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John Jay to Edward Rutledge



New York, July 6, 1776.

DEAR RUTLEDGE: Your friendly letter found me so engaged by plots, conspiracies, and chimeras dire, that, though I thanked you for it in my heart, I had not time to tell you so, either in person or by letter. Your ideas of men and things (to speak mathematically) run, for the most part, parallel with my own; and I wish Governour Tryon and the devil had not prevented my joining you on the occasion you mentioned. How long I may be detained here is uncertain; but I see little prospect of returning to you for a month or two yet to come. We have a Government, you know, to form; and God only knows what it will resemble. Our politicians, like some guests at a feast, are perplexed and undetermined which dish to prefer. Our affairs in Canada have lately become much the subject of animadversion; and the miscarriages in that country are, with little reserve, imputed to the inattention of the Congress. Indeed, there is reason to believe that certain military gentlemen who reaped no laurels there, are among the patrons of that doctrine. It is to me amazing that a strict inquiry has not been made into the behaviour of those under whose direction we have met with nothing but repeated losses in that country. Nor is the publick silent with respect to the inactivity of the fleet; and reports have gone abroad that the Admiral has refused to comply with the orders of Congress relative to the cannon taken at Providence. I' ll tell you a pretty story of Wooster. While he was smoking his pipe in the suburbs of Quebeck, he took it into his head that he might do wonders with a fire-ship; and, with an imagination warmed by the blaze of the enemy' s vessels, sent for a New York captain, who, it seems, understood the business of fire-ship building. Under the strongest injunctions of secrecy, he communicated to him the important plan, and ordered him to get the ship in readiness with all the despatch and privacy in his power, wisely observing, that if the enemy should get any intelligence of his design, they would carry their vessels out of the way of his fire-ship. The captain accordingly set about preparing the materials, &c˙, necessary for the exploit which was to heroize his General. Some short time after, Wooster was informed that the time for which the


York troops were inlisted would expire in a day or two. He issued orders for them to parade at a certain time and place, and informed them that he would then and there make a speech to them, and a Ciceronean speech it was.

"My lads," says he, "I find your time is almost out, and may be some of you think on going; but surely you won' t leave me now; you must try and stay a little longer Don' t think that I am laying here doing nothing. No, no; you shall see a fine sight soon. I am busy building a fire-ship; and as soon as she is ready, we' ll burn all their vessels up." Cetera desunt.

The York troops, allured by the promise of a feu de joie, staid, and were disappointed. Some renegade Frenchmen remembered the speech, and told it as a secret to Governour Carleton. The vessels were put out of harm' s way, and the Connecticut Alexander lost his passage in a fire-ship to the temple of fame.

My compliments to Messrs˙ Braxton, Lynch, and such others as I esteem, of which number rank yourself, my dear Ned, among the first.

Believe me to be sincerely yours,