<br /> Lee Letter: n489

Washington and Lee University

Sender: Richard Henry Lee
Recipient: John Adams

My dear Sir,

To such uncertain issue are all letters now exposed that are committed to
Ship board, that it absolutely prohibits that full and explicit
declaration of ones sentiments on many important points which I shall
ever wish to make to you on whose wisdom and goodness I have the
firmest reliance. The principles you adopt, and the conduct you intend
to pursue, as mentioned in the letter you did me the honor to write me
the 5 of Augt. last, I do most thoroughly approve. I know well that
your support will only be given to the cause of virtue and your
country, and that it will never be withheld therefrom. Who fails in
doing right, fails nobly because Virtue is its own and a very great
reward. You will see by the public prints, which Mr. Lovell tells me he
has transmitted since the 1st of December last, that we are not exempt
from the common Lot of humanity. But, tho Deanes and Partners of Deanes
may and will shoot up in every Soil, and the foulness about them
thicken for a time the purest streams, these will at length work
themselves clear and as they run refine. The bold and sudden attempt
made by Deane’s Libel of Decr. 5 on the public mind, seized it for a
time with great violence, and hurried it away with too much rapidity
for reflection. But no sooner did men begin to think than they began to
see, and S. Deane has now fallen under universal contempt and censure.
I am sure it has not been this Mans fault if he hath not done more
injury to these States than G. Howe ever did. But enough of him. We
shall soon transmit our plan for foreign affairs, and in the mean time,
we are very impatient to hear from you, not having done so for three
months past. We hope Spain will join France, which will indeed make
decisive work. We are preparing for the ensuing Campaign with all
possible vigor, but the enemies and our troops yet remain in quarters
this way, and it seems probable that the former will be glad to
continue so all the Summer as they have not more than 10 or 12,000 men
both in York & Rhode Island, which force, if collected, would not
be sufficient to take the field. The enemy have made a successful
impression on Georgia this winter, but I consider this in the same
light of mere temporary effect, as we have seen all their former
operations. Measures are taking to remove them from that State, and tho
the Climate wars against us, it will not fight for them. I see, with
you, the importance of the Confederation, and I am not without hope
that it will eer long, be completed. All have agreed except Maryland,
and that State it is thought will come in at the next meeting of their
Assembly, which will be in a few months. The Assembly of Virginia have
directed their Delegates to move Congress to fix a day for closing this
great Compact between such of the States as have consented, allowing
either a given or indefinite time, as to Congress shall seem best, for
dissenting States to become Members. We shall shortly move Congress for
this purpose1 The Currency is an object of
the last importance. Tax we do, and very largely indeed, but this is
still inadequate. Some aid, by foreign Loans, is indispensable by way
of absorbing the immensity of the Mass. Two Millions of pounds sterling
applied this way would, with the aid of Taxes, so restore us As to put
the remainder of our Money on a good foundation, and then, Taxation
with economy will do the rest.2

Lately our Coasts have been pretty free from the enemies Cruisers. They
have now an ample call for their Sea force in other ports, and at
present our frigates preserve our trade from the interruption it met
with by the numerous small Privateers of the enemy.

Be pleased to accept a pamphlet that accompanies this containing a special
collection from our Journals made to counteract certain false and ill
designed assertions of the British Commissioners lately

I am, yours dear Sir with the most affectionate esteem and regard,

Richard Henry Lee

[P.S.] Direct your letters for me to the care of Dr. Shippen in


Lee PapersUniversity of Virginia Archives

Printed in James Curtis Ballagh, The Letters of Richard Henry Lee, Volume 2, 1779 – 1794, pp. 46 – 49.

1 For Virginia’s next move to secure ratification of the Articles of
Confederation, see North Carolina Delegates to Richard Caswell, 20 May; and Virginia Delegates to the Speaker of the Virginia House of
Delegates, 22 May 1779. See also John Henry to Thomas Johnson,
20 January 1779, note.

2 For some of the specific proposals found in the reports of the committee on
the treasury that were under consideration at about this time, see
JCC, 13:491 – 98, 14:519 – 20.

3 Undoubtedly Gouverneur Morris’ Observations on the American Revolution
(Philadelphia: Styner and Cist, 1779).