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Account of the Examination of Dr. Church


Account of the examination of Dr˙ BENJAMIN CHURCH, written while he was in Prison at CAMBRIDGE.

On Friday, October 27, the High Sheriff Howe, a messenger of the House of Representatives, at ten o' clock A˙M˙, came to my prison, accompanied by Adjutant-General Gates and the several officers of the guard, with a summons from the honourable House, commanding my immediate attendance at the bar of the House. I requested to be indulged with an opportunity to change my linen, which was indulged me, while the guard was parading, and the officer of my escort waited upon the General for his directions. By the time I had put myself in decent apparel, I received orders to proceed. I had procured, in this interim, a chaise from a friend, into which the messenger entered with me; in which manner we proceeded, in the centre of a guard of twenty men, with drum and fife, from my prison in Cambridge to Watertown, being three miles. When arrived at the Meeting-House in Watertown, where the Assembly then sat, the messenger of the House announced my arrival; upon which we received orders to tarry at the door till called for; after waiting a few minutes, the door-keeper, opening the door, directed the messenger to bring in the prisoner. I was then ushered into the House, mid advancing up to the bar, which was placed about midway of the broad, alley, I made my obeisance to the honourable Speaker of the House, James Warren, Esq˙, and to tho members of the honourable House of Representatives there assembled. The galleries, being opened upon this occasion, were thronged with a numerous collection of people of all ranks, to attend so novel and so important a trial.

