<br /> Lee Letter: n340_0178

Washington and Lee University

Sender: Committee of Secret Correspondence
Recipient: William Bingham

Sir

As we shall write you shortly again our attention at present will be
confined chiefly to your favor of Decemr. 6th 1776, in which you
mention the misconduct of Capt. Patterson. We have laid your letter
before Congress, and they have appointed a Committee to consider of the
most proper steps to be taken in this business, that speedy and condign
punishment may be applied to Captn. Patterson, when his crime shall be
duly enquired into & established, The Congress having an utter
abhorrence of all irregular & culpable violation of the law of
nations, and that friendship & respect, which they entertain for
the French Nation. We wish you would communicate this to their
Excellencies the Governor & General of
Martinique.1 Congress has referred the
matter of remittance for discharge of the obligation you & Mr.
Harrison have entered into, to the State of Maryland, from whence you
will no doubt receive remittance as soon as the British Ships of War
now in Chesapeake Bay will permit. It is a singular misfortune to us,
and very injurious to the Commerce of France, that we have not two or
three line of Battle of Ships, which, with our Frigates and armed
Vessels would keep open our navigation in despite of Great Britain, but
at the present, one heavy Ship affords protection to two or three
Frigates, that would otherwise be easily removed, and they place
themselves so as to shut up the entrance into our principal trading
States.

Prior to the Declaration of Independence, as it was not certain how soon
our quarrel with Great Britain might be at an end, our Armies were
enlisted for short periods, and Genl. Howe having received information
of the time, when the Troops would have it in their power to go home,
seized that opportunity of marching through the Jersies. But his Career
was stopt at the Delaware, and he has since paid severely for that
visit. Since the 24th Decemr. the enemy have lost more than 2000 Men in
killed & made Prisoners.

They have been obliged to recal their Troops from Rhode Island to defend
New York from the attack of an army under Genl. Heath, and their whole
forces in the Jersies is now collected on the Brunswick Heights, where
they are nearly surrounded by General Washington’s Army, and where they
are greatly distressed for forage, fuel, and other necessaries.

They are mouldering away by deaths, desertions & captivity so that we
hope to give a good account of this part of their army, before the
Winter is over. We inclose you the late Newspapers for your perusal,

and remain, Sir, Your most obedt. huml Servts.

Benj HarrisonWill Hooper
Richard Henry LeeRobt Morris atPhilada

Notes:

Receiver’s copy, John Work Garrett Library, Johns Hopkins University. In a
clerical hand, and signed by Harrison, Hooper, Lee, and Morris.

1 Bingham’s December 6,1776, letter, which has not been found, was laid
before Congress on January 28. William Patterson, commander of the
schooner Dolphin, was accused of capturing near St. Pierre,
Martinique, an English ship bearing a flag of truce to the French
Captain-General D’Argout, commanding at Martinique. Congress ordered
that the papers concerning Capt. Patterson be “delivered to the
delegates of Maryland, to be laid before the assembly of their state”
and, in addition, that they be referred to a committee of Congress.
However, Congress apparently took no further action on this case
after reading a deposition from Patterson. The Maryland Council of
Safety placed Patterson under arrest, sent for depositions from
Martinique, and ordered the payment of £1500 in restitution. But
by March, Patterson had resumed active service in the Maryland navy.
See JCC, 7:66, 97; Samuel Chase to the Maryland Council of Safety,
February 6, 1777; and Maryland Archives, 16: 121, 127 – 28, 136, 151,
178, 212.