Primary tabs

Albany (New-York) Committee



Albany Committee Chamber, February 18, 1776.

The Committee of the Township of Schenectady, reported this day to the General Committee of the City and County of Albany,that on the 15th day of January, instant, a Letter was laid before them under the signature of Benjamin Hilton, and directed to Alexander White, Esq˙, Sheriff of the County of Tryon, an extract whereof is in the following words:

"Schenectady, December 22, 1775.

"DEAR SIR: Lieutenant McDonald, who is in town, just now informed me, that Arnold, immediately on his arrival before Quebeck, sent a flag to demand from Colonel Maclean, an immediate surrender of the town. The messenger was conducted hoodwinked to Maclean, who told him, he would give Arnold a final answer in a few hours; in the mean time, Colonel Maclean lined the houses of the town, past which Arnold was to pass, to take possession of the town. Colonel Maclean, at the expiration of the time, sent a messenger to Arnold to inform him, that he was extremely sorry he had it not in his power sufficiently to defend the town, therefore, was willing to surrender it to him without the effusion of blood, and might take possession of it as soon as he pleased. Arnold himself, with the greatest part of the troops, immediately went to take possession of the town, and after they had entered the gates, they were closed, and the troops that Maclean had placed in ambush, in the houses, immediately fired upon them, killed, three hundred, and took the rest prisoners, among which Arnold is said to be. Maclean immediately sallied out of the town, pursued the remainder of Arnold' s men over the Plains of Abraham, and killed a great many of them; a fine stratagem, worthy of immortalizing Maclean' s name, and handing it down to the latest posterity in letters of gold, This seems very probable to me, and Mr˙ McDonald says it maybe depended upon. Arnold, before his arrival at Quebeck, was obliged, in order to keep his men from starving, to kill all the horses and dogs he had with him, and, after all, fell short four days, in such fine fare; however, no better than they deserved.


"I should say more,but am in haste; you will therefore excuse me, and believe me yours, sincerely,


That the said Committee had, therefore, sent for the said Benjamin Hilton, who avowed himself the author of the said Letter, and declared that he had wrote it to please the said White, whose sentiments he knew; that he had wrote it, however wrong, in expectation that the contents thereof would never be discovered.

The said Committee did further report, that the said Benjamin Hilton, on the 14th day of July last, had voluntarily, and without any solicitation, made before Cornelius Cuyler, Esq˙, the following Affidavit, to wit:

"Benjamin Hilton, Jr˙, Esq˙, of this place, Attorney at Law, being duly sworn, deposeth and saith: That he has never entertained or harboured an opinion inimical or unfriendly to the just constitutional rights or liberties of America; that he looks upon the claim which the British Parliament has set up in the present reign, by statute, to bind the Colonies in all cases whatsoever, as unconstitutional, and subversive of American liberty; that the measures taken by Administration for the enforcement of the several statutes passed against America in general, and some of the Colonies in particular, in his opinion, will justify opposition; that he is a friend to his country, and the invaded rights and liberties thereof, (though he believes, by many, without foundation, taken to be an enemy thereto,) and wishes it all the success in this unhappy and unnatural conflict, that any real friend to the common cause can; that he never was really induced or prevailed upon, by any person, to resign his Lieutenancy; and further saith not.


"Schenectady, July 14, 1775.—Sworn before me,


The said Committee of Schenectady further reported, that they had thereupon

"Resolved, That the said Benjamin Hilton either should cause his said Letter, together with the said Declaration, to be published in the newspapers by the fifth of February then next, or that they would publish the same, together with the above-mentioned Affidavit."

Which said Report, the said General Committee of the City and County of Albany, have maturely considered, and, thereupon, resolve to approve the same.

But, the said Benjamin Hilton, instead of abiding by the determination of the said Committee of Schenectady, on the eighteenth day of January last, without acquainting this Board of the steps taken by them, by letter, addressed to this Board, expressed his sorrow to give this Board the trouble of an application on a very disagreeable subject. That he had, on the 22d day of December last, wrote a letter to Alexander White, Esq˙, relative to the then report, that Colonel Arnold, with his forces, was defeated at Quebeck by Colonel Maclean, and which report, he found to be groundless; that he had, in that letter, also, applauded the said Maclean for his conduct, and wrote disrespectful of Colonel Arnold' s forces; for all which he was extremely sorry; that he confessed his error, and desired the forgiveness of his injured countrymen, and professed himself a friend to the constitutional liberties of the Colonies; and promised, for the future, neither to write nor do any thing prejudicial to the cause of liberty; that he was well convinced that the Parliament of Great Britain has no right to tax the Colonies, and conceived the tyrannical measures pursued by the Ministry, to enforce such unconstitutional acts, will justify opposition; that he did confess that he had some doubts of the expediency of the expedition against Canada, which doubts are, however, now removed; that, as this Board is the General Committee of protection, &c˙, for the whole County, he, therefore, begged their final decision of this matter, and their resolution thereupon.

In consequence of which said application and request, this Committee do declare it as their opinion, in addition to the Resolution of the Committee of Schenectady, that the said Benjamin Hilton has evinced, by the said Letter, an unwarrantable exultation in the distress and defeat which he supposed a part of the Continental Army had sustained; that, therefore, this Committee, notwithstanding his prior and subsequent declarations, preceding and


following the said Letter, are further of opinion, that his sentiments are inimical to the liberties of this country; yet this Committee, disdaining the impotent attempts of the said Benjamin Hilton to traduce the proceeding of the Northern Army, do, therefore, dismiss him from further prosecution.

Extracts from the Minutes: