<br /> Lee Letter: n333

Washington and Lee University

Sender: Benjamin Rush
Recipient: Richard Henry Lee

Dear Sir,

Wherever I go I bear in my mind the small Share of the weight of our dear
countrys happiness which the State of Pensylvania hath committed to my
care. I wish sometimes to throw my mite into the councils of the
congress, but as this is impossible for the present I beg leave to
suggest such things as have occurred to me in my passage thro’ Philada
to this place, and submit it to your good sense to make any use of them
you may think proper.

I need not inform you of the general disposition of the people in &
near Philada to refuse continental money upon the late prospect of Genl
Howe’s getting possession of the city. Genl Putnam’s threatning to
confine such people as refused it, and declaring the debt for which the
money was offered to be void produced only a temporary remedy against
the evil. People who had goods refused to sell them – and men who had
money out at interest either refused to give up bonds or kept out of
the way when continental money was offered for them. The legislatures
of America look up to Congress for a remedy equal to the danger of the
disease. Suppose you recommend to every state to make a law not only to
forfit the debt for which our money is offered, but to fine the person
who refuses it severely. This will be more effectual than imprisonment
which from becoming so common for tory practices has now lost its
infamy. The punishment in this case strikes directly at that principle
in human nature which is the source of the contempt in which our money
has fallen. I mean avarice and a want of public Spirit. Pray dont let
this matter be neglected. Our salvation hangs upon it. I tremble every
time I think of the danger of the further progress of the refusal of
our money.

Connected with the above subject is the state of our loan office. If
possible let the resolutions for the emmision of five millions of
dollars be concealed. I hope it will be the last resolution of that
kind that will appear on our journals. If it is not the whole continent
must complain of our injustice in allowing only 4 per Cent for the
money now deposited in the loan office, unless we can give positive
assurances that we shall pay it in hard money.

I have learnt from many people and among Others from two New England
officers that the 4 Eastern states will find great difficulty in
raising their quota of men owing to that excessive rage for
privateering which now prevails among them. Many of the continental
troops now in our service pant for the expiration of their enlistments
in order that they may partake of the Spoils of the West Indies. At a
moderate computation there are now not less than 10,000 men belonging
to New England on board privateers. New England and the Continent can
not spare them. They have a right at this juncture to their services
and their blood.1 Suppose they were all now
called home. Suppose Commissions were refused to private ships of war
for […] months, Suppose even the trade of the […] was
monopolized by the Congress [for the?] same space of time. Would it not
[…] fill our army with soldiers, & [our navy?] with Seamen?
It would be a Substitu[te to] pressing, and would secure to individuals
the freedom of their wills. It must be done. We cannot fill our army
without it. We must have an army. The fate of America must be decided
by an Army. It must consist – of 70, or 80,000 men, and they must all be
fit for the field before the first day of May next.

Since the captivity of Gen Lee a distrust has crept in among the troops of
the abilities of some of our general officers high in command. They
expect nothing now from heaven taught & book taught Generals. I
hope in our next promotions, we shall disregard seniority. Stevens must
be made a Major General. He has genius as well as knowledge. Mercer
must not be neglected. He has the confidence of the troops. Adieu.

Benja Rush

P.S. Congress must take up the affair of our money wholly: It is a national
concern. Legislatures are too distant – too languid – and in many states
too incompletely formed for that purpose.


Receiver’s copy, American Philosophical Society.

1 Previously published texts of this letter do not contain the six following
sentences. Words missing as a result of a tear along the margin of
the manuscript are indicated here with ellipses in brackets. Cf.
Rush, Letters (Butterfield), 1:121; and Am. Archives, 5th ser.