<br /> Lee Letter: n696

Washington and Lee University

Sender: Arthur Lee
Recipient: Joseph Willard

Reverend Sir,

I had yesterday the honour of receiving from the hand of the Rev. Dr.
Elliot, your very obliging letter of the 28th ult., together with a
diploma for an honorary Doctorate of Laws from the university over
which you preside with so much deserved reputation.

I beg sir, you will be assured, and that you will assure the visiters and
fellows of the university, that I have the highest sense of the honour
they have conferred upon me.1 Laudari a
laudatis varis would be flattering to a person infinitely less
deserving of praise than I can possibly think myself. It was with
peculiar pleasure I read a diploma, conceived in language pure and
elegant enough to have flowed from an ancient pen.

Liberty and letters sir, are so inseparably connected, that a lover of the
one cannot but see with sincere satisfaction the cultivation and
prosperity of the other. It is to the light which literature had
diffused that we owe the assertion of our liberties, and to the
continuance of the same we must owe their establishment and permanency.
The eminent share which the university of Cambridge had in diffusing
these salutary lights, by her example and instructions, has made her
proportionally respected; and a perseverance in the same course will
render her an honour and blessing to these United States. For an
institution of such utility it is patriotism to pray, esto perpetua.

The American Academy of Arts and Sciences hath done me great honour in
admitting me into their society, instituted for the best of purposes by
gentlemen capable of fulfilling them.2 I
entreat you sir, to lay before them the due sense I have of the favour
with which they have distinguished me, and to assure them that I shall
ever be happy in contributing every thing within the compass of my poor
abilities, to promote the valuable object of the institution.

Do me the favour sir, of accepting my thanks for the very polite and
obliging manner in which you have signified the proceedings of the
university and of the academy, and my best wishes for your health and

I have the honour of being, reverend sir, with the utmost respect and
esteem, your obedient servant,

Arthur Lee


MS not found; reprinted from Richard Lee, Life of Arthur Lee, LL.D., 2
vols. (Boston: Wells and Lilly, 1829), 1:178 – 79. Addressed: “To the
Rev.Joseph Willard, President of the University of Cambridge, and
Secretary of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.”

1 Harvard College had awarded Lee an honorary LL.D. on December 19, 1781.
Louis W. Potts, Arthur Lee: A Virtuous Revolutionary (Baton Rouge:
Louisiana State University Press, 1981), pp. 253 – 54.

2 Lee was elected a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in
Boston after he submitted a scientific paper on the effects of
lightning striking the house in Philadelphia rented by the French
minister La Luzerne. Ibid., pp. 253 – 54. See also Daniel Carroll to
Thomas Sim Lee, March 28, 1782.