Washington and Lee University

Sender: Richard Henry Lee
Recipient: Patrick Henry

Dear 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.