The honourable Speaker then began, by informing me that the honourable House of Representatives having been informed that I, a member of that House, was put under arrest by his Excellency General Washington, and their jealousy for the privileges of the House having been excited thereby, they had appointed a Committee of the honourable House to wait upon and confer with his Excellency upon the subject; to which they had received the following answer. Here his Honour recited a letter from his Excellency General Washington, attested by his Secretary, the Hon˙ Joseph Reed, Esq˙, specifying, that at a meeting of a General Court-Martial, held at Cambridge, on October 3, present, his Excellency General George Washington, Esquire, President; all the Major-GeneraIs and Brigadier-Generals of the Army, and Adjutant-General Gates, Benjamin, Church, Esq˙, Director-General of the Hospital, was summoned before them; when a Court of Inquiry being held, it was their unanimous opinion, that said Benjamin Church was convicted of holding a criminal correspondence with the enemy, each member being questioned servatim upon the matter. After the Speaker had read the doings of the Court-Martial, the criminal letter, as deciphered by Mr˙ West, was produced and read to the House; upon which the honourable Speaker observed, "that the honourable House, from a regard to their own honour and reputation, and to express their abhorrance of such conduct in one of their members, had summoned me to the bar of that House, to make answer to the charges exhibited against me, and to proceed in such manner as to vindicate the reputation of the House." And then holding out the letter, demanded, "if that was a true copy of the letter I wrote in ciphers;" to which I replied, "May it please your Honour and the honourable House, although I am a member of this honourablo House, or have been, and have sustained some little part in the struggles of this very respectable body for several months past, yet in the matter now before them, a matter in which I hold some capital consideration, I profess myself to be totally unacquainted respecting the general design, mode of process, and the issue. If I might entreat the indulgence of the honourable House, I would inform them about a month since I was taken by an armed force, and have been confined a close prisoner for twenty-eight days; secluded by my stern jailors from the cheering eye and consoling tongue of friend and acquaintance, unless by a special license from Head-Quarters, which has been sparingly granted; and never indulged with the aid and advice of counsel learned in the law; six days retained in the most rigorous confinement. I was then led before a General Court-Martial, attended by my guards; after a scrutiny, novel and undecisive, which I then apprehended to be a trial, I was remanded back to my prison; but; at my request, and the indulgence of the General, attended only by the officers of the guard. There I have been held in the most cruel imprisonment, at the point of the bayonet, ever since. This morning, may it please your Honours, at the hour of ten o' clock, without any previous intimation of such a design, without any expectation of such an event, I am summoned, ex improviso and immediately, to the bar of this honourable House. Bowed to the dust by infirmity produced by distress, harassed and sickening with painful suspense, aggravated vexations, rigorous imprisonment, and a load of sorrows no longer supportable, am I called upon to make my defence. Though in a situation to wound the bosom of compasaion, and from the eye of humanity to steal a tear, relying on conscious integrity, that trial I wish not to evade: only let me be determined, Sir, whether the jurisdiction of this House extends to the whole, enormity of the transaction of which I stand, accused; whether, may it please your Honour, this trial shall be final and decisive." To which his Honour the Speaker made answer, "that the honourable House had determined to examine this matter no further than as it related to a member of that House." To which I rejoined, "sorry am I, Sir, that my plea for justice cannot be heard: I have been led from Caiaphas to Herod, and from Herod to Pontius Pilate. To what tribunal, shall I make my final appeal? The House will pardon me; but while they appear so tremblingly alive to preserve their reputation unsullied, they should not forget the sinister influence such precipitation will have at the future trial of perhaps an innocent man; my cause will be pre-judged, and my guilt ascertained by the sanction of this important body, before due inquisition is made. I did hear. Sir, that this House had determined on my expulsion; I immediately transmitted to your Honour a formal resignation of my seat as a member of this House, in some measure to prevent the ill consequences winch their censure might produce hereafter. This honourable House may possibly remember, when Mr˙ Wilkes was arraigned, in the language of Lord Chatham, for ‘blaspheming his God, and libelling his King,’ the House of Commons, of which he was then a member, did not evidence a premature distress lest their immaculate honours should be tainted; their generous humanity induced them to take no cognizance of the fact, till by due process of law he was condemned to exile. After which, they expelled him the House." The Honourable Major Hawley then moved, that the honourable Speaker would put the question to me, whether the letter then read was a true copy of the letter I wrote in ciphers. I replied, it was not an exact copy. Major Hawley then urged, that perhaps there was some trifling literal variations, which made no material difference, but requested that I might be asked whether the letter then read did not contain the true meaning and import of my letter in general. The question was put by the Speaker, to which I answered as follows; "I perceive the honourable House, influenced by a partial purpose, are determined upon an immediate trial. The honourable gentleman from Northampton perfectly mistakes me if he supposes I mean, through chicane or evasion, to interrupt your inquisition; confirmed in assured innocence, I stand prepared for your keenest searchings. I now first learn, may it please your Honours, of my being convicted by a General Court-Martial of a criminal, correspondence with the enemy; what leads to such a conviction is perfectly unknown to me; and I presume it is something singular that I should be first acquainted with the judgment of that Court in my attendance upon this. It has been frequently objected to us by our adversaries, that we were struggling to establish a tyranny much more intolerable than that we meant to oppose. Shall we justify the prediction of our enemies? Will it be for the honour or interest of the community that one of your friends and partisans is reduced to deprecate that power which, by his constant exertions, he has been in some measure instrumental in supporting? You profess you are contending for the rights and liberties of British subjects. Why then deny appeal to common law? Am I impertinent in claiming the rights of Magna Charta and Bill of Rights? Have I no title to a trial by jurors, or the benefit of the Habeas Corpus Act? But if by a forced construction I am deemed amenable to martial law for matters transacted before my appointment to the hospital, and before the promulgation of those laws, why are the rules and articles framed by the Continental Congress, for the government of the Army, violated in every letter, to accumulate distresses upon me?

"I have suffered already the utmost penalty annexed to the breach of that law, for which I now stand committed. Am I to be the victim of the insatiable rage of my enemies? Am I perpetually to be subjected to the successive pains and penalties of every capricious power? It is a maxim in that Government which I claim as my inheritance. Sir, and for which you have expressed the highest veneration, ‘Misera equidem est servitus ub; jus est vagum et incertum.’ Miserable indeed is that state of slavery where the right of the subject is vague and uncertain. But I will not engross the time of this honourable Court. I did say, Sir, the letter, as now read, is not a literal construction of that I wrote in ciphers, as far as my memory serves, for the letter was written in great haste. I never have been favoured with a copy since, to consider of it, and have never seen it till to-day, except the very cursory reading I gave it when before tho General Court-Martial, at which time the perturbation of mind incidental to such a situation naturally prevented such a close attention as to enable me to recollect the contents. I believe, in general, the sense is preserved; in some installers it is perverted. It has been proposed, that the letter be read in paragraphs, and that I be questioned in order. If it will be agreeable to the honourable House, I will read the letter in paragraphs: I will candidly and faithfully execute my intention in the course of my reading; and, to convince the honourable House that I mean not to cavil at trifling inaccuracies, I will correct the erroneous passages as I proceed, and restore the true reading on a different sheet."

