Four Unpublished Letters of William Lee: 1779–1780
Milton Rubincam


1 Charles Francis Adams, The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States, With a Life of the Author, Notes and Illustrations, vol. IX (1854), p: 478. This comment was contained in a letter written from Passy, France, February 28, 1779, to Samuel Cooper.

2 Jared Sparks, editor, The Diplomatic Correspondence of the American Revolution, vol. I (1857), p. 591.

3 Burton J. Hendrick, The Lees of Virginia (1935), p. 257.

4 The King’s meaning here is obscure. The original French word he used was “eloigné”, which means “removed, distant, far.” Apparently, he was inclined to encourage commercial relations between Prussia and the United States, but deemed the time was not propitious for conducting negotiations along those lines.

5 Politische Correspondenz Friedrich’s des Grossen, edited by Prof. Dr. Gustav Berthold, vol. XL (1928), pp. 79–80.

6 Ibid., vol. XLI (1929), p. 123.

7 Ibid., vol. XL, p. 450.

8 Ibid., vol. XL, p. 450.

9 Hendrick, op. cit., pp. 257–258.

10 Samuel Witham Stockton, Secretary of the American Commission to Vienna and Berlin, and afterward Secretary of State for New Jersey, was the youngest brother of Richard Stockton, member of the Continental Congress and a Signer of the Declaration of Independence. The Stockton family is unquestionably one of the most brilliant of New Jersey’s great landed families, and has rendered an enviable record of unselfish service to State and Nation.

11 Sparks, op. cit., vol. I, pp. 333–334.

12 Ibid., vol. I, p. 335.

13 Petrus Johannes Blok, Professor of Dutch History, University of Leyden, History of the People of the Netherlands, translated by Ruth Putnam and Oscar A. Bierstadt, vol. V (1912), p. 200.

14 Hendrick, op. cit., pp. 347, 471.

15 For his series on New Jersey personalities currently running in the Procs. N.J. Hist. Soc.

16 i.e, the business firm of de Neufville & Son.

17 Sir Joseph Yorke, afterward Baron Dover, was the British Minister at The Hague. He was possessed of a violent disposition which impelled him to land heavily on the necks of Dutch officialdom whenever real or fancied affronts were offered to Great Britain by the Netherland authorities.

18 Pondicherry, on the west coast of India, belonged to France, but was captured by the British in 1778. In 1783, by the peace of Paris, it was restored to the French.

19 Engelbert F. van Berckel, Pensionaris of Amsterdam.

20 St. Eustatius, in the Dutch West Indies.

21 King Charles III, of Spain, declared war on England in June 1779. This monarch, the greatest of the Spanish Bourbons, followed the example of his royal cousin in France, Louis XVI, and openly espoused the cause of the American rebels—with unfortunate results, for his own South American subjects, inspired by the success of their North American neighbors, were in open revolt before the King’s life closed in 1788.

22 Ralph Izard, of South Carolina, American Commissioner at the Grand Ducal Court of Tuscany—which never received him, because the Grand Duke Leopold, like his brother the Emperor Joseph II, would have nothing to do with rebels.

23 The Prince of Orange.

24 Per pound.

25 Although the addressee is not given on this letter, there can be no doubt it was written to de Neufville.

26 Henry Laurens, of South Carolina, ex-president of Congress. In the fall of the year 1780 he started out on a commission to Holland, but in September was captured by the British and taken to London, where he was confined in the Tower of London. He carried with him numerous papers of importance (in spite of Mr. Lee’s assertion to the contrary, in Letter IV, above), among them the secret treaty with Amsterdam and a letter written in 1779 by Samuel Witham Stockton to Rev. Dr. John Witherspoon, containing critical remarks concerning the Prince of Orange.

27 The secret treaty signed at Aix-la-Chapelle, Sept. 4, 1778. At least four copies were made: one was apparently retained by Lee; a second was sent to Franklin at Passy; the third was sent to the Continental Congress; and the fourth was brought to America in 1779 by Samuel W. Stockton. There must have been other copies, however, for de Neufville also presented the treaty to the rulers of Amsterdam.

28 The United States acquired another active ally in her struggle when England declared war on the United Provinces of the Netherlands on December 20, 1780.

See Va. Mag., v. 40 p. 3 Arthur Lee—First U.S. Envoy to Spain—by P. H. Giddons.