Lee, Richard Henry (1732-1794) to Landon Carter re: calling for America's independence, troubles with Britain
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Written as delegate to Congress from Virginia. Docketed with comments by Carter, the recipient.
Richard Lee (1732-1794), writing to a fellow Virginian, calls for American independence, a goal suddenly and effectively popularized in January 1776 by Thomas Paine's anonymous pamphlet, Common Sense. Lee subsequently introduced the resolution in Congress "That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent states." Congress appointed a committee--consisting of John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Robert Livingston, and Roger Sherman--to draft a declaration of independence in case Lee's resolution was adopted. On July 2, Congress approved Lee's resolution and two days later adopted the final draft of the Declaration of Independence.
Dear Sir, Philadelphia 2d. June 1776
Since the establishment of our Westmoreland Rider, I conclude the papers come so regularly into your neighborhood from this City, as to render it the less necessary to repeat in letters what you will find exactly detailed in the [inserted above: Gazette]. I cannot help congratulating you on [text missing]. Virginia has obtained by the resolve of Convention [text missing] the 15th of last month. A Gentleman of the first understanding here, and of very moderate passions, said on reading the resolve "Virginia has determined like a brave, sensible and injured people." Still the views of interested, weak, and wicked men, obstruct the public service in these proprietary governments. The infamous treaties with Hesse, Brunswick, &c. (of which we have authentic copies) and the Ministerial reply to Grafton's motion leave not a doubt but that our enemies are determined upon the absolute conquest and subduction of N. America. It is not choice then but necessity that calls for Independence, as the only means by which Foreign Alliance can be obtained; and, a proper confederation by which internal pea[ce] and union may be secured. Contrary to our earnes[t,] early, and repeated petitions for peace, liberty and safety, our enemies press us with war, threaten us with danger and Slavery. And this, not with her single force, but with the aid of Foreigners. Now, altho we might safely venture our strength, circumstanced as it is, against that of Great Britain only, yet  we are certainly unequal to a Contest with her and her Allies without any assistance from without, and this more especially, as we are incapable of profiting by our exports for want of Naval Force -- You seem to apprehend danger from our being aided by despotic States, but remember that France assisted Holland without injury to the latter -- [text loss] the help we desire, put it, by any means [in] the power of France to hurt us tho she were so [i]nclined -- Supplies of Military Stores and Soldiers clothing, Ships of war to cover our Trade and open our Ports, which would be an external assistance altogether, could never endanger our freedom by putting [inserted: it] in the power of our Ally to Master us, as has been the case where weak States have admitted powerful Armies for their Defenders. When last we heard from Canada, our forces that had retreated from Quebec, on the arrival of succors, had fixt [sic] at De Chambaud, or Falls of Richlieu, about 30 miles above Quebec, and were strongly fortifying there -- If they can maintain that Post, which [c]ommands 8 tenths of Canada, we shall do almost as well as if we had Quebec, as we [text loss] effectually cut off all communication [w]ith the upper Country, or Western Indians, and prevent the West Indies receiving supplies from that fertile Province. We are making the best preparation to meet the numerous foreign Mercinaries [sic] [strike out] with which we are to be invaded this Campaign -- This expence [sic] of G. Britain this  summer is estimated at 10 millions, exclusive of the ordinary expences -- With half her Trade subducted with a debt of 140 millions, how can she go on? The Dutch begin to fear for their money in English funds, and say they wd. give 30 pr. Cent. discount to have it withdrawn. Franklin the late Governor of New Jersey, you will see by the inclosed paper, is endeavoring to bring himself unto the notice of Congress, and I believe he will effect it now the plan of calling an Assembly by a King's [text loss] the Resolve of the 15th cannot [text loss]
I hope to be in Virga. in 10 or 12 days, [text loss] I shall endeavor to visit Sabine Hall --
I am, with great esteem, &
I'm your affectionate and obedient Servant
Richard Henry Lee
We have just seen a petition from London to the King [text loss] in m[text loss]ing & moving language that he wd. let explicit terms [text loss] justice [text loss]cede the operation of Arms in America. His ans[wer] that he is sorry for the rebellion, but that force on his part sub[text loss] on ours is all he proposes -- This is the substance of his Tyrannic [sic] answer to the most sensible & humade [sic] Address that Modern times has produced ---
[docket in Landon Carter's hand:]
Landon Carter esquire
of Sabine Hall in
R.H. Lee} Virginia
Colo. Rich H. Lee from Philadelphia June 2. 1776
This Gentleman is a careful but so late in his replys [sic] that I almost forget what I wrote to him. I see he says I am apprehensive that by courting foreign assistance, they who assist us will demand terms equally imperious; and Puts me in mind of France who assisted Holland. But he consider the claim of France on America wch was mostly taken from her. Now the inf[text loss] was different as to Holland. But he seems to find we don't want any internal assistance but only as to trade &c. If we don't I hold no Argument. At least I see, tho he does not care to own it, He agrees that our Independence is by compulsion. If That is granted I hold no argument then either. All that I urgd was that the Pure British Constitution [?] was not to be so reprobated as common [text loss] we had done it; and tho I knew was agreed I liken for that [text loss] How soon he is to call and see meas[ures] to Convention from Philadelphia
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