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1822. Jan: 1st.

From: H. Lee to Dr Mayo (fr: original)

Dr. Sir,

            Your letter of the 27th ultimo reached me last monday & those of the 4th. & 24th. inst. were recd: by the same mail, on thursday last. Pity they had not all been sent by the notorious & determined mail through Fredericksburg! We should have escaped reciprocally much uneasiness.

            When I last wrote to you I forbore giving you the quo modo in which your letter to Mrs. Rose, confided to Mrs. Lee, had been rejected. The result of your subsequent effort, as mentioned in yours of the 24th. renders the impropriety of further reservation on my part evident, & almost makes me repent that I had not been more minute & detailed at first. I now inclose you a copy of Mrs. Lee’s letter to Mrs. R. Mrs. R’s reply to Mrs. Lee, with an extract from Miss McCarty’s postscript to Mrs. Rose’s letter.

            I beg you to be assured that I withheld this particular information from a disinclination to repress the enthusiasm with which you appear to be animated in a manner so rude and harsh as I thought it would be. I considered that the substance of my letter wd be sufficient to stop your enterprise, unless it was cherished by the most generous adour, and that if it was it might yet be successful however great or unexpected the obstacle opposed to it, & I therefore ventured to intimate a mode of proceeding which appeared to me to afford some small chance of giving a prosperous turn to the affair. Your best attempt having failed, I own I can see no prospect of a better issue to the project, in whatever shape it might be prosecuted, as you will think doubtless when you read the inclosed correspondence. A violent and I fear inveterate access of puritanical bigotry has seized upon the family, which formerly had in part been exempt from this lamentable disorder. To such a state of exasperation has it reached since Mrs. Lee’s effort to convey your letter that her grandmother has since extended not the least notice or regard to her. Under this state of things Mrs. Lee is compelled to decline any further agency in the business, persuaded that her utmost perseverance wd result only in exposing herself to their greater & more unnatural resentment, you to their ridicule and aversion, & me to their furor and more implacable indignation. Of consequence she thinks proper not to open your letters, as it wd be an unavailing acquaintance with your sentiments on a subject she now supposes concluded.

            Deeply & forever shall I deplore this unfortunate & unaccountable catastrophe. What further if anything ever be done pray let me know.

                        “What reinforcement we may gain from hope,

                        “If not, what resolution from despair-”1

            For God’s sake do not add to this misfortune, the disappointment of not seeing you here. I shall expect you day after day and week after week. I have a letter from the Marquis of Hastings vindicating himself from the censure thrown on him in my father’s memoirs, as being in a great degree instrumental in the unjust trial and execution of Col. Hayne.2 I had a thought of consulting you on the possibility of making a profitable & pleasing publication of it

            Yrs. sincerely

                                    H. Lee


Source: The Archives of the Robert E. Lee Memorial Foundation, Papers of the Lee Family, Box 7, M2009.159

Transcribed by Caitlin Connelly, 2016 June 30


1. John Milton, Paradise Lost, Book 1, Lines 190-191.

2. Isaac Hayne (1745-1781) was a soldier in the American War of Independence and was one of the more prominent Americans to be executed by the British. In 1780 he was involved in the surrender of Charleston and was paroled on the condition that he never bear arms against the British as long as they held possession of the city. In 1781 he was required to sign an oath of allegiance but was assured that he would not be asked to serve against his former compatriots. However, he was soon after called to join the British army, which he felt nullified the conditions of his parole and thus freed him to return to the Continental Army. Later in the year he was captured and executed despite being a prisoner of war, as it was decided that he had broken the terms of his parole.