George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Henry Lee, Jr., 24 July 1788

From Henry Lee, Jr.

Norfolk [Conn.] July 24th [17]88.

My dear Genl

The misery of my situation in consequence of the continued ill health of Mrs Lee, has prevented me the gratification of congratulatin you on the auspicious prospect which the adoption of the new constitution presents to our country.1

Indeed I am now so inadequate from my temper of mind to execute a task so agreable, & on which I wish to say much, that I should have posponed the satisfaction, till I was more equal to a full expression of my feelings & opinions, had not my desire to introduce to your acquaintance Mr Livingston an officer in our late navy, my countryman & friend prevailed over other considerations.

It is needless for me to explain public characters to you, as your discerning eye has viewed them in the day of trial, with certainty and with justice—I will say nothing therefore on this score relative to Mr L., & content myself with recomending him to you as a gentleman of honor & worth—He is about to engage in a commercial scheme & is desirous of being made known to Mr Gardoqui, conceiving it probable such an acquaintance might eventually be advantageous to his designs.

With this view he takes the liberty of asking a letter from you, which solicitation I beg leave to advocate as far as your opinion of my judgement may warrant you to consider me.2

You will beleive me sir; when I assure you that no man feels more sensibly than I do, the delicacy of requesting civilitys of this nature, & that no motives of personal esteem could influence me to risk the introduction of any gentleman, of whose honor & merit, I was not thoroughly convicted—I am now on my way to N. York & Rhode island,3 in either of which places, should you have any commands, you will render me very happy by putting it in my power to manifest the unceasing respect & attachment which I unalterably possess for you. I have the honor to be dear Genl your most obt h. ser.

Henry Lee


1Matilda Lee became very ill in the summer of 1788 and continued in ill health until her death in childbirth in August 1790.

2Musco Livingston (d. 1798) of Essex County, the eldest son of Frances Musco and John Livingston, was a ship captain who went to France at the beginning of the Revolution and was commissioned a lieutenant in the navy of the United States on 27 July 1778. At this time, ten years later, he was using Norfolk as the base for his overseas trading ventures. No letter from GW in support of Livingston has been found, and no response to this particular letter from Lee has been found. On 27 July 1789 Lee recommended to GW that Livingston be appointed to “the office of Surveyor for the district of Norfolk & Portsmouth.”

3Lee was back in New York by 29 July when he attended Congress, a member of which he had been since 1785.

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