<br /> Lee Letter: n340_0343

Washington and Lee University

Sender: Committee of Secret Correspondence
Recipient: Henry Johnson

Sir1

You will receive herewith a packet directed to the Commissioners from the
United States of America at Paris, and you are to proceed therewith (so
soon as you have receiv’d your Letter of Credit from the secret
Committee of Congress) either to Nantes or Bourdeaux in France, as the
circumstances of wind and weather will
permit.2 When you arrive you will
immediately apply to the Continental Agent to whom you shall be
directed by the secret Committee, and from him you will receive
information where the Commissioners are to be met with in Paris, to
which place you are to proceed with the greatest dispatch by Post, and
deliver the Packet to the Commissioners or one of them with your own
hands, and from them you are to receive your directions in every
respect touching your return, and the Cargo if any that you are to
bring with you. You may take the advice of the agent whether it will be
proper for your Vessel to remain in Port where you arrive at, or to
meet you at any other Port on your return from Paris. The Agent will
furnish you with money to defray your expences to Paris, and to supply
the Lexington with what necessaries she may want. You are desired to be
silent in that Country about the place you are going to, and
immediately to place your Packet in a Bag with weight that you may be
sure of sinking it if you should be in danger of being certainly taken.
The British Emmissaries in France are very inquisitive about all
Vessels and Persons coming from America, and therefore you will be very
cautious of talking with any Person concerning the place from whence
you came, where you are going, or what is your Business. You will
receive from the Secret Committee directions touching the change of
your pig Iron ballast for any other they may direct you to receive. If
any good opportunity occurs you will let this Committee know how you
proceed, and where you are; your letters may be direced to the
Honorable Benj. Harrison Esqr Chairman of the Committee of Secret
Correspondence at Philadelphia. We wish you a good Voyage and safe
return and are,

your Hble Servts,

Benja Harrison
Richard Henry Lee

Notes:

Receiver’s copy, Colonial Office 5, 7, British Public Record Office. Written
by Lee and signed by Lee and Harrison.

1 Henry Johnson, former captain of the privateer Yankee, had only recently
returned to the United States after escaping from imprisonment on
H.M.S. Rippon. He was appointed commander of the Lexington on
February 5, 1777, and after leaving Baltimore on February 26, he
reached Bordeaux on April 3. Johnson participated in a successful
European cruise with Capt. Lambert Wickes, but after a forced
departure from France he was captured again on September 19. Early
the next year he escaped from Mill Prison and returned to the United
States. Morgan, Naval Documents, 6:529, 538 – 39, 581, 7:1024; JCC,
7:90; and William Bell Clark, Lambert Wickes Sea Raider and Diplomat
(New Haven: Yale University Press, 1932), pp. 191 – 202, 352 – 53,
358 – 62.

2 The Secret Committee’s correspondence with Johnson has not been found. But
a Marine Committee letter to Johnson of February 21, instructing him
“to put Yourself under the Direction of the Committee of Secret
Correspondence & to obey such Orders as You shall receive from
them,” had been retained and was also captured with this letter. Most
of the correspondence taken when the Lexington was captured in
September was forwarded to the Admiralty, but the Marine Committee’s
routine instructions remained with the “ships papers” among the
various prize documents that were generated as the case of the
Lexington proceeded through the Admiralty courts. See Benjamin
Franklin Stevens, comp., B. F. Stevens’s Facsimiles of Manuscripts in
European Archives Relating to America, 1773 – 1783, 2107 facsim. in 24
portfolios (London: Photographed and printed by Malby & Sons,
1889 – 95), nos. 1689, 1699; and High Court of Admiralty Papers 32
(388/10), PRO.