This motion was acceded to by the honourable House, and the copy of the letter bring handed to me by John Pitts, Esq˙, I begin: "Previous to any remarks upon the substance of this reprobated letter in my hand, by your Honour' s leave, and the indulgence of the honourable House, I will repeat the circumstance which led to, and my motives for writing the letter: sometime after, my return from Philadelphia, I was passing in my chaise towards Mastick:, I met with a team conveying household furniture towards Cambridge. In the team, seated on a bed was a, woman with two children; the woman accosted me by name, asking me if I did not know her; her countennance was familiar to me; I answered yes, and inquired when she left Boston; she informed me, the day before, and told me, she had a letter for me from Boston, from my brother; she took a small bundle out of her pocket, and, opening it, handed the letter to the carman, who delivered it to me; it was directed to me; upon breaking the seal I found it written in ciphers and signed I˙ F. I put it in my pocket, and rode a few rods; curiosity induced me to return back and repair to my lodgings, to decipher the letter, and acquaint myself with the contents. This is the letter. Here I handed the letter to the Speaker, who read it to the honourable House, as follows:

"DEAR DOCTOR: I have often told you what the dreams of your high flaming sons would come to; do you forget my repeated cautions not to make yourself too obnoxious to Government? What says the psalm-singer and Johnny Dupe to fighting British Troops now? They are at Philadelphia, I suppose, plotting more mischief, where, I hear, your high mightiness has been ambassador extraordinary; take care of your nob, Mr˙ Doctor — remember your old friend, the orator; he will preach no more sedition. Ally joins me in begging you to come to Boston. You may depend upon it. Government is determined to crush this rebellion; a large re-enforcement of troops is hourly expected, when they are determined to penetrate the country; for God' s sake, Doctor, come to Town directly, I' ll engage to procure your pardon; your sister is unhappy, under the apprehension of your being taken and hanged for a rebel, which God grant may not be the case. You may rely upon it, the Yankees will never be a match for the troops of Great Britain, The Yorkers have behaved like damned fools in robbing the King' s stores, as Government intended to have granted them some exclusive privileges in trade had they continued loyal. It will now be a rendezvous for British Troops. We know well enough that you are divided; your people are discouraged; that you want discipline, artillery, ammunition; and Government has taken effectual care that you shall not be supplied by other Powers. I have wondered that we have not heard from you; difference of politicks has not cancelled my friendship for you. Let me entreat you not to take up arms against your rightful King, as your friend Warren did, for which he has paid dearly. I cannot send your sulky and other matters you sent for; you may thank your own people for that, who first, set the example, by preventing any thing from being brought to Town. I think you might have sent us a bit of fresh pork now and then. You see Hancock and Adams are attainted already. If you cannot pass the lines, you may come in Captain Wallace, via Rhode-Island; and if you do not come immediately, write me in this character, and direct your letter to Major Cane, on His Majesty' s service, and deliver it to Captain Wallace, and it will come safe. We have often heard your people intend to attack the Town, By God, I believe they had such a dose on Bunker' s Hill as to cool their courage. Your sister has been for running away; Kitty has been very sick; we wished you to see her; she is now picking up.

"I remain your sincere friend and brotheir, I˙ F.

"P˙ S. Don' t fail to write me soon."

This letter being read, I proceeded:

"Your Honour well knows what was our situation after the action of Bunker' s Hill; insomuch that it was generally believed, had the British troops been in a condition to pursue their success, they might have reached Cambridge with very little opposition. Not many days after this, we had a report circulated very generally, and as generally credited, of the arrival of a re-enforcement of five thousand British troops in Boston, This honourable House have not forgot the general anxiety excited thereby, together with the consideration of our not being in a capacity to make any tolerable resistance, from the reduced state of our magazines. Was there a man, who regarded his Country, who would not have sacrificed, his life to effect a tolerable accommodation? My fears, I must confess, were greatly excited. At this interval (a week, perhaps, or ten days after I had received this letter) I was confined to my lodgings by a stormy day, contemplating our disagreeable situation. I pulled the letter out of my pocket, and, reading it, the idea of writing an answer to my brother started into my mind. Imagining I could improve the opportunity to effect a happy purpose, I immediately set about it. One circumstance which was an inducement to writing at that time was, that a young woman in the same house was to set off for Newport the next morning. I will now proceed to consider the letter by paragraphs, after premising that I have endeavoured to adopt the air and languaga of a tory throughout, for the purpose of securing confidence, and obtaining the intelligence I wanted.

