<br /> Lee Letter: n517

Washington and Lee University

Sender: James Lovell
Recipient: Arthur Lee

Dear Sir

I have written very frequently to you, but have no Copies of the Emanations
of my friendly Attachment to your merits as they have at those Periods
appeared on paper. But the Nature & especially the sincerity of
them may perhaps be better judged of by seing what I wrote to your Non
Amicals. I find that a Mr. Cummins and a Mr. Smith have been taken. By
the latter I wrote in a private Capacity to all three of the Commissrs.
but have only a copy of one to Dr. F – – and perhaps never sent a copy
of that before this day.1I have ordered the
Bearer of this Scrawl to deliver one to you marked 4 if you are in
France, if not to break the Seal and deliver the inclosed as directed.
If it comes into yr. hand, break the Seal and you will find a second
Envelop properly directed, to which you may put a Wafer. If you do not
get that Proof, take my Word for it that what little Health I have left
unsacrificed by 17 months Imprisonment & 33 months Drudgery here,
shall be exerted on every necessary occasion to defend your Name &
Character against vilainous Attacks, the Spirit for which, however, has
long ago become despicable.

Your Choice from Salust of a Motto for one of yr. Friends came too late
almost, for in a few days after my Receipt of it, quietus took absolute
occupancy of turbidus inquietus atrox.2 Dont
start at the Expression of my Receipt; but know that upon reading a
Letter for RHL or FLL or JL3 I broke
every Seal and by the Advice of yr. hearty friends Mr. Laurens, Gen.
Whipple & others, presented the Defences, Replications, Remarks
& their Vouchers, not keeping back the last half Sheet wsh.
contained an a fortiori.4

A paper unsigned, among Mr. A. Lee’s Dispatches, read Sepr.

This was a Course of Observations upon the Correspondence relative to yr.
joint papers.

The Remarks upon the Employment of W – s6 are
at hand whenever that Business shall be taken up, as also are Letters
between JA and Ct. V – g – ns.7 Mr. A’s
Testimony in Regard to you & yr. two Brothers is manly as well as

No Step is yet thought necessary with regard to the Affair of Sergeant
& Ingersol,8 or that of evacuating the
Post mentioned by you. The moving of the Waters are closely watched.

I find by a Letter this day recd. from my friend Genl. Warren of the Navy
Board Boston that some Justice of Peace in the Jersies has rudely
opened Letters for you & Mr. Schweighawser going from me to his
Care by a Boston Gentleman who did not think of taking a Pass with
him:9 better so than to be opened by some
such as you and I know who are no Justices. I believe the Letters were
from R H L covered by me to Schweighauser for the Sake of telling him
that I shou’d ward off the arrows of the assassins of his Son in Law’s
Character when any of them fly this Way. They come from awkward tho
practiced Bowmen.

La Luzerne does not speak English. I shall naturally be led to more
Intercourse with him than his Predicessor, from that Circumstance. You
see how SA & I are marked in the Company – Thing of Paca &
Drayton,10 doubtless the latter tale bore
many of our Honesties from the State House to the Hotel; but I cannot
say that I ever discovered a consequent Manifestation of Dislike. Those
Browbeatings however are never practiced against manly Indifference.
Perhaps it would have been better if several of us had not, from an
aversion to even the appearance of Sycophancy, left a Stranger without
proper Warnings against that insidious Class. Ford has not been here.
You know by my Letters of April11 that he
was judged by the State of Virginia to be not fit to be near the Person
of an American Commissioner. RHL has been greatly indisposed but is
mending now in his Health. I doubt whether you will by this opportunity
know any thing decisive of our opinion respecting the 2 Spanish points
of negociation; but you may depend on it that we are disposed to do
every Thing to cement a triple Alliance whenever Spain shall signify
her Wishes through you or other regular Channel. The Floridas are not
ours; they belong to our Enemy. A free Navigation of the Miss’pi. is to
be wished for but cannot be claimed if S – – 12
owns both Banks near the Mouth though millions of Acres of Virginia lay
also on the Waters of that River higher up.

Are you so munified with orders from the State of Virginia that if a Vessel
with Goods sent by you for that State should be lost you will not be
made to bear the whole burden? I have been told such a Thing is
whispered here. Pray be on yr. Guard. Caution is what an honest Man may
condescend to learn from Rogues.

