My dear Genl.

I had the pleasure of hearing from you last week, and have complied with your wishes respecting the china.1 No conveyance at present offers for Alexandria, but every day presents one to Norfolk, from which place the correspondence up your river is frequent. I intend unless I should meet with a vessel for potomac, to send the box to Col. Parker naval officer at Norfolk, and ask his special attention to forwarding it to Alexandria or Mount Vernon. At the same time I will send a small box put into my care for you by Mr. Gardoqui – I have had it some time and waited to know your intention to the china, that the same conveyance might take both. If you have an opportunity to convey my Young,2 (as the books are useless to you) to Mr. R. H. Lee you will oblige me by doing it.

The Mississippi business is very important and full of difficulty.3 In the debilitated condition of the fœderal government, it is unwise to risk the offence of any part of the empire, unless to attain great good. My mind has no doubt of the extensive good consequences that would result to the Union from a
commercial connexion with Spain, & I am also clear, that in agreeing to the occlusion of the navigation of the Mississippi, we give in fact nothing, for the moment our western country become populous & capable, they will seize by force what may have be[en] yielded by treaty. Till that period, the river cannot be used but by permission of Spain, whose exclusive system of policy, never will grant such permission. Then to be sure, we only give, what we cannot use. But the source of all the evils which press those states is the inefficiency of the fœderal government. This cannot be altered & remedied but by
consent of the states.

Already in every state the amplification of the powers of the Union have too many enemys. Should therefore a treaty take place between Congress & Spain occluding for a term the navigation of the Mississippi, in return for advantages very great, but not so great to the whole as to a part, I apprehend it would give such a tent for popular declaimers, that the great object viz bracing the fœderal government may be thwarted, and thus in pursuing a lesser, we loose a greater good.

I forwarded by the last post for public information some intelligence lately received from Mr. Jefferson & I have also sent an extract of a letter from Mr. Randall from Algiers.4

These two papers comprehend all the news here. I transmit the Gazette of the day. Bills on tender at 60 days sight fluctuate in their value from six to seven per cent prœmium. The cost [of] the china is 150
dollars besides the incidental charge of freight to Norfolk, which cannot be much. My best wishes for the health & happiness of Mount Vernon, in which Mrs. Lee unites.

Most respectfully yours,

H. Lee Junr.5

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

1 For Washington’s letter of July 26, see Washington, Writings (Fitzpatrick), 28:483 – 85. Lee enclosed
with this letter a receipt from the New York firm of Constable, Rucker & Co. for £60 paid by Lee this day for a 302-piece china service. Washington Papers, DLC.

2 Lee is referring to the copies of Arthur Young’s A Tour in Ireland he had loaned to Washington, for which see Lee to Washington, July 3, note 3.

3 The questions of a Spanish commercial treaty and the navigation of the Mississippi River had been brought before Congress on August 3 by secretary for foreign affairs John Jay, for which see JCC, 31:467 – 84; James Monroe to James Madison, May 31, note 2; Rufus King to Monroe, July 30; and Charles Thomson to Jay, August 1.

4 For this “intelligence,” see Pierse Long to John Langdon, August 6, note 2.

5 Lee also wrote the following brief letter to Washington on August 12: “Since writing my last I have an opportunity of sending the small box given to me by Mr. Gardoqui for you under care of Mr. Wilson of
Petersburgh by the stage, to be delivered to Mr. C Lee. I prefer this conveyance to the one intended, & now enclose the letter which accompanyed the box. It is probable that the China will leave New
York for Norfolk next week.” Washington Papers, DLC.