"Three attempts have I made to write you; the last, the man was discovered, but fortunately my letter, &c. May it please your Honour, had I written or attempted to write into Boston, is it not very extraordinary that, during my long confinement, when th very antipodes have been alarmed at the transaction, and every tongue has been clamorous against me; is it not strange, Sir, that no proof has been exhibited against mo of such correspondence, but in this very letter, which is crowded with fallacy, and obviously designed to deceive? The idea of the man being discovered, but escaped, ‘the letter being,’ &c˙, was suggested by the affair of Doctor —, who was taken, as reported, going into Boston; was searched, but no letter found, I heard of the matter upon my return from Philadelphia, and that the letter was so concealed; which was idly reported to be the reason of its not being detected. The other two attempts are mentioned in a subsequent paragraph: ‘Twice have I been to Salem,’ &c. This idea was started by the following incident: About a week before I sat out on my journey, Major Bigelow informed me he had received intelligence that provisions and other matters were conveyed into Boston, by the Custom-House boat, from Salem; which ought to be immediately prevented. I instantly laid the matter before the Committee of Safety, and they determined to take measures immediately to prevent her passing into Boston. I solemnly declare, Sir, I never wrote one letter into Boston since I left it. I solemnly declare, I have never been to the Town of Salem these seven years past."

"‘I went by the way of Providence, to visit mother.’ This passage. I think, Sir, confirms my declaration that the letter was designed for my brother, and not for Major Cane. I should hardly have acquainted the Major of my going to visit my mother, and surely I should not have neglected to affix the relative my to the substantive, were not the letter addressed to a relative character. The next paragraph is, ‘the Committee for warlike stores,’ ending at ‘Bunker' s Hill.’ Here, may it please your Honour, is a capital omission, which leads to a suspicion of my having written before. In the original copy, I remember perfectly well, after the words ‘having taken a previous resolution to make the offer to General Ward,’ were added ‘for the purpose of fortifying Bunker' s Hill.’ This part of the sentence was either inadvertently left out by myself in copying the letter into ciphers, or omitted by the person who deciphered the letter; this accounts for the reference below, ‘as I before hinted,’ and reconciles this passage with the first paragraph, that ‘I had made three attempts to write him without success’. The true state of the fact is as follows: The taking and fortifying Dorchester-Hill was the first object in contemplation when I left the camp. I was sensible we had not heavy artillery. When at Providence, being informed that they had a considerable number there, I applied to the Hon˙ Mr˙ Ward, who resided then at Providence, and was a member of the Committee of War, for such of them as they could spare. Mr˙ Ward called the Committee together, when they generously granted them, and they were gent down. The application was made spontaneously by me, and I wrote a letter of apology to General Ward for my officiousness in this matter. The reason of my covering this transaction in my letter must be obvious. There was a constant communication between Newport and Boston. There was no doubt but they would have accounts of this transaction, Did I not account for it in a way to conceal my being active in the matter, I should have been defeated in my intentions in writing."

Here I was interrupted, and the House voted to adjourn to three o' clock. I was ordered to make such corrections in the interim as to make it correspond with the original draught. I was then, by the order of the honourable House, conducted by my guard, under custody of the messenger of the House, to Coolidge' s Tavern, where, at the publick expense, I was regaled with half a mug of flip and the wing of a chicken, and was then reconveyed to the House, in the manner I came from thence. When arrived at the door of the House, the messenger communicated my arrival. He was directed to detain the prisoner at the door till called for. I was continued in the cold, on a bleak eminence, for the space of half an hour — which, after a month' s close confinement, was not very eligible — and during the whole time surrounded by my guards, with additional mobility, digito monstrari et dicier hic est; during which time a solemn vote was passed to invite the honourable His Majesty' s Council for this Colony, and sundry military gentlemen, to be present at the trial; and when their Honours had taken their seats, orders were given to admit the prisoner. I was then introduced to the bar of the House, The Speaker, addressing himself to me, informed me the House were ready to hear me, and ordered me to proceed. I began as follows:

"May it please your Honour, to the patient attention, the apparent candour, and generous humanity of the honourable House, I feel myself deeply indebted, I shall now proceed, by their continued indulgence, to some further observations on the letter; not doubting, from the approved justice and benignity of this honourable Assembly, a Full acquittance from the groundless charges levelled against me.

