<br /> Lee Letter: n340_0146

Washington and Lee University

Sender: Robert Morris
Recipient: Committee of Secret Correspondence

Gentn.

I have this day rec’d the enclosed letter from Mr. Bingham, & as our
River now promises a speedy opening I shall send him a supply of News
papers & intelligence.1 It may also
be proper that you do it from Baltimore and if you approve taking a
person into pay for the purpose of Collecting News, News papers,
Political Publications & writing a Diary of Public transactions I
will try to find a fit person & engage him in this Work, so very
necessary; for we find by experience it is impossible for Members of
Congress to do these things regularly & constantly whilst they have
so many other dutys to mind. I have recd the Copy of a letter from Mr.
Deane that was taken but was preserved without the Captors ever coming
at the Contents, it is as follows2

“Dr Sir Bordeaux Septr. 17. 1776 “I shall send you in October Cloathing for
Twenty thousand Men, thirty thousand Fusils, one hundred Tons of
Powder, Two hundred Brass Canon, Twenty four Brass mortars with shell,
shot, Lead &c in proportion. I am to advise you that if in Future
you will give Commissions to Seize Portugueze Ships you may depend on
the Friendship & alliance of Spain, let me urge this measure, much
may be got, nothing can be lost by it.3
Exercise at all events your Navy, I will procure if Commissioned any
quantity of Sail Cloth & Cordage. A General War is undoubtedly at
hand in Europe & consequently America will be Safe, if you baffle
the Arts &

Arms of the two Howe’s through the Summer, everyone here is in your favour.
Adieu. I will write again next week.”

I beleive this was wrote at Paris altho dated Bourdeaux for a blind, but am
not sure. I am a good deal of his opinion respecting the Portugueze.
The only doubt is whether, that Kings declaration & shutting up his
Ports against us, will justify us in the Eyes of the World or in other
Words, whether he has given us sufficient cause to declare War on him
& his Subjects. If he has we shou’d not hesitate, the bait is
tempting & that insignificant Nation can do us no harm. Our River
is now nearly clear of Ice and I propose pushing out Captn.
Biddle.4 I do think we cannot employ
him & the small Vessells better than to send them to Martinico for
the Stores mentioned in Mr Ds letter, and I will send out the Indico
now here as a remittance towards paying our Debts in that Island.

I have engaged a proper person to carry your dispatches to France &
send him out in a French Ship that if she once gets out to Sea will
appear as if She had loaded in Martinico & she is actually French
property, which gives a fine chance of going safe. I have wrote a full
Account to Mr Deane of all that has happened to our Armies since the
taking of Fort Washington to this day, but think you had best do the
same, that is Continue from the date of your last letter to the present
time.

I am very respectfully, Gentn, Your obed Servant,

Robt Morris

P.S. Here will be several opportunities both to Europe & the West
Indies soon.

Notes:

Receiver’s copy, Papers of Continental Congress, item 137, U.S. National
Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C. Addressed: “To
The Honble Benjn. Harrison Esqr. Member of Congress Baltimore. For
Committee of Correspondance Rob Morris.”

1 The date of Bingham’s letter has not been determined.

2 This is Silas Deane’s September 17, 1776, letter to Morris. For the
response of Congress, see Committee of Secret Correspondence to the
Commissioners at Paris, February 2, 1777.

3 Congress had cautiously adopted a resolution on December 23, 1776, calling
for explicit information on the actions of Portugal. Committee of
Secret Correspondence to the Commissioners at Paris, December 21,
1776, note 7. On May 1, 1777, Congress appointed a committee “to
inquire into the laws and customs of Nations respecting neutrality,
and to report their opinion whether the conduct of the King of
Portugal, in forbidding the vessels of the United States to enter his
ports and ordering those already there to depart at a short day, is
not a breach of the laws of neutrality, and will justify acts of
hostility against the subjects of the said King.” But no further
action of Congress appears in the journals. JCC, 7:318.

4 Capt. Nicholas Biddle, commander of the frigate Randolph, was ordered to convoy several merchantmen out to sea. Morgan, Naval Documents, 7:1064 – 65.