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Address of the Committee of Safety to the Inhabitants of Pennsylvania


In Committee of Safety, Philadelphia, July 2, 1776.
To the Inhabitants of PENNSYLVANIA.

This Committee, too much occupied in the various and multiplied business of the department in which they are placed, have seldom troubled the publick with addresses; and, indeed, little occasion has been afforded for them, especially in justification of their own conduct, while general acquiescence in their authority prevailed, and entire confidence in their integrity and abilities remained; but they are not so blinded by self-love, or so lost in their own importance, as not to perceive lately that both confidence and authority are considerably shaken and impaired. Not resting on a foundation altogether popular, their existence has been beheld with jealousy, and, by an opposition formed on mistaken or unworthy principles, their conduct, in almost every branch of the publick service, has been traduced and vilified. In the honest discharge of duty they have been obliged to stand the unmerited reproaches of many individuals, as well as of some publick bodies. After accumulated mortifications, why they still continue to keep their seats ought to be accounted for, lest they be justly supposed insensible to the feelings of men of honour. But it is necessary, first, to state the transaction which has principally given rise to this address.

About the beginning of last month the Committee appointed Captain Samuel Davidson Commodore and Commander-in-Chief of the Naval Armament, equipped for the defence of the River Delaware. The motives to this appointment, at a board of thirteen members, when there was not one dissenting voice, were such as these:

1st. That during his continuance in the service as Captain of one of the armed boats, he was conspicuous among the officers for care and attention to his duty, and while he maintained a strict discipline, he had the address to conciliate the regard and affections of his crew, and always kept his boat well manned.

2d. That having, on the return of Captain Davidson from a short voyage, in which he was spared from the service of this Province to go into that of the Congress, and while perfect harmony yet existed between this Board and all its officers, and on a deliberate estimate of the comparative merits of each, given him, though a younger officer, the more important command of the floating battery, in which the same superior good conduct was observable, the Committee acted but consistently with themselves in elevating him to a still higher rank.

3d. A clamour having been formerly excited against a superior officer, because, as was said, he had not been of the fleet, and some of the officers having since declared they would yield ready obedience to any Commodore if taken from their own establishment, even though he should be the youngest among them, the present appointment, as it prevented the necessity of going out of the fleet, was considered rather as conciliatory than as administering cause of uneasiness and discontent. They were well aware of the obvious military maxim to which they had run counter, of advancing men according to seniority; but this maxim, though perhaps proper in old establishments where a long course of service in the lower classes are supposed to confer the necessary qualifications for the higher, may and ought occasionally to be dispensed with in the formation of new ones. Where there can be but a slender pretext for qualifications from this cause, merit is to be sought out and preferred wherever to be found, though ambition should be disappointed or delicacy offended. In many instances have the Congress departed from this supposed fundamental maxim, and their country has been benefited by it. The resistance of the officers of the armed boats to this appointment, and their indecent remonstrance, are well known; they were countenanced and supported by men whose decisions on publick questions influence, in some degree, the publick opinion. Mutiny was justified and abetted, and disobedience triumphed over authority. The Committee thought it their duty to adhere to the appointment they had made, the Conference of Committees interposed by the following Resolution, agreed to immediately before their dissolution:

"That it be recommended to the Committee of Safety of this Province to confine the command of Commodore Davidson to the ship of war and floating battery belonging to the


Province, and to issue no orders to the Captains or other officers of the row-galleys, fire-ships or fire-rafts, through the said Commodore, until the Convention meets; and that it be recommended to the Captains and other officers of the row-galleys, &c˙, to pay all due obedience to the Committee of Safety until that time, and until a new appointment shall take place."

The Board, astonished and surprised, would have remonstrated against it, not without hope that, on a fair and impartial state of the question, those who, from the nature of their appointment, could have nothing in view but the publick happiness, and who could not have been insensible of the benefit of good order and discipline, would have recalled this hasty determination, which may be so fatal to both, but the dissolution would not allow the necessary time.

The Committee doubt not the purity of the intention which produced this Resolution, and by which their power in so important a branch is so greatly mutilated, if not altogether destroyed. They well know the regard due to the representatives of the people, and are disposed to submit to the recommendation, though wounded and dishonoured by it. But they would have it understood that the continuance of many of their Board, under such circumstances, is of necessity, as no body of men can at present be appointed to supply their places, and as they perhaps may, fettered in their authority as they are, still render some small services to their country. They, however, think it incumbent on them to declare that many bad consequences may probably proceed from a divided command. Military authority is not of a nature to be participated, and when attempted, the greatest mischiefs commonly flow from it. Should this unfortunately prove so in our case, the Committee are not responsible; they have performed their duty, and look forward with pleasure to the short period of a few weeks which is to deprive them of the seats they have held, of late so much to the dissatisfaction of some men and uneasiness to themselves.

Extract from the Minutes: