<br /> Lee Letter: n764

Washington and Lee University

Sender: Richard Henry Lee
Recipient: Thomas Lee Shippen

1My dear Cousin,

This mornings post put into my possession your favor of the 17th instant,
and I thank you for it with great sincerity. I am very happy to hear
that Mr. Reed is in your delegation,2 and I
should have been much more so, if your worthy father had been there
likewise. It greatly smooths the rugged paths of politics, to travel
them with men of ability, integrity, and candor. We are as remote from
having a Congress, as we were 19 days
ago3 – with the southern delegates at
Philadelphia, and those of your State inclusive, we have but Six States
and an half represented. But one delegate as yet from the eastward,
whence formerly proceeded the most industrious attention to public
business. I do not like this lentor, this strange lassitude in those
who are appointed to transact public affairs. I am here placed in the
house of a Mr. Howe, where I have a good warm bed chamber, and other
conveniences to my satisfaction. The streets of the Village in this
rainy season, are most disagreeably wet & muddy. How long we shall
remain here, it is not in my power to say. Mr. Woolcot, one of the
Commissioners for the Indian treaties has come here with a Treaty
concluded very satisfactorily with the Six
nations.4 He says that the other two
Commissioners are gone to Pittsburg to treat with the Western Indians,
and he apprehends that they will accomplish their business on that
quarter with facility. I am a good deal distressed about my horses – if
they go to vendue, they will sell for nothing. If they remain unsold,
they will eat more than they are worth. At this place I think they
would not sell, because here are so many for sale. If they were in
Virginia, I should have no doubt of being able to sell the two for 40
or 50 pounds. In this state of things I can devise no mode of
proceeding but the following, which by your friendly offices may
perhaps be accomplished. My namesake Mr. Lee of the Indian Queen, is a
goodnatured, obliging person, and I understand that he has something to
say with the Stage that goes to Virginia. But tho this last should not
be the case, his interposition with Twinings Stage may obtain what I
want; which is, that my horses be received to work their way to
Alexandria in Virginia so as not to injure them, but only to travel
them reasonable distances at a time and giving them due rest &
food – which will at once ease their Cavalry, and accomplish my purpose
of getting my horses to Virginia. At Alexandria they are to be deliverd
to Mr. Fendall (with the inclosed letter) who lives about half a mile
from the Town and is well known there. If Mr. Lee will undertake the
affair for me, I shall certainly succeed, & my horses will not be
injured in going back – Which latter may happen by overdriving – not
properly resting & properly feeding. Will you be so kind as try
your talents at negotiation with Mr. Lee? Julius Caesar shewd his
ambition as much when he preferd being the first man in a small Village
to the second in Rome; as when he grasped the Imperial purple. So
evidence may be given in small negotiations of superior fitness for
great affairs. I will inclose you a letter for Mr. Fendall to go with
the Horses, upon a presumption that your address will be surely
successful. I am glad to know that Mr. Quanier promises well, and I
expect he will remember that the promises of a Man of honor are sacred.

Present my best love to your Father, Mother, & Sister – And when you see
the Old Gentleman do not forget me with him.

I am my dear Cousin your affectionate Uncle and sincere friend,

Richard Henry Lee

Will Mr. Hiltzheimer be so kind as have attention paid to my horses
backs while they Stay? They shd. be put to Oats & dry hay 2 or 3
days before they Travel.5


Receiver’s copy, Shippen Family Papers, Library of Congress. Lee, Letters
(Ballagh), 2:295-97.

1 Shippen (1765 – 98) was the son of Lee’s sister Alice and Dr. William Shippen, Jr. (1736 – 1808) of Philadelphia. Randolph S. Klein, Portrait
of an Early American Family: The Shippens of Pennsylvania Across Five
Generations (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1975),
pp. 214 – 19.

2 That is, Joseph Reed, who had been elected a delegate for Pennsylvania on
November 16, but chose not to attend Congress.

3 Lee had also complained to Shippen on November 10 that “We have not yet a
Congress – perhaps it may be next week before we get members enough.
Strange insensibility this, to public duty!” He also observed that
“As far as I can judge, from the conversation here, if Congress moves
from this place, Philadelphia stands the fairest chance to be the
seat of its future residence.” Shippen Family Papers, DLC; and Lee,
Letters (Ballagh), 2:292 – 93.

4 See the following entry, note 1.

5 Lee’s horses (and a special order for black silk breeches he had placed
with Shippen’s tailor in Philadelphia) were also the principal
subject of several letters he subsequently wrote to Shippen on
November 22 and 24, and December 3, 13, 15, and 29, which are in the
Shippen Family Papers, DLC; and Lee, Letters (Ballagh), 2:301 – 4,
307 – 10, 312 – 14, 320 – 21.