<br /> Lee Letter: n808

Washington and Lee University

Sender: Richard Henry Lee
Recipient: the Marquis de Lafayette

Dear Sir,

I have been lately honoured with your letter of March 16th, from
Paris,1 and I thank you for it; as I feel
myself much interested in your happiness, so your letter gave me
singular pleasure, when it informed me of your “being well and happy,
with your family and friends,” and the more so, because a rumor had
prevailed, of some accident having happened at sea, to the frigate that
carried you from hence. It is with great satisfaction, that I consider
any action of my life, that has proved agreeable to you, and I am very
sure, that the good you have done my country, has much more than repaid
my attentions to you. I am pleased that you think of coming to see us
again; it is certain, that numbers will be made happy here, when ever
you are pleased to visit these United States. Much praise is due to
those, by whose humanity, and powerful agency, a war in Europe has been
prevented, for had it taken place, I apprehend that the evil would have
been great and very extensive. It is unfortunate for the friendly
intercourse, and general benefit of mankind, that the avaricious spirit
of commerce, always aiming at monopoly, should be permitted to
interpose such obstructions as too frequently take place in the
intercourse of nations, much to the injury of human nature, in general.
It seems to me, that whilst the European nations have it in their
power, to supply these states so largely with manufactures, that it is
unwise to adopt such regulations as cramp the American trade, and
therby render us incapable of purchasing, and paying for, those
manufactures in so extensive a manner, as would certainly be done, if
commercial restraints were removed; this conduct on the part of Europe
tends to injure their manufactures, by lessening their sales, at the
same time, that it very much forces the Americans from agriculture to
arts, thus rendering scarcer and dearer, the American productions that
are wanted in Europe, and lessening the use of European manufactures in
America, which it should be the policy of Europe to encourage the use
of. It is very obvious, why the merchants of France, have not so great
a share of our commerce as they wish; the staple states, or those which
have much valuable produce to export, have at present but few ships and
seamen of their own, and consequently, do not now export themselves
much of their own produce; those nations, therefore, that push the
trade with them, by sending ships and merchandise to them, will for the
reason above, certainly possess at this time, the greatest share of
their trade; so that the fact is, that the British merchants, are those
chiefly, who bring us the cambricks and many other manufactures of
France, which the French merchants failed to export themselves,
although they might afford to sell them cheaper and better, than the
English, and of course drive the latter from this branch of trade at
least. The plan for opening the navigation of the western waters, goes
on well – already more than 40,000 pounds are subscribed for opening the
Potomac, and General Washington, is chosen president of the society,
that superintends that business. The settling a mode for surveying and
selling the fine country, north-west of Ohio river, for the purpose of
discharging our public debt, is an object that hath engaged much
attention of Congress, and promises, we think, in due season, to remove
the debts created by the last war. Mr. Gardoque, from Spain, is arrived
at Philadelphia, and we daily expect him in this city; it is to be
hoped, that the good sense and honour of this court, will finally
settle into such measures, as are just and reasonable. I have the
honour to be, my dear sir, with sentiments of the truest affection,
esteem and regard,

Your most obedient and very humble servant,

Richard Henry Lee.

Notes:

MS not found; reprinted from Richard H. Lee, Memoir of the Life of Richard
Henry Lee, 2 vols. (Philadelphia: H. C. Carey and I. Lea, 1825),
2:66 – 67.

1 This letter is in the Lee Family Papers, Vi; and ibid., pp. 109 – 10.