<br /> Lee Letter: n460

Washington and Lee University

Sender: Francis Lightfoot Lee
Recipient: Richard Henry Lee

My dear Bror.1

I do not wonder at your disgust at the wickedness & folly of mankind. I
have so much of the same feelings, that I am sure, there can be no
condition in Life more unhappy, than to be engaged in the managemt. of
public affairs, with honest intentions. But hard as the lot is it must
be borne at least till things have got into a tolerable way. We have
had nothing from the party since my last; only that Mr. Wm. Lee’s name
is in the list of Aldermen, in the Calender for
17782 I expect an attack in this days paper,
upon S. Deane, by Common Sense.3 He knows a
good deal of the transactions, & if in earnest, can do a great deal
of good. Congress has yet done nothing in finance or foreign affairs. I
fear there is a design in some that nothing shall be done, that things
may get into such disorder, as to make the people wish for the old
Governmt. Congress has no power, & every Villain whome they want to
call to account, insults them.

The inclosed Letter from Mr. Laurence, will give you an Account of his
resignation & his reasons.4 He is really
an honest Man, & I hope will do a great deal of Good. Jay is
President.

We have Accounts from N. York, that 30,000 ton of Shipping is order’d to be
taken up for Governt. service, and an Embargo laid on all Vessels. This
looks like a move. Maryland still refuses to confederate, & is
going to publish a declaration of their rights & greivancies, in a
very high & violent tone, it is said. I am well informed, that the
tories have the upper hand in that Assembly. A striking instance of it,
is the tories of Kent County, petitioned to be excused from taking the
oath of allegiance as there was still danger of being conquer’d by G.
B. and it was negatived by a small majority. So barefaced have they
grown.

Love to Chantilly & Stratford. Compts. to friends. Yrs. afftly.

F. L. Lee

Notes:

Lee Family PapersUniversity of Virginia Archives

1 Although Edmund C. Burnett designated Arthur Lee as the recipient of this
letter, it was written to Richard Henry. Cf. note 4 below; and
Burnett, Letters, 3:536.

2 The fact that William Lee was still listed as an Alderman for Aldgate for
1778 in the Annual Register had been noted in an anti-Lee letter
that was printed in the December 12 issue of the Pennsylvania Packet
over the pseudonym “Observator.” For evidence that this subject
continued to stimulate controversy during succeeding weeks, primarily
because of the widely held belief, expressed in the sixth article of
the Articles of Confederation, that no United States officeholder
should accept “any present, emolument, office or title, of any kind
whatever, from any king, prince or foreign state,” see Deane Papers
(NYHS Colls.), 21 (1888): 101, 128, 140 – 43.

3 The reply of Thomas Paine (“Common Sense”) to Deane’s address “To the Free
and Virtuous Citizens of America” appeared in the 15 December issue
of the Pennsylvania Packet. See Thomas Paine, The Complete Writings
of Thomas Paine,
ed. Philip S. Foner, 2 vols. (New York: Citadel
Press, 1945), 2:97 – 108. For Paine’s plunge into the Deane-Lee
controversy, particularly in regard to the potentially adverse impact
of his writings on Franco-American relations, see David Freeman
Hawke, Paine (New York: Harper 8: Row, 1974), pp. 85 – 93; and Francis
Lightfoot Lee to Richard Henry Lee, 5 January 1779, note 1. Paine’s
participation in this debate was of special significance because of
his position as secretary to the Committee for Foreign Affairs.

4 Laurens’ letter has not been found, but Richard Henry’s 26 December reply
to it, reviewing at length the substance of Silas Deane’s charges
against the Lees, is in James Curtis Ballagh, The Letters of Richard Henry Lee, Volume 1, 1762 – 1778, 1:462 – 67. For
Richard Henry’s public reply to Deane, which was printed in the
1 January 1779, Virginia Gazette (Purdie) and the 19 January
Pennsylvania Packet, see ibid., pp. 457 – 62. See also ibid., 1:373 – 76,
2:1 – 26, for other documents penned by Richard Henry during his leave
at Chantilly at this time (one of which is misdated 3 January 1778,
instead of 1779) on the subject of “Deane’s execrable libel.”