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title:“George Mason to Richard Henry Lee”
authors:George Madison, George Mason
date written:1779-4-12

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last updated:Jan. 22, 2013, 8:19 a.m. UTC
retrieved:April 13, 2021, 10:23 a.m. UTC

Madison, George and George Mason. "Letter to Richard Henry Lee." The Papers of George Mason. Vol. 2. Ed. Robert A. Rutland. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1970. 497-99. Print.
Recipient's Copy, Mason Papers, College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, Va.

George Mason to Richard Henry Lee (April 12, 1779)

Gunston-Hall April 12th. 1779.
I am much obliged to you for the Letters you sent my Son George: he sailed last Week, for Cadiz, in a fine Sloop, mounting eight Carriages & ten Swivel Guns. His present Plan is to go from Cadiz, up the Streights, in some Neutral Bottom, with [a view to obtain a] Pass to Toulouse, or Marseills; & as he will probably not go to Nantes (at least for some considerable time) he will forward your Letter to yr. Son, ) post from Cadiz; unless some Vessel is going from thence to that Part of France. When I wrote to you this Sloop was intended for Holland; but her Destination was afterwards changed.
I observe by a late Publication, Congress expects Great Britain will carry into Execution her Threats of a predatory vindictive War. I have no Objection to the Fast they have recommended, these Solemnities, if properly observed, & not too often repeated, have a good Effect upon the Minds of the People; and if ever there was a national Cause in which the supreme Being cou'd be safely &confidently appealed to, ours is one; but at the same Time, no necessary Measure, on our Part, shou'd be omitted. I can not but think it wou'd have good Effects if a Manifesto was published upon the Occasion, and a particular Recommendation to the different States of the Union to cause exact Accounts and Valuations to be made of all the private Property which the British Forces shall wantonly destroy, or the Devastations they may make, contrary to the Practice & Custom of civilized Nations; that Compensation may be demanded, whenever a Negotiation shall take Place and if refused, that the Damage may be levi[ed] upon Great Britain by Duties upon whatever Trade sh[e may] at any time hereafter, carry on with the United States.
Being warned that her Mischief must one Day fall upon her own Head, may be a Means of restraining her; and at any Rate, it is a peice of Justice due to the Sufferers.
I see the Maryland Declaration, upon the Subject of Confederation, & their modest Claim to part of the back Lands, after skulking in the Dark for several Months, has at last made it's Appearance. It has confirm'd me in an Opinion I have long had, that the secret & true Cause of the great Opposition to Virginia's Title to her chartered Territory was the great Indian Purchase between the Obache & the Illionoise Rivers, made in the Year 1773 or 1774, in which Governor Johnston, & several of the leading Men in Maryland, are concerned with Ld. Dunmore, Governor Tryon, & many other Noblemen & Gentlemen of Great Britain. Do you observe the care Governor Johnston (for I dare say the Declaration is his Manufacture) has taken to save this Indian Purchase [?] In the explanatory articles which the Maryland Assembly require, before they will accede to the Confederation, after reserving the back Lands as a common Stock to the United States, is the following Exception "not granted to, surveyed for, or purchased by Individuals at the Commencement of the present War." Was Congress to declare that every Purchase of Lands heretofore made, or hereafter to be made of any Indian Nation, except by public Authority, and upon public Account shou'd be void, it wou'd, in my Opinion, be more effectual, upon this Subject, than all the Argument in the World. Had the British Ministry employed a Mansfield, or a Wedderburne to have managed the M[atte]r they cou'd not more effectually have pleased the Cause of Great Britain than this Declaration has. In the Year 1744 when the Canada Bill was passed by the British Parliament, the Bounds of that Province were extended so as to include the whole Country between the Ohio & the Mississippi Rivers; this being before the Rupture between Great Britain & her Colonies, the Parliament's Authority to pass such a Bill can not be impeached, upon any other G[ro]und than the Right of some of the old Colonies to that Country, by their Charters; aware of this, & to prevent giving too great an Alarm, a Clause of Exception was inserted, saving to any of the Colonies the Territory within their respective Charters; but the Declaration, denying the Right of any of the States by their Charters, if it proves any thing, proves that all that Country is part of the British Province of Canada; and unless the United States conquer Canada by Force of Arms, what Claim have we upon it? Or what Arguments cou'd we urge, in a Negotiation with Great Britain, for curtailing the Bounds of Canada, as setled by the Canada Bill; but that the Country they included was part of the Chartered Territory of the other Colonies at the time the said Bill passed; and the Consequences of suffering the Bounds of Canada to remain, in that extended Manner, surrounding great Part of the United States, are too obvious to mention.
We have no News here, except that Report says things are going badly to the Southward; but of the State of M[ilitary affairs] I presume Congress has authentic Accounts. It is highly probable that the Enemie's View is to trail our main Army, by a long & painful March, to the Southern Part of the United States; but I think we had better risque any thing that can happen there, than make such an Experiment.
I sincerely wish you Health & Happiness, and am, Dear Sir, Yr. affect. Friend & Servt.
G Mason

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