<br /> Lee Letter: n707

Washington and Lee University

Sender: Arthur Lee
Recipient: Francis Dana

Dear Sir,

I did not receive your favor dated Amsterdam May 17th 1781. ’till June 29th
1782.1 It is with very great pleasure that I
accept your offer of a correspondance which cannot but be highly
interesting to me. The independent spirit which markd your proceedings
when you arrivd first at Petersburg, did not please
some.2 Upon this subject I have but one
observation to make, That a foreign minister, if he attempt any thing
out of the hackneyd path, must do it at his peril. Success alone can
silence the mongrel spirits which will otherwise raise a cry against
him, from the effects of which, if unsuccessful, he will find no shield
but in the goodness of his intentions. This consideration will not
prevent a firm & virtuous mind from pursuing what he thinks really
for the good of his Country, because even a failure cannot deprive him
of that consolation which arises from conscious patriotism.

Our embarrassments for money are great, not that there is any real want of
it, but because by the constitution of the Bank, & until lately a
most prosperous Commerce, in this tory City, has accumulated all the
money here & consequently disenabled the other States from paying
taxes to support the war. The residence of Congress in the bosom of
toryism & the encouragement given to them is as impolitic as it is
unjust. It put such advantages into their hands, as in case the war
shoud take a turn, may enable them to deliver us up tied & bound to
the Enemy. It is extreme political weakness to suppose that because
these men have changd their professions that they have therefore
abandond their principles. These are what a tory never changes, &
tho he may make them bend occasionally to his interest, yet whenever an
opportunity offers you will be sure to find him the same enemy to
public Liberty.

I am sorry that the attempts you mention have in any measure succeeded;
tho’ they have faild of the whole intent, wch. was to place the
negociation of peace in corrupt and servile hands only. The wickedness
of that old Man3 is beyond example, &
his good fortune in escaping the punishment due to his crimes so well
known, is as extraordinary. Horace says – raro antecedentem scelestum
deseruit pede poena claudo.4 Dr Franklin is
the rare exception to his rule.

It may be proper to inform you that the present Secretary for foreign
Affairs is a decided partizan of Dr. F. & enemy to Mr. Adams. Like
a number of other Parrots here, he praises the former by rote, &
undertakes to tutor the other. Whatever you see or receive from him you
may consider as dictated by the french Minister. He made him what he
is, & policy, or gratitude keeps him from disobeying or renouncing
his Maker.

I have little hope of your succeeding where you are. On the contrary I
doubt much whether the Empress will continue neuter, shoud G. Britain
be hard-pressd. Her policy as well as his partiality must, in my
judgment, direct her to prevent the accomplishment of the aim of
France, to give Law on the Ocean, & make her lean towards G.



Receiver’s copy, Dana Papers, Massachusetts Historical Society. In Lee’s
hand, though not signed.

1 For Dana’s May 17 letter, see Richard Lee, Life of Arthur Lee, LL.D., 2
vols. (Boston: Wells and Lilly, 1829), 2: 281 – 84.

2 For Congress’ rebuke of Dana for demonstrating an “independent spirit,” see
James Madison to Edmund Randolph, April 23, 1782, note 6.

3 That is, Benjamin Franklin.

4 The quotation is from Horace Odes 3.2.31, and has been translated by C. E.
Bennett: “rarely does Vengeance, albeit of halting gait, fail to
o’ertake the guilty, though he gain the start.” Horace: The Odes and
Epodes (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1934), p. 177.

5 For Dana’s October 15 response to this letter, see Lee, Life of Arthur Lee,
LL.D., 2:284 – 87.