<br /> Lee Letter: n817

Washington and Lee University

Sender: Richard Henry Lee
Recipient: James Madison

Dear Sir,

Your favor of July the 7th1 was long coming to
hand as I find my letter of the 20th May2
was in getting to you. This joined to the uncertainty of letters ever
arriving safe is a very discouraging circumstance to full & free
correspondence. I have the honor of according most perfectly and
entirely with your ideas for regulating our severance from Kentucky. It
is unquestionably just that this district should assume her fair &
full proportion of the debt created by the War because the benefit
being Common so should be the expence procuring it and that this
country shall be a fundamental article in the Act of parting; as well
as that they shall be a component part of the Federal Union. The
Contract should be Tripartite; the parties, our State, Congress, &
Kentucky.3 Mr. Jay is commissioned to treat
with Mr. Gardoque, but as yet nothing has been done. The exclusive
navn. of Miss’ipi will be earnestly contended for by Spain, who to
quiet us on that head will probably grant large commercial benefits.
But if we remain firm, I incline to think that the Navign. will be
consented to. As yet we only know Officially that Mr. Adams has arrived
in London, received his Audience & delivered his Credentials. The
next packet will probably inform us of his feeling the B[ritish] pulse
& how it beats at the subjects that he is to try them upon. I think
with you that there is not great room for hope of Commercial advantages
from a Nation whose Appetite for Commerce has ever been ravenous, and
its wishes always for Monopoly – And the more especially as we have no
compensation to make. I believe that we may dispose them to be
reasonable, by a very careful, and considerate restraining of their
Trade, in all cases where we shall not injure ourselves more than them
by the restraint. But it seems to me clearly beyond doubt, that the
giving Congress a power to Legislate over the Trade of the Union would
be dangerous in the extreme to the 5 Southern or Staple States, whose
want of ships & Seamen would expose their freightage & their
produce to a most pernicious and destructive Monopoly. With such a
power 8 states in the Union would be stimulated by extensive interest
to shut close the door of Monopoly, that by the exclusion of all Rivals
whether for the purchasing our produce or freighting it, both these
might be at the Mercy of our East & North. The Spirit of Commerce
thro’out the world is a Spirit of Avarice and could not fail to act as
above stated. What little diffculty there would be in drawing over one
of the 5 to join the 8 interested States must be very discernable to
those who have marked the the progress of intrigues in Congress. In
truth it demands most careful circumspection that the Remedy be not
worse than the disease, bad as the last may be. I could say much on
this subject, but it is not necessary, for I am sure that your good
sense reflecting calmly on the subject will sufficiently discern the
danger of such an experiment. Nor do I believe it necessary, being
perfectly satisfied that a well digested system of restraint being
properly laid before the States by Congress would be universa[l]ly
adopted by the different Assemblies. I think so, because it will be
most evidently the interest of all to do so. It is true that the price
of our Staple has been for some time greater at Phila. & here than
in Virga. But it is as true the European price did not warrant the
price at these two places as the great losses & bankruptcies of the
Adventurers plainly prove. Indeed this excess of price at P. & N.Y. was occasioned by sinking Speculators, who to swim a while longer,
would go any lengths to keep up appearances by making some remittance
to their Creditors aboard. But this business is now chiefly over &
here at present there is neither money nor inclination to purchase
Tobo. The crowd of Bankrupts at P. has, I believe, nearly produced the
same effect.


File copy, Lee Family Papers, University of Virginia Library. In the hand
of Richard Henry Lee.

1 See Madison, Papers (Hutchinson), 8:314 – 15.

2 Actually, 30th May.

3 See William Grayson to Madison, August 21, note 5.