Washington and Lee University

Sender: Richard Henry Lee
Recipient: William Lee

Dear Brother,

This day Capt. Walker was here and gave me notice of his intention to sail in a few days, which sets me immediately to writing. - I wrote you hastily by Capt. Esten from Williamsburg, by which you will find I had then some doubt of our Countrymen, with respect to the liberty dispute - Since that the association, of which I now inclose you a copy, was unanimously agreed to, and is agreeable to the trade in general here. You will observe some clauses therein, calculated to produce the observation of this scheme, which, by being omitted before occasioned the shameful neglect of the former association among the Merchants here. Our Assembly have again petitioned the King for a complete redress of American grievances. The late repeal is so evidently contrived to abuse1 America, that instead of appeasing, it has inflamed all N. America; and produced a general determination to be most firm in opposition, until the slavish system is absolutely at an end. Vain, weak Ministers, to think that a sensible, brave people, can for a moment be imposed upon by their shallow, impotent plans of tyranny! I came a week ago from Williamsburg, about 5 days before the Assembly was prorogued, and I was present, when the division was made between you and Mr. Paradise. The conveyances were not made, but Colo. Corbin promised they should immediately be set about by an able Conveyancer, and the whole recorded at the next General Court. The houses in Williamsburg were divided by lot (having been first all valued by an experienced workman) and the large brick house that Rind lives in; the Mansion as it is called where my Uncles family lived in Town; with the blew Bell, a large house just behind the Capitol, fell to your share; and you were charged in account with their valuation. The first rents for £60. a year, the other 2 rent for £20. each, making £100. pr. Ann in the whole. With respect to them, I think fortune favored you, they being to be chosen in preference to the rest. The Green spring lands, Govenors lands excluded, were valued at 20s./ pr. acre, The Surry land at 40s./, and some of the land in Miss Fanny’s part, that was, at £3. - The whole land west of Powhatan, Mrs. Lee’s by will, and so allotted her now, together with 164 Slaves, 217 head of Cattle, 190 head of Sheep, with 17 horses, 1 improved, and 1 unimproved Lot in James Town, and the above lots in Williamsburg were valued at £4997.6. When this was compared with the valuation of the Surry land, and other estate there, the disproportion was so great in favor of G. Spring, that it made necessary almost the whole of what was willed Miss Fanny, to make the Sisters equal. I would willingly have given up all the houses in Town, and some Negroes from Green Spring, in exchange for lands near the Town. At length however, they determined to take a few Negroes from G.S. (your number remaining now as above, it being greater before) which added to the ballance that would have been due you, if Mr. Paradise had been appointed to the whole of Miss Fanny’s part, except Town houses; accomplished the purpose of having Mrs. Lee assigned 1000 Acres of land, about the head of Rich Neck mill, I think it is called; convenient for furnishing wood to the Town, and on which a quarter has long been, and we still think of continuing, as the land is good, and the Teams will be there ready to supply wood in the winter for the Town. In this valuation they have reckoned the Powhatan Mill worth £300. as the dam was lately extended by my Uncle, which extension begets the expense of £30. immediately to be paid Mr. Turner for former damage, and £7 pr. An. for future injuries. Major Taliaferro’s demand is not adjusted, but his will be much more. Mr. Paradise is to pay his part of former injuries as well as future demands for annual rent. But upon the whole, I submitted it to Loudoun and the Treasurer, whether it would not be better to let the Mill sink entirely, and build another small one, upon another stream belonging to the estate, sufficient to supply its own people, and convert your part of the land now in Pond, into Timothy meadow? My reasons were, that the gross profit of the mill is but £75. pr. An. the annual repair as I was informed about £25. and you pay Mr. Paradise in valuation £200. more in the opinion of the Valuers for the mill as the dam is now extended, than it would be worth if reduced to its former bounds; the interest of this money is £10. yearly which with Turners and Taliaferro’s allowances, would sink the greatest part of the mills profits, besides the risk of loosing the dam now and then. Whereas if the whole Mill was sunk, Mr. Paradise must allow you from the present settlement £200. A fine meadow might be made and I suppose, from the expense of £50 or £60. upon the whole, a new Mill might be erected to furnish the plantation with meal. The remaining furniture at G. Spring, with the books, are to be sold for common benefit, and the money divided. I desired Wilkison to buy two of the beds, and some chairs on your account to be in the house when we went down to visit the estate. This is the most perfect account I can give you from the notes I took at the division. But very shortly, either from the Treasurer or myself, you will receive a precise copy of the whole. Your fee simple lands, west of Powhatan swamp amount to 6078 acres, to which is added of Governors land (leased I think for 99 years in Governor Dinwiddie’s time at a very low rent) 925 Acres, making in the whole 7003 acres. This land is in general well timber’d and water’d, it is level, good corn land, but not very fit for tobacco unless manufactured in which case it brings very fine. If it were not for the amazing growth of the wild onion, or garlic as they call it in England, it would be very proper land for wheat, being a stiff soil. Upon this tract, there are six plantations properly furnished for cropping, including G. Spring, with 3 orchards. The gardens and orchards at G.S. are extensive, and furnished with variety of good fruit. Out of the 164 slaves, mentioned above, but 59 are crop negroes, I mean exclusive of boys, - 12 are house servants, 4 Carpenters 1 Wheel wright, 2 Shoe makers, 3 gardeners and Ostlers. The horses are realy useless, and consume a vast deal of corn, the plantation business is done with oxen - May these horses not be sold? The plantation near Town, upon the 1100 acres assigned you is now worked by Mr. Paradise’s people, when they move at the years end, you must furnish a fresh set, and may not some be found among the numerous band of house servants, gardeners, ostlers &c. The gardens are indeed in tolerable good order, but I should think, less force might do. The G.S. improvements were all of them valued at £700 and the Valuers thought they guided themselves by the Will in not valuing them too scrupulously. The house at G.S. wants repair much. I fear that the long gallery will fall in despite of props, having already quitted the house a little. The walls appear good, and I believe the timbers are likewise so. I am informed that Major Taliaftero says he will make a thorough repair £500. -

