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Proceedings of the Committee of Conference with General Washington


October 22, 1775.

The Members of the Conference met. Present as yesterday.

The Rules and Articles of the Continental Army were again considered.

Agreed, That it be recommended to the several Legislatures of the Colonies, or Conventions, to enact a law, or pass an ordinance, inflicting the following punishment upon such as harbour Deserters, knowing them to be such, viz: A fine upon all such offenders, not less than thirty nor more than fifty Dollars; and in case of inability to pay the fine, to be punished with whipping, not exceeding thirty-nine lashes for each offence. That any person who shall apprehend a Deserter, and bring him to the Regiment to which he belongs, upon a certificate thereof by the Colonel or commanding officer of such Regiment, shall be entitled to receive five Dollars, and all reasonable expenses, from the Continental Paymaster, which is to be deducted from the pay of such Soldier.

2. That all Commissioned Officers found guilty, by a General Court-Martial, of any fraud or embezzlement, shall


forfeit all his pay, be ipso facto cashiered, and deemed unfit for further service as an Officer.

That all Non-Commissioned Officers and Soldiers convicted, before a Regimental Court-Martial, of stealing, embezzling, or destroying Ammunition, Provisions, Tools, or any thing belonging to the publick stores, if a Non-Commissioned Officer, to be reduced to the ranks, punished with whipping, not less than fifteen nor more than thirty-nine lashes, at the discretion of the Court-Martial; if a private Soldier, with the same corporal punishment.

That it be recommended to the several Legislatures of the Colonies to empower the Commander-in-Chief, or the Officer commanding a detachment or an out-post, to administer an oath, and swear any person or persons to the truth of any information or intelligence, or any other matter relative to the publick service.

That in the punishment of cashiering a Commissioned Officer for cowardice or fraud, it he added that the crime, name, place of abode, and punishment of the delinquent, be published in the newspapers in and about the camp, and of that Colony from which the offender came or usually resides; after which, it shall be deemed scandalous in any Officer to associate with him.

That the Third Article of the Rules, &c˙, be amended by making the punishment refer to the Second instead of the First Article.

That the Fifth Article be amended by making the offence punishable with death, or otherwise, at the discretion of a General Court-Martial.

That the Eighth Article be amended to make deserters to the enemy, who may afterwards fall into our hands, punishable with death, or otherwise, at the discretion of a General Court-Martial.

That Articles Twenty and Twenty-One be amended by punishing the offences therein specified, in the following manner, viz: An Officer offending, to be cashiered and drummed out of the Army with infamy; a private Soldier, to be whipped not less than twenty nor more than thirty-nine lashes, according to the nature of the offence.

That the Seventeenth Article be amended by expressing the following punishment, viz: The Officer to be mulcted one month' s pay for the first offence, cashiered for the second; a Soldier to be closely confined seven days, on bread and water, for the first offence, for the second offence the same punishment, and a forfeiture of one week' s pay.

That the Twenty-Fifth Article be amended by leaving out the word immediately; and after the word death, substituting the words by any person on the spot.

That the Twenty-Ninth Article be amended by making the embezzlement of the stores therein mentioned punished as the like offence upon the stores mentioned in the Fifteenth Article of the Rules and Regulations of the Army.

That the Thirtieth Article be amended by making the offences punishable as the breach of the Twentieth and Twenty-First Articles, together with a forfeiture of all share of plunder taken from the enemy.

That the Fifty-Fifth Article be amended by expressing the punishment, viz: cashiering and mulcting of his pay.

That the Fifty-Seventh Article be amended so as to include all Surgeons and their Mates, and to make the offence of giving a false certificate of health punishable as a false certificate with respect to absence.

