<br /> Lee Letter: n833

Washington and Lee University

Sender: Richard Henry Lee
Recipient: Thomas Jefferson

Dear Sir

My ill state of health having compelled me to look for benefit from the
medical springs lately discovered in the vicinity of Philadelphia, I
there received the letter that you did me the honor to write me on the
12th of July 1 – but tho Mr. Houdon arrived
there with Dr. Franklin when I was in the city, the former of these
gentlemen did not deliver your letter to me, but it found me thro the
medium of the Post. I have not yet seen Mr. Houdon, nor has he been in
any manner before Congress that I know of – he went immediately after
his landing to General Washington, from whence I understand that he
returned to this City a day or two ago, but I have not yet seen him.
Your request, independent of his singular merit, will secure him every
civility and service in my power. I think that you have cause, from
your statement, to complain of the remissness of your Correspondents.
Were I not prevented by the unhappy state of my health, most certainly
I should be more attentive to gratify you in a way that certainly must
be very agreeable to you, sequestered as you are from your own Country.
I think that we have reason to suppose that the requisition of this
year (which with the plan for surveying & selling part of the
Western lands I have now the honor to enclose
you)2 will produce, at least a sufficiency
to pay with credit the interest of our foreign debt and to support the
expences of the federal government. The unliquidated state of the
domestic debt, and the unequal business of the facilities may perhaps
obstruct for the present, the payment of the domestic interest. I
understand the displeasure of the Commissioners of the Treasury arose
from Mr. Grand’s failing to comply with orders given him to pay the
interest due to the Crown of France which has created uneasiness and
doubt of our punctuality where these would not have existed had Mr.
Grand not undertaken to pay himself instead of the Government. However,
I suppose that the Commissioners will take care to make good the
payments omitted by Mr. Grand to have been made to Government. Vermont
remains as it was, and we have heard nothing lately concerning
Franklin.3 The Virginia Assembly are agreed,
so far as I know, to indulge Kentucky provided it shall be agreeable to
the U. States to receive them into the Confederacy so that they may for
every purpose be a part of the general
system.4 A proposition is depending before
Congress to declare the sense of the Union against all future
dismemberments without the consent of the State to be dismemberd and of
the United States.5 Concerning your idea of
packets I have spoken to some Members – the expence alarms, & they
seem rather to approve of sending on occasion a Courier in the packets
as they now are. But since a plan has lately been adopted for sending
the Mails by Stages instead of Post Riders, which will not only quicken
communication greatly, but very much increase the Post Office Revenue,
I hope that Packets as well as Cross Posts may e’er long be
supported.6 We have lost poor Hardy who dyed
here after some weeks illness. The Surveyors are now at work (under the
Ordinance) N. West of Ohio, and a Treaty with the Western Indians is
holding at Great Miami. Our Assembly is now in Session, but we have not
heard whether Harrison or Tyler has got the
Chair,7 but certainly the contest will have
been warm & pretty equal. My Presidential year ends in 9 days,
after which I shall return to Virginia for some months at least; my
return to Congress will depend on the state of my health which is
better indeed, but far yet from being as I wish it. Let me be where I
will I shall always be happy to hear from you and to give you the news
of our Country such as it may be. My brother Arthur Lee being resident
here as one of the Commissioners of the Treasury of the U. States, will
receive your letters for me and forward them to Virginia. I shall
esteem it a very particular favor if you will be so good as send me one
of the newly invented Philosophical Lamps which I understand to be
handsome, useful, and œconomical; employing a small quantity of oil to
great advantage in giving light. I will either thankfully repay the
cost to your order in Virginia, or remit it to you in France thro the
medium of my Brother Arthur from this place. I suppose that you may
contrive it by one of the french packets to my brothers care in this
City. And it will add to the favor if you accompany the Machine with a
description of its use.

I am dear Sir, with sentiments of the sincerest esteem and regard, your
most obedient and very humble servant,

Richard Henry Lee

P.S. Remember me if you please to Mr. Short & tell him that I answerd
immediately the only letter that I have had the pleasure to receive
from him.

R. H. Lee


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

1 See Jefferson, Papers (Boyd), 8:286 – 88.

2 See JCC, 28:375 – 81, 29:923.

3 That is, the western state of Franklin, for which see Richard Dobbs Spaight
to Richard Caswell, June 5, note 1.

4 See William Grayson to James Madison, August 21, note 5.

5 Representing the interests of the landed states, Massachusetts and Virginia
had moved on October 7 that a committee be appointed to report
Congress’ “highest disapprobation” of the conduct of “districts” in
the United States that sought independence without having first
obtained approval from those states exercising constitutional
jurisdiction over them. The intended report should specify Congress’
intent to support every state “opposing such unconstitutional
attempts to destroy the fundamental principles of the Union.” David
Howell of Rhode Island thereupon moved for postponement of the motion
in favor of a committee appointed to report an additional article to
the Confederation empowering any nine states in Congress to admit new
states into the union on terms to be specified “provided that the
legislature of the state to which such a district may belong, shall
join … in an application to Congress.” Howell’s move failed and
on October 12 Congress appointed a grand committee to consider the
Massachusetts and Virginia motion. The following day, however,
Howell, William Ellery, and William Samuel Johnson tried to revive
Howell’s original motion but were ruled out of order. Howell then
amended his motion, eliminating the section empowering nine states to
admit new states, which was also defeated. But the grand committee on
the Massachusetts-Virginia motion failed to report and on March 10,
1786, it was replaced by a new committee that finally reported on the
24th when it declared that Massachusetts and Virginia were bound by
the original conditions of their cessions and were further bound by
the resolutions adopted on April 23, 1784, although recommending
clarification of those resolutions by the repeal of specific
sections. See JCC, 26:275 – 79, 29:810 – 12, 822 – 23, 826 – 28, 30:112n,
133 – 35; and PCC, item 190, fols. 72, 88.

6 See William Grayson to James Madison, August 21, note 4.

7 That is, as speaker of the House of Delegates.