<br /> Lee Letter: n733

Washington and Lee University

Sender: Arthur Lee
Recipient: James Warren

1Dear Sir,

I enclose you three Newspapers containing the Essays of Lucius, Valerius,
& Bellisarius which deserve your perusal & being reprinted in
your Papers.2 Barney is arrivd with
Dispatches. He left L’Orient the 17 Jany. He keeps strict silence &
none of his Crew are allowd to come on shore. The Letters were all
carried to Mr. Morris, from whom Congress have not yet receivd any
intelligence. When his speculations are settled we shall be favord with
the news. All these restraints upon public information & the
engrossing all the Letters, are by his own order, Congress knowing
nothing of it; & I verily believe for the sole purpose of
speculation. I was persuaded when his friends proposd the purchasing
Barney’s vessel & dispatching her under his direction, that it was for the same purpose. Thro’ the whole war he has made his public trust
subservient to his private Speculation, & has thereby become as
rich as a Jew.

You wish to have some observations on the manners of this place. They are
as little worthy of panygeric as an awkward imitation of the French can
make them. Broke suddenly loose from the simplicity of quaker manners,
dress & fashon & affecting the vanity, & nonsense, if
nothing worse, of french parade, you may conceive they are more fit
subjects of redicule than of admiration. Mr. Morris, Mr. Bingham, Mr.
Ross & others, who have made large fortunes during this war, employ
their wealth in a manner not very consistent with that unostentatious
virtue which ought to animate an Infant republic. Extravagance,
ostentation & dissipation distinguish what are calld the Ladies of
the first rank. There are however exceptions, these being prudent,
amiable & worthy persons of both Sexes. But the generality seem to
be intoxicated with a sudden change of manners & unexpected

I had not time to finish this Letter, being occupyed by attending to the
Dispatches. The preliminary Articles are well enough, but being
conditiond on the conclusion of Peace with France, which seems to me
not probable this year; they still remain dependent on the issue of
this campaign at least, which if very successful on the part of the
Enemy may make them retract these conditions, & if ever so
prosperous on the part of our Ally, we cannot hope for any thing
better, as the latter seems more averse to our participation in the
Fishery, & our possessing the western Country, than the English
themselves are. We are placd in this uncomfortable situation, by the
ambition of our Ally, And by the obligation our Alliance is supposd to
have imposd upon us not to make Peace without their concurrence. My
latest Letters give the most sanguine expectations of speedy
peace.3 But from reasoning on all
circumstances it appears to me at least very doubtful. I wish most
sincerely that peace may take place, & give us an opportunity of
arranging our governments & Finances & of paying our Debts.

I receivd the two Joe’s you was so good as to send me for interest; &
am very much obligd to you for your attention to my Affairs. When peace
will permit the travelling in the extreme parts of your State, & I
am freed from Congress, I shall revisit you, & take a view of the
Country where the grant to me may be located. In the mean time I trust
to your goodness & care to have the location made as advantageously
as possible.4

Mr. J. Adams is so persuaded, that Peace is settled that he has desird
leave to resign & return home.5 I am not
of opinion that we can spare him yet. He & Mr. Jay have acted a
spirited, independant, & therefore, in my judgment, a most laudable
part; & will be necessary in Europe to counteract the treachery of
old Franklin. I had drawn up a vote of thanks to Mr. Adams for the
extraordinary Services he has renderd us in Holland; but upon sounding
I found the jealousy which Dr. F’s friends, after his example,
entertain of any approbation bestowd upon another, being a censure upon
him, woud render the passage of it doubtful. It was therefore thought
more prudent not to move it. There never I think existed a man more
meanly envious & selfish than Dr. Franklin. The reason probably why
it is not seen so as to make men dispise him is, that men in general
listen much to professions, & look little to

Mr. Adams has mentiond one mark of his tricking & selfish disposition.
He obtaind a promise from Mr. Jay when at Madrid, to give his voice for
appointing his Grandson W. T. Franklin, a young insignificant Boy as
any in existence, to be Secretary to the Embassy for making Peace, who
ought to be a person of consummate prudence, ability & worth. Upon
this he appoints him to that office without consulting the other
Commissioners.7 Thus while Govr. Franklin is
planning our destruction in London his Father & Son, are entrusted
with all our Secrets in Paris. If it shoud be said that the establishd
character of the old man will justify such a confidence; the same can
not be urgd in favor of the young one, who is yet to be tried & has
no character at all.

I enclose you a Paper containing the preliminary Articles. With the most
cordial remembrance of Mrs Warren’s politeness & very agreable
conversation, I beg you will present to her my best respects. My Nephew
T. Shippen8 is equally pleasd with the
Society at Milton & desires his respects.


A. Lee


Receiver’s copy, Warren-Adams Papers, Massachusetts Historical Society.
Endorsed: “Dr. Lees Lettr., Decr. 82.”

1 Lee inexplicably misdated this letter, as he clearly acknowledged in his
first paragraph the arrival of Capt. Joshua Barney with dispatches
from the peace commissioners – news that filled the letters of his
fellow delegates this date.

2 Lee probably enclosed the February 19, and March 5 and 12 issues of the
Freeman’s Journal. Essays by “Lucius” denouncing Robert Morris were
published March 5 and 12, by “Valerius” attacking John Dickinson on
February 19 and March 5 and 12, and by “Belisarius” assailing Morris
on February 19. Earlier attacks on Morris and Dickinson under these
pseudonyms had also appeared in the issues of January 21, 29, and
February 12; they continued on April 2, 9, and 23.

3 For one of the “latest Letters” received by Lee, see the first paragraph of
his letter to Washington, March 13, 1783.

4 For Lee’s Massachusetts land grant, see these Letters, 10:4n.3.

5 John Adams’ requests of December 4 and 14, 1782, are in PCC, item 84,
4:301, 317; and Wharton, Diplomatic Correspondence, 6:106, 133 – 34.

6 For another disparaging view of Franklin that Lee included in a March 11
letter to Edmund Randolph, which has not been found but which
Randolph quoted in a March 22 letter to James Madison, see Madison,
Papers (Hutchinson), 6:380. See also Madison’s praise of Franklin in
his letters to Randolph of this date and April 1, 1783.

7 John Adams had made the following observation about the appointment of
William Temple Franklin in his November 6, 1782, letter to Robert R.
Livingston. “Dr. Franklin, without saying any thing to me, obtained
of Mr. Jay a promise of his vote for Mr. W. T. Franklin to be Secrey.
to the Commission for Peace.” See PCC, item 84, 4:235; and Wharton,
Diplomatic Correspondence, 5:855. John Jay later denied that Franklin
had solicited his vote and to avoid the appearance of division over
the appointment, Adams and Henry Laurens also signed Temple’s
commission. See Adams, Diary (Butterfield), 3:38 – 39, 102 – 3; and
Richard B. Morris, The Peacemakers: The Great Powers and American
Independence (New York: Harper & Row, 1965), pp. 355 – 56.

8 That is, Thomas Lee Shippen, son of Dr. William Shippen, Jr., and Lee’s
sister, Alice.