Each of your parts is valued at more than £15,000. The woolens sent in for your people last year, are though[t] slight and insufficient. Good Welch cotton seems upon the whole to answer best. The weeding hoes, Wilkison says are good for nothing. Indeed I have found from experience, that the best hoes I can get sent me are useless, but as you are upon the spot, and a judge of such things, you might, I suppose have proper ones sent. I assure you, much loss is sustained from not having proper instruments of husbandry, one hand being able to do twice as much work in a day, with a good ax or hoe, as he can with a bad one. The profits of the estate this year are to be divided as usual. Capt. Walker brings you 24 hhds. of your own Tobo. being the half made on the estate, levies &c. deducted. The Captain brings you also 4 hhds. from me. I had ordered 6 to be purchased above the best Tobo., but it seems my Collector fell short in his collection, and therefore got only 4. These I hope will be sufficient to pay you the ballance I owe you, and also furnish the few things included in the invoice now sent. Capt. Walker has an old shoe of Mrs. Lee’s, which we have sent to direct the size of the new ones. You will please let these be as neat as the association price will admit, 5s./ sterling a pair.

I beg your attention to the following affair. You know I have got the entail of my estate from my father dockt by writ of ad quod damnum, but not knowing how future judges and lawyers may explain away things I remain uneasy about my younger children, and wish securely to provide for my poor little helpless girls in the following manner. I understand there is in London an office, where any sum of money being put, draws 10 or more per cent annually, that at the end of every year the interest is engrafted into the principal and both draw interest. That this contin[u]es as long as the putter in chooses, always observing that if death interposes, the whole becomes office property. Now I would choose to place £100. sterling, for each of my girls there, and let it continue until they were either of age or married, and then, let them or their husbands do with it as they pleased. Now what I would request of you, is, to make accurate enquiry into the validity of this office (with respect to the security of the property I mean) and an exact account of the whole scheme that I may loose no time in sending my cash; for you know the little girls are coming on fast, and therefore, the earlier this plan is adopted, the better. I had almost forgot to mention that Cary Wilkison suggested to me in Town, his intention to quit yours, and adhere to Mr. Paradise’s business. I wanted him to remain, that we might have time to look out for a proper manager. He said he would consider of it. Our brother Loudon, who remained in Town after me, was to get a premptory answer, before he quitted it, that we might provide the best we could get during the course of this summer. Wilkeson pretended that Mr. Paradise had, but that you had not offered him to stay. This by the by was nothing, because Colo. Loudon and myself both offered him to remain last winter. But he seems to think the whole too much (perhaps he is right) and says, as he has no children, and a pretty good living, he rather inclines to be at home. I shall tire you as I have done myself, and therefore conclude (after presenting our best love to our Sister, and the children’s duty to you both) with assuring you that

I am your ever affectionate brother and faithful friend
R. H. Lee

July 9. Would it not be proper to return the Liberty here as quickly as possible to prevent preengagements, and can she not, with good management, lay as cheap in Yeocomoco, as in the Thames? However, if she should be detained a little, in order to bring good accounts of sale, I think it would be wise - There are some capital Shippers here, that it might be prudent to take much pains by writing and other effectual methods to engage. Old Colo. Loudon I hear is out with Molleson about his refusing to pay a Tradesman a small order of the Colonels - You know the old Gentleman - A little well applied flattery, contrition for not having corresponded with your God father before, and strong assurances of application to his interest in future may do great things in your favor. Counsellor Carter may by proper address be made a large Shipper. Mr. Carter of Corotoman has purchased to oblige you. He is a person of much consideration. Counsellor Nelson had engaged to ship in the Craft that went for your own Tobacco, but she did not call on him. Suppose you were to thank him for his kind intentions - Both Colo. R. Corbin & the Treasurer talk of shipping you a good deal next year. Ply them up. You know of what weight Colo. Tayloe Mr. Loyd, & the Squire our Squire I mean are - Mr. Sam. Washington is much your friend, he will probably make large crops in Frederick and he may be persuaded to bring his Cousin Mr. Warner Washington to be your correspondent. T. A. Washington likes flattery, try him.

I have many reasons that are absolutely decisive against continuing a popular Candidate any longer. They are numerous as well as weighty, and I am certain would thoroughly convince you if I had time now to recapitulate them. If therefore I am to continue in the public service, it must be in the Council. I own the force of your general maxim, but I think in this Country the case is some thing different. The power of checking ill, and the means of doing good occurring oftener in our upper than in our lower house. This I believe is not a proper season for one of our family to expect favor. I should be sorry it were. But virtue must shortly drive vice & folly off the ground.

Our old President is now so entirely in his dotage that his opinion is not asked either in Court or Council, his exit may be daily expected. On a change, may it not be so settled as that I may be fixed on to fill the next vacancy,2 and the probability of a speedy one urged from the present condition of the President?

I fear you are too right with respect to your opinion of the Glass house business - I shall however converse with our monied men touching the Irish Gentleman you mention - I like much his character, and wish you to push your enquiries concerning him.

Yours for ever.


Lee PapersVirginia Historical Society

Printed in James Curtis Ballagh, The Letters of Richard Henry Lee, Volume 1, 1762 - 1778, pp. 45 - 52.

1 Lee wrote and struck out the word "ruin" before inserting the word "abuse."

2 Lee wrote and struck out the word "found" before inserting the word "settled."