<br /> Lee Letter: n340_0569

Washington and Lee University

Sender: William Duer
Recipient: the New York Convention

Sir,

I should have done myself the honor of writing to you immediately after my
arrival, but have been so occupied by various business the whole Time I
have been here that I have not had time to write on the different
Matters relative to the State of New York and now before Congress.

I am extremely concerned to inform you that there is no prospect at present
of our obtaining a supply of Salt from the Continental magazines, there
being only 1200 Bushels in store at this place.

I have requested Mr. Robert Morris to inform me whenever any salt is to be
exposed to sale, and should the other Gentleman who represent our State
concur in opinion, I will employ a person to purchase, in Behalf of the
State, on the most reasonable Terms possible.

The Letter from the Convention relative to the Insurgents in the North
Eastern parts of the State transmitted to Mr. Lewis Morris before my
arrival, has been read in Congress; but as I expected daily the arrival
of Mr. Duane and Mr. Livingston, I thought it most prudent to get the
consideration postponed, to which Congress acceded.

The deputies from New Connecticut are now in town, and have presented to
Congress a memorial, a copy of which I shall do myself the honor to
transmit you in a day or two. I can by no means think that this attempt
to dismember our State will be countenanced by Congress, tho’, I am
sorry to say, that I can very easily perceive that Individuals from the
Eastern States mean to support Messrs. Allens in their extravagant
Pretensions. I flatter myself however, that with the Assistance of my
colleagues, I shall procure such Resolutions passed as will reprobate
their Proceedings and oblige the revolted Subjects to render a due
Obedience to the laws of the State.1

I am extremely sorry to inform you, that notwithstanding the Invasion which
threatens this city, a Langour prevails amongst the Inhabitants of
almost all Ranks. The Disputes about their constitution and a want of
vigilance & vigour in detecting and defeating the Designs of the
disaffected have given the Malignants a dangerous ascendency. The
depreciation of the Continental Money is astonishingly rapid, and I see
with Concern that no attempts are made to check so fatal a measure. You
will observe by the inclosed resolutions of Congress of the 14th &
15th April that they have been under the necessity of supplying an
executive authority in this State.2 By
the recess of the Supreme Executive Council there was an absolute
interregnum, and if Congress had not interposed, this State would have
fallen an easy prey to a very small body of the enemy’s army. It is to
be hoped however, that the authority now established will exert itself
with vigour, and that a little Quackery will save a powerful State,
which must have fallen a sacrafice to a speculative system of
politicks.

At the Request of Major General Schuyler, I transmit you Extracts of two
letters, which he has lately received from which you will learn with
Sorrow, that our Strength at Tyconderoga is totally inadequate to
resist any attempt of the Enemys army; at least it appears so to me,
notwithstanding the sanguine Expectations which Colonel Wayne
entertains that he should be able to maintain the Garrison, till
Succours could arrive.

By a Return sent to the General on the 1st of April, it appears that there
are only 685 men fit for Duty at that post, including 120 artificers,
& exclusive of 73 Matrosses fit for duty. The General does not
think that any Reinforcement has yet arrived there. I thought it my
duty to transmit this Intelligence, as the fate of our State is so
intimately connected with the preservation of that fortress.

The slow progress made in the reemiting business, notwithstanding the
favorable accounts which were at first circulated, has at length roused
Congress, and they have entered into sundry resolutions for compleating
the battalions, which I have the Honor to
transmit.3It is with pleasure that I
consider that the State to which I have the Honor to belong, has
pointed out to Congress the most eligible and effectual mode of
completing the army. Would to Heaven that the Spirit and activity which
has of late animated the Councils of the State of New York would
diffuse itself throughout the other States! A portion of their
Electrical fire is certainly wanting. Without it, should the enemy
receive a timely Reinforcement, and show the least Spirit of
Enterprise, our affairs must inevitably suffer.

I have the pleasure to assure the Convention that the State of New York
stands in very high point of light in the Eyes of the Continent, and
that General Washington in his public letters to Congress gives the
most honorable testimonials in its
Favor.4 These, Sir, are the happy
effects of our unanimity and vigour. May their influence continue to
pervade our councils. Whatever may be our fate, the leaders in public
measures in our State will then have the consolation to think that no
misfortunes which in the course of political events may happen, can be
justly imputed to them.

