<br /> Lee Letter: n413

Washington and Lee University

Sender: Committee for Foreign Affairs
Recipient: William Lee

Sir

Your favors of Novr. 24 and Decr. 18,1 reached
us only the 2d of this month with the letters of our friends at Paris
from whom we had not received a regular packet for Eleven months.

You will readily conceive how much We wish to hear from you; and how very
agreable your informations would have been at an earlier period. It is
evident that You yourself were in a degree of doubt as to the conduct
of France even after the Conference of our Commissioners in December;
you will therefore be naturally led to give us due credit for the
resolute manner in which We proceeded upon the two draughts of bills
which the British Ministry had hurried over to America. Be assured we
were unacquainted with the spirit of the French Court. The decisive
part it has taken was really unexpected upon what accounts we had
collected from travellers.

The dates of the papers herewith sent will enable you to put this matter in
a clear point of view. The turn of affairs in Europe will make it
needless for us to attempt the finesse of recruiting in Germany, which
you hint at, and which would have a good effect in Case of
necessity.2 Doctor Lees letters make it
quite probable that your Commission will prove successful at Berlin,
and there appears the best agreement between the King of Prussia and
the Emperor.

The enclosed resolve of Congress of the 7th Inst. will show their
intentions with regard to your support, which was not properly attended
to when your Commission was made out.3

Other papers herewith sent will give you a general idea of our situation.
You may be assured that Independence is firmly adopted by the states;
and the unanimity of Congress is truly emblamatic of all America. Nova
Scotia has long ago expressed its wishes to be adopted by Us, and now
afresh Solicits.4 Canada will be greatly
affected by the news of our alliance with its former parent state. In
Short, Sir every thing which could be added to our own determination of
being free and independent is ensured by this eclairrissment of the
Court of Versailles.

Our army is growing daily so that if we are to negotiate with Britain we
shall do it in a proper posture. There are some reports of her drawing
away her troops, that she may with a proper grace enter into parley.
But this must be done without disguise, or no treaty can be held. For
surely no one can suppose that we shall now give up a point which we
had made a preliminary before we knew what powerful friendship was
secured to us in Europe.

The powers which had been given to our Commissioners in France and our
great Anxiety to keep perfect faith in Treaties induced a caution with
regard to the powers given in after appointments which is now become
unnecessary. Perfect equality being the basis of our present treaties
without any exclusive privileges to France there can be no chance of
discontent from the conclusion of similar treaties with other powers of
Europe; therefore we shall doubtless soon forward to you more full
powers than what were sent with your commission. As you seem to think
it may be advantageous to have a cypher for correspondence we would
propose the same which has been mentioned to Doctor Franklin formerly
by Mr Lovell,5 and this is the rather chosen
because it may serve between the Doctor and you or any number of your
friends taking a different key word for each. The Scheme is inclosed
marked L.

R. H. Lee
James Lovell
Rob Morris

P.S. You are to have a plenipotentiary commission with instructions not
limiting the term of proposed treaties of amity and Commerce.

Notes:

File copy, Papers of Continental Congress, item 79 and item 79 appendix,
U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C.

1 Lee’s 24 November and 18 December 1777, letters to Secretary Charles
Thomson and to the committee are in Wharton, Diplomatic
Correspondence,
2:426 – 27, 454 – 55.

2 In his 24 November 1777, letter to Charles Thomson, Lee had suggested the
possibility of raising troops in the German city-states as a means of
embarrassing the British. Silas Deane had also proposed the raising
of mercenary troops in a 28 November 1776, letter to the Committee
of Secret Correspondence. Ibid., pp. 198 – 99, 426 – 27.

3 See Committee for Foreign Affairs to Ralph Izard, this date, note 2.

4 See Henry Laurens to the Massachusetts Council, 23 May 1778, note 3.

5 See James Lovell to Benjamin Franklin, ante 4 July 1777.