Front Page Titles (by Subject) 1823. - The Correspondence and Public Papers of John Jay, vol. 4 (1794-1826)
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1823. - John Jay, The Correspondence and Public Papers of John Jay, vol. 4 (1794-1826) 
The Correspondence and Public Papers of John Jay, ed. Henry P. Johnston, A.M. (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1890-93). Vol. 4 (1794-1826).
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RICHARD HENRY LEE TO JAY.
Leesburg, Loudon County, Va.,
John Jay, Esq.:
From a person unknown to you an apology for an unlicensed intrusion on your attention, is certainly due. The apology is this, that I am engaged in writing a memoir of the life of an American patriot, a fellow labourer in the cause of American Liberty with yourself.
I beg leave to introduce myself to you, as the grandson and namesake of Richard Henry Lee. My ancestor taught his children to admire and esteem Mr. Jay, and, to admire and esteem him has become hereditary in his descendants. This language, venerable Sir, I feel to be that of real sentiment with me.
The principal object of this letter is to obtain from you, if you recollect minutely on the subject, a correct account of the part which my grandfather acted in the three leading Committees appointed by the Congress of 1774. These were the Committees to prepare an address to the King of England, to the people of Great Britain and to the Colonies. From the Journals of Congress, it appears that the Committee for the first address consisted of Messrs. Lee, J. Adams, Johnson, Henry and Rutledge. The two other Committees were at first composed of Messrs. Lee, Livingston and Jay. To the Committee for the address to the King, Mr. Dickenson was afterward added. It is known that you, Sir, were the writer of the address (which was adopted) to the people of Great Britain. It had been understood generally (as Mr. Marshall in his “Life of Washington” states) that Mr. Lee was the writer of the address to the King. But in a late work, the “Life of Patrick Henry,” by Mr. Wirt, it is stated that Mr. Dickenson was the writer. Can you, Sir, give me any information as to the real fact—which of the two gentlemen wrote this address? Mr. Lee, yourself and Mr. Cushing (see Journal) were the persons appointed to prepare an address to the people of Quebeck, and letters to the Colonies of St. John, Nova Scotia, Georgia, East and West Florida. Mr. Jay and Mr. Lee constituted the Committee, to prepare a letter to the American agents in London. You will, respected Sir, confer a great favour on me, by giving me such information as you recollect, as to the fact, which of the gentlemen of these committees wrote these addresses and letters—I hope that you will not withold from me the information which will often introduce (it cannot happen too often) the name of Jay, to my readers. I trust that you will not object to my query as to yourself, for I have ventured to make it, to ascertain how far my grandfather acted as a writer. It has been insinuated by the biographer of Mr. Henry, that R. H. Lee was an unsuccessful writer, and not a man of business. Have you any recollection of his participation in the business and labours of the old Congress?
I have a large and most interesting collection of Mss. consisting of the correspondence, &c., &c., of R. H. Lee, and of all the great and celebrated men of America and Europe, during the Revolution, political, diplomatic, and military.
A letter from you, respected Sir, would be received with great gratification and acknowledged with thankfullness.
I am, Sir, with sentiments of profound respect, &c.,
Your obedient servant,
Richd. Henry Lee.
P. S. I perceive from the Journals that the 1st Committee appointed by the Congress 1774, was one to state the Rights of America, in what instances they had been violated and the means of restoring peace, &c. This committee was composed of two members from each Colony, yourself and Mr. Duane, on the part of New York; R. H. Lee and Mr. Pendleton on the part of Virginia, &c. See Journal, 10 p., the declaration and resolves p. 27. I should be happy to learn, what part R. H. Lee took in this Committee, to aid me in vindication from the insinuations above stated.
R. H. Lee.
JAY TO RICHARD HENRY LEE.
Bedford, Westchester County, N. Y.,
I received by the last mail your friendly letter of the 30th ult., the principal object of which you observe is to obtain from me, if I recollect minutely on the subject, a correct account of the part which your grandfather acted in the three leading committees appointed by the Congress of 1774. These were the committees to prepare an address to the King of England, to the People of Great Britain, and to the Colonies. The committee for the first address consisted of Messrs. Lee, J. Adams, Johnson, Henry, and Rutledge. To this committee Mr. Dickinson was afterwards added. You further observe, that it had been generally understood that Mr. Lee was the writer of that address, but that it has since been ascribed to Mr. Dickinson.
