<br /> Lee Letter: n734

Washington and Lee University

Sender: Arthur Lee
Recipient: George Washington

Dear Sir,

In a Letter I recievd yesterday, dated Paris, Decr. 14 from a Gentleman
exceedingly well acquainted with the Politics of St.
James’s,1 is this passage – “The
acknowlegment of American Independency gives a right to Neutral Powers
to trade directly to America. This will be a great advantage shoud the
War continue, of which I think there is little probability. Europe
seems to be in a disposition for Peace; & it is absolutely
necessary for England.”

This necessity of England, seems pretty clear from the King’s Speech; &
Mr. Jay writes that on the return of Count de Vergennes Secretary from
London, whither Mr. Jay supposes he was sent to prevent the british
Court from treating with us as an independent Nation, the Count told
him he believd Ld. Shelburne was sincere in his desire of
Peace.2 If he is so, I am sure it must be
from the necessity mentiond by my Correspondent, as I am persuaded that
is not his inclination.

So far the prospect is fair for Peace; but Count de Vergennes writes that
tho’ he has hopes, he has fears3 – the
preliminary Articles with France were not signed the 6th of Jany. Count
d’Estaing & M. de la Fayette had saild for Cadiz apparently upon an
expedition which woud hardly have taken place, if the Cabinet of France
had not been determind upon a continuance of the war.

Our Dispatches mention that the british Commissioner made a proposition to
ours, that we shoud agree not to molest their troops in their
evacuation of N. York; which implies their wish of doing so; & the
stipulation that if any place shoud have been taken by us between the
signing the Conditional Articles & their arrival in America, it
shoud be restord – seems to suppose that on such arrival hostilities
shoud cease.

There are many complaints of the most atrocious depredations of the
Refugees on the shores of Potomac. These at least I presume the british
Commander in Chief will now restrain, as being not only contrary to the
pacific professions of his Master; but to the Laws of war among
civilizd Nations.

Congress have thought proper to enjoin secrecy with regard to
communications of some of our Ministers, touching the conduct of the
French Court during the negociation. What I have mentiond, relative to
the mission of the Count’s Secretary to London, is strictly speaking
within that injunction. But I apprehend, the Secret will be at least as
safe with your Excellency as with us; & it seems to me as necessary
that you shoud be circumstantially informd.

I beg you will make my best respects acceptable to Mrs. Washington.

I have the honor to be, with the greatest respect & esteem, Yr.
Excellency’s most Obedt. Servt.

A. Lee

Notes:

Receiver’s copy, Washington Papers, Library of Congress.

1 Not identified.

2 This information was conveyed in John Jay’s lengthy dispatch of November
17, 1782, for which see PCC, item 100, 2:142 – 262 (especially 195 – 98,
248); and Wharton, Diplomatic Correspondence, 6:11 – 49 (especially
29 – 30, 45 – 46).

3 A copy of the comte de Vergennes’ December 25 letter to Benjamin Franklin
had been enclosed in Franklin’s dispatch of December 24 – 25, 1782. See
PCC, item 82, 2:317 – 18, 335 – 37; and Wharton, Diplomatic
Correspondence, 6:163, 168.