Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO RICHARD HENRY LEE 1 . - The Writings of George Washington, vol. IX (1780-1782)
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
TO RICHARD HENRY LEE 1 . - George Washington, The Writings of George Washington, vol. IX (1780-1782) 
The Writings of George Washington, collected and edited by Worthington Chauncey Ford (New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1890). Vol. IX (1780-1782).
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
TO RICHARD HENRY LEE1 .
Camp, nearDobbs’s Ferry, 15 July, 1781.
The moving state wch. the army was at the time your letter of the 12th ulto. came to hand, the junction of the allied troops at that period, and a variety of matters which have occurred since that period consequent of this junction, rather than a disinclination to continue a correspondence, the benefits of which were in my favor, must plead as an excuse for my silence till now. Unconscious of having given you just cause to change the favorable sentiments you have expressed for me, I could not suppose you had altered them; and as I never suffer reports, unsupported by proofs, to have weight in my mind, I know no reason why our correspondence should cease, or become less frequent than heretofore, excepting on my part, that, as our affairs became more perplexing and embarrassd. the public claimed more of my attention and consequently left me less leizure for private indulgences.
That this has been the case in an eminent degree for some time past a Gentleman so well acquainted with public matters as you are, need not be told. The distresses of Virginia I am but too well acquainted with; but the plan you have suggested as a relief for it is, in my judgmt., a greater proof of your unbounded confidence in me, than it is, that the means proposed would be found adequate to the end in view, were it practicable to make the experiment, which at present is not, as there are insuperable obstacles to my removing from the immediate command of the combined troops.
The reasons for this opinion I cannot entrust to paper, at all times liable to miscarriage, and peculiarly so of late. I am fully persuaded, however, (upon good military principles,) that the measures I have adopted will give more effectual and speedier relief to the State of Virginia, than if I was to march thither with dictatorial powers, at the head of every man I could draw from hence, without leaving the important posts on the North River quite defenceless, and these States open to devastation and ruin. When I say this, I would be understood to mean, if I am properly supported (and I have asked no extraordinary succors) by the States Eastward of Jersey inclusive. My present operation, and which I have been preparing for with all the zeal and activity in my power, will, I am morally certain, if I am properly supported, produce one of two things; either the fall of New York, or a withdrawal of the Troops from Viginia excepting a Garrison at Portsmouth, at which place, I have no doubt of the enemy’s intention to establish a permanent post. A long land march, in which, we have never failed to dissipate half our men, the difficulty and expense of transportation, and other reasons not less powerful, but wch I dare not commit to writing, decided me in my present plan; and my hopes, I trust, will not be disappointed.
In half an hour’s conversation I could, I flatter myself, convince you of the utility of my meases.; but, as I have before observed, I dare not attempt it by letter, because I have already had two or three important ones intercepted in the mails, the sight of which, I am persuaded, occasioned the retrogade movemts. of Lord Cornwallis, and will be the means of bringing part of his force to New York, to the accomplishment of one part of my plan. The fatal policy of short enlistmts. (the primary cause of all our misfortunes—the prolongation of the War—and the source of the immense debt under which we labor—) is now shedding its baneful influence upon our measures and I am laboring under all the disadvantages and evils which result from them and the want of men.—It can be no News to tell you, that by the expiration of the terms of enlistment I was left last Winter with a force so much reduced as to be scarcely able to garrison West point; but, it may be News, and is not less true than surprizing to you to hear that not half the men which were required to be with the Army, as recruits for the Continental Battns., by the first day of Jany. last are yet arrived—and of those asked by me from the Militia not one is come.
But a few words more, and I will put an end to this long letter.
No endeavors of mine have been wanting to obtain a naval superiority in these seas, nor to employ that which we have to valuable purposes. How far I have succeeded in the latter is but too obvious; how far I may see my wishes accomplished in the former, time must discover, With great esteem and regard, I am, dear Sir, &c.1
[1 ]“Although our correspondence has been long interrupted, I hope that our friendship never will be, notwithstanding the arts of wicked men, who have endeavored to create discord and dissension among the friends of America. For myself, having little but my good wishes to send you, it was not worth while to take up your attention a moment with them. The contents of this letter will, I am sure, require no apology, because you always approve that zeal which is employed in the public service, and has for its object the public good. . . . It would be a thing for angels to weep over if the goodly fabric of human freedom, which you have so well labored to rear, should in one unlucky moment be levelled with the dust. There is nothing I think more certain, than that your personal call would bring into immediate exertion the force and the resources of this State and the neighboring ones, which, directed as they would be, will effectually disappoint and baffle the deep laid schemes of the enemy.”—Richard Henry Lee to Washington, Chantilly, June 12th.
[1 ]On the draft of this letter Washington has noted that in the fair copy some sentences were transposed, and alterations and corrections made, but the sentiments were the same.