<br /> Lee Letter: n488

Washington and Lee University

Sender: Francis Lightfoot Lee
Recipient: Arthur Lee

My dear Brother,

I am thus far on my way home from Congress, & finding a Vessel about to
depart from hence tomorrow morning for France; I embrace the
opportunity of letting you know that all your friends are well.

There is as yet no determination on Deane’s affairs, but probably soon will
be, & I fear, much to your prejudice, shou’d it be otherways now, I
am satisfied you will in the end be sacrificed, & therefore it may
not be amiss to think in time, of some establishment in which your
honor & fortune will be less dependant on the villainy & folly
of Mankind. For my own part I am determined to retire being fully
convinced, that at present, the post of honor, is a private station.
Tell our bror. W.1 to look to himself, I
shall write fully to him about his affairs, by the first opportunity
after my arrival in Virginia. You was not mistaken in your opinion as
to the support D – – 2 brot with him; the open
and indecent countenance which has been given to those who were never
friends to independance, nor of course to the Alliance, will I fear
injure greatly the common cause, if England is wise enough to make use
of the advantage. The world will expect from you a clear refutation of
all the infamous slanders, which a most abandoned junto have thrown on
you; with a full exposure of their wicked plots against the public.
Therefore no pains shou’d be spared in collecting materials. The want
of a cypher & the uncertainty of this conveyance prevents my being
more full, but I expect R.H.L.3 who is still
at Congress, will give you a compleat Idea of our present system of Politicks.
Remember me to Mr. Adams & Mr. Lloyd. Love to W.L.’s family.

Yours ever,

Loudoun [Francis Lightfoot Lee]4

[P.S.] Mrs. Lloyd & Mrs. Lee command me to give their Love to you. This
moment I have recd. advice from Virga. of the death of our friend Col.


Receiver’s copy, bMS Am 811.5, Houghton Library, Harvard University.

1 That is, William Lee.

2 Silas Deane.

3 Richard Henry Lee.

4 Lee’s departure from Congress on 16 April brought to an end a distinguished
career that began with the autumn session of the Second Continental
Congress in September 1775. Although he is last mentioned in the
journals on 14 April, his accounts give his final period of
attendance as “from the 7th Novr. 1778 to the 16 Apl. 1779 inclusive
being 161 Days at 15 Dollars a day £724.10.” Emmet Collection,
NN; and JCC, 13:452.

Another manuscript in Lee’s hand pertaining to his congressional career
consists of some “queries” and foreign “Intelligence,” apparently
drafted for publication. As it is accompanied by two draft letters in
the hand of Richard Henry Lee addressed to “Mr. Dunlap,” all were
doubtless intended for submission to the Pcnnsylvania Packet, but no
evidence that they were published has been found. They demonstrate
the Lee brothers’ continuing effort to protect the positions of
Arthur and William Lee abroad. The documents’ contents seem to
indicate that the queries were written shortly after the foreign
affairs inquiry committee reported to Congress on 24 March, for which
see JCC, 13:363 – 68 The covering letters were written thereafter, but
apparently a few days apart. The rough state of the documents and
their location in the Samuel Adams Papers suggests that they were
sent to Adams for review The fact that the queries were never
published in the Pacict may be attributed to Francis Lightfoot’s
departure for Virginia, the momenturn that the “recall debate”
quickly assumed and Richard Henry’s decision to resign his seat in
Congress. For information on the recali debate in Congress, see John
Fell’s Diary, 6 April 1779, note 2. For Lee’s resignation, see
Richard Henry Lee to the Virginia House of Delegates, 4 May 1779.
See also Francis Lightfoot to Richard Henry Lee, 5 January 1779,
note 3.

The cover letters drafted by Richard Henry, which bear the heading
“Publication respecting Mr. Silas Deane,” read as follows:

“Mr. Dunlap. As Mr. Silas Dean has thought proper to produce before the
public a suggestion of much suffering and great merit on his part,
which he insinuates on the part of others much demerit, and having
given reason to expect that his insinuations should be realized by a
communication of facts which it was of importance should be known,
Which communication having been long promised but not complied
with – As a free and virtuous Citizen of America I have taken pains to
get the best possible information about the causes and probable
consequences of Mr. Deanes unusual Address of the 5th of December
last, and could wish to be aided in my enquiries by having plain
answers given to the following plain quiries.

“Mr Dunlap. I chanced the other evening to fall in company with a person
whom I found after conversing upon the subject which has lately
engaged the public attention to be a Supporter of Mr. Silas Deane,
after some general and evasive justification of Mr. Deans conduct he
proceeded to shew the necessity of recalling the other
Commissioner[s] by the following reasons – Because said he they have
quarr[el]ed, and there have been such dispu[ta]tions and
disagreements as tend to the injury of the public affairs – That the
M[ess]rs. Lee wanted obilites [abilities?] and that their Manners
were ungracious, their tempers suspicious, quarelsome, and jealous;
and these opinions of those gentlemen I found were to be supported by
the evidence of Mr. Deane, and two or three others whom he has
combined with him &c by a similarity of manners, and of
interested views. This conversation suggested to me the following
quiries which an honest enquirer would be thankful for a plain answer

Francis Lightfoot’s draft “queries” continue:

“A Person in public employ, informs of misconduct in another, &
furnishes documents on which he founds his opinion, are his
proceedings to be invalidated, by the accusation of the Accused
Person upon his bare assertion, unsupported by any evidence or ought
he to be in the least affected, by such accufsation?

