<br /> Lee Letter: n788

Washington and Lee University

Sender: Richard Henry Lee
Recipient: George Washington

Dear Sir,

I am now to thank you for the letter that you did me the honor to write to
me on the 8th of this month, and which I received on the 17th with the
enclosures.1

Sir James Jay had mentioned the plan of Lady Huntingdon to me, previous to
the receipt of your letter, and at the same time that your packet
reached me, there came one to Congress from Governor Henry with her
Ladyships letter and plan enclosed, which the Governor strongly
recommended.2 It was presently observed that
the terms upon which lands had been ceded to the United States did not
leave it in the power of Congress to dispose of them for any purpose
but for paying the debts of the public by a full and fair sale of all
the ceded lands. It was indeed remarked, that those religious people
whom her Ladyship had in prospect to transplant & fix on our
frontier were remarkable in the late war for an unanimous and bitter
enmity to the American cause, and as such might form a dangerous
settlement at so great a distance, contiguous to the Indians, &
easily accessible to Canada. Especially in the present very unfriendly
temper of mind that we now suppose the British nation possesses with
respect to us. It was therefore ordered that Governor Henry’s letter
with the enclosures should be filed, but nothing more done in the
affair. Finding this, I concluded it not necessary to shew your letter,
either publickly or privately. I have therefore returned to you, Lady
Huntingdon’s packet. It appears to me, that Georgia is the most likely
State in the Union to close with her Ladyship, if the latter argument
mentioned in Congress should not prevent it. I am sorry to hear that
you are so interrupted by applications that ought not to be made. I
hope however that you will not suffer them so to prevent your necessary
exercise, as to injure your health. The investigating and opening our
western navigation is an object of great importance and well worthy of
your patronage. I believe, as I hope, that it will be found by
experience to be of great utility both to the public and to the private
adventurers. Very little has yet been done in Congress respecting the
Western Country – but a very full discussion of that business will soon
come on when it is to be expected that our affairs in that quarter will
be put under better regulation than hitherto they have been. The
mischief that experience & reason both join in proving to flow from
the Sessions of Congress being held in our large Citys, produced the
necessity of determining on some place of easy retirement for the
federal government, and the unhappy neglect of attendance on the part
of the Southern States has furnished an opportunity for a Majority in
Congress to fix on a spot too excentric. My wishes would have been to
have gone further south, but of two evils it was best to choose the
least, and therefore we thought it better to fix somewhere in
retirement than to continue wandering, or to fix in the midst of
dissipation.3

We had but just determined upon sending a Minister to the Court of London
(Mr John Adams) when this day 28th Feby., we receive a letter from our
Commissioners, for making treaties &c. at Paris, the copy of a
letter from the Duke of Dorset, Minister from London to Versailles, to
our Ministers, in answer to a proposition from them for making a treaty
of Commerce with G. Britain & for settling other points of
difficulty arising from the late peace – In which his Grace declares the
determination of his Court to be ready to settle all these affairs upon
terms of equal & lasting good to both countries whensoever the U.
States shall send to their Court a Minister properly authorised for the
business.4 This looks well at least – and we
shall shortly make the experiment of their sincerity. The King of
Prussia thinks that there will be no war between the Emperor &
Holland, and indeed it does now seem probable that his judgement will
prove right. I have sent the letter you committed to my care for the
Marquis on to France by the packet.

I have the honor to be, with the highest esteem and regard dear Sir Your
most obedient & very humble servant,

Richard Henry Lee

Notes:

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

1 Washington’s February 8 letter is in Washington, Papers (Abbot),
Confederation Series, 2:330 – 33. With it he enclosed the originals of
a December 20, 1784, letter from Sir

James Jay in New York enclosing a March 20 letter from Selena Hastings, the
Countess of Huntingdon, and her April 8 address “To the Friends of
Religion and Humanity in America” outlining her plan to convert and
civilize the Indians of North America through a system of British
missionary schools and colleges, for which see ibid., pp. 198 – 222.
For Washington’s January 25 reply to Sir James Jay and February 27
response to the Countess of Huntingdon, see ibid., pp. 291 – 93,
392 – 94.

2 Gov. Patrick Henry’s February 3 letter to the Virginia delegates, enclosing
copies of a letter from Sir James Jay of December 20, 1784, in which
he transmitted the Countess of Huntingdon’s April 8 letter and
“address,” was laid before Congress on February 17. See JCC,
28:77n.1; and PCC, item 71, 2:383 – 418.

3 Remainder of letter added February 28.

4 According to Charles Thomson’s despatch book, Congress received on February
28 from John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson their
“2nd Report to Congress” of December 15, 1784, with seven enclosures,
the last two being copies of a November 24 letter to them from the
Duke of Dorset, British ambassador to France, and their December 9
reply. See PCC, item 116, fols. 54 – 61, 132-40, item 185, 3:114; and
Diplomatic Correspondence, 1783 – 89, 1:515 – 17, 542 – 45.