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be in the North, when (as Richard says) I should serve my Sovereign in the West. I can only act from surmise, and have a very good chance of surmising wrong. I am sorry to grate your ears with a truth, but must at all events assure you, that the Provincial Congress of New-York are angels of decision when compared with your countrymenthe Committee of Safety assembled at Williamsburgh. Page, Lee, Mercer, and Payne, are, indeed, exceptions; but from Pendleton, Bland, the Treasurer, & Co., libera nos Domine.
I shall not trouble you with a detail of the Army, ordnance, and stores, but compendiously say, that the regiments in general are very complete in numbers, the men (those that I have seen) fine; but a most horrid deficiency of armsno intrenching tools, no guns (although the Province is pretty well stocked) meet for service. Had I only eight eighteen-pounders I would immediately, at all events, take post on Craney-Island, by which measure I should drive out the enemy, and exclude them from the finest and most advantageous port in America. I have ordered, with this view, the artificers to work night and day. If I succeed, I shall come in for a sprig of laurel. This essential measure might have been effected long ago, but for the same apathy and oblique squinting towards what the milk-and-water people call Reconciliation.
The prodigiously flattering prospect opened by the appointment of Commissioners were strong arguments against the expense of gun-carriages and intrenching tools. But this is not all; they have distributed their troops in so ingenious a manner as to render every active offensive operation impossible; an equal number of their battalions are stationed on the different necks. They say, very acutely, that as the expense is equal, the security ought to be equal. I cannot help persuading myself that their object will be to take possession of Williamsburgh; not only from its temptingly advantageous situationcommanding, in a great measure, two fine rivers, and a country abundant in all the necessaries for an armybut the possession of the Capital would give an air of dignity and decided superiority to their arms, which, in this slave country, where dominion is founded on opinion, is a circumstance of the utmost importance. Perhaps I may be mistaken; but the surmise is not irrational. I have called three regiments down the country.
You will excuse, my dear General, the blots and scratches of this letter, for the post is just going out; by the next I will inform you of the steps we have taken for the security of this place. I have been desired to recommend Colonel Grayson, as a man of extraordinary merit. He sets out soon to make application to the Congress for an establishment. If we have, as we must, a Continental Hospital in the Southern Department, Dr. McClurg, I suppose, will be the man to direct it. I need not mention his qualifications, they are so well known. I beg you will make somebody write to me from time to time; indeed, I think I may modestly insist on Mr. Palfreys pen being employed often in this service. Adieu, dear General. Yours most respectfully and sincerely,
To General Washington.
GENERAL CHARLES LEE TO RICHARD HENRY LEE.
Williamsburgh, April 5, 1776.
MY DEAR FRIEND: I congratulate the publick and you, one of her best members, on the late glorious eventthe flight of the tyrant cut-throats from Boston; although I do not know whether it is a matter of congratulation, for it appears to me that, as our affairs grow more prosperous, the namby-pambys of the Senatorial part of the Continent (great and small) grow more timid and hysterical. I am sorry to say it, but your Committee of Safety seem to be as desperately and incurably infected with this epidemical malady as the Provincial Congress of Maryland, or the quondam Assembly of Pennsylvania. Your brother, Mr. Page, Payne, and, I believe, Mercer, are indeed exceptions. If you could be spared from the Congress, your presence might inspire vigour and wisdom. Their economy is of a piece with their wisdom and valour; to save money, we have no carriages to our guns; to save money, we have no blankets for our men, who are, from want of this essential, dying by dozens at Suffolk. Had I gun-carriages, I could flatter myself with almost a certainty of driving the pirates, and shutting them out forever from the harbour of Norfolk. I have, however, ordered them to be made with all possible expedition, and then shall attempt this capital stroke. My command (from the circumstances of the country being intersected by navigable waters, and the enemy being supplied with canvass to fly to any spot they choose) is disagreeable. I may make a very shabby figure, without any real demerits of my own. I know not where to turn, or where to fix myself. I may, as Richard the Third says, be in the West, when I should serve my Sovereign in the North. I can only act from surmises, and I may surmise wrong; but I must venture, and take my measures accordingly. I am apt to think that Williamsburgh and York will be their object; the possession of the first is not only most temptingly advantageous from its command of the two rivers and a most abundant country, but its being a Capital, the possession would give an air of dignity and decided superiority to their arms, which, in a slave country, is of the utmost importance. Your dominion over the blacks is founded on opinion; if this opinion falls, your authority is lost. On this principle I am drawing down some battalions, and shall, when I can provide intrenching tools, work for the security of these places.
For Gods sake, why do you dandle in the Congress so strangely? Why do you not at once declare yourselves a separate independent State? I am much obliged to you for keeping my letter in your hands, and am happy that the stigma was not levelled at me. Appropos, will you move, as my command is separate, and scarcely any letters are addressed to me (even those not written by the members of the Congress) which do not relate to publick business, that, whilst I continue in this separate command, they shall be frank, for the expense is very considerable. I wish you would cuff Dr. Rush for not writing. I expect and insist upon it.
A Colonel Grayson (with whom, I suppose, you are acquainted) will be soon with the Congress, to make application for some military establishment. I am desired to recommend him as a man of extraordinary merit. We must have a Continental Hospital in the Southern Department; Dr. McClurg is, I am told, very well qualified to be at the head of it. My little German Engineer is (as the New-Englanders say) a nice man; but I wish I knew what pay and rank you intend him; I have hitherto supported him myself, but shall send in a bill for his nourishment. Adieu, my dear Senator.
Yours, and your brothers, most affectinately,
To the Honourable Richard Henry Lee.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
St. Eustatia, April 5, 1776.
MR. PRESIDENT: I ought to make an apology for the liberty I take in addressing you; but I have no occasion for any other than the sincerity of my intention. By you, sir, I mean to address the Congress, in order to inform them that, about two months ago, I was at Paris, and that the common conversation there was on the subject of American affairs.
It is believed that you will apply to the Court of France for their assistance, by which applications the English Minister would learn your designs. For this purpose he has attached to his interests a good many French at Paris, who are pretended friends of America, and who speak loudly of the justice of your cause, and wish it well. The English Minister hopes that you will apply to these men to transact your affairs, and, of consequence, that they will fall into bad hands.
Perhaps you will ask how I came by this knowledge. I cannot well inform you of this to the bottom; all that I would say to you is, that, as I have had conversation with them, I have sounded them on the subject, and am sure that what I have said is true. But, sir, I know what will accomplish your endsthat Americans only be employed with the management of your affairs; men faithful, honest, and intelligent, and who can speak French; for Gallick faith is at present almost as proverbial as Punick faith used to be.
I have nothing further to say at present. I am a friend to the cause of America; and am, with great sincerity, Mr. President, your very humble and obedient servant,