<br /> Lee Letter: n340_0303

Washington and Lee University

Sender: Committee of Secret Correspondence
Recipient: Commissioners at Paris

Gentlemen

The events of war have not since our last furnished any thing decisive. The
enemy’s army still remains encampt upon the Hills near Brunswick &
our troops still continue to beat back their Convoys insomuch that we
understand their horses die in numbers and we have reason to believe
that the difficulity of removing their Stores, Cannon &c will be
insuperably great until the opening of the Rariton furnishes a passage
by water for their return to N. York. The American Army, is not
numerous at present, but the new levies are collecting fast as
possible, and we hope to have a sufficient force early in the field. We
hear by a Speech of the King of Great Britain to his Parliament, that
much money will be called for, no doubt to prosecute the war with
unrelenting vigor. That we shall oppose with all our power will be
certain, but the event must be doubtful until France takes a decisive
part in the war. When that happens our liberties will be secured, and
the glory and Greatness of France be placed on the most solid ground.
What may be the consequences of her delay must be a painful
consideration of every friend of liberty and Mankind. Thus viewing our
situation we are sure it will occasion your Strongest exertions to
procure an event of such momentous concern to your country. It is in
vain for us to have on hand a great abundance of Tobacco, Rice, Indigo,
flour, and other valuable articles of Merchandize if prevented from
exporting them by having the whole naval force of G.B. to contend
against. It is not only for the interest of these States, but clearly
for the benefit of Europe in general, that we should not be hindered
from freely transporting our products that abound here and are much
wanted there. Why should the avarice & ambition of G.B. be
gratified to the great injury of other Nations?

Mr. Deane recommends sending Frigates to France to convoy our merchandize,
but it should be considered that we have an extensive coast to defend,
that we are young in the business of fitting ships of war, that
founderies for cannon were to be erected, the difficulty of getting
seamen quickly, when Privateers abound, as they do in the States, where
Sailors are chiefly to be met with, lastly our frigates are much
restrained by the heavy ships of the enemy, which are placed at the
entrance of our Bays, in short, the attention of Great Britain must be
drawn in part from hence, before France can benefit largely by our
Commerce. We sensibly feel the disagreeable situation Mr. Deane must
have been in from the receipt of the Committee’s letter in June and the
late date of his own letter in October, but this was occasioned by
accident, not neglect, since letters were sent to him in all the
intervening months, which have either fallen into the enemies hands, or
have been destroyed.1 From the time of
Dr. Franklin’s sailing, until we arrived at this place, the Ships of
war at the mouth of Delaware, and the interruption given the post,
added to the barreness of events prevented us from writing when we had
no particular commands from Congress for you.

Mr. Bingham informs us from Martinique, that he learned from a Spanish
General there on his way to South America, that the King of Spain was
well disposed to do the United States Offices of friendship, and that a
loan of money might be obtained from that Court. As the power sent you
for borrowing is not confined to place, we mention this intelligence,
that you may avail yourselves of his Catholic Majesty friendly Designs.
Perhaps a loan may be obtained there on better terms than elsewhere. We
expect it will not be long before Congress will appoint Commissioners
to the Courts formerly mentioned and in the mean time you will serve
the cause of your Country in the best manner with the Ministers from
those Courts to that of Versailles. Earnestly wishing for great news, and quickly
from you,

we remain with friendship, and esteem, Honble Gentlemen
&c,

B. Harrison
R. H. Lee

P.S. Congress adjourns this week back to Philadelphia.

Notes:

File copy, Papers of Continental Congress, item 79, U.S. National Archives
and Records Administration, Washington, D.C. Lee’s draft is in the Lee Papers, American Philosophical Society. Printed in Wharton, Diplomatic Correspondence, 2:273. Printed also in R. H. Lee, Memoir of the Life of Richard Henry Lee and his Correspondence, 1:291. Printed also in James Curtis Ballagh, The Letters of Richard Henry Lee, Volume 1, 1762 – 1778, pp. 261 – 63.

1 For information on Robert Morris’ letters to Silas Deane, see Robert Morris
to the Committee of Secret Correspondence, this date.