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Lee, Charles (1731-1782) to Benjamin Rush

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Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC05546 Author/Creator: Lee, Charles (1731-1782) Place Written: Camp near Winter Hill, Massachusetts Type: Autograph letter signed Date: 19 September 1775 Pagination: 4 p. ; 32.1 x 19.6 cm.

Summary of Content: Written by Major General Lee during the Siege of Boston to Rush as a doctor in private practice and a chemistry professor at Philadelphia Medical College. References Battle of Bunker Hill. Gives his sentiments on the situation of the siege. Says "I think We might have attack'd 'em long before this and with success, were our Troops differently constituted." Would like a more pro-active campaign on the part of the Americans. Fears Rush's report of divisions in Congress. Says he agrees with Rush's opinion of the "barbarous dangerous custom of loading the servants of the people with the trappings of court titles." References George Washington when he says "I cannot conceive who the Devil first devis'd the bauble of Excellency for their Commander in chief, or the more ridiculous of his Honour ... upon my Soul They make me spew." This comment is very strident because the term "bauble" can have connotations with monarchy because of its archaic definition as "a mock scepter carried by a court jester." Claims that "I am much pleas'd that my laughing at Mr. Adams's description of me in his intercept letter has met with approbation - but I cannot conceive how any Man who has nay share of understanding could be offended at it." Explains that charges he is a whimsical dog lover do not bother him. Says he does not think John Dickinson will be confounded by Adams's attack. Claims the constitutional anxiety of "our Farmer" has render'd him totally unfit for public affairs. Apologizes for sending a "heap of nonsense."

Full Transcript: Camp on Winter Hill Septr ye 19th 1775
My Dr Rush
I am extremely sorry that your Philadelphians have been buoyd up with the news of so compleat a victory and ...more so that I am the Hero who have gaind it-When Men fall from great expectations, They are apt to esteem themselves deceivd by those who have been the [strikeout] [inserted: reputed] actors of the things They wishd altho They had no hand in raising these expectations- not a syllable of the Bunker Hill reduction and victory has the least foundation in worth indeed from all appearances not all the astutia of Hanibal or Sertorious wou'd draw in from this nest- let me communicate to you my sentiments, but at the same time I must desire you to be secret- I think then We might have attack'd 'em long before this and with success, were our Troops differently constituted - but the fatal persuasion has taken deep root in the minds of the Americans from the highest to the lowest order that They are no match for the Regulars but when cover'd by a wall or breast work - this notion is still forth strengthen'd by the end less works We are throwing up in short unless We can remove the idea (and it must be done by degrees) no spirited action can be venturd on without the greatest risk-to incalcate a different way of thinking, to inspire e'm with some confidence [2] pugnando members, I first proposd a body of spear Men for each Regt at Philadelphia and I could perceive that the proposal appeard to many to be the production of distemper'd brain-but I a'm afraid They may find to their cost some time or other that the principle was sound, and that They will suffer by not adopting it-you alarm me extremely in expressing apprehensions of divisions starting up amongst the members of the Congress-Good Gods, I was in hopes that We should reap the full harvest Which We have sown with such infinite pains and labour.-[struck: I agree with you intirely in the opinion that they ought (at least half of them) to be chang'd annually.] I condem'n with you the barbarous dangerous custom of loading the Servants of the People with the trappings of Court titles - I cannot conceive who the Devil first devis'd the bauble of Excellency for their Commander in chief, or the more ridiculous of [inserted: his] Honour for me-upon my Soul They make me spew - even the tacking honourable to the Continental Congress, creates a rumbling in my stomach - what cou'd add dignity to the [inserted: simple title of] Continental Congress of America - as long as They do their dutys and the instant They grow corrupt or slavish from timidity - all the rumbling sounds of of Honourable severe mighty or sublime [inserted: or magnanimous] will only make their infamy more infamous - I am much pleas'd that my laughing at Mr Adams's description of me in his intercepted [3] letter has not met with approbation - but I cannot conceive how any Man who has any share of understanding coud be offended at it - I am call'd whimsical and a lover of Dogs as to the former charge, I am heartely glad that it is my character - for untill the common routine of mankind is somewhat mended I shall wish to remain and be thought eccentric and when my honest [text loss] quadruped Freinds are equal'd by the bipeds in fidelity gratitude or [inserted: even] good sense I will promise to become as warm a philanthrop[inserted: ist] as Mr Addison himself affected to be to say the truth I think the strongest proof of a good heart is to love Dogs and dislike [struck: and] mankind. I know very well that it is hazarding a great deal [struck: to] [inserted: to] profess[struck: ing] a dislike to mankind in general - but if you are generous undesigning and public spirited [illegible] you will naturally expect the same in others - and the frequent disappointments We meet with [inserted: as] naturally sours us [struck: will] [inserted: against] the whole species - [struck: this] [inserted: it] certainly appears paradoxical, but if you will examine history you will find all or almost all the Enthusiasts for general Liberty had the reputation of being cynically dispos'd - now I chuse to construe [inserted: a] cynical[struck: ly] disportion - a love of Dogs, in preference to some other animals who are pleas'd to think their conve[illegible] pleasures and dignity were the only object of the great Creator of all things - so much for Dogs and myself - [4] [struck: I do suppose Dickison will be confoundedly pique'd at Adams's attack on his genius - I am sorry it has been publish'd - altho I really think his late proceedings cannot be reconcil'd to consummate talents or even common sense - but you remember the maxim of deRitz that the head is always the dupe of the heart and if I have any observation - the natural constitutional pusilanimity of our Father's has render'd him totally unfit to head the stage of public affairs when pieces of bustle and action are to be performd - He might and believe He would acquit himself well in the declamation of of the sententious uninteresting Comedy of Terrence [struck: on the] as long as the Theatre is hush'd- but the least uproar either in the pit or boxes wou'd put him so out of his part - that He would have a chance of being hiss'd [struck: and] laugh'd at and perhaps pelted with oranges] I intreat, My Dr Rush, you will pardon this damn'd heap of nonsense, for to confess honestly, I can make neither [inserted: head] nor tale of it myself, and I have no time to write a better, and if I had time I have no paper
so adieu, and believe me to be most
Charles Lee
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Historical Era: American Revolution, 1763-1783

Subjects: Revolutionary WarRevolutionary War GeneralMilitary HistoryBattleBattle of Bunker HillSiege of BostonContinental CongressCongressPoliticsPresidentPetsState Constitution

Sub Era: The War for Independence

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