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General Greene to Governour Ward



Prospect-Hill, October 23, 1775.

An express arrived from Casco Bay last evening, bringing an account that the enemy had been firing a day or two upon Falmouth. What has been the consequence we have not heard. The enemy had orders to burn Falmouth and Portsmouth, unless the inhabitants would deliver up their arms, and give hostages for their future good behaviour. Truly, "their tender mercies are cruelties!" Will not this brutal conduct rouse a spirit of indignation throughout America? Such a shocking scene as was exhibited at Bristol, you cannot conceive of. The people of Newport are all moving into the country. The night after Wallace returned from Bristol, the confusion in Newport was nearly equal to what it was there. Captain Wallace has made the inhabitants the following proposition: "If they will supply his vessels with fresh provisions, beer, &c˙, and remove the troops from the island, he will spare the Town; but if they do not comply with these conditions, he has positive orders to lay it in ashes, which he is determined to execute." What will be the event, God only knows. There is a Committee from Newport down here, to see Governour Cooke, to get an order for the removal of the troops, and liberty to furnish the ships with fresh provisions. The matter was laid before the Continental Committee, who advised furnishing the ships with fresh provisions, but not to remove the troops off the island; which, I suppose, will take place. But there appears a strange hobble in our gait. Here, we are at loggerheads; in other places, only sparring; and others, again, are in perfect tranquillity: here, we are cutting them off from fresh provisions, and removing the stock from the island, which amounts to a perfect depopulation, while at New-York, Philadelphia, and many other parts of America, their ships are supplied with every thing they stand in need of, and live in the midst of peace and plenty. If we are to be considered as one people, and they as the common enemy, upon what principles are they so differently treated in different Governments? Oh, could the Congress behold the distresses and wretched condition of the poor inhabitants, driven from the sea-port Towns, it must, it would kindle a blaze of indignation against the commissioned pirates and licensed robbers. They would not be permitted to find rest or an abiding place in America. The fate of Kingdoms depends upon the just improvement of critical minutes. Suffer not the noble ardour to slacken for want of action, nor smother the generous flame for want of fuel. The temper and feeling of men can be wrought up to a certain pitch, and then, like all transitory things, they sicken and subside. This is the time for a wise legislator to avail himself of the advantage which the favourable disposition of the people gives him to execute whatever sound policy dictates. It is not in the province of mortals to


reduce human events in politicks to a certainty. It is our duty to provide the means to obtain our ends, and leave the event to Him who is the all wise governour and disposer of the universe.

The state of Rhode-Island, from its situation, must suffer amazingly. The stock, which lies exposed to the enemy' s ravages, would be a plentiful supply for their troops in Boston. An object so considerable will not escape their attention. Without doubt they will attempt to avail themselves of the advantage. The situation of the island affords the means, and the attempt must be successful, unless some provision be made to frustrate their measures. As their defeat is a general benefit, it is but just that it should come within the line of a general charge against the Continent. Fresh provisions will be of infinite service to the troops in Boston. If they do not provide some very fine anti-scorbuticks, they must suffer amazingly by the scurvy. By two Captains of vessels, who came out of Boston the day before yesterday, we learn that it is extremely sickly; eight or ten are buried every day. Cold weather coming on, with the scurvy locked up in their blood, from eating salt provisions, must produce a prodigious mortality. Nothing can heighten their distress so much as cutting them off from fresh provisions. Therefore, I think it a subject worthy publick attention, to lend a helping hand to Rhode-Island, to secure the stock on the island. It rnust be grievous to the inhabitants to be subject to such an expense themselves, and unjust, seeing the whole Continent are to be benefited by its consequences.

The Committee has been closely engaged in forming a plan for regulating the Army. I hope, when the Army is re-enlisted, and the best of the officers selected, the troops will be under better regulation. The number agreed on may be larger than may appear necessary, but when you consider how raw and undisciplined the troops are in general, and what warlike preparations are going on in England, and how necessary it is to have a good Army in the spring, and the favourable prospect we shall. haveof making ourselves masters of Boston this winter, I doubt not you will cheerfully concur in the establishment. The General Officers agreed upon twenty thousand. What number the Committee has determined upon, I have not heard, but make no doubt they will approve of the number agreed to by the Generals.

I wish we had a large stock of powder, that we might annoy the enemy wherever they made their appearance. We could easily, in my opinion, drive them out of Boston, if we had the means; but for want thereof, we are obliged to remain idle spectators; for we cannot get at them, and they are determined not to come to us. However, I hope ere long fortune will favour us agreeably to our wishes.

I hinted, in my last, that people began heartily to wish a declaration of independence. I would make it treason against the States to make any further remittances to Great Britain, and stop all supplies to their shipping. We had as well begin in earnest at first as at last; for we have no alternative but to fight it out, or be slaves. We should open our ports to all who have a mind to come and trade with us. But it will be necessary to keep a check upon commerce, lest it take the lead of military pursuits. The merchants are generally a body of people whose god is gain, and their whole plan of policy is to bring publick measures to square with their private interest.

The French will never agree to furnish us with powder, as long as there is the least probability of an accommodation between us and Great Britain. The alternative is a separation from Great Britain, or subjugation to her. In the latter case, Great Britain, as a Nation, will receive little or no advantage from the Colonies; for slavery is ever unfriendly to trade, and trade is the strength and sinews of Great Britain. Therefore, France, as a real enemy to Great Britain, acts upon a true plan of policy, in refusing to intermeddle, until she is satisfied that there is no hope of accommodation. Then she can interpose with propriety to lend us a helping hand. Should France undertake to furnish us with powder and other articles, and the breach between Great Britain and the Colonies be afterwards made up, she would incur the hostility of her rival, without reaping any solid advantage.