<br /> Lee Letter: n313

Washington and Lee University

Sender: Richard Henry Lee
Recipient: Thomas Jefferson

Dear Sir

I should have written to you before now if I had not been uncertain about
finding you at home, as the distance was great, and the meeting of our
Assembly approaching. All the material events that have happened since
you left us are to be found related pretty faithfully in the public
papers, which I suppose are regularly conveyed to you.

The plan of foreign treaty is just finished, and yourself, with Doctor
Franklin, and Mr. Deane now in France, are the Trustees to execute this
all important business.1 The great abilities
and unshaken virtue, necessary for the execution of what the safety of
America does so capitally rest upon, has directed the Congress in their
choice; and tho ambition may have no influence in this case, yet that
distinguished love for your country that has marked your life, will
determine you here. In my judgement, the most emminent services that
the greatest of her sons can do America will not more essentially serve
her and honor themselves, than a successful negotiation with France.
With this country, every thing depends upon it, and if we may form a
judgement of what is at a distance, the dispositions of that Court are
friendly in a high degree, and want only to be properly acted upon, to
be wrought into fixt attachment and essential good. We find ourselves
greatly endangered by the Armament at present here, but what will be
our situation the next campaign, when the present force shall be
increas<ed> by the addition of 20 or 30 thousand Russians with a
larg<e> body of British and Irish troops? I fear the power of America
will fail in the mighty struggle And the barbarous hand of despotism
will extirpate libe<rty> and virtue from this our native land; placing
in th<eir> stead slavery, vice, ignorance, and ruin. Already these foes
of human kind have opened their Courts of Justice (as they call them)
on Long Island, and the first frui<ts> of their tender mercies, are
confiscation of estates, and condemnation of Whigs to perpetual
imprisonment.

The idea of Congress is, that yourself and Dr. Frank<lin> should go in
different Ships. The Doctor, I suppose, will sail from hence, and if it
is your pleasure, on<e> of our Armed Vessels will meet you in any River
in Virginia that you choose.

I am, with singular esteem, dear Sir, your affectionate friend and
obedient Servant,

Richard Henry Lee

Notes:

Jefferson PapersLibrary of Congress

Printed in Boyd, Papers of Thomas Jefferson, 1:522 – 23. Printed also in James Curtis Ballagh, The Letters of Richard Henry Lee, Volume 1, 1762 – 1778, pp. 218 – 19.

1 The plan of foreign treaties had been approved on September 17 and
commissioners to France appointed on the 26th. See JCC, 5:768, 827;
and John Hancock to Jefferson, September 30, 1776.