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Letter from John Smith



March 15, 1776.

GENTLEMEN: I am once more obliged to apply for an enlargement, on some terms, or an alleviation of this, rigid confinement. An application before this from me, I am told, has not been laid before you. Mr˙ Dewees gave it to John Hancock, Esq˙, last month. I was hopeful that gentleman would have laid it before the Congress, and flatter myself he will still do me that favour. Painful as my present situation is, complaining is equally so; and as you must now be sufficiently acquainted with every circumstance of it, I would choose to avoid, repetitions. An imprisonment like this cannot be intended merely as a confinement; it is much more — it is a punishment, by its long continuance, of the severest kind, and greatly aggravated by want of health, air, and exercise. If meant as such, I would be exceedingly glad to know the crime alleged for the cause of it, as punishing a person without informing him for what, is very inadequate to its intention. In this light I cannot but view it, being deprived of the small liberties allowed to all prisoners whatever, even common soldiers. Mr˙ Cameron and I are now the only persons suffering in this cruel manner. What should render us so particularly and personally obnoxious, I for my own part, am greatly at a loss to guess; but I am now hopeful that the gentlemen of the Congress will consider this distressing situation, and, for the present, grant me the same indulgence as the other prisoners have. On these terms I will engage in the mean time not to correspond, unless with the approbation of some of the Committee, or in such manner as may be prescribed to, gentlemen, your obedient and very humble servant,


To the Gentlemen of the Congress.



* "Determined never to acknowledge or submit to the authority of the Congress, unless by compulsion, I was much at a loss in what manner, or for what purpose to address them; and I concluded only to request, that they would either render my confinement supportable, or order me to immediate execution, which I infinitely preferred to my present situation of being destroyed by inches. This I transmitted to them by the jailer, written with a pencil upon the back of a common playing card."