"The next paragraph is, ‘which, together with the cowardice of the clumsy Colonel Gerrish,’ &c˙ to ‘defeat.’ There is a mistake in the word lucky in this sentence; the original was unlucky, the negative being marked by an additional stroke in the l. Here I cannot but observe, Sir, that, notwithstanding the apparent labour and design, throughout the whole, to maintain the character of a tory, yet, in this paragraph, I have inadvertently betrayed myself; having mentioned Colonel Gerrish and Colonol Scammons in terms of reproach and indignation, for not engaging the King' s troops. After giving an account, in the next paragraph, of the number of our killed and wounded in the battle of Bunker' s Hill, which greatly falls short of truth, and an oblique sarcasm upon them for their extravagant calculation in this matter, I proceed, in several succeeding paragraphs, in the most exaggerated terms possible, to alarm him with a very formidable account of the spirit, supplies, resources, industry, union, and resolution of the Colonies, all confirmed by ocular demonstration, beginning with ‘the people of Connecticut,’ and continued as far as ‘are readily exchanged for cash.’ As far as my contracted reading and observation extends, may it please your Honour, it has been the policy of those we heretofore deemed our enemies to speak in contemptuous terms of the courage, strength, union, and resources of these Colonies; they have, I apprehend, Sir, constantly endeavoured to discourage us, and encourage the enemy, by remonstrating, in the warmest manner, the impossibility of our making any effectual resistance against them. If I am condemned for a representation perfectly the reverse of this, I would ask, Sir, who are your friends? Is it criminal and injurious to you to say we are able and determined to withstand the power of Britain? Is it criminal, Sir, to alarm them with a parade of our strength and preparation? Is it bad policy, or a proof of enmity, when under the most alarming apprehensions of instant ruin from their attack, by an innocent stratagem to divert them from such a ruinous enterprise?

"The next matter most strenuously urged and insisted upon, is an immediate accommodation, or the Colonies are disjoined from Britain forever. See from ‘add to this’ to ‘for God' s sake, prevent it, by a speedy accommodation.’ Here, may it please your Honour, the plot is unravelled; the scops and design of the letter is here fully explained — to effect the reconciliation so vehemently urged, so repeatedly recommended. For what cause have I worn the garb of a friend to Government throughout this letter? For what cause have I repeated fallacy upon fallacy? For what cause have I exaggerated your force, but to effect a union, to disarm a parricide, to restore peace to my distracted Country? If this is the work of an enemy, where are we to look for a friend? There are two or three passages which, from being misunderstood, have been greatly exaggerated, which I shall explain hereafter.

"The next paragraph, beginning at ‘writing this’ to ‘discovery,’ is totally futile and apocryphal. The next passage, ‘I am not in place here,’ &c˙, is in answer to his request, in his letter, not to take up arms against the King, and to quiet the fears of a sister, as well as to carry on the deception; but even here, through haste and inattention, I have committed a blunder which should have been avoided. I have mentioned a readiness to take up with an appointment in my own way, not considering that in the capacity of a physician or surgeon I should be deemed aiding and assisting, and equally obnoxious with those who were actually in arms. The concluding paragraph contains particular directions for his writing me; from hence, I think, Sir, the following conclusions are fairly deducible: First, my endeavours to appear so zealous a friend to Government, and so seemingly open and communicative, were to engage him to a full and free communication on his part, for purposes very obvious. Again, Sir, I think it is indisputably proved, from this paragraph, that a previous correspondence never subsisted between us. If this had been the case, Sir, can it be supposed I should be so extremely minute and circumstantial in pointing out a mode and channel of conveyance? or, if we had heretofore communicated, should I not have intimated my reasons for altering the plan? I have urged labour and pains in writing him; I have urged secrecy; I have urged danger, merely to impress his mind with my being zealously attached to his party, to secure full faith and credit, to influence him to an unlimited confidence in his return to me. If in this I have transgressed, the motive will surely absolve me. Here, may it please your Honour, concludes the latter, innocently intended, however indiscreetly executed — a letter which has alarmed the world, wounded mo in the esteem of my friends, and glutted the malice of my enemies.

