<br /> Lee Letter: n515

Washington and Lee University

Sender: Henry Laurens
Recipient: Richard Henry Lee

My Dear sir,

Since the date of my last trouble the 24th
Inst.1 I have been honored with your favors
of the 13th & 23d,2 The former by an
express Messenger, who assured me he should not return till this day,
but I learned last Night at Mr. Lovel’s that he went off suddenly on
Sunday. Yesterday I received at Congress two Packets & one small
Letter directed to you, these I apprehend came by the Eastern Post, at
Mr. Lovel’s request I shall send them to him to be forwarded in a
proper manner.

I am sorry to find you continue an Invalid, but how can it be otherwise if
you also continue to fatigue both body & mind. You must not allow
the attempts & designs of wicked Men to operate in the very manner
they would wish, let us proceed fairly, & softly & wisely and
truth will drive them out of their entrenchments, they are now closely
hemmed in & cannot escape.

On Tuesday last at the reading of a Letter from A. Lee Esqr. I moved to
commit that Letter together with Mr. Lee’s vindication to a special
Committee,3 besides the reason of the thing,
I grounded my motion on a Commitment of a late Memoire from Mr. Deane,
a Copy of which you will receive herewith, you will give this
performance a proper name 4 – the Motion was
laboriously opposed & in C.T’s
language,5 after sometime spent in debate,
ousted by a motion for adjournment.

On some day since Tuesday, a Report from the Treasury was taken up
recommending a Warrant to Issue for 10000 Dollars to the Honorble S. D.
Esqr in full for his Expenses, from the 4th June 1778. I opposed the
Payment of that or any Sum to Mr. Deane until he should account for the
large Sums of Public Money which have been in his hands – the question
was put shall ten thousand stand – lost. Motion to insert 15000 – question
lost – to insert 12000 – lost – to insert 10500 – carried even by voices who
were against 10000 or any Sum, because they were wearied & had been
wearied; this deficiency of firmness & perseverance is the source
of much irregularity & much evil in public business. The Yeas &
Nays were called for in every stage & finally upon the Resolution,
I reflect with pleasure that I stand uniformly through the
whole.6 A question was asked of the
Treasury, has Mr. Deane given in an account of his expences? artfully
replied to by a Gentleman7 who had formerly
given proofs of his abilities in answering Interrogatories – not a
regular one – not a regular one – this Gentleman perfectly well knew, that
Mr. Deane had given in a very minute one, amounting to 29000 Dollars
& upwards, he also knew the artifice which had been practiced by
one of his Colleagues on The Board to repossess Mr. Deane of a Paper
which he discovered could not be crammed down the throats even of the

I had seen that account & had been promised a Copy of it but as I am
informed, Mr. Duane the very next morning acted a high passion of
offence at so shameful a demand & his zeal for the public good
carried him rather beyond the line of prudence, he ordered that the
Account should be immediately carried back to the demandant, with a
declaration that Congress would allow no such accounts – as Mr. Deane has
not judged it proper to return that or any other, ’tis not to be
doubted but that a Gentleman of Mr. Duane’s candor now regrets his
rashness in parting with the original. I received this relation from
one of those worthy friends who sincerely wish to see right done, but
who will not encounter the trouble necessary to accomplish right. I
shall endeavor to trace this matter to its source & possibly the
whole House will be informed of it.

Saturday last a Letter from Mr. Wm. Lee accompanied by his vindication was
brought into Congress, but the “Order of the day” laid those papers
asleep, yesterday an attempt was made to keep them out of hearing a
little longer, I complained heavily of the Innovation & after much
debate they were in part read, the House grew thin, & at length
only eight states being present, adjourned – I believe I am wrong, WL’s
papers were read, those from AL. were not.8

My Colleague Mr. Drayton has been confined to his Bed some three weeks
past, when I had learned that he was really ill, I could not refrain
from visiting him, his permission being previously obtained. When I
approached his Bed he clasped my hand & wept affectingly. After
recovering his voice he signified his great satisfaction at seeing me
& particularly requested I would write a state of his Case to Mrs.
Drayton – the Physicians think him dangerously ill, say he may live one
or two weeks longer – that if he has strength to support the discharge
from an abscess in his side, they shall raise him again, but that he
will remain an Invalid several Months.

Upon Mr. Drayton’s recovery or upon the arrival of another Colleague my
continuance here partly depends, but I am much inclined to return
homeward in the course of next Month, I believe I shall have the honor
of waiting on you before the 1st October. Finances as they were. News
from Penobscot very unfavorable but no particulars. I would compound
for the loss of all our Ships provided the Soldiers & Sailors
escape Capture. Dunlap’s Paper of this Morning will present Rowland
some intelligence.9

I beg Sir you will present my Compliments to your Brother I shall have much
to say to both you & him when I have the happiness of meeting
you – deferring to that time will be best – many Clouds will in the
meantime pass away & subjects in embrio be matured.

I remain with sincere Esteem & Respect, Your obliged &
faithful humble servant.

Henry Laurens.


Receiver’s copy, Lee Papers, American Philosophical Society.

1 Not found.

2 Lee’s letters of August 13 and 21 [not 23d as stated by Laurens], are in
the William Gilmore Simms Collection of Laurens Papers, no. 31, MHi
microfilm; and Lee, Letters (Ballagh), 2:117 – 23, 130 – 32.

3 No such proceedings are recorded in the journals for “Tuesday last” [August
24] although “A letter from A. Lee, Esq. dated Paris, 21st May, was
read” on Monday August 23. JCC, 14:989.

4 For Silas Deane’s August 16 “Memoire,” which was read in Congress on August
19, see Committee of Congress Report, September 9, 1779.

5 That is, Secretary Charles Thomson.

6 For these August 26 proceedings on “a reasonable allowance for the . . . expences of Silas Deane,” see JCC, 14:997 – 1001.

7 Probably William Carmichael. Members of the Board of Treasury who were
apparently present on August 26 were Carmichael, John Armstrong,
Cyrus Griffin, Nathaniel Scudder, and Henry Wynkoop.

8 For Laurens’ effort on August 30 to bring William Lee’s “vindication” to
the attention of Congress, See JCC, 14:1006 – 7. Lee’s “vindication”
actually consists of two documents – a 36-page letter written from
Frankfurt am Main on March 8 and one of March 16 written from Paris
which were enclosed in a brief letter to President Jay of March 17,
1779. All three documents are in William Lee, Letters of William Lee,
ed. Worthington C. Ford, 3 vols. (1891; reprint ed., New York: Arno
Press, 1971), 2:539 – 94. Only the first and last documents are in
PCC-item 90, fols. 472 – 516. The 16 March letter is in Wharton,
Diplomatic Correspondence, 3:79 – 83, but Wharton simply reprinted the
garbled text of it that Jared Sparks published in his Diplomatic
Correspondence of the American Revolution,
12 vols. (Boston: N. Hale
& Gray & Bowen, 1829 – 30), 2:339 – 45, which omits, without
acknowledgment, four significant paragraphs.

For evidence that Congress returned to a reading of William’s letters on
October 11, 1779, See JCC, 15:1161 – 62; and the endorsements on those
of March 8 and 16 indicating that they were “received” on that date.

9 For Richard Henry Lee’s “Rowland” essays, see James Lovell to Lee, August
17, 1779, note 3.