<br /> Lee Letter: n729

Washington and Lee University

Sender: Arthur Lee
Recipient: Samuel Adams

My dear friend.

I arrivd here but three days since from
Virginia1 when I received your favor of the
21st of Novr. 1782.2 I do not see by the
Journals, that any thing has been done relative to the Mr. Burgess you
mention, or that he has petitiond as you apprehend he intended, to be
admitted a Citizen of the U.S.3 If he had, I
conceive he woud have done it in vain. I remember that the
recommendation not to admit any british Subject whatsoever, was on my
motion;4 therefore you may be satisfyd that
I shoud have concurrd with you, in objecting to one so particularly
exceptionable as this Petitioner.

While you was thus employd in endeavoring to prevent the establishment of a
british interest among us; you will not be a little surprized to hear
that the following information was given to the House of Delegates in
Virginia, & is now on their records, by a Mr. Mercer, & Col.
Saml. Griffin stated as the witness to it, “That it was the public
conversation at Philadelphia that there was a british Party on the
Continent, at the head of which Messrs Adams, Messrs. Lees & Mr
Laurens.”

Col Griffin being calld before a Committee deposed That he heard this
report about two years ago in Boston, & lately in Philadelphia,
That it came from Mr. Hancocks Party, which he thought attachd to the
french Alliance, the Congress & Genl Washington, because they were
most popular and had two thirds of the Assembly on their side, That he
had not mentiond Mr. Richard Henry Lee, nor J. Adams, as he did not
hear such reports of them. But Mr. S. Adams & his Party, among whom
he mentiond Genl. Warren, he thought were Enemies to the french
Alliance, because some french frigates, having recapturd a vessel the
Owner of which livd at some distance, & the French wanting the
matter judgd immediately, Mr. S. Adams had influence enough with the
Assembly to prevent it, The Agent for the French in that affair told
him, Mr. S. Adams was an Enemy to the French.

Such was the silly evidence in support of as silly a charge, which however
not admitting on the sudden of any refutation but what arose from its
own absurdity, made an impression on some minds unfavorable to me,
& in so doing answerd the purpose for wch. it was intended.

Every Engine is at work here to obtain permanent taxes and the appointment
of Collectors by Congress, in the States. The terror of a mutinying
Army is playd off with considerable efficacy. It is certainly a great
misfortune to any Country, that their Army shoud be discontented, &
the more so when they have reason on their side, as in the present
case. But to remedy temporary evils by permanent Ones is neither wise
nor safe. I am persuaded that real inability to pay taxes, is the
reason that the States do not furnish their quota, & that peace
woud soon enable us to pay the army all their Arrears, and satisfy all
our Creditors. A majority of the Army at least, will remember that they
are Citizens, & not lend themselves to the tory designs, as I
verily believe this is, of subverting the Revolution.

Nothing coud be a greater disappointment to me, than not seeing that most
excellent Patriot Genl Whipple. My Brother Richard had given me so high
an idea of his character, that I respect him as one of the most worthy
of our Countrymen.

I am much afraid, that peace is not so near as our interest woud make us
wish. France & England seem desirous of trying their strength in
another campaign. We must not therefore be deluded with pacific
appearances here but remember how easy it is for the Enemy to renew
offensive operations, shoud their success in other parts permit.

The treaty of Amity & Commerce with the States general of the United
Netherlands is ratifyd. Our friend Mr. John Adams had great merit in
the whole of that business, & the merit is all his own.

My respects to Mrs Adams & Mrs Temple, and my best remembrance to Genl.
Warren, Mr. Boudwoin, Mr. Lowell &c &c &c. Adieu,

A. Lee

Notes:

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

1 Lee had just resumed his seat in Congress on Monday January 27. JCC, 24:96.
Upon his arrival the previous day, he also wrote letters to his
brother William and to John Adams, of which only the following brief
extracts have been found.

“Mr Livingston has resigned,” he wrote to William on January 26. “His
chancellorship could not be held with his secretaryship, and he
preferred the former. It is probable Genl. Schuyler will succeed him.
I shall resign my place in Congress in a few months, being convinced
that I can do little service, and finding that it exposes me to
perpetual enmities, of which I had much and bitter experience in the
last session of Assembly, when every art was used to procure my
recall; and altho’ it was without success, yet to be thus exposed
without doing the public any material service determines me to retire
altogether.”

And to John Adams he wrote: “The servility, envy, & avarice of the old
man you mention (Franklin) have been the more pernicious to our
cause, as he is most unaccountably rooted in the opinion of many, and
nothing but success will in their eyes justify a conduct founded upon
opposite principles.” Sparks Transcripts, MH-H; Lee Family Papers
microfilm, reel (7).

2 Adams’ letter is in Adams, Writings (Cushing), 4:275 – 76.

3 William Burgess (“very lately arrived from England, by way of Holland”),
Adams explained, had recently petitioned the Massachusetts General
Court to be naturalized. “The senate declined sustaining his petition
and gave him leave to withdraw it. A few days after, an authenticated
resolution of congress came to hand, recommending it to the states
not to admit any British subject whatever. Yet this man has had
interest enough to prevail on the assembly to permit him to go to
congress, to have it decided there whether he comes within the
meaning of their resolution, because his arrival here was prior to
the reception of the resolution by this government.” Ibid., p. 275.
No evidence has been found, however, to indicate that Burgess
submitted his case to Congress.

4 Lee seems to have exaggerated his role in this matter. The October 4
resolution at issue is embodied in a report written by James Duane
(as chairman of a committee of which Lee was not a member), and the
provision opposing the admission of British subjects into the United
States was added as an amendment by James Madison. See JCC,
23:637 – 39; and Madison, Papers (Hutchinson), 5:180 – 82.