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Josiah Quincy to General Washington



Braintree, February 19, 1776.

MAY IT PLEASE YOUR EXCELLENCY: Since the sudden and unexpected burning of the houses upon Dorchester Neck, I have been repeatedly and earnestly solicited, by my distressed friends and neighbours, to make an humble representation to your Excellency, that our habitations are equally exposed to be destroyed by our enemies, whenever their malice shall stimulate them to make us feel the effects of the unrelenting vengeance of the "Royal Brute of England." Could your Excellency have spared time to make us happy in a visit, and taken a view of this part of our harbour, you would have been immediately sensible of the ease with which an excursion may be made from the Castle, either upon Squantum-Neck or the Main, where, before a sufficient force could be collected to repel them, our enemies might rob us of our provision, burn our houses, murder or captivate the inhabitants who could not escape, and retreat again to the Castle, in less than an hour, as it is not distant more than a league. Your Excellency would also have seen two line-of-battle-ships, one frigate, and about fifteen large transports, which have been above six weeks past in Nantasket-Road, besides ten or a dozen armed cruisers which are constantly going out in pursuit of our privateers, or coming in with their captures, or expected transports, under their convoy.

If our Army should take post upon Dorchester-Neck, have we not reason to apprehend the shores will be attacked, from a spirit of revenge? Certainly, such a fleet can easily spare, and have boats enough to transport, four or five hundred men, who may (and when the irresistible impulses of hunger, or thirst for blood, inspires them with sufficient courage, I fear will) land and ravage along shore for miles, any force we have, at present, to oppose them, notwithstanding. Our circumstances are peculiarly unhappy, and in a very striking manner resemble the deplorable condition of those miserable wretches who, in the last war, inhabited our frontier settlements, where they were every moment exposed to the incursions of a savage and barbarous enemy; with this difference in their favour, that, from early life, they were familiar with want, and inured to hardships: whereas, if we should be reduced to the dreadful necessity of abandoning our habitations, our lands must lie uncultivated, our stocks of cattle and sheep must perish, for want of food and care, and, what will be an aggravation of our misery, we must fly for an asylum to our fellow-citizens, whose houses are already crowded with inhabitants who have fled lo them for refuge, and, having charitably supported their suffering brethren, are themselves become poor. Suffer not, therefore, such a misfortune to befall us, if it is in your Excellency' s power to prevent it.

I am not only earnestly entreated, but the prayers and tears of my most tender connexions constrain me, to implore your Excellency' s immediate protection. Where shall we (indeed, where can we) go for relief, but to you, sir? The whole force of the Continent is under your command, and at your disposal. Let us not, therefore, plead in vain for that help which is no where else to be found. We beseech you to grant us protection before it is too late, which we fear it will be, if not speedily granted. We are informed that some of the new-raised troops are destitute of barracks. There are barracks at Squantum sufficient for four or five hundred men. Such a guard, we hope, would securely defend us, especially if a number of boats were allowed them to parade in the Bay, when the weather will permit, as such a manosuvre would probably intimidate the enemy from landing, lest their retreat should be cut off; besides, the same boats would be ready, upon any sudden emergency, to transport them elsewhere.


As your Excellency can have no reason to doubt the truth of the foregoing representation of our distressed circumstances, we rest assured the benevolence of your disposition will cause them to be duly attended to.

That your Excellency' s success may be equal to the importance of the trust reposed in you, and your future fame in the annals of America equal to both, is the ardent and unalterable wish of your Excellency' s faithful servant,