<br /> Lee Letter: n810

Washington and Lee University

Sender: Richard Henry Lee
Recipient: William Short

Dear Sir,

I am much obliged by the goodness with which you have been pleased to
remember, and to comply with my request that you would write to me, and
I am thereby encouraged to hope that your correspondence will be
continued. It may always be safely conveyed, even when I am away from
Congress, by enclosing your letter to the Virginia delegates in
Congress. It is a point of much uncertainty whether Congress will
adjourn or not this Summer – but if they do, it will probably not be
before the middle of August. When they adjourn I shall go home, but if
they do not adjourn, I shall of course be detained here until the end
of the federal year, the first Monday in November. The very great
uncertainty to which the conveyance of letters is exposed under the
present System, discourages exceedingly all free communication of
sentiments. And upon this occasion, as Mr. Mazzie will probably visit
you at Paris, he will render unnecessary much writing on my part
respecting Virginia; as he has come from that State long since I left
it. The principal topics of discussion there at present are, An Act for
a General Assessment – A Circuit Court Law – And a plan for opening the
interior navigation of Potomac, James, & Elizabeth rivers. The two
former were favored by the last Assembly, but meet with much opposition
since the recess. The latter of these measures was also a favorite with
the last Assembly, and the Legislature of Maryland has joined ours in
the Potomac business. How they succeed in the South I know not. But
already £40,000 has been subscribed for clearing Potomac. A
Corporation for the purpose is ligitemated, and Gen. Washington is
President of the Society. You well know his persevering spirit, and
attentive character. These qualities promise success to the Potomac
plan. Congress has just finished an Ordinance for surveying &
selling that part of the Land N.W. of Ohio that has been lately
purchased of the Indians, for the purpose of discharging our public
debts. This will present about 10 Millions of Acres for sale at one
dollar an Acre of Liquidated Certificate debt. Subsequent treaties to
be held with the Indians will extinguish their claim to about 20
millions more which it is intended to devote to the same purpose, &
which will very nearly pay off our whole domestic debt. The foreign
will then not be found oppressive. An American Coinage, & the
regulation of the Post Office, with some other affairs of importance
are now under consideration of Congress. We hope that the powers &
directions given by Congress to our Ministers abroad, will secure peace
for us with the Barbary States and free our Trade from the
embarrassement threatened by them. I incline to think however, that
Commercial finesse has been more operative than the enmity of those
people to distress the American Commerce.

Being much engaged with public business at this time, I must conclude with
presenting my best respects to my old friend Mr. Jefferson.

I am, with much esteem, Sir, Your most obedient & very humble servant,

Richard Henry Lee.

Notes:

Receiver’s copy, Dreer Signers Collection, Historical Society of
Pennsylvania.