Letter from [Richard Henderson or Benjamin Harrison?] to [John Penn or Thomas Burke?]
Henderson, Richard, 1735-1785; Harrison, Benjamin, ca. 1726-1791
Volume 14, Pages 266-268
JUDGE RICHARD HENDERSON (?) TO JOHN PENN (?).
Virginia, February 18th, 1779.
I began to conclude by your silence that some accident had detained you in Carolina, when your acceptable favour by Col. Meade came to hand, which would have been a sensible mortification to me, for two reasons, one that I most sincerely wish you may not meet with any of the disagreeable rubs of life, the other that I should be quite uninformed of the steps taken by Congress, which, at this critical period, is a matter of no small concern. I cannot for a moment contemplate the subject of our situation without painful anxieties and doubts which I never knew before. Our finances appear to me ruined beyond redemption, at least
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when they are in the hands of men a great majority of whom are totally incompetent to the subject; and some of those that are equal to it, are employed in cabal to forward schemes calculated to promote the interest of themselves, their friends, or the particular Countries from whence they came, and look on the grand American dispute as but a secondary cause. You say this Country may perhaps, by the enquiries you are making, be more enlightened than any other. I most sincerely wish it may, and that she may set an example to the other States by sending you a respectable Delegation, without which from all quarters we are undone. You may perhaps laugh at me for this, and for adding that we are in a worse situation now than we ever have been, yet this is really my opinion. The Enemy, grown wise by being so often baffled & disappointed in their schemes to the Eastward, are now bending their force to the Southward, where we are most vulnerable, and where in will be next to impossible to send a sufficient force to dislodge them, particularly in our dreadful situation as to finance. I know our Assembly will exert itself on this occasion, but of the people I have my doubts; they seem tired of the business of war, and will not, I am sure, be easily carried to the Southward, dreading the climate much more than the Enemy. You are right when you think I enjoy every kind of honour or respect shewn the General. I really do; I venerate his character and look only to him and Heaven for salvation; men will do for him what they will not for a Cabal that is now despised most heartily by all that know them or their transactions. The Resolutions of Congress respecting their Currency never got to my hands till a few days ago; the first will certainly introduce stock jobbing and all the evils attending it, and in my opinion occasion great confusion, but as this is at a distance it will not be seen by the bulk of mankind till felt. I probably shall be out of the scrape, as my days will be numbered before that period arrives.
Our enlistments go on but slowly; nothing less than 800 or 1,000 Dollars is demanded for eighteen months' service, and even at that exorbitant rate our quota of men will not be furnished; this being the case as well in other Countries as in ours, was it prudent by a publication of yours in the newspapers to cut off all prospect of negotiation? I do not mean that you should make a peace without the French; I would by no means act dishonorably
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by them, but why tell all the world that you will not negotiate without their permission. G. B., fallen as she is, is yet too stout to tell their natural Enemies that they may give peace and happiness to America. I vainly believe they would have offered it to us, but am certain they will not stoop so low as to do it thro' the French—no, not till the Tower of London falls on their heads. This being the Case, it behooves you to prepare for a twenty year's war' an arduous task, you will say, without men or money; yet, difficult as it is, you must undertake it; you must lay aside all temporary expedients, and form some regular system of defence that will bear you through to the end of the war. That Heaven may enlighten you to do this I fervently pray, without whose interposition I fear you will fail. Will you be so kind as to order the Evening Post
to be sent to me, and now and then when it contains any thing interesting inclose it yourself? This will be perhaps the only way that I can get them, for they are most commonly picked up by the way, and it will not be improper, as when I pay for papers I have a right to have them sent by post.
We have no news from the southward, nor any other quarter worth your notice.
The last resolutions respecting the two emissions that you have ordered out of circulation slipped me in my hurry, you'l therefore excuse me from introducing them now. I see this step will certainly give great discontent here, as very many of the poor people who live in the back country must lose their money or sell it to others at a great discount. There is but one Land office in the whole country, and that at Williamsburg; any man, therefore, who lives at 200 miles distance, that is possessed of no more than 200 Dollars, had better throw them in the fire than ride down twice, first to pay them into the office, and then to get his money; add to this its being done at a time when above half a million of pounds in these very emissions have paid—nay, are now paying out to the Militia in your service, and for provisions for your use; the sufferers will, I fear, ever look on it as a cheat. I see and hear discontents already, and am certain they will kindle into a flame, for every person knows that all your other emissions are alike counterfeited, and will therefore exert the same remedy, and perhaps refuse your money altogether. My paper being full, I can only add, Adien.
Additional Notes for Electronic Version:
Although the editors have suggested that Henderson wrote this letter to Penn, internal evidence indicates that it may have been a letter from Benjamin Harrison to Thomas Burke. Burke started a letter to Harrison in March that appears to be an answer to this letter.