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General Lee to New-York Congress


"New-York, March 6, 1776.

"SIR: I have just received an uncertified paper, the purport of which seems to imply that the men-of-war and Governour Tryon are to be supplied as formerly with provisions. Subsequently to this order of the Provincial Congress, the Continental Congress had instructed me to put the city in the best state of defence possible. I am so unfortunate as not to be able to discover how furnishing the enemy with the necessaries of life can contribute to this end. It certainly must open the means of their receiving every sort of intelligence which ought to be withheld from them; for I cannot myself conceive that the oath of the Port-Master should bind his boat' s crew. It is true they are to be restrained from going on board; but I defy human cunning to prevent, when they are. once alongside, the conveyance of a letter. I must entreat, sir, that the Congress will not suppose that I am aiming at an authority superior to theirs in thus giving my opinion, and raising objections to anything they have resolved. I respect them as the true representatives of the people and proper legislature of the Province; but, sir, the information I have received from Cambridge, and the orders I have received from the Continental


Congress, will justify me in most humbly entreating the Congress not to enjoin me to assent, so much against my conscience, to any intercourse of any kind with Mr˙ Tryon, who must be considered as a most dangerous enemy.

"There is one thing further I would submit to the wisdom of the Congress: Whether it will be prudent to suffer a single man, in our present circumstances, to remain in the city, who will not enter into an engagement to take up arms in defence of the common rights? I took the liberty to address a letter to you, hinting a measure somewhat related to this scheme, but was not honoured with an answer.

"I am, sir, with the greatest respect, your most obedient servant,


"To the President of the Provincial Congress at New-York.

"P˙ S. I have this instant received your favour relating to Mr˙ Gale, who was apprehended and conveyed into Connecticut. I agree, sir, entirely with you, that the apprehension, trial, and punishment of citizens, is not my province, but of the Provincial Congress. But, irregular as it was, I had the assurance of many respectable men that he was a most dangerous man, and ought not to be suffered to remain on Long-Island, where an enemy is perhaps more dangerous than in any other spot of America. However, their assurances and my opinion form no excuse; and I heartily repent that I did not refer him to you, his proper judges.

"I must now inform you, sir, that, in consequence of the last instructions from the Continental Congress, to put this city and its environs in a state of defence, I have ordered Colonel Ward, as a previous measure, to secure the whole body of professed Tones in Long-Island. When the enemy is at our door, forms must be dispensed with. My duty to you, to the Continental Congress, and to my own conscience, have dictated the necessity of the measure. If I have done wrong, (and I confess the irregularity,) I must submit myself to the shame of being reputed foolish, rash, and precipitate. I must undergo the censure of the publick; but I shall have the consciousness in my own breast, that the most pure motives of serving the publick cause, uncontaminated by pique or resentment to individuals, have urged me to the step.

"There is now a ruffian under guard, one John Gregg, who attempted to murder the sentinels on their posts the other night. I beg to know your pleasure on the subject. As to the affair of the sentries firing on the boats, I never heard till this moment that they had repeated a misdemeanour so contrary to the orders they had received. I can only say that I am very sorry that my orders have been so little respected, and that if I can find out the culprits, they shall be severely punished.

"I am, sir, with the greatest respect, your most obedient and humble servant,

C˙ L."