"I shall now, by your Honour' s leave, make a few observations on some particular passages, and then conclude. One or two paragraphs have been urged as proofs of my having carried on a correspondence with this person for some time past. The words ‘as I hinted before to you’ is one. This I have explained already. Another is: ‘You know I never deceived you.’ The man I wrote to had implicitly swallowed the doctrine of Mr˙ Hutchinson: that all the opposition arose from a small but busy faction; that the Americans would never dare to fight the British troops. These sentiments I had constantly and warmly opposed; assuring him the Continent was engaged in the opposition to the present measures; and if blood should be drawn, he would be convinced of the spirit and resolution of Americans. These facts he assented to the last time I saw him, and acknowledged I had not deceived him; which fully explains this passage. That the letter is totally fallacious, as far as evidence is admissible, you cannot doubt, Sir. The pains taken to send letters is, in every instance, incontestably false. The matter of sending cannon from Providence, as there related, is equally so, and probably calculated to effect political purposes. Why, then, may it please your Honour, shall unbounded credit be given to that letter, which bears such glaring marks of fallacy and design, and couched in terms totally inconsonant with the conduct of my whole life; against the conviction arising from that conduct; against my solemn asseveration, and against sundry concurring circumstances, to prove that it was meant as a piece of political deceit to serve my Country? If I had intended to commence a spy, Sir, why did I not communicate other matters than those which were of publick notoriety? The affair of robbing the King' s stores in New-York is adopting his very language. The expedition against Canada is barely mentioned, and introduced merely because it was published at the same time and in the same papers with the matter mentioned by himself; it was impossible but he should have known it, and therefore had I suppressed it, it might have excited a jealousy no way favourable to my purpose. Were there not sundry important matters then agitating, which I was well acquainted with? If I had been an enemy, why did I not mention those matters, which to communicate would be to defeat? Were I that enemy, may it please your Honour, which the tongue of slander proclaims me to be, should I have made such an ostentatious parade of our strength and resources? Should I not rather have dwelt with a malicious pleasure on our weakness? Should I not rather have advised the enemy where to attack us with assurance of success? Should I not rather have encouraged them to prosecute the war with vigour, than to desist from hostilities, and propose terms of accommodation? Certain I am, Sir, the letter bears the impression of an anxious friend to his Country. I have there expressed a firm loyalty for the King; so has this House, in every publick proceeding. I have told him, and confirmed it with abundant facts, that the Americans were determined vigorously to defend their rights; so have you, Gentlemen, asserted in the strongest terms. I have recommended, with all the warmth of an honest zeal, to put an end to the work of death; is not this the universal wish, Sir? You will say, perhaps, I conversed with him in the language of an enemy. He is a friend to Government, so called, Sir. I wrote ad hominem; I wrote ad captum. Where, may it please your Honour, is the crime, unless it be a crime to pursue indirect measures, at a time of publick danger, to prevent a publick calamity? The manner in which the letter was written, the mode of address and conveyance, have likewise been much condemned; but if it be considered, Sir, that this was the mode prescribed by the person to whom I wrote; that affected secrecy and an ostensible coincidence in sentiment were indispensable, in order to effect my design, those of candid and liberal sentiments will readily pardon me. I have been used, Sir, to direct the reins in my little theatre of politicks. I had no suspicion of evil, because I meant none. The letter was intrusted to a man I did not know; whom I never saw. Two months it lay where I could easily have obtained it. I never was one moment anxious about it. Surely, may it please your Honour, it will afford a presumption of my innocent intention, at least, when the letter was lodged in the hands of a stranger who resided in the very centre of my friends and relations, that I never was solicitous enough to write to one of those to secure it.

