discover’d the signals by which all the other ships were to distinguish
their friends from their Enemies upon their arrival on this Coast. I
have nothing to ballance this dismal Acct., but that we have taken
about 700 of Frazer’s highlanders; & that depending on the goodness
of our Cause, we have not lost our spirit.

July 1st. This day the resolve for independency was considered

& agreed to in Comtee of the whole, two dissentients S. Carolina &
Pensylvania. N. York did not vote, not being empower’d. Tomorrow it
will pass the house with the concurrence of S. Carolina. The
Pensylvania delegates indulge their own wishes, tho they acknowledge,
what indeed everybody knows, that they vote contrary to the earnest
desires of the people.

This morning a unanimous vote of the Maryland Convention was brot to
Congress, empowering their delegates to concur in all points with
Congress. All the Colonies have declared their sense except N. York,
whose new Convention, now choosing, is to do the business. We expect
you will join us in August, as soon as Government is
settled;2 indeed it will be necessary as
Col. Braxton talks of going away in 3 weeks, & I suppose Col.
Harrison will go early in August, which will leave us a bare
representation. 3 or 4 months will in a great measure decide the fate
of America. Tho I think, if our people keep up their spirits, & are
determined to be free; whatever advantages the Enemy may gain over us
This summer & fall; we shall be able to deprive them of in the
winter, & put it out of their power ever to injure us again. Yet I
confess I am uneasy, least any considerable losses on our side shou’d
occasion such a panick in the Country, as to induce a submission. The
evil is coming, which I always dreaded, at the time when all our
attention, every effort shou’d be to oppose the Enemy, we are disputing
about Government & independence. My best respects to all friends,
&

believe me upon all occasions your most afft. friend &
brow
Francis Lightfoot Lee

[P.S.] Will you do the needful with respect to Mr. Lee’s estate, before you
returns I think Tom Belfeild will be as good a manager, as you can get.

Notes:

Receiver’s copy, Virginia Historical Society.

1 Thomas Hickey, a member of Washington’s guard, was court-martialed for
sedition, mutiny, and recruiting men for the enemy and was executed
on June 28. Many of the rumors generated by his arrest, including
that of an assassination plot, were not supported by the charges of
his conviction. See Washington, Writings (Fitzpatrick), 5:182; and
William Whipple to Joshua Brackett, June 23, 1776, note 3.

2 Richard Henry was at this time in Williamsburg attending the Virginia
Convention. His letter of June 29 to Gen. Charles Lee, in which he
reported that “I shall return to Chantilly in a few days and remain
there until the last of August, when I go to Philadelphia,” is in
Richard Henry Lee, The Letters of Richard Henry Lee, ed. James C.
Ballagh, 2 vols. (New York: Macmillan Co., 1911 – 14), 1:203 – 5.