<br /> Lee Letter: n529

Washington and Lee University

Sender: James Lovell
Recipient: Richard Henry Lee

Dear Sir

I believe I made some mistake in putting up the Papers for you by last
post, as I find a Letter of the Kind which I intended to have sent.
Direction on the Cover –

His Excellency The President of Congress

I beg the favor of your Excellency, to lay my Respect before Congress; with
a Repetition of my most earnest request to be recalled. I
should most willingly continue to sacrifice as I have hitherto
done, my private Interests to the public good. But I am
satisfied that the dissentions raised concerning me, will be
continued by a continuance of my Commission, and will be of
more injury to the public than I can be of Service. And as the
public good was the sole motive of my accepting the Commission,
the same reason now induces me to desire most earnestly to
resign it.

I have the honor to be, with the greatest respect, Your Excellencys most
obedient humble Servant.

Tho’ dated June 5th it is the exact Copy of May 31st. which was this day
read in Congress and produced the inclosed
Resolve.2 I imagined such an Entry on the
Journals would be a sort of decency beyond total silence and therefore
moved it. The Letter was listened to with Gravity and some Remarks I
made were approved & confirmed by each one who spoke and by no one
more than Mercer who acknowledged that this Letter gave him new &
pleasing Ideas of Mr Lee. I was sure yr. Brother would so Conduct if he
found his Ability to serve these States to be impaired by the malignant
Arts of his avowed Enemies strengthened by the unbecoming Tameness of
those who ought to be the Patrons of his Honor on the meer ground of
official Relation, to say nothing of his proved Capacity for
acknowledged Integrity and his unwearied Zeal.

I did not mention to put into the Presidents Letter, as a copy now sent,
one of the old Letters of March 1st3 for had
I been interogated as to its arrival I should not have been in the
State that honest Davus wished to be in regard to the placing of the
Infant, ut liquido faciam says he, if I am called upon to deny it.
There would be a meaness in putting in now what I intend readily to
own, when there is occasion, that I aided to Suppress.

I have by me a Letter from Capt. Fowler to a Friend of his here Col.
Semple, 4 in which, upon Sight of Rowlands
Peice of Augst. 10th,5 he was induced to
insert the strongest Testimony of the Stock jobbing Schemes of Wharton,
Bancroft &c. wishing however to have his own name concealed. He
writes from Ohio Sepr. 22


Receiver’s copy, Lee Family Papers, University of Virginia Library. In
Lovell’s hand, though not signed.

1 Although undated by Lovell, this letter can be dated by Lovell’s statement
below that Arthur Lee’s May 31, 1779, letter was “this day read in
Congress,” which was October 13.JCC, 15:1165 – 66.

2 See Committee for Foreign Affairs to Arthur Lee, this date.

3 No March 1, 1779, letter from Arthur Lee has been found, but it also may
have dealt with his resignation.

The suppression of Arthur’s resignation, which Lovell had managed since
mid-July (see Lovell to Samuel Adams, July 16, 1779, note 6), was
also a subject of the following letter from Richard Henry to Arthur
written on October 12, 1779.

“Your {enemies} have triumphed at last,” he wrote in explanation of
Congress’ September 27 selection of John Jay as minister to Spain, “{wicked} persevering and under no kind of {restraint} they have
fairly {worried} out the {friends} of {virtue} and their {country}.
By various manoeuvers and after repeated and frustrated attempts to
recall, one was fallen upon that succeeded and Jay of {Congress} is
to go {plenipotentiary} to {Spain}. Mr John {Adams} is to {negotiate}
the {peace} with G.B. when that comes on. I sent your {resignation}
long since to philadelphia to be submitted, as to presentation, to
Americas best friends and it was determined to {withhold} it until it
was seen how {Congress} would act in {Deane’s} affair. In the mean
time, the above manoeuvers took place – I believe it will now be
presented. Your best friends are of the opinion that you should come
immediately over and before {Congress} demand a full hearing and
complete vindication – If it is {refused} the {public} will, on an
{appeal} do right to the injured. In your Letter to Loudoun of May 28
Last, you deliver a sentiment that is perfectly just, that in a free
country like ours their is no disgracing a man who is shielded by
innocence and evidence – far less can a wicked faction do any such
thing. Bad men may impose for a time, but cannot stand against the
truth fairly displaied and properly enforced. Our {frigate},
[Confederacy], will carry {Gerard} (and perhaps {Deane}) home, by her
{return} you and Ludwell may {return} here. These two men have been
most intimate here, and tho constantly declaring for many months past
that they must depart in a few days yet they never stirred until
their {point} was {gained} and now I suppose, as a certain gentleman
says, they are glutted (even to statiety with revenge) they will
realy go. Wisdom and perseverence are excellent qualities, to secure
success and to vanquish finally all wicked combination. If you can, I
would advise you to land at Portsmouth in Newhampshire where I am
assured you will be well received, at that place and at Boston you
will have an opportunity of seeing General Whipple and Samuel Adams
Esqurs. with other wise and virtuous friends of America, who loving
their Country, esteem and honor its able and virtuous Citizens. You
will thus have an opportunity of seeing a valuable part of this union
which you have not yet been personally acquainted with. Mr. John
Adams, since his arrival here and before he came has in his Letters
(for he has not been at Congress) done great justice to your
character. The above business was determined in Congress before the
arrival of the Chavalier de la Luzerne. He has since arrived at
Philadelphia. The Virginia Delegates in Congress are James Mercer!
Wm. Fitzhugh of Chatham! Flemming! Cyrus Griffen! Mery Smith[!] I
wish that Mr. Wm. Lee and Mr. Izard would come with you. Farewell,
{First Survivor Brother}.

“{Congress} neglected for very obvious reasons to publish your
{Vindication}, but I expect to get it done immediately leaving out
such parts as might be improper on account of {foreign powers}. An
honorable Member of Congress says he doubts not but that your Country
will yet do you honor. I think so too. A temperate, firm, and wise
conduct is only necessary.” Lee Papers, MH -H; and Burnett, Letters,
4:481 – 82. Words printed in braces were written by Lee in cipher, for
which see these Letters, 9:654n.2.

4 Alexander Fowler, auditor of the army in the western district, and William

5 Richard Henry had written a number of essays defending Arthur Lee that were
printed in the Pennsylvania Packet during August over the pseudonym
“Rowland.” See Lovell to Richard Henry Lee, August 17, 1779, note 3.