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Letter from William Ellery to Governour Cooke: Urges the appointment of an additional Delegate to Congress from Rhode-Island



Philadelphia, September 7, 1776.

SIR: As Mr˙ Hopkins expects that the post will get to Providence before him, he hath left with me the second and third of exchange drawn by Andrew Caldwell, Treasurer, upon Philip Moore, A˙ Mercer, J˙ Donaldson, and W˙Erskin, Esquires, owners of the privateers Congress and Chance, New-England, in favour of you and others, a committee for building the two frigates at Providence, for thirty-seven thousand five hundred Continental dollars, value received of Stephen Hopkins, Esquire; and hath requested me to transmit to you one of the bills by the post, and to keep the other. Agreeably to his request, I now enclose you the second of exchange — the first bill he hath with him — and wish it may go safe.

Mr˙ Hopkins tells me that he doth not propose to return to Congress until Spring, if ever. It is, therefore, necessary that an additional Delegate should be immediately appointed; for, otherwise, the State of Rhode-Island may be unrepresented, which might be attended with pernicious consequences to us. I may fall sick, and not be able to attend Congress when some matter may be brought upon the carpet which will immediately relate to our State; not to mention that if two Delegates were here, they might have an opportunity to relax, now and then, from that constant attention which, if one Delegate only should be continued here, he would be obliged to give, unless he should leave the State unrepresented in Congress, which I am determined not to do, let what will be the consequence; and a constant attendance on Congress for nine months, without any relaxation, is too much even for a robust constitution. Besides, it is necessary that motions should be made and supported; in which case, the advantage of having two on the same side is manifest. In causes of no great importance it is common to engage two lawyers; and the vulgar observation, that "two heads are better than one," is just. Can, then, the State of Rhode-Island hesitate about immediately appointing an additional Delegate? I am sure it cannot. I should be exceedingly glad that Governour Hopkins might return; for he is well acquainted with the mode of conducting business, and is well esteemed in Congress; and I have reason to think, from what hath passed, that we should act in concert and harmony. But if he should conclude not to return, it would be best that two should be immediately appointed; for matters of great consequence will be on the carpet. In the multitude of council is safety; and, in that case, the Delegates might alternately visit home, brace up their relaxed minds and bodies by a journey and enjoying their native air, and thereby be better able to discharge the duties of their office. There is nothing against our State appointing three Delegates but the expense; and if the amount of the allowance to the two Delegates, and their expenses for one year, be summed up, and compared with what would be the amount of the expense, to the State, of these Delegates, at five dollars per day, I believe the difference will be found to be but trifling. But if it should be something considerable, I am sure the benefits resulting to the State therefrom would compensate for any such additional expense. If a Confederacy should hereafter take place, a Council of State would doubtless be appointed, in which case, our State would have only one Delegate to support constantly. The other two, if three should be appointed, would be present only a small part of the year, when the Congress should sit.

Mr˙ Hopkins will acquaint you with the news, and the state of our armies, &c˙, so that I hope I shall be excused in not saying anything on those subjects. The same reason will excuse my not writing to the Assembly by this post. I wrote a letter to send by the last post, but, unluckily, the post had set out before my letter reached the office.

Congress have ordered one of our battalions to New-York, and its place to be supplied with a battalion of Militia


from Massachusetts. It was moved, at first, that both the battalions should be ordered thither. I opposed the motion to the best of my abilities, and think we have come off pretty well. I expect that if our affairs at New-York should take an ill turn, that the other battalion will be ordered from our State; for it is the sentiment of Congress that the Continental battalion should be drawn together, for that greater reliance is to be placed in them than in a Militia unaccustomed to discipline and the hardships of a camp; and, indeed, the liberties of this country, in my opinion, cannot be established but by a large standing army.

Heartily wishing success to our cause, and to you, sir, and your family, health and prosperity, I continue to be, with great respect, yours,


To Governour Cooke.