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General Roberdeau' s Address to the Pennsylvania Associators at Amboy



The following Address of General Roberdeau to the Pennsylvania Associators at Amboy, is published by an order of the Convention of Pennsylvania, of August 19, 1776.

JOHN MORRIS, Jun˙, Secretary.

GENTLEMEN: As it hath pleased Providence, for the exercise of our patience, and for the defence of that freedom which we inherit from the great Giver of all things, to call us from our families to the field; and as I have the honour of being your General officer, I trust you will take it well in me to endeavour to point out to you whatever appears necessary, either for your own particular good, or the more noble object — the good of all.

It is our unavoidable lot to live in the day of trial; and, for my own part, as I am persuaded, from the haughty disposition of the English nabobs towards us, that a day of bloody separation must one time or other have happened; on that account, I say, I think it my duty to rejoice, and to reckon it among the number of my felicities in this world, that it hath happened at a time when I can bear my part therein. If we can leave peace and freedom to our children and posterity, we leave them a fortune more valuable than gold.

As to our present condition as soldiers in camp, I would advise you to reflect, that a young Army, so suddenly collected, and having everything to learn and to provide, will unavoidably be put to many inconveniences, especially at first. It is a new life to us all, and young beginners in every state must expect trouble; but as we have taken up the sword, so likewise must we take up the cross of a soldier, and go through the difficulties as well as the dangers of the field. Hardship is the soldier' s fate, and there is as much true honour in bearing it with a manly fortitude as in facing the cannon of an enemy. Patience under difficulties is one of the first virtues in a military character, and without which, no man, however brave, will ever be a soldier.

A number of complaints have been very justly made respecting the provision delivered out by the Commissaries, and I assure you that no care or duty has been or shall be wanting in me, in concurrence with my senior in command, General Mercer, to have the provisions good, and the quantities justly given out; yet, after all, we must not expect to have things about us with that order and economy with which we had them at home. In times like these, some sacrifice of conveniency must always be made to necessity.


And if any man among us is so lost to all sense of virtue in this important struggle for life, liberty, and property, and the conservation of them to posterity — who cannot, for a short time, put up with a soldier' s fare, that he may afford his country that service she calls for, and which is greater than, in all probability, will ever be in his power, through his whole life, to render again — such a man is beneath mine and every honest American' s respect or notice. Your reasonable complaints will be remedied, and until that can be accomplished, I recommend it to you to show your good sense by your good nature, and put up with things as well as your can.

But I find myself under the unpleasant necessity of taking notice of a dissatisfied spirit which, somehow or other, has crept in among some of us. Of your valour I have no doubt, and I warn you, as friends and fellow-soldiers, that you listen not to those (should there be such among us) who would stir up discontent and uneasiness. "Let us go home," has been the cry of some. What! my friends; turn your backs on your enemies in three or four weeks' time? Is it worth putting the Continent to the expense of equipping and marching a body of men for the service only for a few days, and half that time spent in going and coming? Besides, can you expect anything less than that the enemy will follow you to your homes, joined by a large body of Tories, that will flock to them the moment you leave this spot? "But we have wives and families," you will say, "and our business is at stake." The more reason, then, you have to stay. You are the very men whose duty it is not to go. Here is the spot to make your defence. If you have a mind to keep the enemy from ravaging your country, fight them on the sea-shore. If you would preserve your property and families in peace, then let not those who would destroy the one, and distress the other, set their foot upon your shores. And if any of you have wives, connexions, friends, or relations, who urge you to return, they may just as well invite the enemy to come along with you. There is no difference, in effect, between retreating and being defeated. Consider it well, gentlemen; think for your country' s good; look but across the water, and for your honour' s sake, never let it be said that an army of sixpenny soldiers, picked up from prisons and dungeons, freed from transportation, the whipping post, and the gallows, fighting in the worst of causes, and for the worst of Kings, bore the fatigue of war with stouter hearts than you.

That we have left a number of disaffected men behind us, who have contributed nothing or no just proportion to the service of the country which gave them bread, and which has raised them from poverty to plenty, is true, and too true; and that there are others who are meanly seeking to enrich themselves by your absence, is equally true; but let not their vices be our example. If they have failed in duty, it is no reason we should. And I have the pleasure of informing you, that the Convention has taken that matter under consideration, as appears by the following extract from their proceedings:

"In Convention, July 23.

"Whereas, the Associators of this State, on the requisition of the honourable Continental Congress, have freely and bravely gone into the field for the defence of the common liberties of America, while the Non-Associators remain at home in peace and security, without affording, by personal service or otherwise, that just and necessary assistance they owe to the State for their protection:

"Therefore, Resolved, That this Convention will take the most effectual measures to render the burden and expense of the inhabitants of this State just and equal."

I have now, gentlemen, to remind you of the condition on which you marched and engaged in the present service, which was, to continue therein "until the Flying-Camp of ten thousand men could be collected to relieve you, unless you should be sooner discharged by Congress."

These, gentlemen, are the express words. I have written to the Convention to hasten the completion of the Flying-Camp, and I need not point out to you the ruin and destruction that would follow were any of you to quit your station before you are relieved. The enemy, in that case, would be encouraged to attack, either those who were brave enough to remain, or the Army at New York, and perhaps a thousand of your brethren may fall for every hundred of you which at this time should withdraw from duty, a circumstance,


gentlemen, you would never through life be able to reconcile to your consciences, especially as it is possible that, by our formidable numbers and unanimous spirit, the enemy may be disheartened from attacking us.

I am desirous, gentlemen, of having the matter plainly understood among you all, and I should be deficient in duty both to you and the publick, were I to speak a language that might tend to amuse or deceive you. I have no interest distinct from yours to make my entreaties necessary; the cause is as much yours as mine; you have the same at stake which I have. I am ready at any time to go with you through every necessary difficulty or danger, and I expect from you the same disposition. Only consider the duty you owe to yourselves, to your families, and to your country, and you need no other inducements. When you forget these, which I think it impossible you should, every other will be in vain. And, as a necessary companion to your bravery, I would recommend to you, gentlemen, a strict observance of the discipline and duty of a soldier; a true spirit of liberty is a spirit of order; there can be no liberty preserved without order. The English Army derive all their strength from a close attention to discipline; with them, it supplies the want of virtue. In short, gentlemen, though our cause is the most noble that man ever fought to defend, yet bravery, without order, will not be sufficient for the work we have to do. As we abound in the first, let us add to it the advantages of the last; and with those united, under the smiles of Heaven, we have no reason to fear a glorious issue to our righteous cause.