<br /> Lee Letter: n412

Washington and Lee University

Sender: Committee for Foreign Affairs
Recipient: Arthur Lee

Sir

Your several Favours of Octr. 6th, Novr. 27th & Decr.
8th1 were delivered to us on the 2d Instant,
the Dispatches by Mr. Deane and those by Capt. Young arriving on the
same Day. We had before received your short Letter of the 11th of June,
but are yet without that of the 29th of July, in which you had informed
us “at large of your Proceedings in
Prussia.”2 Its Contents would have proved
highly agreable to us in those Months when we were quite uninformed of
the Proceedings & Prospects of your Colleagues, at Paris. Impressed
with a Sense of the Value of the King of Prussia’s “warmest Wishes for
our Success” we give assurances of equal Wishes in Congress for that
Monarch’s prosperity. We have little Doubt of open Testimonies of his
majesty’s Friendship in Consequence of the late Decision of the King of
France.

Your Information in Regard to our Connection with the fictitious House of
Hortales & Co. is more explicit than any we had before received,
but we further expect that all Mystery should be removed: Surely there
cannot now be occasion for any, if there ever was for Half of the
past.3

Our Commercial Transactions will very speedily be put under the Direction
of a Board consisting of Persons not Members of Congress, it being
impracticable for the same Men to conduct the deliberative and
executive Business of the Continent now in its great Increase.

It has been next to impossible to make Remittances for many months from the
Staple Colonies the Coasts of which have been constantly infested by
numerous and strong Cruisers of the Enemy. We hope the Alliance of
maritime Powers with us will remove our Embarrassments and give us
Opportunity to carry into Effect our hearty Wishes to maintain the
fairest commercial Reputation.

There will be great Impropriety in our making a different Settlement for
the Supplies received from Spain from that which we make in Regard to
those received from France. We are greatly obliged to the Friends who
have exerted themselves for our Relief, and wish you to signify our
Gratitude upon every proper Opportunity. But, having promised to make
Remittances to Hortales for the prime Cost, Charges, Interest &
usual mercantile Commission upon whatever is justly due to that House,
we must keep the same Line with Gardoqui. On the one Hand, we would not
willingly give Disgust by slighting princely Generosity, nor on the
other submit to unnecessary Obligations.

The Unanimity with which Congress has ratified the Treaties with France and
the general glad acceptance of the Alliance by the People of these
States must shock Great Britain who seems to have thought no Cruelty
from her would destroy our great Partiality in her Favor. What plan she
will adopt in Consequence of her Disappointment Time only can discover.
But, we shall aim to be in a posture either to negociate honorable
Peace or continue this just War.

We stand in Need of the Advice and Assistance of all our Friends in the
matter of Finance; as the Quantity of our Paper Currency necessarily
emitted has produced a Depreciation which will be ruinous if not very
quickly checked. We have encouraging Accounts of the Temper of the
Hollanders of late and expect we may find Relief from that Quarter
among others.

A few Weeks if not a few Days must produce fruitful Subject for
another Letter when we shall in our Line of Duty renew our
Assurances of being, with great Regard, Sir, Your affectionate
humble Servants,

Richard Henry Lee
James Lovell
Robt Morris

Notes:

Receiver’s copy, New York Public Library. Written by Lovell and signed by
Lovell, Lee, and Morris.

1 These letters are in Wharton, Diplomatic Correspondence, 2:401 – 3, 429 – 31,
445 47.

2 For Lee’s 29 July 1777, letter, see ibid., pp. 369 – 72. Congress did not
receive a copy of it until at least 23 July 1778, when a copy
arrived with Lee’s 8 April 1778, letter to the committee. PCC, item
83, fols. 193 – 98.

3 In his October 6, 1777, letter to the Committee for Foreign Affairs, Arthur
Lee recalled his meetings with Caron de Beaumarchais in London in the
spring of 1776 and stated that the military supplies shipped by
Roderique Hortalez & Co. had been “gratuitous.” However, in this
account Lee distorted what had already been reported to Congress, for
in letters of December 1776 and January 1777 he had previously
conceded that the explicit arrangements with Beaumarchais had been
made by Silas Deane, and the commissioners’ 5 January 1777, letter
to Vergennes, signed by Deane, Franklin, and Lee, refers to
transactions made previously by Deane as a “purchase.”
notwithstanding the discrepancy in Lee’s 6 October explanation that
no American returns were expected for Beaumarchais’ shipments, the
letter struck a responsive chord in Congress and reinforced its
increasingly cautious approach to negotiations with Beaumarchais and
his agent Theveneau de Francy. See Wharton, Diplomatic
Correspondence,
2:242, 244 – 45, 401 – 3.