Autograph letter (retained copy) signed ("Charles Lee") , 3 pages on a bifolium (12 1/2 x 7 5/8 in.; 318 x 194 mm), Philadelphia, 15 March 1779, to William Henry Drayton (in the same city), docketed on verso "copied"; silked, a few ink smudges and small fold tears affecting one word, half of second leaf removed without loss.
Lee Papers vol. 4, in Collections of the New-York Historical Society for the year 1874 (1875), vol. 7, pp. 156-157
A fine and characteristically vituperative letter to his nemesis Drayton.
The hostility between General Lee (1731–1782) and Drayton (1742–1779) can be traced to June 1776 when Lee assumed command of the defense of Charleston and tactlessly scoffed at suggestions offered by Drayton for the fortification of the city. In December 1776 Drayton took the opportunity to criticize Lee's generalship in his charge to a jury, and Drayton showed enmity toward him during Congress' debate (July-August 1778) on the court-martial sentence arising from Lee's behavior at the battle of Monmouth.
The general begins: "As I have now settled all my affairs ... I take the liberty of addressing this letter to you, which is to close our correspondence for ever. Until very lately I was taught to consider you only as a fantastick pompous dramatis Persona, a mere Malvolio, never to be spoke or thought of but for the sake of laughter, and when the moment for laughter subsided, never to be spoke or thought of more. But I find I was mistaken, I find that you are as malignant a Scoundrel as you are universally allow'd to be a ridiculous and disgusting Coxcomb."
Drayton had unfortunately brought up Lee's court-martial, to which he responds: "You are pleas'd to say that I am legally disgraced, all I shall say in reply is, that I am able confidently to pronounce that every man of every rank in the whole Army, who was [pre]sent at the trial, every man out of the Army every man on the continent who has read the proceedings of the Court Martial (perhaps indeed I might except Mr. [John] Penn [1741–1788] and Doctor [Nathaniel] Scudder [1733–1781] of the Jerseys with a few others of about their size in understanding) is of opinion that the stigma is not on him on whom was passed but on those who pass'd this absurd iniquitous and preposterous sentence ..."
He goes on to remark that Congress is "disgrac'd by so foul a member as Mr. W.H. Drayton ..." and referring to Drayton's resistance to the Revolution after the Stamp Act Congress, commends the mercy of the American people "... that they did not long ago hang up you and every Advocate of the Stamp act, and do not flatter yourself that the present virtuous airs of Patriotism you give yourself ... will ever wash away the stain."
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