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Extract of a Letter from New-York: On the state of affairs there



Soon after I received your letter, I sent for Colonel Sears, Mr˙ John Smith, and some others, whom I knew to be staunch, to spend an evening with me, that I might converse with them upon the subject. It would not do to show your letter, or even hint that I had received it; but an opportunity for introducing the subject soon offered. A Captain of my guard came and reported that the Committee of Safety had sent some persons to the main guard, who had no complaint lodged against them. I immediately sent to the Committee, and they sent a Sub-Committee to wait upon me. I asked them what charge they had to lay against the prisoners. They informed me, one was a Collector, who had not accounted for the money he had collected, and had abused their Congress; the others were in for different crimes. I told them that I could by no means consent to have free citizens subjected to trials by Court-Martial; they must try them by proper courts, if such there were; and if not, the offenders must run at large till necessity obliged them to constitute the proper courts. This opened the door for me, and I took advantage of it. The Sub-Committee thanked me for my care over the liberties of their fellow-citizens, and owned the necessity of taking up Government. Sears, Smith, &c˙, were strongly of that opinion, and all went home perfectly satisfied, and without suspecting the conversation was anything more than accidental.

The next day Greene and I were ordered to the jail, to see some prisoners of war. There I found some persons in for robbery, and one for murder. As I found I had good success in the beginning, I determined to keep on, and frequently took occasion to mention the great difficulty which must attend their present state; that it would be tyrannical to execute those persons without a trial; to try and execute them by process, in the name of a King with whom we were at war, would be absurd; and if neither of these methods were taken, they must, whether guilty or not, suffer perpetual imprisonment. The argument took effect; and even Tories themselves acknowledged it was best to take up Government till reconciliation should take place. This doctrine pleased me well; for I knew if Government was once assumed, upon whatever motives, they would find that the Rubicon was passed, and that they could never return to their ancient form.

I then, by the advice of my Privy Council, drew up a piece purporting to be a Petition to the Committee of Safety, to request leave from the Continental Congress to take up Government. This piece I enclose you; and though badly written, it steers so directly between Whigism and Toryism, that no person can tell whether it was drawn by a Whig or


Tory. My Privy Council Informed me that it had the desired effect. The Whigs were fond of it, because, if it took effect, their point was carried, and no retreat could ever take place; the Tories were fond of it, because it held up the damned reconciliation they were seeking after.

Being well informed of my success, I thought it time to sound our Colonel. I sent for him. We conversed freely upon the matter of taking up Government. He owned the necessity of it, and said it would be carried into execution, at all events, at the meeting of their Convention. He informed me that almost every person began to see the necessity; and that the instructions then drawing up for their Delegates mentioned nothing about effecting a reconciliation, but to protect and defend America. When I found him in the true way to happiness, I dismissed him and attacked others. To Tories, I painted the evils attending their present state; to Whigs, I held up the advantage of seizing the precious moment. I soon found my party increase with surprising rapidity.