I have in my I lands about 21200 belonging to the State, which I beg to
know whether I shall remit or keep in Bank, in hopes of making a
purchase of salt. Whatever directions I may receive shall be faithfully
complied with.

Mr. Duane and Mr. Livingston who arrived here yesterday, desire me to
tender their respects to the Convention.

I have the honor to be, with every Sentiment of Esteem & Respect, Sir,
Your obedt. hble Servant,

Wm. Duer.

Notes:

Receiver’s copy, New York State Library, Albany. RC damaged; missing words
supplied from Tr.

Transcription, Library of Congress.

1 For a discussion of this issue, see William Whipple to Josiah Bartlett,
April 7, 1777, note 2.

2 The train of events leading up to the passage of these controversial
resolutions was set in motion on April 9 when Congress read a letter
from Gen. Israel Putnam predicting a new British advance on
Philadelphia. Congress gave a copy of this letter to the Pennsylvania
delegates for transmittal to the Pennsylvania Supreme Executive
Council and also appointed a committee of five to consider ways of
opposing the anticipated British attack. The committee reported on
April 10, and Congress then agreed to set up a military camp west of
the Delaware and to ask the executive council to send 3,000
Pennsylvania militiamen to it. JCC, 7: 246 – 47, 250 – 51; and Pa.
Archives, 1st ser. 5:300.

But Congress soon learned that the Pennsylvania state authorities were
temporarily unable to cope with the emergency. On April 11 Congress
appointed a committee consisting of Samuel Adams, Abraham Clark, and
Duer to confer with the Pennsylvania Board of War on how to prevent
“provisions” in Philadelphia from falling into the hands of the
enemy. The committee reported on the 14th that the state was in no
position to take effective measures to defend Pennsylvania because
the legislature was in adjournment and many members of the executive
council were absent. Consequently, Congress called upon Thomas
Wharton, president of the executive council, “to convene the
legislative and executive authorities of the State of Pensylvania” as
soon as possible and in the meantime appointed Duer Samuel Adams, and
Richard Henry Lee to confer with Wharton, various state officials and
the Pennsylvania delegates “concerning the mode of authority which
they shal; conceive most eligible to be exercised, during the recess
of the house of assembly and the council, in order that the same, if
approved of by Congress, may be immediately adopted.” Such a
conference was held on the 15th, and as a result Congress resolved on
the same day that as “the executive authority of the commonwealth of
Pensylvania is incapable of any exertion adequate to the present
crisis … the president of the supreme executive council of the
commonwealth of Pensylvania, together with as many members of the
said council as can be convened, the board of war, and, in such cases
as relate to the marine, the navy board of said State, should, in the
present critical exigency of affairs, exercise every authority to
promote the safety of the State, till such time as the legislative
and executive authorities of the commonwealth of Pensylvania can be
convened.” JCC, 7: 254, 263 – 64, 268 – 69; and Pa. Archives, 1st ser.
5: 311 – 12. These resolves were denounced by the radical party in
Pennsylvania as an unwarranted intrusion by Congress into state
affairs, and Duer, who was regarded as the moving spirit behind them,
became a particular object of radical criticism. Duer himself later
insisted that he had supported these resolves only because the
military situation at the time seemed to require them. See William
Duer’s Statement, March 9, 1779; and Robert L. Brunhouse, The Counter
Revolution in Pennsylvania, 1776 – 1790 (Philadelphia: Pennsylvania
Historical Commission, 1942), pp. 27 – 30.

The names of the Pennsylvania delegates and state officials who met with
the committee of Congress on April 15-information not available in
the journals- are listed in Pa. Archives, 1st ser. 5:311.
Furthermore, Worthington C. Ford, the first editor of the journals,
renders one part of the committee’s April 15 report to Congress as
“at the particular instance and request of the president [and] of the
supreme executive council,” when, in fact, as Burnett pointed out the
use of the bracketed conjunction is erroneous and misleading. See
JCC, 7:268; and Burnett, Letters, 2:332n.3.

3 See JCC, 7:261 – 63.

4 See, for instance, Washington, Writings (Fitzpatrick), 7:397.