<br /> Lee Letter: n421

Washington and Lee University

Sender: Richard Henry Lee
Recipient: Thomas Jefferson

Dear Sir

I thank you for your favor of the 5th which I received
yesterday.1 It is the only. satisfactory
account I have received of the proceedings of our Assembly. The enemy
have made many insidious attempts upon us lately, not in the military
way, they seem tired of that, but in the way of negotiation. Their
first, was by industriously circulating the bills of pacification as
they call them, before they had passed into acts, in order to prevent
our closing with France. These bills received a coment from Congress on
the 22d. of April, which no doubt you have seen. The inclosed paper
will shew you the second attempt from Lord Howe and Gen. Clinton, with
the answer of Congress. The third movement happened very lately, when
Clinton dcsired a passport from Gen. Washington for Dr. Ferguson to
come to Congress w ith a letter from the newly arrived Commissioners
Lord Carlyle, Wm. Eden esqr. and Governor Johnston. The General refused
the passport until Congress should give leave. The letter from Clinton
was transmitted here, but the impatience of the Commissioners did not
suffer them to wait for an answer. Thro the medium of the General,
leaving their Secretary Dr. Ferguson behind, the packet arrived
containing a letter from the Commissioners with a copy of their
Commission. Their letter is a combination of fraud, falsehood,
insidious offers, and abuse of France, Concluding with a denial of
Independence. The sine qua non being withheld, you may judge what will
be the fate of the rest. An answer has not yet been sent. In due time
you will have both the letter and its answer. I dont know whether to
call Governor Johnston an Apostate or not. He has been in opposition to
the Ministry and has spoken some speeches in our favor, but I believe
he has never been a friend to American Independence. However, there
seems no doubt but that he has on this occasion touched Ministerial
gold. The others are notorious Ministerialists. It is amazing how the
Court of London does mix pride, meanness cunning, and folly, with
Gasconade, and timidity. In short the strangest composition is there
formed that ever disgraced and injured Mankind. The King of Prussia has
declared in terms explicit, that he would follow France in
acknowledging our Independence and his hobby horse is, to become a
maritime power. Yet he seems, by his movements disposed to quarrel with
the Emperor about the divisions of the Bavarian dominions, the Elector
being dead without Heir of his body, the next Heir who is the Elector
Palatine must loose his right between the two great Spoilers. We have
been long amused with accounts of the enemy abandoning Philadelphia. I
believe they will do so when they can stay no longer, but not until
then They have certainly removed all their heavy Cannon, Baggage
&c. And fearing a French war every Moment, they keep in readiness
to depart. We did lately shatter extremely a 20 gun ship belonging to
the enemy in the North river, and sent her away to York, in no
condition for service. I observe by our last delegation, that my
enemies have been again at work, however, they shall not gain their
point of withdrawing me from the public
Councils.2

I am dear Sir your affectionate friend and obedient servant,

Richard Henry Lee

Notes:

Jefferson PapersLibrary of Congress

Printed in Boyd, Papers of Thomas Jefferson, 2:200 – 201. Printed also in James Curtis Ballagh, The Letters of Richard Henry Lee, Volume 1, 1762 – 1778, pp. 412 – 13.

1 Jefferson’s 5 June letter to Lee is in Boyd, Papers of Thomas Jefferson.

2 The Virginia House of Delegates had not included Richard Henry Lee’s name
on the list of nominees it selected on 28 May to be considered in the
annual balloting for delegates to Congress. The senate added his name
to the list, but in the house balloting the following day, Lee ranked
sixth among the seven delegates appointed. Journal of the House of
Delegates of the Commonwealth of Virginia, 1777 – 81
(Richmond, 1827),
May 1778, pp. 23 – 27.

Governor Henry expressed his concern over the outcome of this election in
his 18 June letter to Lee. “I felt for you on seeing the Order in
which the balloting placed the Delegates in Congress,” Henry
explained. “It is an Effort of that rancorous Malice that has so long
followed you thro the arduous path of Duty in which you have
invariably travel’d since America resolved to repel her Oppressors.”
Lee Papers, American Philosophical Society. In a more accusing tone, Francis Lightfoot Lee
offered the following comments in his 25 June letter to his brother.
“The junto, by their Lyes & intrigues have so far carried their
point, as to throw some little discredit upon us; but have missed
their great aim, of removing obstructions to their jobbing schemes. I
think you are perfectly right in not gratifying them, by resenting
the ill treatment of the Assembly. The Esqr. says, Mr. Harvie, who
got to Wmsburg after the election, was much affronted, & made
those who had been taken in, by certain gentry, perfectly asshamed of
themselves. I suppose they wou’d now willingly return you thanks, to
make up with you; tho they will again be taken in by the same
wretches.” Lee Family Papers, University of Virginia Archives.