<br /> Lee Letter: n420

Washington and Lee University

Sender: Richard Henry Lee’s
Recipient: the Carlisle Commissioners

My Lords & Gentlemen1

I have reced your letter of and laid it before Congress with its
inclosures. In answer I am instructed to inform you, that Congress ever
ready to stop the effusion of human blood have been induced to hear
your letter read thro out2 and to consider
its inclosures notwithstanding the very inadmissible and offensive
things that are contained in the former. Tho It is impossible Congress
can fail to be affected with the highest resentment at the indignity
offered them by the indecent reflections you have thought proper to
make upon his most Ch. Majesty the Great & good (& faithful)
ally of these States. The Commission from his Britannic Majesty under
which you act, a copy of which you have inclosed, and the Acts of
Parliament on which the Commission is founded, being both formed upon
the idea of the good people of these States being Subjects of the Crown
of Great Britain, and proposing peace upon dependent principles and a
return to the domination of a power that hath accumulated every injury
and insult on their unoffending States, Congress consider them both as
totally inadmissible, and cannot consent to any further communication
on such grounds. I am further instructed to inform your Excellency that
Congress will be always ready to enter upon the Consideratn. of a
Treaty of Peace, when a sincere disposition thereto shall be evidenced
on the part (G.B.) of his B[ritish] M[ajesty] by an explicit acknowledgement of the
Independence of these States and by withdrawing his Fleets from our
Coasts and his Armies from the 13 States.

Notes:

Manuscript, American Philosophical Society. In the hand of Richard Henry
Lee and endorsed by him: “Letter from Congress to the King’s
commissioners.”

1 Lee drafted this letter as a member of a committee appointed on 16 June to
prepare a response to the Carlisle commissioners’ 9 June peace
overture. A comparison of the texts of the Lee draft and the
committee draft prepared by Gouverneur Morris indicates that Morris
followed the sequence of points presented by Lee and incorporated
many of Lee’s words and phrases into his own more concise and
moderately toned version. Morris’ draft, introduced by a preamble in
Lee’s hand, was reported to Congress on the 16th and approved the
following day. See JCC, 11:610 – 11, 614 – 15; and
Henry Laurens to the Carlisle Commissioners, 17 June 1778. For
additional information on Congress’ response to the British
commissioners, see Samuel Adams to James Warren, 13 June, note 3; and
the documments of Francis Dana, Charles Thomson, and John Witherspoon, this date.

2 At this point in the draft the following passage is set off by diagonal
marks: “and have Considered it with a coolness that that having.”
Both James Ballagh and Edmund Burnett incorporated a part of this
passage into their differing versions of Lee’s draft, but neither
seems to reflect Lee’s intent. The appearance of the manuscript and the sense
of the sentence suggest that Lee simply intended to delete these
words. See Ballagh, The Letters of Richard Henry Lee, 1:414 – 15; and Burnett, Letters, 3:296 – 97.