<br /> Lee Letter: n327

Washington and Lee University

Sender: Richard Henry Lee
Recipient: James Maxwell


The Congress having resolved immediately to undertake the building of two
Ships of War of 36 guns each in Virginia, I am directed by the Marine
Committee to apply to some proper person in that State to superintend
the business.1 You Sir have been recommended
so strongly to me by Gen. Stephen and others, as a person of great
fitness for this business; and not doubting but that you may comply
with this, altho you are the same way employed by our Government, I do
in the name of that Committee request you will, taking the advice of
the Navy board in Virginia, determine on the most safe, and in other
respects most fit place or places to put these ships upon the Stocks
at.2 Safety against the enemy is a very
necessary object, and proper water for Launching. Convenience for
getting proper timber you will consider. I suppose it will be no
objection if both these Vessels are put upon the Stocks at the same
place but in determining on the place or places, not private or local
but public considerations alone are to govern. A Master Builder with 4
or 6 Workmen will soon go from hence to Virginia for this business, and
I have no doubt a sufficiency of other workmen will be to be had in
that state to carry on the work briskly. The Builder desires that the
Trees may be immediately felled whilst the Sap is down, that a quantity
of Locust Trunnels be split 1 1/2 inches, and in length from 18 to 30
inches. That Sawyers be employed to get up plank (white oak) of 3 1/2
inches. These things and whatever else may be immediately necessary for
the right pursuit of this business you will take care to have done, and
your drafts for the expence created by the same, on the Chairman of the
Marine Committee of Congress, shall be duely honored. One or more
Associates will be joined with you in this Agency, but for the present
you will singly do what is necessary, and for your trouble you will be
liberally compensated by Congress. The Board of Assistants are directed
to prepare a proper draught of these Ships which shall be forwarded to
you when ready. Let me have your answer to this letter by return of

I am Sir you most humble servant,

Richard Henry Lee

P.S. The Builder tells me that Cedar, Locust, Pitch Pine, or Wild
Cherrytree, will be the proper Timber for upper works.


Receiver’s copy, owned by C. Stribling Snodgrass (1973), Leesburg, Va.

1 See the November 20 resolve in JCC, 6:970.

2 James Maxwell, (1735 – 95), of Norfolk, Va., was a captain in the Virginia
navy, commissioner of the Virginia navy board, and superintendent of
the Virginia navy yard. William Maxwell, “My Mother,” The Lower
Norfolk County Virginia Antiquary 3 (1901): 46n. Upon Maxwell’s
recommendation, the Virginia navy board ordered the Continental
frigates to be built at Gosport. Morgan, Naval Documents, 7:1065 – 6.