<br /> Lee Letter: n430

Washington and Lee University

Sender: Richard Henry Lee
Recipient: Thomas Jefferson

Dear Sir

The condition of our affairs is much changed since last I had the pleasure
of writing to you, as by the favor of his Most Christian Majesty we now
are become Masters of the Sea, on our own Coast at least. Ten days ago
arrived in the Delaware a French Squadron commanded by Count D’Esteing
consisting of 12 sail of the Line and 4 frigates, having of Seamen and
land Troops 11,000 Men on board. There is one Ship of 90 guns, one of
80, 6 of 74, three of 64 and 4 frigates. Having missed the English
here, they have proceeded to N. York in quest of them, and are now
before that Harbour, the depth of water being unfortunately
insufficient to admit such large Ships. The English, whose fleet is
inferior, are well contented to remain within the Narrows, and suffer
Monsr. the Count to intercept every Vessel coming to N. York. He has
already taken 15 Sail. But the French Admiral being an Officer of great
activity and spirit, he seems not content with this small work, and
therefore I believe he will go immediately to R. Island where he can
easily destroy the Ships, and with the assistance of our force there,
make prisoners of 2000 British Troops on that Island. With this
Squadron came Le Sieur Gerard Minister Plenepotentiary from his most
Christian Majesty. He is a sensible well bred Man, and perfectly well
acquaint with the politics of Europe. From him I learn that the Court
of France consider the Message of the King of England to his Parliament
and their answer, upon the Count Noailles notification of our Alliance,
as a denunciation of War on the part of G. Britain, and that they mean
to Act accordingly, without an express declaration, leaving this last
to England. We are busied now in settling the Ceremonials for the
reception of foreign Ministers of every denomination. And I assure you
it is a work of no small difficulty. When this is finished, Monsr.
Gerard will have his audience in Congress – I suppose this
week.1 Gen. Washington has crossed the N.
River, and will cooperate with the Admiral in Measures to be concerted
against the Common enemy. The B. Commissioners have sent us a second
letter, very silly, and equally insolent. The preleminaries insisted on
by Congress (an acknowledgement of Independence or a withdrawing of
their fleets and Armies) not having been either of them complied with,
this letter is to receive no answer. We have detected and fully exposed
Govr. Johnstone, who under the plausible guise of friendship and
Virtue, has endeavored to bribe Members of Congress – The whole body
indeed as well as individual Members. The confederation is ratified by
10 States,2 there remains only Jersey,
Delaware and Maryland; but I suppose their obstinacy will e’er long
submit to their interest, and a perfect coalition take place. I am,
much hurried, tho with great esteem, dear Sir your most obedient Servt,

Richard Henry Lee

Notes:

Thomas Jefferson PapersLibrary of Congress

Printed in Boyd, Papers of Thomas Jefferson, 2:204 – 5. Printed also in James Curtis Ballagh, The Letters of Richard Henry Lee, Volume 1, 1762 – 1778, pp. 426 – 27. Printed also in R. H. Lee, Memoir of the Life of Richard Henry Lee and his Correspondence, 2:42

1 Lee had been appointed to a committee on 14 July that was charged with
reporting on “the time and manner of the public reception of Mons.
Gerard.” After considering the cormmittee report on the 16th, 17th,
and 18th, Congress approved the protocol for receiving a minister
plenipotentiary on the 20th but postponed consideration of codes and
rules for receiving officials of other diplomatic ranks. Gerard was
received in Congress on 6 August. See JCC,
11:688, 696 – 701, 703, 707 – 8, 753 – 57.

2 Delegates from North Carolina and Georgia ratified the Confederation on
21 and 24 July, respectively. JCC, 11:709,
716.