Dear Sir

I have your letr. of the 19h by which I learn that Mr Henry means to abdicate the high office he holds for the honor and glory of haranguing your house. Surely you will put in his place1 RHL or Mr. Charles Carter of Currotoman. My conduct in the affair you mention2 has been uniformly in conformity
with my colleagu[e]s, because we are under instructions & because any opposition would have been idle, therefore as far as can be known, I have been with Mr. Henry in this matter.

Had I not been fettered with instructions, I certainly between you & me, should have taken a different part. These instructions ought to be repealed. I am so convicted of the policy of the proposed Treaty that I am clearly of opinion on a fair statement of facts two thirds of your house would coincide with me in sentiment, at the same time I well know that such communications will be made & insinuations whispered as to forbid any attempt to espouse the true interest of our country on this subject. Not only the interest of the cisalpine Virginia and indeed their existence as a people is involved in the politics of this question, but the true interest of the transalpine country also. For it is unquestionably true that the western settlements prosperity depends & ought to depend on the prosperity of the Atlantic country &
grow in proportion thereto. To push forward the infant at the expence of the parent is wrong.

Would not our tobacco the staple of Virga fall to mere nothing, if the western country could export that article.

What would become of us if we were suddenly deprived of this only advantage we possess. Would not also in this event the western settlers be employed in the culture of tobacco and thereby the crops of grain fall short, from which the emigration would be checked, as subsistence to emigrants would be high & precarious. Would not the interest of our colonys be instantly separated from our interest, & in some
commercial points in direct opposition. These & many other reasons would decide me, had America the power to use the Mississippi. She claims that navigation as her right, Spain denys it. An appeal to the
sword or treaty must settle the difference. We are inadequate to the first: by the last we shall in a few years obtain in my opinion what may be necessary to our western friends – and at a time & in a
manner which will not destroy ourselves, while it assists them.

But view this subject as it effects the U. States and you will find it pregnant with reasons in support of the conduct of the majority in Congress. The eastern fishery for want of this very treaty is nearly destroyed, by this commercial connexion certain advantages would be secured to the fisherys which would revive the eastern trade. The surplus money arising from that trade would circulate among the middle
& southern states in purchase of grain, tobacco &c. Thus we should all participate in the advantage which is branded with the name of partial. But there are many other emoluments secured to our commerce arising from the reciprocity on which the connexion is founded. All these procured for our forbearance for a given term from the use of a river, which we have not the power to use. This is meant for your own special information.

 

H. Lee Junr.

Note: Receiver’s copy, Armes Collection of Lee Family Papers, Library of Congress.

1 That is, as governor of Virginia. Edmund Randolph was elected to succeed Patrick Henry.

2 The debate over the navigation of the Mississippi River.