Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Charles Lee, [before 10 December 1775]

From Charles Lee3

ALS: American Philosophical Society

[Before December 10, 17754]

Dear Sir,

I am very happy that my letter to Lord Thanet meets with your approbation. I send you here some crude notions of what ought be adopted.

1st  A solemn league and covenant defensive and offensive to be taken by every man in America, particularly by those in or near the Sea Port Towns; all those who refuse, to have their estates confiscated for the public use, and their persons remov’d to the interior par[t of] the Country with a small pension res[erved?] for their subsistance.5

2dly  New York to [be] well fortify’d and garrison’d or totally destroy’d.

3dly  No Regiments to be rais’d f[or any?] particular local purposes, but one general g[reat?] Continental Army adequate to evry purpose. South Carolina may be excepted from its distance and peculiar circumstances.

4thly.  The Regiments to be exchang’d those who are rais’d in one Province to serve in another rather than in their own, viz. the New Englanders in New York the N. Yorkers in New England and so on. This system will undoubtedly make ’em better Soldiers.

5thly.  A general Militia to be establishd and the regular Regiments to be formd by drafts from the Militia or their substitutes.

6thly.  A certain portion of lands to be [assign]ed to evry Soldier who serves one campaign [a d]ouble portion to him who serves two, and so on.

7thly.  A strong flying camp to be kept about Hampton Bay, another about Annapolis and Charles Town in S. Carolina to be well watch’d and guarded.6

8thly.  The greatest [pains?] to be taken and no expence to be spar’d in securing the Indians to our interest.

These measures may appear bold but I am sure they will be efficacious and decisive decision is the onset[?]7 of success. I wish I had time to write a longer letter, and I wish my pen was better to be more legible. I am, Dear Sir Yours most sincerley

Charles Lee

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

3This is the first extant letter from Lee to BF since what we assume was their initial meeting in London in 1768 (above, XV, 78, 93–4). After the Englishman came to America in 1773 he toured the country, made many friends among colonial leaders, devoted his pen to their cause, and quickly acquired the reputation of a military expert. He was proposed for the command in chief in 1775, and was the second major general commissioned as Washington’s subordinate. John R. Alden, General Charles Lee, Traitor or Patriot? (Baton Rouge, [1951]), chaps. iv-v; JCC, II, 97. BF had presumably renewed his acquaintance with Lee, as with Gates, during his recent visit to headquarters.

4In his letter of Dec. 10, the following document, Lee asks whether his “propositions” have reached BF; these are undoubtedly the eight listed here. Gates had forwarded to BF Lee’s letter to Lord Thanet, referred to in the first sentence, with his above, Nov. 7; and BF’s missing reply, which voiced his approbation, had reached Lee before he began this letter. Hence its most likely date is late November or the first days of December.

5Lee recapitulated the first, second, and seventh of his “crude notions” in a letter to Richard Henry Lee of Dec. 12, which here clarifies his meaning: the pensions were to be taken out of the confiscated estates. Lee Papers, I, 229.

6A flying camp was a mobile reserve with no fixed station. By Hampton Bay we assume Lee meant Hampton Roads. Charleston was attacked the following June, and Lee defended it.

7The word appears to be “onsent.”

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