It appearing that both General and Special Orders are not duly obeyed,

Agreed, That it be recommended to the honourable Congress to form a new Article, by which Officers or Soldiers, wilfully or negligently disobeying such orders, be punished at the discretion of a Regimental Court-Martial when the offence is against a Regimental Order; by a General Court-Martial when the offence is against an order given from the Commander-in-Chief, or the commanding officer of any detachment or post, and such General Court-Martial can be had.

The Committee then proceeded to the consideration of such matters as have been mentioned in the General' s letters to the Congress, upon which no order has been made; and

1st. What steps are necessary to be pursued with regard to Doctor Church? If guilty, the Articles for the government of the Army point out a very inadequate punishment,


and to set him at liberty must be exceedingly dangerous?

Upon a discussion of all circumstances, it was agreed to refer Doctor Church, for trial and punishment, to the General Court of Massachusetts-Bay, but no procedure to be had hereupon until the pleasure of the Congress be known on the late application made by the General.

2d. What distinctions are necessary to be made between Vessels and Cargoes taken by the Armed Vessels in the pay of the Continent, and those taken by individuals? Should not the fitting out Privateers, by individuals, be done under some authority, and accidental captures subject to some regulations, to prevent piracies and other capital abuses which may arise?

Agreed, That the General Court ought, properly, to take cognizance of all Armed Vessels fitted out by individuals in this Province, and that commissions should be granted in such cases, or at least the captures made under some authority. That the captures made by Armed Vessels, in the pay of the Continent, be disposed of by the General, for the publick use, until the Continental Congress give further directions.

The Delegates then proposed to the consideration of the Members, what number of effective men it may be expected that the Colonies of New-Hampshire, Massachusetts-Bay, Connecticut, and Rhode-Island, could and would furnish by the 10th of March next, and on what terms?

The Massachusetts Gentlemen were of opinion that twenty thousand effective men might be raised in their Province, to serve the next campaign, if absolutely necessary, on the terms of the present Army, (viz: a coat, forty Shillings per month, one month' s wages being advanced,) and a greater number to come in on a special emergency.

The Connecticut Gentlemen were of opinion that eight thousand men may be raised in their Province for the next campaign, on the same terms as the present, viz: forty Shillings per month, and forty Shillings bounty.

The President of New-Hampshire Convention gave his opinion that his Colony could and would furnish three thousand men, for the next campaign, at the rate of forty Shillings per month, without a bounty, unless a bounty was given in the adjoining Colonies, in which case they would expect it.

The Governour of Rhode-Island gave his opinion that that Province could not go further than they have done this campaign, viz: to raise fifteen hundred men, and on the same terms.

Upon considering the additional instruction, it was unanimously agreed, that the number of Forces necessary for the Northern Department depended so much upon events, and particularly the success of the present expedition against Canada, that no probable calculation can be made at this time; therefore deferred.

It was then deliberated, what should be done with Tory property; how is it to be applied or treated? Some of the Tories have estates near the Camp at Cambridge, which have wood upon them, and other articles wanted for the Army; ought they to be meddled with?

Agreed, That the determination of this matter be referred to the Congress.

The General then proposed the following question:

Should there not be a reasonable price fixed upon Wood, Hay, and other articles wanted for the Army, to prevent imposition and extortion?

Agreed, That if it be indispensably necessary, such articles should be taken at a valuation, and that a regulation, corresponding herewith, be recommended to the General Court of this Province.

The Conference then broke up with the several Governours of Connecticut and Rhode-Island, the President of New-Hampshire, and the Council of Massachusetts-Bay; and the Delegates then proceeded to confer with the General on several other matters of general concern.

I do hereby certify, that the foregoing are Minutes of the Conference held pursuant to the instructions of the honourable Continental Congress to the Honourable Thomas Lynch, Doctor Benjamin Franklin, and Colonel Benjamin Harrison, appointed to confer with the General, the above Governours, the President of the Convention of New-Hampshire, and the Council of Massachusetts-Bay, on the


most effectual method of continuing, supporting, and regulating a Continental Army.

JOSEPH REED, Secretary.