<br /> Lee Letter: n469

Washington and Lee University

Sender: Richard Henry Lee
Recipient: Arthur Lee

My dear Brother,

As well as the shortness of my time will permit, I will give you the best
detail in my power of things here since I wrote you fully by the
Marquis Fayette of the state of our politics and
parties.2 The wicked intrigues which you
experienced from a certain set, and of which you have so often and
justly complained, have been practiced here to a still greater and more
extensive mischievous length. The Tories avail themselves of it, and
they are to a Man [on] Deane’s side, hoping thereby to injure and
deprive us of influence whose deterrnined will and capacity to injure
their cause they well know and fear. Deane’s party in short rests on
triple ground.

The first and most considerable is Toryism, the second and next most
considerable is Commercial plunder, the third is Ambition. These last
are few in number, but artful, intriguing, and want now, when our
affairs look well, to come into yours & our
b.3 Williams places, which they would not
have dared even to have accepted before the late happy change of our
affairs, by the Alliance with France. Soon after I wrote by Marquis
Fayette I left Philadelphia the 3d of Novr. having been between 6 and 7
months from my family and quite worn down with constant attention to
public business. As I came […] up to Congress where
he4 has been ever since. After I came away a
month, Deane published his Libel of Decr. 5 as you see in one of the
papers now sent. The bold and impudent assertions, the dark inuendos,
and the art with which the whole is wrought up, had it seems such an
effect in Phila. as to excite Tumults there in his favor. And to the
Southward here, it had very ill, tho not such violent effects, because
there are fewer Tories here to aid its operation. In the enemies
quarters the City of N. York it created the most extravagant joy and
underwent republication. These Intriguers who are wickedly working
their own private benefit, do infinitely more injury to the common
cause than all the power of our enemy can effect. Before they came here
our business was going on with unanimity and with wisdom, since their
arrival discord and faction have reared their baneful heads to the
unimaginable injury of our affairs. The affair of Berkenhout, on which
this Libeller has insinuated evil against me was the most trifling of
all things. The man was a perfect Stranger to me, and came to me solely
on the ground of a former acquaintance with my brother. I received him
civilly, and he told me he came to seek a settlemen[t] for his family,
and asked my advice where he shd. fix. I gave him the best advice I
could. He appeared to me most strongly attached to the independence of
America, and I did and do believe him to have been honestly so. I do
not think we changed above an hundred words together, for I was too
much engaged in pub. business. He was arrested on no other ground than
a paragraph in an English Newspaper. After this I never saw him. Having
detained him in prison a few days they discharged and sent him back to
N. York having no evidence to prove anything against him. This is the
whole of that affair.5 The wicked fallacies
against you and our b. Wm. you both know. The greater part I know to be
abominably false. Deane has since given in a written narrative to
Congress in which I am informed his only charges against you are that
you are jealous, suspicious, affrontive to all who come near you, that
you hate the french, and show it in all your conduct and conversation.
Mr. Wm. Lee is mean he says and goes shares with the Agents he has
appointed. This latter charge I presume Mr. Lee can, and I hope he will
furnish to Congress the most ample disproof of. The charges against you
in his Narrative to Congress are absolute jargon the greatest part of
them. His printed libel against you, it may be highly proper to attend
to in every part & get the clearest proof of falsehood where the
nature of the thing admits. For in many cases, he deals so in inuendo,
that a kind of negative proof, impossible to be produced, can alone
refute him. For too many people are inconsiderate enough not to demand
proof of him for such charges before they credit them. He & his
party are now working to get him to Holland and themselves in your
places. What may be their success God only knows. I am now on my way to
Congress having been long detained at home by excessive bad weather and
the Gout. Deane affirmed to Congress upon his honor that he was not
engaged in Trade, nor had been except in two small ventures at first
which turned out to loss. It might be very important to have his
commercial connections clearly developed and proved. I have sent to the
Virginia Press the other day a vindication of you & our b. Wm.
against Deane’s Libel wherein I have disproved some of his charges from
original letters. I hope this will have a good effect. All sensible
Whigs in this Country, and now the herd of Mankind, begin to see
clearly into Deane & his party. But he has a very strong and a very
Artful party in {Congress}6 and by means of
commercial connections a considerable {party} in almost every {state}.
In the eastern States where he is well known he has by far the fewest
supporters. Indeed he has very few there. Those people are wise,
attentive, sober diligent & frugal, which are qualities not fit for
Deanes purposes. His principal {abettor}s are from {New York} and some
[…]nd from Pen a and almost all from {Maryland}. For which
purpose [you] may imagine C-r 1 {was sent} to
{Congress}.7 It does not [app]ear to me that
the publications of Common Sense in Deanes affair merited all that high
resentment shewn to it. The honest writer had in view to disrobe Deane
of the gaudy vest he had assumed as being the sole author and procurer
of all the Supplies that came here in 1777. But you see that under this
it has been so contrived as to get a general condemnation of all his
publications on this subject. Altho the far greater part relates solely
to Deane, and many honest truths are told and properly pressed. It
wounded the party very deeply I fancy, and there was no other way to
prevent the public effects it would certainly have had otherwise, And
will yet in a great degree, for I am informed that the people here do
by no means agree with Congress in their general condemnation of these
papers. As for the noise about its being said that the United States
might make treaty with England with[ou]t the consent of their Ally if
war was not declared-I do not believe that any one Man of sense, or
member ever said or thought anything like it. Tis mere pretense. For
myself I know that I would sooner cease to live than I would agree in
any manner or for any pretext to desert our Ally for whom I feel
infinite gratitude and reverence. You know perfectly well how long and
how ardently my Soul has panted after this connection with France.
Perhaps there was not another man in America so enthusiastically
strenuous for the measure as myself. Indeed as Shandy says it was my
Hobby Horse. And now a pack of rascals would insinuate (for their
private purposes) that I would injure the measure I have been so
uniformly and so warmly promoting. Two days ago I recd. your letters of
6 & 29th Septr. & 14 Novr. & our brothers of 15 & 21 of
October. That is one copy of each. I understood there are letters for
me from you both at Philadelphia with F.L.L. I have not time now to
write to Mr. Wm. Lee. Therefore I pray you to give him the contents of
this letter, and tell him we will consider maturely about selling his
estate. I do not think it will now be done. We have not yet indeed
received his powers-[…] continues. He has put about 2200 pounds
of our brothers money in the Loan Office. The Tobo. of last year is not
yet sold. The Loan Office certificates are transferable and do pass in
circulation. They [are a] very vendible commodity. The pub pays the
principal in 3 years and t[he] interest of 6 pr. Cent annually. But a
tax in our State takes off one pr. Cent on the interest both in the
Loan Office & all other interest. I will write again by the first
opportunity, but I could not omit this, which I believe to be a good
one, as Capt. Robinson is a most worthy Man, and is a Captain in the
Continental Navy. We are filling up our Regiments and preparing for
another Campaign. We hear that since the repulse at St. Lucia, the
Count D’Estaing has been reenforced and has retaken St. Lucia &
taken St. Vincents with four English Frigates. I believe and hope this
is true. Admiral Byron has been so long sailed with 9 ships, tis sa[id]
for the W. Indies, and not heard of that we begin to entertain h[opes]
that some of these high gales of wind, that have been so frequent
within these 4 months past, have done his business for him. God of his
infinite mercy grant it may be so. Nothing could save the common cause
so much as stopping these abominable intrigues and factions here. And
as Mr. {Gerard} has much (influence with} the
{intriguers}8 if [they] were {instruct}ed to
{discontinue} it, a very happy consequence wd. f[ollow].

