April 3, 1776

UnknownIn Philadelphia, the Continental Congress gave privateers permission to “by force of arms, attack, subdue, and take all ships and other vessels belonging to the inhabitants of Great Britain.”

Mercy Otis Warren, the sister of James Otis and future biographer of the Revolution, wrote the following to John Adams:  “The sudden departure of the plunderers of Boston and the removal of the Continental troops from Cambridge occasions a temporary calm in the eastern region; but if the storm should again burst upon this quarter, I fear we shall be too destitute of skillful navigators, to oppose its fury with success: though we have still a few left among us whose tried courage and experience has set danger at defiance.  You Sir, have felt too much for the distresses of the Massachusetts, to wonder at the concern of any individual of a Colony, already wasted by fire, sword, pestilence, and rapine. The first scene has been opened here, but time alone must determine when the tragedy will end. The danger which threatens from foreign invaders, with an concurrence of circumstances, that prevents the energy of colonial operations, and renders internal peace, precarious are too many for my pen to enumerate, and too obvious to a gentleman of your judgment and sagacity to make it necessary.  May the great guardian of the universe, who stoops to survey the rise of Empire, and beholds from his lofty throne the squabbles of the emmets of a day, inspire with vigour and unanimity the patriots of America. May he make the decision of the present contest, the establishment of virtue, liberty, and truth, fixed on too firm a basis to be undermined by future despots!  Do you think, Sir, sinse the spirits were hurled from the etherial regions, there was ever a more sudden reverse of hope and expectation, than that experienced by the miserable group—the unhappy wretches lately transported from Boston to Halifax? Surely they must “grin horribly, a ghastly smile,” if ever they recover from their first astonishment so far as to attempt to smile again.  Yet so pitiable is their condition, that it must excite the compassion of the hardest heart, more especially for their feeble connexions. Women, children, soldiers, sailors, governors, councellors, flatterers, statesmen, and pimps, huddled promiscuously, either into fishing boats, or Royal barks, which ever first offered the means of escape to the panic which struck multitudes.  It is not difficult to say how far they would compassionate us in a similar situation. We have had too many proofs of their inhumanity to be at any loss; but this is not our rule of action.  You may laugh if you please and those disposed to exalt in the triumph may even enjoy it, but I am not afraid to say I most sincerely pity them,—yet I may smile when I see some observations on the event.”

Meanwhile, George Washington wrote to General Benedict Arnold and told him that he was sending arms and men to him in Quebec in case the British were to turn there, but probably not enough of either.  “I have Dispatch’d two Company’s of Colonel Knox’s Regiment of Artillery to you from hence Two Mortars &c. as you will see at foot hereof if any thing else is wanting that Cannot be had in Canada & in my power to Send, they Shall be forwarded with all possible expedition upon my being informed thereof—the Chief part of the troops are marched from hence towards Newyork. I will Set off to morrow, if the enemy will not find us full employment & it is necessary you may expect a detachment from thence to your assistance—I am very Sorry that the Gentlemen of Newyork & other Officers Should think themselves neglected in the new arrangement—it is true that I reserved places in this Army for those Officers who went from hence under your Command—the Congress have Since informd me, that they woud be provided for, in the Army raisd for Canada. I was not acquainted with the Gentlemen who Complain, nor with their Circumstances, there is Little doubt but their merits will be rewarded in due time—I am very Sensible of the many difficulties you have had to encounter[.] Your Conduct under them, does you great honour—as General Thomas will take the burthen off your Shoulders, I hope you will Soon gather Strenght Sufficient to assist in finishing the important work you have with So much glory to yourself, & service to your Country hitherto Conducted—as I am informed that there is a Furnace Somwhere near you, Where Shells & Shot of any Size Can be Cast, I woud reccomend to General Thomas to have what quantity of each that May be wanting immediatly prepared, the roads are So very bad that it is impossible to Send you any great number of these necessary articles from hence, I have appointed Capt. Lamb who is Prisoner in Quebec to be Second Major in the Regiment of Artillery Commanded by Col. Henry Knox, the Gentlemen of this familly return you their Compliments and I remain yrs…”

Join us for Philadelphia’s best historical walking tours at Bow Tie Tours.  We now offer several vacation packages, including the Washington Tour and the Jefferson Tour, which anybody who loves history will enjoy.


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