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    Richard Henry Lee shows concern "whilst the Cause of America receives such injury from bad men"

    Richard Henry Lee Autograph Letter Signed. Two and one-half pages, 7.5" x 9", Chantilly [Virginia], August 8, 1779. Richard Lee, signer of the Declaration of Independence and the Articles of Confederation, writes this Revolutionary War-dated letter to William Whipple, a member of the Marine Committee of Congress. Much weighed on Lee's mind as he wrote, including unease over the near-by movements of the British navy on the Potomac River and apprehension over the recent actions of Silas Deane, Richard's personal and political foe. In part as written:

    "We are much obliged to the Marine Committee for their attention, I see the frigates have taken and sent in two prizes, vessels of war. - The other frigate you mention would no doubt have been of considerable service - I am very apprehensive with you that her freight will not be ready for some time - Not until other goods come to replace - I hope the goods coming will be really good, and not such miserable, pernicious stuff, as that to be reproved. Worse goods cannot come, so that a change bids fair to be beneficial - God send it may quickly take place - Fancy the 'Ugly instrument' is considerably hurt by the dressing lately given by our assembly - The oath anti-commercial ordered to be taken - Pray inform me if you can if the Base viol has groaned it out. I had thought it would stick in the throat not from principle but from fear. No doubt the 'old Game' will continue to be played whilst the old set continue where they are. The best and most faithful friends of America must be extricated by the best and most faithful friends of our enemies; and this is the clue to unfold much of what you see - Did you not enjoy some Phizs' when Dr. [Arthur ]Lee's [Richard's brother] vindication and vouchers were read? Some people will always think it 'clearly out of order' to give the public this conviction of their own and their friends criminality. But I trust there will be majority virtue enough to do this justice to the community and to individuals. Shylock should have justice & the law - read the law of Moses, 'forty save one.' I fancy you were not much deceived about the budget - I will engage this, that from this opener it will be general deceptions, unimportant or partified. I have the most heartfelt attachment to our Navy & therefore wish to know that the fisheries go on well, and that the Marine Committee are attentive. If the enemy go on burning in this manner their masked friends in - will never be able to bring us again under British bondage, even this finance and foreign affairs are trifled with, abused, & go wrong - Col. F[rancis]. L[ightfoot]. Lee is very thankful for your kind remembrance of him and sends his respects - He is not well any more than myself. It is impossible for us to be so, whilst the Cause of America receives such injury from bad men. I hope you do not intend to leave Congress soon."

    When Richard wrote this, the Lee family, particularly Richard and his younger brother Arthur, were involved in a very public tussle with Silas Deane, a merchant and diplomat, and his backers in the Continental Congress. The two factions accused each other of harboring British sympathies. In particular, Richard accused Deane, one of three U.S. commissioners to France (the other two were Benjamin Franklin and Arthur Lee) of leaking information about the Treaty of Amity and Commerce between the United States and France, to the British-proof, in Richard's judgment, of Deane's collusion with the British. The controversy-"the 'old Game'" mentioned in Richard's letter-intensified during the summer of 1779 ("No doubt the 'old Game' will continue to be played whilst the old set continue where they are. The best and most faithful friends of America must be extricated by the best and most faithful friends of our enemies. . . . Shylock should have justice & the law - read the law of Moses, 'forty save one'. . . . It is impossible for us to be [well], whilst the Cause of America receives such injury from bad men").

    In 1781, Silas Deane sailed for Europe, never to return to the U.S., thus ceasing to threaten Richard. Still, the British threat to Virginia continued to worry Richard-worrying the state government too, which moved the capital inland from Williamsburg to Richmond in 1780. The British army invaded Virginia later that year, setting up their ultimate defeat at the Battle of Yorktown in October 1791.

    As a delegate from Virginia to the First Continental Congress earlier in 1776, Richard Henry Lee (1732-1794) put forward the resolution that the thirteen colonies absolve their allegiance to the British Crown.
    Once independence was declared and war begun, Richard knew that Virginia's lengthy coast would be difficult to defend against the British navy. He offered his knowledge and experience regarding the defense of the coast to Virginia Governor Thomas Jefferson (Richard had once been the chair of the Marine Committee, likely serving with Whipple). When William Whipple (1730-1785) received this letter, he had already signed the Declaration of Independence and fought in several Revolutionary War battles as a New Hampshire militia brigadier general. This letter is toned with smoothed folds on laid paper. Docketed. Bold, clear text and signature.


    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    October, 2013
    17th-18th Thursday-Friday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 5
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
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