<br /> Lee Letter: n472

Washington and Lee University

Sender: Richard Henry Lee
Recipient: Patrick Henry

My Dear Sir:

I arrived here on the 19th, thro the worst roads that I ever travelled
over. I find business of faction here pretty much at an end by the
thorough exposure of its author, Mr. Silas Deane, who, if I am rightly
informed, regrets extremely his publication of December the 5th. But be
this as it may, he has certainly gained nothing by it here in the
public opinion. I inform you with pleasure Sir, that the King of France
has formally agreed to rescind the 11th and 12th articles of the treaty
of Commerce,1 so that now, the only unequal
parts being removed, it rests upon the liberal ground of fair equality
in every part. We are certainly indebted to Dr.

Lee’s attention for this beneficial alteration, for which the honest voice
of posterity will indubitably thank him when the poison of wicked
faction shall cease to operate. The King of the two Sicilys has opened
his ports to the vessels of the United
States,2which is a good omen of Spanish
attachment to our cause. Indeed we have abundant reason to believe that
Great Britain will not get assistance from any power in Europe to carry
on the war against us, and already our good Ally has made great havoc
among the Privateers and with the trade of our enemies. We hear that
7000 British Seamen are now prisoners in the jails of old France.
Notwithstanding these favorable appearances it certainly behooves us to
get a strong army in the field, as the enemy have yet here a strength
sufficient to do much mischief if they are not properly opposed. From
the best accounts that I can collect, it appears that they have not
less than 11,000 men at New York and Rhode Island. Yesterday accounts
from Jersey told us the enemy had landed at Elizabeth Town, and had
burned Gov. Livingston’s house, and were advancing into the country.
Our army was preparing to resist them, and if they do not quickly
return I hope we shall give a good account of them. The enemy have
published some curious letters of Mr. Braxton’s which they have
intercepted. I am informed they will be republished here, and when they
are I will send you the paper.3

I am with much esteem, dear Sir, affectionately yours,

Richard Henry Lee.

March 2.

R. H. Lee.

P. S. – The enemies attempt upon Gen. Maxwell in the Jersies has turned out
to our honour and their disgrace. Instead of surprising Gen. Maxwell,
they themselves were surprised by his being prepared. The enemy were
forced to retire with loss and disgrace, and without burning
Livingston’s house.



Printed in William Wirt Henry, Patrick Henry, 3:227 – 28. Printed also in James Curtis Ballagh, The Letters of Richard Henry Lee, Volume 2, 1779 – 1794, pp. 36 – 37.

1 See Meriwether Smith to John Page, 21 February 1779, note 1.

2 In his 19 October 1778, letter to the committee for foreign affairs,
Arthur Lee had reported that “The King of Naples and Sicily has
declared to us in form, by his ambassador here, that his ports are
open to all Vessels belonging to the United States.” See PCC, item
83, 1:345 – 48; and Wharton, Diplomatic Correspondence, 2:800 – 801.

3 For further information about these “curious letters” and the controversy
that ensued, see Meriwether Smith to the Public, 9 March 1779.