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Letter from Arthur Lee


DEAR SIR: Your letter of the 30th of November, 1775, announcing the appointment of a Secret Committee, reached me a few days since. Miscarriages will be manifold, indeed, if you have not frequently heard from me. All my solicitude has been about my letters reaching you; every disguise was necessary to effect that. I am, however, much obliged to the General for the step taken to secure me; yet, I cannot tell to what fatality it is owing, that of the five, two are men of whom I have more diffidence than of any others, I had almost said, through the whole Continent. That I may be explicit, the second and last are men whom I cannot trust. If I am to commit myself into an unreserved correspondence, they must be left out, and L' s˙ or the A' s˙ put in their places. This letter, therefore, is to you, sir, and not to the Committee. I cannot imagine that what I desire can be deemed impertinent, when it is considered that the very purpose of its appointment is, so far as it relates to me, disappointed by these members. The selection of them, instead of inspiring confidence, gives me an apprehension, which I did not feel while they were in the general mass.

You will be curious to know what are the Ministerial intentions, and their force for the next campaign. The following is their army upon paper: Hessians, twelve thousand; Brunswickers, Woolfenbutlers, and Waldeckers, five thousand; six Regiments under Lord Cornwallis, three thousand; eight more, to sail in the Spring, four thousand; Highlanders, two thousand; now in America, eight thousand.

The sailing, and destination of this armament, is thus: Those under General Lord Cornwallis, are now embarked at Cork, and wait for sailing orders; their destination,Virginia. By the treaty, just now signed, the Germans are to be ready on the 27th of this month, to march to the sea-coast and embark, but for what part of America is not exactly known; the march by land is near six weeks, so that they cannot sail before April. The second embarkation from Cork will be about the same time; and, it seems probable, that their destination will be against Canada, under General Burgoyne, who is soliciting that command. In the mean time the Twenty-Ninth Regiment, with General Carleton' s brother, is to sail from hence immediately, to reinforce Quebeck, supposing that they can get high enough up the river, as far as the Isle of Orleans, to make good their march by land. The regiments under Lord Cornwallis are the Thirty-Seventh, Thirty-Third, Fifty-Fourth, Fifteenth, Twenty-Eighth, and Forty-Sixth. Those for the Spring, are the Thirty-Fourth, Fifty-Third, Sixty-Second,


Third, Ninth, Eleventh, Twentieth, and Twenty-Fourth. Lord Howe is appointed to the command at sea, but the commander on land is not known; certain, however, it is, that there are two Lieutenant-Generals,and one of them old, that go with the Germans, so that it must be some one of great reputation, and old in the service, to command over them. It is therefore conjectured, Count de Lippe will be the man. He commanded the army in Portugal during the last war. They are taking up East-lndiamen for the transport service, supposing they will be able to beat off the cruizers. A great number of artillery and wagon-horses are to be sent, and a train of large battering cannon is preparing, which, it would seem, can only be intended against Quebeck, should it be taken by General Montgomery.

The English and Irish troops go with infinite reluctance, and strong guards are obliged to be kept upon the transports to keep them from deserting by wholesale. The Germans, too, I am well informed, are almost mutinous; but the Landgrave of Hesse is an absolute tyrant, and must be obeyed. It is, therefore, conceived, that if the Congress have proposals prepared in English and German, to distribute among them when they land, which no precautions can prevent, multitudes will desert.

Upon the whole, the Ministry, if every thing favours them, may have about thirty thousand men in America by the latter end of June. They will have no horse but two regiments of Light Dragoons, now there, and Burgoyne' s, which is to go. If the Americans have horse well trained to the woods, it will harass such an army infinitely; and, if they act upon the defensive, intrench well, harass them continually, cut off their convoys, and if ever they hazard an engagement, make their push upon one wing; it is imagined here that no General on earth can make the campaign decisive, and it is hardly possible this country can stand another. They have found it impossible to recruit in England, Ireland, or Scotland, though the leading people of the last, are, to a man, violently against America. They have, therefore, been obliged to draft from the other regiments to complete those which are going, so that when the whole are embarked, there will be scarce two thousand men remaining in Ireland, and as many in England, besides the Foot Guards and Cavalry.

I am well assured that the French Government will wink at the exportation of arms and ammunition. A General of the first abilities and experience, would go over, if he could have any assurance from the Congress of keeping his rank; but, that being very high, he would not submit to have any one but an American his superior, and that only in consideration of the confidence due to an American, in a question so peculiarly American.

Let me have your opinion of all these things. The opposition gains ground, and the nation begins to feel; but, America must trust to her own arm, and Heaven for protection. The Resolutions of January 2d do you infinite honour, and will undoubtedly serve the cause. Your conduct, I trust, will be noble, as that is great and good. I know your attachment to the country you have adopted. Prince Ferdinand' s recommendation of the General mentioned above, is in these words: "Si l' on veut un officier aprouve intelligent, et brave; je ne scai si non peut trouver un autre qui le vaille." ["As to experience, intelligence, and valour, I do not know whether another can be found to equal him."]

Your letter of the, 30th of November, 1775, cost nineteen


shillings and six-pence postage, there was so much superfluous paper; would not a packet sent to some o the Canary Islands, and committed to proper care, reach us safest and soonest? If there is any friend there to be trusted, the opportunities from thence, hither, are frequent. Cover mine, and address it to John Horsfall, Esq˙, Treasurer, Middle-Temple.

Lieutenant-Governour Colden, New-York.

February 13, 1776,