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Letter from Elbridge Gerry to James Warren



Philadelphia, March 6, 1776,

DEAR SIR: An express goes off in a few hours for the camp, and affords just ' time to hint a few things, which I beg you will communicate to the honourable House.

It is of great importance that your Militia should be well armed and equipped; and powder is essentially necessary. Without it, what will be the distresses of the sea-coast frontiers, and how can they defend themselves? I have heard of my vessel in the service of the Colony, and am apprehensive of her being detained at St˙ Antonio, in Spain. I saw a letter from the master to the commander of a ship arrived in this place, and find that Captain Johnson was waiting for his crew, which had been despatched from Bilboa by Messrs˙ Guad** ten days before, and ought to have arrived in two or three days at most. He was very uneasy, and intended to get another crew if his own did not arrive soon; and I have since heard a rumour that the vessel is detained, which there is reason to fear. She had on board four, hundred and thirty barrels of powder, or, in other words, twenty-one tons and a half; and, should she arrive, will clear for the Colony seven thousand five hundred pounds lawful, estimating the powder at five shillings per pound, which is low. But this is a trifling consideration compared with other advantages. Five tons were ordered to Cambridge about a week since from the Jerseys; since which, twenty-seven tons and a half have arrived here, with about five tons of saltpetre, and three hundred stand of arms. Ten tons of this powder is also ordered to the camp at Cambridge; but this will not equip your Militia. Pray let a petition be immediately preferred for the return of the powder which we have lent the Continent, and I apprehend it can be obtained — I mean the powder collected from the towns in the Massachusetts. Mr˙ Hunt can furnish a list of the most of them. I would beg one thing further, that you will not suffer any of your stocks of ammunition to be carried out of the Colony, or into the camp, without pressing necessity, or the desire of Congress. News is just arrived of five tons rnore powder imported into North- Carolina, and each Colony looks out for itself, as the times require it.

The Congress have this day preferred General Thomas, and made him a Major-General. He is ordered to proceed, without delay, to Canada; and General Lee is to go to the Southern Colonies.

We are obliged to the honourable House for the Journals and Acts of Assembly lately sent here, and hope that the other Journals will be forwarded when ready, and that one or more persons will be appointed to transmit weekly the doings of the Assembly, as great advantages will result to the Colony from, this step. The file of letters, memorandum, and day-books of the Committee of Supplies, are


much wanted in adjusting the Colony accounts. I understand they are left with Deacon Cheever.

I cannot help inculcating the necessity of attending to powder, and carefully preserving it; for, should the enemy remove, and the Army Follow them, our Colony may be destitute of this article; and what a situation will it then be in? One thing further I will beg leave to hint: the Assembly, some time since, passed a resolve relative to fire-arms; and I cannot learn that any great number have been yet manufactured. Is it not necessary to inquire into the cause of it, and appoint a Committee to contract with individuals, who manufacture for a certain number in a convenient time? The Southern Colonies give a higher encouragement than we have offered; and it may be of great importance to follow their example. This the Assembly will decide.

Pray give my best respects to Major Hawley, Colonel Orne, Messrs˙ Sullivan, Cooper, Freeman, and all our other friends, believing me to be sincerely, sir, your friend and very humble servant,


To the Honourable James Warren.

P˙ S˙ Pray forward the enclosed letters.