J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Friday, September 19, 2014

Why Charles Lee Loved Dogs

Earlier this year I wrote about how John Adams was discovered to have written some indiscreet comments about Gen. Charles Lee: “you must love his Dogs if you love him, and forgive a Thousand Whims for the Sake of the Soldier and the Scholar.”

On 19 Sept 1775, Lee told Dr. Benjamin Rush his view of the situation:
I am much pleas’d that my laughing at Mr Adams's description of me in his intercepted Letter has met with approbation—but I cannot conceive how any man who has any share of understanding cou’d be offended at it.

I am called whimsical and a lover of Dogs. As to the former charge, I am heartily glad that it is my character, for untill the common rotine of mankind is somewhat mended I shall wish to remain and be thought eccentric—and when my honest quadruped Friends are equal’d by the bipeds in fidelity, gratitude, or even good sense I will promise to become as warm a philanthropist as Mr. Addison himself affected to be—to say the truth I think the strongest proof of a good heart is to love Dogs and dislike Mankind.

I know very well that it is hazarding a great deal to profess a dislike to mankind in general, but if you are generous, undesigning and public spirited yourself, you will naturally expect the same in others; and the frequent disappointments We meet with as naturally sours us against the whole species—it certainly appears paradoxical, but if you will examine history you will find all or almost all the Enthusiasts for general liberty had the reputation of being cynically dispos’d—now I chuse to construe a cynical disposition a love of Dogs, in preference to some other animals who are pleas’d to think their convenience, pleasures, and dignity were the only objects of the great Creator of all things.

So much for Dogs and myself.

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