James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Henry Lee, 23 September 1794

From Henry Lee

Alexa. sepr. 23d. 94.

My dear sir

I hear with real joy that you have joined the happy circle & that too in the happiest manner. To your lady present my most respectful congratulations. She will soften I hope some of your political asperitys. The day which blessed you cursed me. I left my family to join the troops destined to restore order in Pensylvania.1 What a cursed event, who could have supposed such a disaster possible in this day of reason, among a people of reason. Surely these things must influence our political leaders to harmonize more than they have lately done & to regard as a solemn truth that tolerable happiness to a nation had better be preserved than risked in pursuit of greater felicity. We are more than tolerably happy & we ought to be content. Whatever may be my difficultys or whatever my fate I sincerely wish you & your better half every good which mortality permits. Farewel

Henry Lee

Present me to my friend & relation Mr W & ask him if he received a long letter written by me from Norfolk.

RC (DLC). Docketed by JM.

1The Whiskey Insurrection broke out in July. As governor of Virginia, Lee led the militia of his state, as did the governors of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Maryland, against the excise resisters in western Pennsylvania. On 20 Oct. Washington appointed Lee commander of the combined military force. A Federalist who had temporarily cooperated with Republicans in opposing Hamilton’s financial policies, Lee had already broken with his erstwhile colleagues by supporting Washington’s Neutrality Proclamation. His role in the Whiskey Insurrection completed his rapprochement with the Federalists. During his absence the Virginia House of Delegates declared the governorship vacant, and the General Assembly elected Republican Robert Brooke to succeed him (Charles Royster, Light-Horse Harry Lee and the Legacy of the American Revolution [New York, 1981], pp. 130–37, 140–41; Leland D. Baldwin, Whiskey Rebels: The Story of a Frontier Uprising [rev. ed.; Pittsburgh, 1968], p. 229; JM to Jefferson, 24 Nov. 1793, and n. 1; Risjord, Chesapeake Politics, pp. 447–48).

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