Sender: Richard Henry Lee
Recipient: Patrick Henry
Philadelphia 13th May 1777Dear Sir,
The inclosed infamous Act of Parliament is taken from the New York Gazette
and its authenticity therefore not to be
doubted.1 The question upon this is, whether
every State will not pass acts appointing places of security where the
prisoners they take may be safely kept as pledges for the good usage of
our people, or as objects of punishment in the way of retaliation? In
proportion as our enemies loose the hopes of subduing us by open force,
they endeavor more strenuously to sap us by corrupt influence and by
the wicked machinations of their Tory friends. To put an effectual stop
to the proceedings of the latter, will it not be necessary so to
provide by law, as that every Tory may be precisely in the same
situation if we succeed in this war, that we undoubtedly shall be if
the enemy prevail. And what this latter will be, the inclosed Act of
Parliament very plainly declares. The point is, how to distinguish
previously the Whigs from the Tories. I believe, by a strict Test, and
by appointing a General and a County board of Commissioners, with small
but compitent funds to carry on quick correspondence with each other,
and to search into the conduct of suspicious Residents, and of all
unknown Passengers or Travellers. As you may rely upon it, that Tory
machinations are now more wicked than ever, and their correspondence
with each other, and their injurious communications not to be doubted.
I wish some of the most sensible Whigs in our Assembly would take under
consideration what I have here suggested the propriety of. The
necessity of completing our Batallions is so obvious, that I suppose
the Assembly will adopt the plan of drafting recommended by
Congress,2 and if they do, will it not be
highly proper to have discreet recruiting Officers at every place where
the Militia is assembled for the draft, who by clearly pointing out to
the young Men the advantages of bounty, annual clothes, and land for
those that voluntarily engage, may procure a sufficiency on the willing
plan. Nor is it a bad argument with them to shew how safely and easily
they are carried thro the Small pox at the public expence, by the
present plan of inoculation. Above all things my dear Sir, let us
secure the credit of our money by a vigorous Taxation. Maryland has
done so, and so have the Eastern States, and all must do it to procure
public confidence in our funds and the stability of our currency.
Our Army is approaching the enemies lines and promises soon to be active.
We have no late intelligence from France, tho we have reason every day
to expect it. Capt Weks in the Continental Ship Reprisal of 16 guns
& 100 & odd men has taken & sent into Port L’Orient a
Lisbon packet of equal force to himself, with three Ships that were
under her Convoy, and the provisions we have taken at Sea, more than
compensate for the Danbury loss, since the latter was only 1700 barrels
of Meat with some flour & grain, and we have brought in 5000
barrels of Meat bound to N. York.
Colo. Nelson is gone home ill, so that we three are here fixed to hard
service. We deserve compassion and relief. I have no objection to a
service however irksome, if it is so contrived that a reasonable relief
may now and then be interposed, so as to ease the Individual, without
injury to the public.
We learn lately, that the account of General Carletons approach to
Ticonderoga was premature, and in the mean time a considerable
reenforcement has arrived from the Eastward, so that we are no longer
in pain for that Post.
I am, with much esteem, dear Sir, Yours sincerely,
Richard Henry Lee
Lee PapersVirginia Historical Society
Printed in James Curtis Ballagh, The Letters of Richard Henry Lee, Volume 1, 1762 - 1778, pp. 289 - 91. Printed also in William Wirt Henry, Patrick Henry, 3:68.
1 See Lee to Henry, 6 May 1777, note 2.
2 For the 14 April resolves on recruiting, see JCC, 7:261 - 63.