"I will entreat the patience of the honourable House for a moment longer. When I was in Boston, exposed to certain hazard, solicited, persecuted, and personally obnoxious, did I ever recede one moment from the cause of my Country? Though frequently threatened and abused, as I passed the streets, my house assaulted, and my windows broken in the night, was I ever intimidated from pursuing, with my utmost vigour, the interest of the publick? And now, Sir, when the Colonies are united, the opposition general and formidable, my person secure, and no other temptation to revolt but the hopes of pardon, to be thus influenced at this time must betray a versatility bordering upon insanity. Were my small, but sincere services ill requited; were I entirely neglected in the dispensation of publick benefits, I might be suspected of apostacy, from chagrin and disappointment. But the matter is so totally different, that, when the establishment of an hospital was in contemplation, I had every satisfactory encouragement that I should be appointed; and in such a way as to have my utmost wishes gratified.

"The result of this inquiry, may it please your Honour, the determination of this important body, is to me of the last importance. I solicit not life; that I have long held in my hand, a ready, a devoted oblation to my Country. I plead for more than life. I plead, in spite of one act of precipitation, and even that from a virtuous intention, I plead a restoration to your confidence and esteem — to the esteem and confidence of my Country — which I have never forfeited. If I have inadvertently erred, judge my mistakes with candour. The irregularity of a measure which they are unable to account for has alarmed, has startled my friends. Their determination is suspended; it rests upon yours.

"I demand your confidence, gentlemen; the warmest bosom here does not flame with a brighter zeal for the security, happiness, and liberties of America, than mine. Consider, gentlemen, the adopted character sustained through that letter, consider the apparent design, and attend to the concluding urgent recommendation of an immediate accommodation; weigh the labours of an active life against the indiscretion of an hour. Be pleased to consider, Sir, if the letter had arrived, had it not produced the good intended, it could not have produced any mischief; but it never arrived, never produced any ill consequences but to the guiltless though unfortunate author. Consider, gentlemen, what a miserable, what an embarrassed situation I shall be flung into, if so unhappy as to incur your censure: here I shall be wretched indeed —subjected to the sting of invective, pointed with savage asperity — doubly wretched in having no sanctuary from reproach and ruin. The most obstinate and malicious enemy to his country finds a secure asylum in that retreat where I have sacrificed rny fortune for you, and which I have effectually barred by my incessant exertions in your service. To your wisdom, gentlemen, to your justice, to your tenderness, I cheerfully submit my fate."

Here I was questioned respecting sundry matters which were uttered during my defence, by sundry members of the honourable House, and was directed to withdraw, under the conduct of the guard. Previous to my departure from the House, I addressed myself to the honourable Speaker, informing the House I desired to be admitted to bail; otherwise, I was fearful of falling a martyr to the severities of my imprisonment; and then withdrew.

From my Prison in CAMBRIDGE, November 1, 1775.

Attest: B˙C˙, Jun.



* To my utter astonishment, the House, forgetful of their dignity and privilages, in a manner unprecedented, sufferd me to be held in custody of a military guard during the whole time of my trial before the honourable House.

*I was not even there favoured with the assistance of the Advocate-General. They cannot pretend it was not a trial, as they made up their judgement, and determined I was convicted of a criminal correspondence, &c˙

†As the General Court-Martial had convicted me without a trial, perhaps the honourable House will think themselves warranted in their sentence of excommunication.

‡It appears to me a strange perversion of language to assert that I was convicted of a criminal correspondence with the enemy, when there was no single circumstance to lead to such a conviction beyond the letter itself, which carried in it such evident marks of fallacy as to destroy its own testimony; add to this, it savours not a little of Hibernianism to construe the bare writing a letter (which was never conveyed to the person for whom it was wrote) a conviction of an actual criminal correspondence. The most severe construction that common understanding could affix to this writing, were it indisputably calculated to betray the interest of the community, would be "an attempt to correspond with the enemy;" but the person for whom the letter was designed was not in office, was not a soldier, he was my friend and brother. I have a great veneration for several of the respectable personages who composed this Court, but, abstracted from the consideration of self, I lament that those worthy characters should have been betrayed into so injurious, so unjustifiable a construction of an innocent piece of artifice to serve the common cause. If I was then convicted, I suppose my continued imprisonment is the penalty awarded for my transgression; if so, the month is up and I ought to be discharged; but of this more hereafter.