Sender: Richard Henry Lee
Recipient: Thomas Jefferson
Phila. May 20. 1777Dear Sir
We are this moment informed here, that some evil disposed people (no doubt
hired for the purpose) have industriously propagated among the N.
Carolina Troops, and among the recruits of Virginia in the upper parts,
that the plague rages in our Army. In consequence of which, it is said,
the recruiting business stops, and desertions are
frequent.1 There never was a more infamous
and groundless falsehood. The Army is extremely healthy, and the
wise[st] methods are pursued to keep them so. I mention this dear Sir,
that some adequate plan may be adopted to stop the progress of such
wicked lies as are now, with industry circulated thro the Country.
Force having failed our enemies, fraud is substituted, and corruption
is swiftly and silently pushed thro every quarter.
One plan, now in frequent use, is, to assassinate the Characters of the
friends of America in every place, and by every means.
At this moment, they are now reading in Congress, an audacious attempt of
this kind against the brave General Arnold.2
Farewell dear Sir, I wish you happy,
[P.S.] Nothing new in Jersey.
Thomas Jefferson PapersLibrary of Congress
Printed in Boyd, Papers of Thomas Jefferson, 2:20. Printed also in James Curtis Ballagh, The Letters of Richard Henry Lee, Volume 1, 1762 - 1778, p. 292.
1 This "plague" rumor was not mentioned as a source of recruiting problems in
the report of Col. Alexander Martin of the Second North Carolina
Battalion that was read in Congress this day. Martin’s 10 May letter
from Fredericksburg, Va., which is in PCC, item 78, 15:189,
explained that recruiting was slow because of sickness, death,
discharges, and desertions and that North Carolina troops, after
being delayed by their march to and from South Carolina, were
marching northward with expedition.
2 Benedict Arnold’s 20 May letter requesting Congress to inquire into his
conduct and that of his accuser, Lt. Col. John Brown, is in PCC, item
162, fol. 86. It was referred to the Board of War, whose members on
23 May reported their "entire satisfaction" with Arnold’s "character
and conduct, so cruelly and groundlessly aspersed" by Brown’s
handbill, printed in Pittsfield, Mass., on 12 April. See JCC, 7:371,
373, 8:382, and Carl Van Doren, Secret History of the American
Revolution (New York: Viking Press, 1941), pp. 154 - 60.