For my part, I see so clearly that the Man who serves the public honestly
has so many enemies and persecutors, and I am so worn down in the
public service that I am resolved to send my resignation to our
Assembly next April. My family suffers immensely by my absence, and I
have now 7 children and another coming to take care of. Let Ludwell
come as soon as you think him qualified to pu[rsue] here the study of
the practical part of the Attorneys business and to in[form] himself of
the Municipal law of this State – I mean when his foun[datio]n is well
laid. Propose to my brother Wm. to send Thom, if he approves and thinks
the expence will be warranted by the prospects, to settle an
acquaintance in Holland & the ports of France, perhaps Spain, so as
to get consignments when he returns here qualified, which I wish may be
soon as possible. He should be impressed before he goes on such a Tour,
if he does go, with the necessity of much gravity, sobriety, and
attention to business wherever he is – And to take Memorandums of their
Trading customs wherever he goes.

I am most affectionately and faith[fully] yours.

R.H.L.

P.S. Take all imaginable pains effectually to vindicate your own
char[acter].

It would be of infinite consequence to get the Dutch into our Alliance
and the acknowledgment of our Independence.

Mrs. Lee of this place desires love to her Aunt and to hear from her.
Colo. H. Lee would be glad you could drop … a letter with a
State of Deanes misconduct which he will promulgate. Send me some more
Bark and tell Mr. Wm. L[ee we] shall suffer greatly at Chantilly witht.
4 pieces of Shirting Linnen.

Notes:

Lee ManuscriptsHoughton Library

Printed in James Curtis Ballagh, The Letters of Richard Henry Lee, Volume 2, 1779 – 1794, pp. 30 – 31.

1 Lee was en route to Philadelphia, where he resumed his seat in Congress on 20
February. See JCC, 13:214. The previous day he wrote a letter to
Gov. Patrick Henry, from “Belleview,” which is in the Roberts
Collection, PHC; and James Curtis Ballagh, The Letters of Richard Henry Lee, Volume 2, 1779 – 1794, 2:27 – 35.

2 See Richard Henry to Arthur Lee, 27 October 1778

3 That is, brother.

4 The antecedent reference is probably Francis Lightfoot Lee, who was
apparently mentioned in the passage torn from this sentence in the
manuscript. Burnett conjectured that the original sentence might have
read “As I came [down I rnet our brother Frank going] up to Congress
where he has been ever since.” Burnett, Letters, 4:65.

5 See Richard Henry Lee to William Maxwell, 29 August 1778.

6 Words printed in braces in this text were written by Lee in cipher.

7 That is, William Carmichael.

8 RC damaged; the surviving legible digits and the meaning of this sentence
suggest that Lee here wrote “intriguers.” For the cipher used by the
Lees, and the conjectural element involved in deciphering their
correspondence, see these Letters, 9:654n.2.