<br /> Lee Letter: n697

Washington and Lee University

Sender: Arthur Lee
Recipient: Samuel Adams

My dear friend,

I cannot lose so good an opportunity as that of Dr Eliot, of enquiring
after your health & hoping you are happy.

The Session of the Assembly of Virginia in May, calls me from Congress for
a month or two to attend my duty there.1
Indeed I do not see of what material use my attendance here can be,
where I can only lament what I can not prevent, and make vain efforts
to redeem an infatuated Majority from the bondage of folly &
private interest. For what can be expected from an Assembly in which a
Member is allowd to sit, who is avowedly an Agent for the Enemies to
our cause & Country, an Insolvent & a profligate Adventurer. I
mean Mr. Samuel Wharton.2 This man, Sir,
that in a Petition on the table of Congress3
declares himself insolvent, not only sits & votes, but treats the
Members with magnificant Dinners. I am perfectly persuaded that it is
the interest of the Companies which this Man is an Agent for and a
member of to reduce us to the domination of G. Britain, because their
Members being chiefly British & of great influence they woud by
that means be secure of obtaining the Lands which it is impossible they
shoud do while we are independant. And as these Agents are using every
art to seduce us & to sow dissention among the States, I think they
are more dangerous than the Enemy’s Arms. Every motion relative to
Vermont & the Cessions of the other States is directed by the
interests of these Companies. I have in vain movd for a purifying
declaration, from each member that he is not concerned in them. The
Motion was evaded by three days chicane, & remains
undecided.4

As to Vermont, I am clear we have no power to admit them into the
confederation, & I am doubtful of the policy of it, if the power
were unquestionable. The small States are already combining to
dismember the large Ones. The addition of another will be a dangerous
accession, & the disposal of property in quotaing each being by
Votes not by interest, it will enable the small States to throw the
whole burthen of the war upon the large Ones. But your Delegates do not
think with me, which I lament. Sure I am that with the admission of
this little State the confederation will end; its present inequality
being as much as it can bear.5

Please to remember me to Mrs. Adams, to Genl. Ward, Mr. Bowdouin & his
Family.

I do not believe your fellow-Citizens will ever part with you again, &
therefore dispair of seeing you here.

I am with unalterable esteem & affection, dear Sir, yr. most Obedt.
Servt.

A. Lee

Notes:

Receiver’s copy, Samuel Adams Papers, New York Public Library.

1 Lee, who had obtained a leave of absence on April 9, remained to vote in
Congress on the 20th. He apparently did not leave Philadelphia until
April 24. See JCC, 22:177, 204; and James Madison to Edmund
Pendleton, April 23, 1782, note 4.

2 Delaware delegate Wharton had earned Lee’s contempt because of his
activities as agent for the Indiana Company.

3 Not identified.

4 For Lee’s April 18 motion that all delegates declare whether they were
“personally interested” in the claims of any of the land companies,
see JCC, 22:191 – 94; and Madison, Papers (Hutchinson), 4:158 – 59.

5 Lee’s concern had also been articulated recently by South Carolinian Pierce
Butler, who was then in Philadelphia. In an April 5 letter to James
Iredell of North Carolina, Butler pointed to a decline in
congressional authority and decried the lack of southern unity, which
he felt was underscored by North Carolina’s failure to maintain
representation in Congress. “So greatly altered is this once august
body,” Butler lamented, “that as little as possible is intrusted to
them, And yet, among them are many individuals of the strictest
honor, and great worth; but, as a body, there is little dependence to
be placed on them. The Northern interest is all prevalent; their
members are firmly united, and carry many measures disadvantageous to
the Southern interest. They are laboring hard to get Vermont
established as an independent State, which will give them another
vote, by which the balance will be quite destroyed. In the midst of
these great struggles between the Northern and Southern interests,
the issue of which is of such consequence to the Carolinas and
Georgia, your State remains totally unrepresented. Unpardonable
neglect! We of the South, who consider ourselves as embarked in the
same vessel with you, complain loudly of the desertion of our sister.
This Vermont business is a shameful and scandalous affair. Governor
Clinton, of the State of New York by a meritorious vigilance, has
intercepted letters and papers that reflect no credit on some
individuals of Congress. I believe it is beyond a doubt that
Witherspoon and some others have received large tracts of land, at
least grants of them, from the Vermonters, to support their claim in
Congress. Some inhabitants of this town, it is said, and generally
believed are concerned in encouraging the Vermonters to support their
claim, even by arms. Where will villainy stop? In my opinion,
Congress are not authorised to admit them as an independent State.
The Confederation expressly excludes every part of America, except
Canada. There are men in the world that care not what engagements or
compacts they violate, if they can but accomplish their own ends.”
McRee, Iredell Correspondence, 2:9.