<br /> Lee Letter: n507

Washington and Lee University

Sender: James Lovell
Recipient: Richard Henry Lee

I did not return from the Conclave till 5 o’clock, hard duty to an infirm
Man. I there heard the Vindication read, but there is a Man who can
never read distinctly & deliberately when he does not like the
subject – long debates, whether the Vouchers shd. be read at length
carried in the affirmative. I recd. much satisfaction, but not so with
every body. One seemed to be on a Gridiron, another in Purgatory,
another attempting to take notes, but the subject was painfull, he
sickened & threw down his pen, one looked to be in a situation in
which he ought long since to have been – suspended – from his eternal
versatility. I suspect he will become a
reconvert.2 My best complim’ts to Mr. F. L.
Lee. I feel myself happy in finding I have taken the honest side, &
that I may therefore congratulate with your families & all your
friends; I shd. have crept into an auger hole had it appeared that I
had (altho mistakenly) been an advocate for a rogue – little as I have
left of worldly wealth, I wd. give 500 Guineas for A. Lee’s company
tonight in this room. He shd. not leave Phila. untill he had pointed
out the way for obtaining Justice to his injured Country; his Country
wou’d not part with him untill they had done him honor.

An honest man’s face the noblest work of God.

This morning I mean to move Congress to order the vindication of the h’ble
Arthur Lee Esqr. together with all the supporting Vouchers to be made
public.3 Mr. D appealed to the Public, which
in his elegant style, “caused great sensations.” The Public therefore
have a right to know what has been said by the other party, & I am
perswaded when they are informed that an ansr. is recd. they will
assert their right & demand information.

We have made no progress either in finances of foreign affairs, except in
the former case, what you must have seen published, & in the
latter, another private audience, the product of which, my discretion,
not my obligation, restrains me from
divulging.4 I peremptorily & repeatedly
refused to give my promise to keep secret anything called by that Name
in the State House. In the present case I had the best reason in the
World for mak’g the declaration, the secret was communicated to a few
select friends, before it was announced from the Chair, one of these
elect, immediately transmitted it to a place some 700 miles
distant,5 & afterward with a very grave
white face pledged his honor to keep all Mum. I charged him home, he
laught guilt & did not deny. Nevertheless I will not follow the bad
example, nor do an inexpedient Act, because it is barely Lawfull. In
due time you will know all. The appointm’t of Doctor Franklin to be
sole Minister at the Court of Versailes, has afforded the greatest
satisfact’n “& now the confidence of the Court will be no longer
withheld” – be this as it may, we receive no intelligence from our
Servants, except from the suspected person,6
& his Accts. are as ample, as Valid, & as clear as any we
receive from the fountain above them. This is queer, he is suspected,
not trusted, yet he is honest, learns & communicates everything.

Mr. A. Lee has apprized us of the ravaging scheme in Connecticut plotted at
White Hall, which is at this instant in execution under the auspices of
Genl. Tryon.

If Congress now suffer Mr. D to leave the American shore, before he shall
have settled his Accts. or shall have given good & sufficient
security to acct. for all the public money which has passed thro’ his
hands, we shall have to account for our own Conduct to the People at


Transcription, Lee Family Papers, University of Virginia Library. In an
unidentified hand, and endorsed by Richard Henry Lee: “Extracts from
Mr. Ls. Letter.”

1 Although this extract is undated, internal evidence indicates that Lovell
wrote the letter soon after, and probably the morning following, the
reading of Arthur Lee’s “vindication” in Congress, an event of July
16. See JCC, 14:843. A substantial portion of the letter is also
found in one from Richard Henry to Thomas Jefferson of August 12 in
which Lee discussed Congress’ response to Arthur’s defense against
charges leveled at him by Silas Deane. James Curtis Ballagh, The Letters of Richard Henry Lee, Volume 2, 1779 – 1794, 2:113 – 14.

2 For another vivid description of this scene, see William Whipple to Richard
Henry Lee, August 23, 1779.

3 No such motion is found in the journals. A contrary motion to seal Lee’s
letters was made about this time by Thomas Burke and seconded by
James Duane, but it was also not entered on the manuscript journals.
Burke’s motion was, however, printed with the July 16 entry in
Worthington C. Ford’s published edition of the journals. See JCC,
14:843 – 44; and PCC, item 36, 4:153.

4 For Conrad Alexandre Gérard’s “private audience” with Congress, see Lovell
to Samuel Adams, July 10, 1779, note 4.

5 Lovell may have been referring to Thomas Burke. See Lovell to Samuel Adams,
July 10, 1779, note 6.

6 That is, Arthur Lee.