8 An American Archive: The Henry Lee Lletters

Henry Lee IV letters
24 pages total.
1st letter, 2 pages, folded and written on both sides, dated March 4th , 1826, 15 ó by 9 . inches 2nd letter, 2 pages, folded and written on both sides, dated May 10th, 1826, 15 ó by 12 . inches 3rd letter, 2 pages, folded and written on both sides, dated May 24th, 1826, 15 ó by 9 . inches
No discernable watermarks on letter No. 1 or No. 3. Second letter has JOHN BUTLER on both sheets. All three letters are folded with a postal panel and address, seal marks with cancellation. The letters are transcribed as follows…

First Letter
To H. T. Garnett, Esq
Mattox Bridge P.O. VA

Dear Sir
I have rec’ed Your letter of the 6th and mine must have been defective if it does not tell you I had shewn your letter to the PMG. He read it in my presence, said it was a very good letter & it is on file. It is impossible to induce him now to declare who he will appoint. If such had been his practice the appointments would have been promised long before you applied. There are now about 200 applications & it is not probable more than 6 vacancies will be created, & for … it is for the late candidates, that the PMG took the fair & prudent course of declining to pronounce in any case. Clinton, Clay & all the prominent men have friends among the candidates, and I have now to … a letter from Rt Hon. Goldsborough, formerly a distinguished Senator from Maryland in favour of his son, in which I shall tell him there is no earthly chance. Another reason which keeps Mr McLean from promising is that he cant perform; unless confess will permit him & he does not think it decorous or dignified to make such … promises. You may best assured that the moment the appointments are provided for by law I will press your claim & inform you of the result instantly. It will hardly … be agreeable to the family at Montross or their friends to have me in the neighborhood at the time of the wedding & … therefore risk the loss of … rather there go down, or I think there by … a nother to Miss McCarty. It will be very injurious to me if under those circumstances … have to press the trial at this court, should I not after his wedding which I am told is to the last of this month, But I will run the risk- for I hardly think there can be found in the world more unde… & ferocious pursuers of self, than my uncle & father in law which Storke will be if after making Betsey his wife he should continue her unnecessary & indecent exposure. By the next mail I shall said down blank notices to Triplett to be … on him, if you cannot learn after his marriage positively that he wishes a private settlement of the case I need you a paper continuing a … I near provoked to write against Johnson. I wish to God I could get the suit to …. without … to … it, as to enable me to defer going down until June when the fish & crabs can be both caught & eaten. Is Weeks to be at the wedding. I know little of Storke & nothing against him. I hope after Betsey is married & goes to Pokes Creek, I may be allowed over to Lee … Mrs Stone. In fact I should like to make up with Uncle R. Passee Stuart Aunt …& all of them, & then to have nothing more to do or say with the concern.
Yours Truly,
H. Lee
14th March 1826
Mrs. Lee is more & more sick & … mostly confined to her bed. The remedy the … mercury & bleeding is in fact a … …

Second Letter
To Henry T. Garnett, Esq
Mattox Bridge P.O. VA
Dear Sir,
I am so involved in private perplexities & public business that I have hardly a moment to express my thanks for your obliging letter & my esteem of the interests under which it was written. It grieves me to confess that I was so unmanly as to be a little hurt by your silence- as I have rec’d such unkindness in your neighborhood that I am too prone to apprehend a continuance of it. This must be my excuse. In regard to the other subject, however reluctant I feel to involve you in the pain of contemplating so noxious and lamentable an object, I will venture to say that I am perfectly …ible that it wo’d be both disgraceful and ungenerous in me to suffer any kind of provocation to induce me to add to the misfortunes of Miss McCarty. This is one of the pocket convictions which I carry constantly on my mind. It is one of the richest results of our tragic catastrophe- one of the golden experiences ejected by the volcano which disoluted all our feelings. I have endeavored always to act under its influence and on every proper occasion I have said & done every thing I could to mitigate the amnity of her fate. I know it has been represented otherwise- but this is the truth. I am not conscious of having deviated from this principle at Mrs Nelson’s(?). But I may have done so- for the atmosphere of Mattox is loaded with the …mony of the wrongs I have suffered & am suffering & I never can preserve my equilibrium when I plunge into it. If I did deviate on that occasion, I am sorry for it not only on her acc’t but on my own- on account of manhood & compassion. I regret & recant it whatever it was. You can tell me whether I did. But there is another side of the question which carries us at once to the subject of the reference. My sole object in desiring the admission of those 2 immaterial items- was to save her further exposure. I can get the proof of them any day- but I must find a notice? to … & Boston? with the two memorable names of Elizabeth McCarty & Henry Lee- that connection is not yet familiar to the street walkers of Boston. It is from this very consideration for her reputation that it seems I am accused of which wanting, that I solicit the admission … than the proof, that the … was special & that new …ness was made & if Sire it in any other way (which I cannot if I wished) this letter would at once … me. Having exhausted every means of producing a reference of there acct’s years ago I cannot conceive how I can be expected to do anything more. This is what I have done. In 1821 I offered publickly in court to have the accounts settled by Mr J. Campbell alone their own attorney. This was assnd to Mr G. Then said the responsibility was too great for our man & associated by comment Mr. Fox & Mr Hipkins with him. He soon after wrote me a letter saying that he must insist on all intercourse ceasing between us. Mr. Fox & Mr. Hipkins settled the acct between & after giving him notice & they were authorized by me to inform him that he might look it over & strike out any charges in my favor he excepted to. Instead of doing this he strenuously excepted to its being admitted to record. Although he principally induced me to undertake the pr… xinship and by promising to settle up my account for me every year & confessed in court that he was to blame for its not having been annually settledas I had often applied to him to settle it annually. About this time though they transferred the account by suit to the Chancery Court of …. My next effort was to induce Mrs. Lee as soon as her sister came of age in Nov 1821 I think, to re prevent to her the unnecessary pain, exposure, trouble, & extremes which a continuance of the suit w’d occasion to all three of us and to ask her to withdraw the suit & refer the accts for settlement to any honest d…ted men she pleased. This proposition was rejected & as I was told in this manner “the chancery court will do justice.” Since I have instructed Mrs. Lee & she wanted no instructions, never to condescend to mention or listen to the subject. My next effort was the Bowling green lawn promise, where it was asked? That if I would dismiss my suits against Stuart- this suit sh’d be settled by referee. I did … & in the winter following while I was in Phile they determined to prosecute the suit. And during all this time I have had to … know the weight which this odious suit is calculated to the shoulders of Robinson Stuart Nancy Stone & such other Christians as ever by plundering private character. Particularly where it has been wounded. All this cause her dissposition given as in c… how of st.. a …ne of falsehoods in Stuart’s & insinuating charges against me that wd damn the character of a saint or a Cato (if true). Under these circumstances- where through a period of 4 years & a perpetual storm of thunder my flag of truce has been flying unheeded or scorned; do you think I ought to make another proposition. If you really think so you may do it for me & name any referee you please. I know I ought to save her reputation & property & comfort as much as I can- but I ought not in so doing still for them to disgrace myself.
Yrs truly,
H Lee
10 May 1826

