Virginia Gunston-Hall Septr. 8th, 1789
Enclosed is a Letter for Majr. Pierce of Georgia which I beg the Favour of you to deliver to one of the Georgia Members of Congress, with a particular Request, that when he arrives in Georgia, if he does not see Majr. Pierce himself, he will be so obliging to forward it by some very safe Hand; as it contains Papers of Importance, respecting the Recovery of some Slaves—fraudulently carryed from Virginia.
At last May Term, I obtained a Judgment against Mr. William Lee, for the Sum of £2420..1..6 Virga. Curry. in York County Court; the Jury allowing me ten Per Ct. Per An: Damages upon the Bills he protested. Mr. Lee has obtained an Injunction in Chancery to stay Execution on the said Judgment, except as to the Sum of £1,156..13..0, being the Principal Debt he owed me, by his own Acct. without Damages, or Interest. He denys having ever protested my Bills, with some other Allegations, equally false; and has given me Notice that on the 21st Day of this Instant, September in the City of New York, at the House of Mrs. Bradford in Wall Street, he shall take the Depositions of the honble Richard Henry Lee; Mr. Arthur Lee, Ralph Izzard, and Samuel Witham Stockden. I must avail myself Sir, of your Friendship on this Occasion, and beg the Favour of you to attend the taking these Depositions, and that you will be so obliging [as] to put a few Queries to the Witnesses, on my Behalf. Judging from Mr. Lee's Injunction Bill, I have endeavour'd to guess at his Design in taking these Gentlemen's Depositions; and with these Ideas, I have inserted, on the other Side, the few Queries I wish to have put to the Witnesses, on my Part. I beg Pardon, for the Trouble I have taken the Liberty to give you, and shall esteem your good Offices in this Affair, as the highest Obligation on me.
I have a Letter from my Son John, dated in Bourdeaux the 17th of June last; in which he tells me, that the Debates in the Assembly of the States General at Paris still run very high, upon the Mode of voting; whether Per Capite, or by the respective Districts they represent; and as upon this in a great measure depends, whether the Influence of the Clergy & Nobles, or that of the People, shall preponderate, it is not likely to be soon decided. The third Estate (as hitherto called) have in their last Address to the King, taken a new Style, and called themselves "VOS COMMUNES" in which they tell him, in very spirited Terms, that they must insist upon the other two orders coming immediately to an Explanation, and determining upon what Principles they will go on with the public Business; otherwise they will proceed without them, and convince his Majesty that they speak the Language of the Nation. These People seem to have catched the Flame of American Freedom; and in protecting the Rights & Liberty of others; have learned to assert their own.
I have received much Satisfaction from the Amendments to the federal Constitution, which have lately passed the House of Representatives; I hope they will also pass the Senate. With two or three further Amendments—Such as confining the federal Judiciary to Admiralty & Maritime Jurisdiction, and to Subjects merely federal— fixing the Mode of Elections either in the Constitution itself (which I think wou'd be preferable) or securing the Regulation of them to the respective States—Requiring more than a bare Majority to make Navigation & Commercial Laws, and appointing a constitutional amenable Council to the President, & lodging with them most of the Executive Powers now vested in the Senate—I cou'd chearfully put my Hand & Heart to the new Government.
If you can make it convenient to spare a Day or two, on your Return from New York, I shall be very happy to see you at Gunston-Hall; and am, with great Regard, dear Sir, Your most obd. Servt.
Col. Richard Henry Lee, I understand, is to prove something about my returning to him & Mr. William Lee's orders on some of his Debtors in Virginia. Qrs.—Did not G Mason, at the time he return'd the sd. orders, mention to him (the Deponent) that he, G. Mason, had before drawn Bills of Exchange upon Mr. William Lee, for the Money the said William Lee owed him?
Did not he, the Depot. in or about January 1778, and about the same time that George Mason return'd him Mr. Wm. Lee's Orders, deliver to Geo: Mason, in the City of Williamsburg, a letter from Mr. Wm. Lee, covering Accts. of Sales of Tobacco ship'd him by Geo: Mason; and was not the said Letter transmitted him by Mr. Wm. Lee, from Nantes in France, by the State Sloop Congress Capt. Skinner? Did not he, the Dept. receive a Letter or Letters at the same time, from Mr. Wm. Lee dated in Nantes in October or Novemr. 1777? Or does he not know, or has good Cause to believe, that Mr. William Lee was in Nantes, when the said State Sloop Congress sailed from thence in or about October or November 1777.
Doctr. Arthur Lee, I understand, is to prove that a notary public, or some Officer or other Person in Paris applyed to him for Payment of a Bill of Exchange drawn by me on Mr. Wm. Lee; and Mr. Wm. Lee wou'd thence infer, that the Bill was never presented to him, but only to his Brother Doct. Authur Lee, by Mistake.
Qrs. When he was applyed to for payment of a Bill of Exchange drawn by Geo: Mason on Mr. Wm. Lee, did not the Person or Persons making such Application, tell him, that they had applyed for Payment thereof to Mr. William Lee, & that he had denyed he was the Person on whom the Bill was drawn, and referred them to him, the Depot. as the Person?
Or what did they say to him on the Subject? He will be pleased to declare the Particulars. Does the Depot. not know, or has cause to believe, that Mr. Wm. Lee was in Paris, or the Vicinity of Paris, at the time the said Bill was offered to him, the Deponent? And does he not know, or has good Cause to believe, that a Bill drawn by George Mason on Mr. William Lee was presented to the said William Lee for Payment? He will be pleased to declare all he knows respecting it.
Mr. Izzard & Mr. Stockden, I presume, know nothing of the Transactions between Mr. Wm. Lee & G Mason, and are only called upon to prove that Mr. Wm. Lee was frequently employed in public Business, in Holland, Germany, &c. Whence he would have it inferred, that he was not in Paris, or the Neighbourhood, when the Bill drawn on him, by me, was protested there.
My Papers being at this time all in my Lawyer's Hands in Williamsburg, I am not able to ascertain here, the time of my Bill's being protested at Paris; and can therefore only express my Hopes, that these Gentlemen, for the Sake of Justice, will be as precise as they can, with Respect to the particular Times that Mr. Wm. Lee was absent from France, upon public Business, in Holland, Germany or elsewhere; that no improper Inference may arise from general Expressions.