Sender: Richard Henry Lee
Recipient: John Page
Philadelphia 26 May 1777My 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
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.