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Statement in writing delivered by Mr. Purviance


The Committee met on Monday, April 22, 1776:

Present: William Lux, Chairman, William Buchanan, Andrew Buchanan, Thomas Harrison, C˙ Ridgely, (of William.) John Merryman, William Wilkinson, John Moale, John Smith, John Boyd, Isaac Grist, Thomas Gist, Darby Lux, James Calhoun, Walter Tolley, Jun˙, John E˙ Howard, George Risteau, James Gittings, J˙ Sterrett, Abraham Britton, Thomas Sellers, John Cradock, William Aisquith, George Lux, Secretary.

Mr˙ Samuel Purviance appeared, and delivered in his answer in writing, agreeable to his promise of Saturday, which, being read, is as follows:

"April 22, 1776.

"GENTLEMEN: Agreeable to my declaration to the Committee at the last meeting, the 20th instant, that I exculpated all the members of the Committee from any concern in the orders which I gave, as Chairman of the Committee, to Captain Samuel Smith on the 14th instant, I am now to inform you of the circumstances of that affair, and the reasons on which I ventured to give these orders.

"The despatches received from the Committee of Safety of Virginia, with a letter written by General Lee, and directed to me as Chairman of this Committee, I considered as sufficient reasons to justify the Committee in using their best endeavours to seize Govemour Eden, his Secretary, and Mr˙ Alexander Ross, should they or either of them be found attempting to escape from Annapolis, — a suspicion founded on the certain knowledge that Mr˙ Ross had gone from this town to Annapolis a few days before, and that it


was highly probable he would alarm Governour Eden with an account of the Secretary of State' s letter to him being seized and taken from him on his way up from Lord Dunmore. On considering those papers at my house on Sunday evening, it seemed to be the general opinion of the gentlemen there assembled, that if Captain Nicholson' s tender were here, it would be proper to despatch her with some men to Annapolis, to wait the orders of the Council of Safety. On Monday morning, I was informed that Captain James Nicholson was returned in his tender from Chester; on which I sent for him, and communicated to him the purport of the despatches received from the Council of Virginia, and General Lee' s letter, and told him the sentiments of the gentlemen who met at my house the evening before, that it would be proper to send his tender, with an officer and some men, to Annapolis, observing to him that if the Governour had made his escape from Annapolis, she would be the properest vessel to pursue after him, as she could both row and sail. Captain Nicholson agreeing with me in the propriety of the measure, consented to my request to get his boat ready for the purpose, and to send one of his officers in her. As I could not attend the Committee that day, I spoke to most of the gentlemen who had been at my house the evening before, and to General Buchanan, and told them I had spoken to Captain Nicholson for his tender, which they all approved of. I accordingly applied to Major Gist, to whom the despatches from Virginia had been shown, and obtained his consent to let Captain Samuel Smith, with a few men of his company, go in the tender to Annapolis. Captain Samuel Smith accordingly met me in the street just at dinner-time, and told me he was ready to go, and waited for orders. I had not thought, before, on the propriety of orders. The Committee was then broke up for dinner, and consequently I had no opportunity of consulting them immediately; and, for the sake of the secrecy which so important a business required, I thought it improper to communicate the matter to any others than the gentlemen who had seen the papers already, of whom three were gone to Annapolis to wait on the Council, Mr˙ William Buchanan had rode out of town, and Mr˙ William Lux and Mr˙ Harrison, with whom I had engaged to dine that day, were gone out of town. In these circumstances, I sat down, and, without the concurrence or advice of any person, I wrote very hastily those orders, which I delivered to Major Gist, and signed as Chairman of the Committee.

"I do candidly acknowledge to you I had my own doubts whether I was to consider General Lee' s letter, directed to me as Chairman of the Committee, as a private letter to myself, or as a letter to the Committee; yet the contents of it, together with the despatches received from the Council of Virginia, I considered as a sufficient call upon me, and every person well affected to the interests of America, to use the best endeavours to seize persons of whom there were such strong reasons to believe their being inimical.

"I hope, gentlemen, the circumstances I have mentioned, which are all strictly true, and the extreme importance of the occasion, will at least palliate my offence in taking what may be deemed by some a very rash step, but which the necessity of the case will justify me in to you and the publick.

"I am, gentlemen, your most humble servant,


"To the Committee of Observation for Baltimore County."

Resolved, That this Committee do highly disapprove of the Chairman' s conduct in presuming to act in any matter without their concurrence and approbation, especially in matters that evidently do not come within their jurisdiction; and with regard to the Instructions given to Captain Samuel Smith, upon a late pressing occasion, though the necessity of the case may be urged as an apology for them, yet this Committee, always willing to move in the strictest line of their duty, and desirous to preserve due subordination and order in the community, do totally disavow and disapprove of them, knowing that the power necessary in such cases is not vested in the Committee. But, nevertheless, we are fully persuaded that the Chairman, in issuing these orders, was actuated only by that uniform, warm, and zealous attachment to our distressed, and perhaps betrayed, country, which would otherwise have merited the thanks of every spirited friend of our invaded rights; and we trust this well-meant


excess, in so interesting a crisis, will find a more easy pardon with his vigilant countrymen than if he had been chargeable with a criminal neglect, or with a timidity still more dangerous and blameable.