Third Letter
To Henry T. Garnett, Esq
Mattox Bridge P.O. VA

Dear Sir,
Since the day of my last letter I have been mostly confined to my bed with an attack of influenza which determined itself upon my …x, and …x with a violence and …x, of which, before I had no idea that such a disorder … afforded an example. I am now convalescent … a relapse pernicious to which I nec … little & had an interview with the P.M.G on its …. I recommended your asis- upon the ground of superior condition and capacity33 and eventho that it was due to the dept & to those already engaged in the public service that … should be related not on account of their indifference & incapacity to obtain a living by their labour, but that the greatest …x of … & ability should be purchased with the public money the market would afford. My remarks made an impression I know on him, lest he is the most prudent & conscientious man I ever knew & he will not act without great deliberation. If he remains in the dept (I have … fear that he will go upon the bench of the Supreme Ct.) There will be 5 or 6 added clerks employed at about 1000 dollars each & I think if you will prevail on Taliaferro & Garnett (who is now able to do something) and any other friends you may have to meet with me, you may succeed. What you do must be done instantly. There are at least 250 applications before yours. The P.M.G told me not to give you any encouragement, but he is conscious of the strong impression your claim made on him. I encourage you to push it. It will not hurt you for it to be known that you made a good …. As to my affairs in …, they go to adversely to my interests and wishes that I have determined to laugh at their … & at those who continue its course. If Betsey chooses to exhibit herself & me like two cats tied by the tails & … xx to scratch each other “to make the fur fly” as Hampton …, for the amusement of the … Robinson & the … Stuart & above all, the righteous Nancy Stone & for the edification & refinement of the neighbors, why she must have her own way & express her own humor & I must take as good care of my flanks & belly as I can. If Mr. Jett finds it as agreeable, employment for the stricken … of his latter days to inspire my property and … my feelings I must assure myself by reflecting that the thoughts which have prompted him and yet whenever he approaches the shore for nourishment or rest is exposed to new wounds & fresh torments. They will not let me remove from Westmoreland and deprive me of all manner of being in comfort there. Hoping to hear from you, I remain Yrs Truly
H. Lee
May 1826

I spent many hours trying to find the connection to the Garnett family to no avail. The PMG mentioned is Richard McLean, who was Post Master General from December 9, 1823, to March 7, 1829. Afterwards he was appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court. The dates of the letters are just weeks before Henry Lee began corresponding with Andrew Jackson and his reconciliation with his wif Ann. The letters were original and not copies kept for personal records. They didn’t have envelopes but they were folded careful, sealed and franked in the manner of letters before envelopes. This actually had the effect of proving that they were sent to Garnett, so how did the letters end up back with the Lee family, and why did they join the Lee Indenture in their path to the Truesdell archive? It is still a mystery.

1 Response to 8 An American Archive: The Henry Lee Lletters

  1. leefamilydigitalarchive – Stratford, VA – The Lee Family Digital Archive is an online repository documenting the Lee family of Virginia. The editor of the LFDA is Dr. Colin Woodward, a historian of the South and published scholar. The site, which is free and open to the public, is located at www.leefamilyarchive.org. The LFDA contains thousands of letters, documents, books, legal papers, and references sources, covering more than 300 hundred years of Virginia and American history. The site is updated regularly and contains many items never before published. Please check us out on the web. Comments and suggestions are appreciated, and reference questions are promptly answered.
    leefamilydigitalarchive says:

    Thank you for posting these letters. At Stratford Hall, we are working on editing and transcribing online editions of Lee documents. We would love to add these to the website. Is it possible that you could send us scans of the original letters? Thanks!

    Colin Woodward, Editor, Lee Family Digital Archive

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