So many years have elapsed since the Congress of 1774 that my recollection, as to many of the occasional and incidental circumstances which occurred in the course of their proceedings, is not distinct. It appears from the journals of that Congress, that the committee to prepare an address to the King, reported a draught of such an address on the 21st October, that after some debate it was recommitted, and Mr. J. Dickinson was on that day added to the committee. So soon afterwards as the 24th of October, they again reported, and on the next day, viz., the 25th October, the address they had reported was debated, and after some amendments, approved. By which of the members of the committee it was written, I do not remember to have been informed. To me it appears probable that the same draught which had been recommitted, was with the co-operation of Mr. Dickinson amended, and again reported. That Mr. Dickinson, between the 21st October when he was added to the committee and the 24th October when they for the last time reported, should have proposed to the committee to lay aside their draught, and that he (with their approbation) should have undertaken, and to their satisfaction have finished an entire new address, is in my opinion improbable, especially considering his sense of propriety, and the character and abilities of the gentlemen of that committee.
On the 11th October, 1774, the Congress “Resolved unanimously that a memorial be prepared to the people of British America, stating to them the necessity of a firm, united, and invariable observation of the measures recommended by the Congress, as they tender the invaluable rights and liberties derived to them from the laws and constitution of their country”; also “that an address be prepared to the people of Great Britain.” “Ordered that Mr. Lee, Mr. Livingston, and Mr. Jay be a committee to prepare a draught of the memorial and address. It was agreed in the committee that Mr. Lee should prepare a draught of the proposed Memorial, which was the first, both in order and importance, and that I should prepare a draught of the proposed address to the people of Great Britain, both of which was done accordingly.
On the 18th October the address to the people of Great Britain was reported to Congress; on the 19th October it was debated by paragraphs and sundry amendments made, and was recommitted, in order that the amendments might be taken in. On the 21st October it was returned to Congress, and the amendments directed being made, the same was approved. On the 19th October “the committee reported a draught of a Memorial to the inhabitants of the British Colonies; on the 21st October Congress resumed the consideration of the memorial, and the same being debated by paragraphs and amended, was approved. I have always believed that this memorial was written by Mr. Lee; nor have any reasons to doubt it come to my knowledge.
On the same day, viz., 21st October, the Congress “Resolved that an address be prepared to the People of Quebec, and letters to the Colonies of St. Johns, etc. Ordered that Mr. Cushing, Mr. Lee, and Mr. Dickinson be a Committee to prepare the above address and letters.” Hence it appears that your idea of my being one of that Committee is not correct. On the 24th October, “the address to the People of Quebec,” being brought in, was read, and after some debate, was re-committed. On the 26th October, “the committee, to whom the address to the inhabitants of Quebec was re-committed, reported a draught, which was read, and being debated by paragraphs and amended was approved.” I have often heard it said, and not heard it contradicted, that this address was written by Mr. Dickinson. On the 25th October the Congress “Resolved that the address to the King be inclosed in a letter to the several Colony agents, etc.” and ordered that Mr. Lee and Mr. Jay prepare a letter to the agents. On the 26th October the letter to the agents being brought in by the committee, was read and approved. This letter was written by Mr. Lee.
The committee (mentioned in the postscript to your letter) appointed to state the rights of the Colonies, etc., included a number of gentlemen whose information and talents enabled them to discuss and elucidate those topics very ably; but I cannot particularize how far Mr. Lee, or any other individual of those gentlemen, contributed to the accomplishment of that business. The uninterrupted deputation of Mr. Lee to Congress by his native and important State, during many years of danger and difficulty, and his continued participation in the transaction of affairs of such moment, afford inferences on which much might be said.
Altho’ a recent increase of sickness renders occupation irksome to me, yet as a further increase of it might suspend and perhaps prevent my attending to your inquiries, I think it better to answer your letter thus concisely, than to postpone writing. Those inquiries need no apology; the friendly sentiments expressed in your letter merit and have my acknowledgments. Permit me to hint that the Memoirs you are preparing would derive advantage from deliberation and frequent revision.
With the best wishes for your success and welfare,
I am, sir,