“Is the former to be deemed & punished as quarrelsome because the
latter, will fasten a quarrel upon him, for endeavoring to prevent
the waste of public money; & informing those of his grounds of
suspicion, who alone have the power of remedying the Evil? Has there
been any quarrelling with A.L. since S.D. left France? Was there any
quarrels between A.L. & Doctor F – – when they served
Massachusets together in London? Has not S.D. transfer’d the quarrels
from France to America? If S.D. has been successfull in infusing
Jealousies into the minds of some of the French Ministers of A. Lee
(which is denied from the best Authority) what has that to do with
the Court of Spain, to which he belongs? & with whom he has had
considerable success, in procuring supplies?

“Deane’s insinuations have gone forth to the world as charges against A.L.
& W.L., a recal fixes those charges as truths & persons will
be sacrificed, who have given up their greatest prospects to serve
the Public, & have entrusted their honor & everything dear to
them to the Justice of their Country, & why? Because persons,
whom they have endeavoured to prevent from injuring the public, abuse
them for doing their duty. What man hereafter will endeavor to bring
defaulters to justice, who will certainly be offended & quarrel
if in consequence of the defaulter’s quarrelling with him, he must
necessarily be disgraced & ruined? Is it not the most proper way
to punish the Offender & enlarge Your confidence in the Man who
has contributed to bring him to Justice. The Cause being removed, the
effect will cease. What Minister can be confident in his exertions
for the public good when he knows, that if any designing persons,
disappointed in their views, shall fasten a quarrel upon him, he must
for that reason alone be inevitably ruined? In the present case it is
necessary to examine well into D’s Conduct, to see if there were not
good grounds for A Lee’s interfering with his proceedings if there
was, was it not his duty to do it? If in consequence of his doing
[his] duty, D. wou’d quarrel with him is it his fault? Is there any
[…] reason to suppose A.L. will have any quarrel in Spain,
unless from the same cause, which Congress may prevent, by
instructing A L not to notice any misconduct in persons employed by
the public in his District.

“May it not be the design of some to obtain the benefit of such an
instruction by futile appointments as an assortment of Characters may
present such Incapacity & littleness discovers as it may greatly
import the public to be made acquainted with.

“WL & AL went to London [in] 1768 quite strangers, it is notorious,
the rank they held there at the commencemt of this war. They had the
honor of an acquaintance & even intimacy with Lds. Chatham,
Temple, & Shelburne, Sergeant Glyn, Mr. Dunning & many other
eminent characters in that Country, for all this they coud not be
indebted to their connections or parliamentary interests, they had
none, nor to their wealth, for tho born in a Wealthy family, they
were the youngest of many children. The persons above named were
certainly acquainted with mankind, & it cannot be supposed that
they wou’d have honored with their regards, Persons who were unfit
for any public character & of disgracefull manners, who were
circumstanced as the Messrs. Lees were at that time. This discovery
is reserved for Deane & a few others who have seen more of the
world, kept better company, & of finer parts & understanding
than those Noblemen & Gentlemen. Is it possible for human
credulity to be stretched so far, as to pay any regard to them?

“Intelligence recd. from the American Commissioners

“It had been debated in the british Cabinet, whether Independance shou’d be
acknowledged. That there was no prospect of our Enemies getting any
reinforcements except what might be raised in their own dominions.
The sailing of the Cork fleats. The situation of the whale fishery,
the vessels employed in it, easy to be destroyed.

“The friendly sentiments of Holland, & of their having actually agreed
upon a Treaty, to take place at a proper time.

“The friendly disposition of the King of the two Sicilies, & of his
having opened his ports to American Vessels, with a desire of being
informed how to distinquish them.

“Their application to fiance for protection against the Barbary Corsairs,
with the proceedings thereon – the two Articles of the Treaty expunged,
agreable to the request of Congress. The Ministers Answer respecting
Beaumarchais. Their prospects of getting money & supplies for the

“That Russia wou’d not assist G.B. with forces against America.

“What wou’d be expected by Spain, in case of a treaty with America, &
what she wou’d give in return. That while acting the part of
Mediator, affected reserve & secrecy. Supplies sent &
sending, upon the funds granted by that Court.

“The Courts of Berlin & Austria, cou’d not receive our Commissioner or
signify their intentions respecting America, in the present situation
of their affairs. The events of the war between those powers.

“Situation of Affairs at the Court of the Grand Duke of Tuscany.

“General Accounts of the Affairs of Europe, with political reflections
& inferences.” Samuel Adams Papers, NN.