Washington and Lee University

Sender: Richard Henry Lee
Recipient: John Page

My dear Sir,

Finding by your letter of this post to your brother that you suppose I have been negligent in my correspondence with you, my chief purpose here is to remove that charge. I do not remember which of us is debtor on the letter score, but as far as I do recollect I think I was the writer, not the Receiver of the last letter. However this may be, it appeared the less necessary for me to write, as I knew Mr. Page furnished you with regular intelligence of what passed in the war department, besides which, I had nothing worth troubling you with, or calling my attention from the busy scene around me.

I observe in the Gazette, your call upon our Countrymen to apply some of their attention to the business of philosophy.1 Your reasoning is just, and I hope will have its due weight. I am sure that some among us have abundant necessity both for the study and the practise of the Moral part of that noble science. If this had been better learned, such an industrious attempt to injure my reputation in the opinion of my Countrymen would not have taken place. It has been a wicked industry, the most false, and the most malicious that the deceitful heart of man ever produced. I am not on my own account affected with this malice of my enemies, because I have long panted for retirement from the most distressing pressure of business that I ever had conception of. But my principal concern arises from the dreadful example my case presents, to cool the arder of patriotism, and prevent the sacrifice of private ease to public service. I ought at least to have been heared in my defence. But Sir I will not trouble you with my feelings.

The enemies expected reenforcements from Europe have not yet arrived, in consequence of which, our army in Jersey outnumbers theirs considerably, but since they do expect 8 or 10,000 men from beyond the Atlantic, and may bring the greatest part of their force round from Canada in order to make one last dying effort, it behooves us to be prepared to meet the desperate designs of desperate men. If no disappointment takes place, when their whole force is collected, I do not think they will be so strong as when the field was taken last year, and the American Army promises to be much more formidable. Skirmishing still continues, and still we keep the superiority, insomuch that by the late maneuvres of the enemy, it seems not improbable that they intend to quit Jersey soon. They paid severely for their provision destroying excursion to Danbury, where besides their disgraceful flight, they did not loose less than 450 or 500 men killed & wounded. Governor Tryon, late a Major General, and Colo. Wolcot, are both dead of the wounds they received in that chace. The last accounts from York tell us, that the British Officers look grave, and say, all hope of conquering America but by disuniting it is now lost. Great efforts will be made this year for that purpose, and no act or expence omitted to obtain by fraud what force has failed to procure, the Court favorite "Subduction of America."

We hear that in the West Indies French Privateers abound under Continental Commissions, which I think cannot fail to procure war if Great Britain is not dead to every feeling except resentment for the Virtue of their once affectionate brethren and fellow subjects. The inclosed pamphlet is well written, and will I hope amuse you. Be pleased to give my brother Thom the reading of it when you have finished it.

Adieu my dear Sir, I am your affectionate Kinsman,
Richard Henry Lee

[P.S.] I hope to see you e’er long in Williamsburg.2

Notes:

Receiver’s copy, New York Public Library.

Addressed to Page at Williamsburg. Printed in James Curtis Ballagh, The Letters of Richard Henry Lee, Volume 1, 1762 - 1778, pp. 295 - 97. Another copy is in the Elsie O. and Philip D. Sang Deposit in the Rutgers University Library.

1 In the Virginia Gazette (Purdie), May 16, 1777, Page, as president of the Virginia Society for Promoting Useful Knowledge, had presented arguments for continuing this scientific group during the war years and called for papers to be submitted for a volume of transactions.

2 Lee was granted a leave of absence on 5 June and left Philadelphia on the 15th. See JCC, 8:420; and Ballagh, The Letters of Richard Henry Lee, 1:305.