I must endeavor to speak a good Word for Daddy
Dumas.13 He has been very particular in the
margins of the Leyden Gazette Feb. 23 to write where it respects you.
“Je nai aucune part a toute cette insertion; & je n’ai pu la voir
qu’ avec affliction.” I should think he would not hesitate to tell the
author of that rascally Paragraph which is in the Gazette of March 30.
How wou’d the Refusal consist with his written profession above
mentioned? You have had an abandoned set at your Elbow to watch over.
And you made some here very rancorous at the first of yr.
Correspondence. I never cou’d find by the Books of the Comtee. who the
two were that you was mistrustful of.14 The
Letter Book is not signed, so as that I can see who were 2d & 5th.
It will not do to take them as they stand on the Journals when elected.
But if Complaisance put Franklin in the Chair I get Harison & Jay.
You also once said something about Mr. Duane’s Servant. An Attempt was
made to embitter the Mind of Govr. Reed who happened to be a Member of
Congress when the Dictionary came to light. But Mr. Reed says you did
your Duty well.15

Something in yr. Letters to the Comtee was in Cyphers. Merryweather Smith
decyphered it readily otherwise I must have sent it on to Virginia to
yr. Brother. I know that RHL thinks that mode is now as useless as if
Deane knew it; need I say more? I think it would be clever to have a
Cypher in Comtee, but not to be also used to your Brother or yr.
Friend; those should be distinct ones. We have never yet got but one
Treaty printed in French by Authority. I mean one of Each which I gave
to the Secretary’s office. I wish to own them myself.

Why should you and I fret at a Man’s putting up in his Chamber the Bust of
Cataline or any other Rascal, if he leaves us at Liberty to place in
ours Cato, Hampden or Adams?

If yr. Brother and Mr. Izard are near you deliver the Letters for them
inclosed.16 I am not become enough
acquainted with those Gentlemen to scrawl away freely & carelessly
to them my Resentments at the manner in which they have been treated by
privite Information or public Decissions. I Esteem them both as fast
friends of America and Mankind at large.

I before informed you that some wiseacres affirm that a Comtee for
Correspondence is useless. I have no Clerk, the Papers of the former
Office lay at Random, and I am determined they shall be preserved in
due Arrangement, therefore you will believe me when I say I am
overplied with affairs. I fear losing a convenient Occasion of getting
my Packets to the Ship if I do not now close; but will if necessary
take up my Pen again before she sails to give you Information and fresh
Assurance of my being, Dear Sir, your Friend and very humble Servant,

James Lovell


Receiver’s copy, Lee Family Papers, Houghton Library, Harvard University.

1 See Lovell to Benjamin Franklin, 29 April 1779.

2 Lovell was undoubtedly referring to Arthur Lee’s use of this phrase, in
reference to William Henry Drayton, in a letter to his brother
Francis Lightfoot, as reported by their brother Richard Henry Lee.
“In a letter from Dr. Lee to my brother F.L.L.,” Richard Henry wrote
to Henry Laurens on September 5, “is the following paragraph ‘I
expected W.H.D. would take precisely the part he has. His character
is too much of the Catilinarian cast, for him to remain long among
honorable men. Turbidus, inquietus, atrox – he should be always dealt
with as one, who, tho your friend to day, may betray you tomorrow.
But I am mistaken if his state dont put a mark upon him’.” Lee,
Letters (Ballagh), 2:146 – 47.

3 That is, Richard Henry Lee, Francis Lightfoot Lee, and James Lovell.

4 Concerning the “half-sheet,” see Lovell to Richard Henry Lee, August 28,
1779, where he informed Richard Henry that he had presented Arthur’s
letter to Congress “without cutting off the last leaf.”

5 See JCC, 15:1016.

6 Jonathan Williams.

7 That is, John Adams and the comte de Vergennes.

8 Arthur had suggested to his brother Richard Henry that Jonathan Dickinson
Sergeant and Jared Ingersoll be consulted about a libel suit against
Silas Deane for Deane’s public attack on him of 5 December 1778. See
Lee, Letters (Ballagh), 2:143 – 44.

9 See Lovell to James Warren, 13 August 1779.

10 See Lovell to Samuel Adams, 12 August, note 2.

11 Not found, but for the return to America of Lee’s former secretary Hezekiah
Ford, see Lovell to Abigail Adams, 11 August 1779, note.

12 That is, Spain.

13 Charles W. F. Dumas, agent of the United States in the United Provinces.

14 Lovell was clearly referring to Lee’s statement in his February 13 and 14,
1776, letters to the Secret Committee: “I received a few days since
yours of the 30th November, 1775, informing me of the appointment of
a secret Committee. I am sorry, however, to say that the second and
last upon the list are men in whom I can not confide, and I am not a
little surprised that it should so happen that these two men are upon
such a committee, while others are omitted with whom I am known to be
in habits of communication and confidence.” Wharton, Diplomatic
2:76 – 77.

The committee members were listed in the journals in the following order:
Benjamin Harrison, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Johnson, John Dickinson,
and John Jay. JCC, 3:392. Lee may have been referring to Franklin and
Jay, although Lovell suggests further on that Lee had in mind
Harrison and Jay.

15 For the attempt “to embitter the mind of Govr. Reed,” see these
Letters, 10:457 – 60.

16 These were duplicates of the Committee for Foreign Affairs’ letters to
Ralph Izard and William Lee of July 17, 1779.