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Robert Morris to the President of Congress



[Read, December 20, 1776: Referred to Mr˙ R˙ H˙ Lee, Mr˙ Wilson, Mr˙ Harrison, and Mr˙ S˙ Adams.]

Philadelphia, December 13, 1776.

Sir: The enclosed letter from the General was delivered to me open by Mr˙ Walton, who judged it prudent to examine the contents before it went forward, and in which I concur with him, as it was probable some service might result to this place from their being known; and I flatter myself that essential service will be rendered to the Continent thereby. As soon as I saw this authentick account of the enemy' s design to cross Delaware above the falls, I waited on General Putnam and proposed that the frigate Randolph and sloop Hornet should be sent to sea immediately, as it was plain to me they would be of no use here, and I had received certain advice that there was not any British men-of-war in our bay. The General very readily consented; and I have this afternoon given Captain Biddle and Captain Nicholson their instructions, signed by me on behalf of the Marine Committee. They will depart early in the morning, and I entertain the most sanguine hopes of their escape. The Hornet goes for Carolina with the shot; but part of the flour was landed previous to this new determination. I have presumed to go one step farther in this Navy business, and flatter myself I shall be entitled to the approbation of Congress, whether I meet it or not, for my intentions are good, and I procure myself much trouble with the sole view of serving the cause: On viewing the frigate Delaware, I thought it possible to get her away before General Howe could get here. I have therefore set about it


stoutly. A number of people, scarce as they now are here, are at work on her. The sails will be bent, anchors to the bows, stores on board, and every thing in some forwardness to-morrow. I have sent an express to the General, informing him of my design, and requesting him to send down Captain Alexander, his officers, and such seamen as are willing to go with him; and if it is possible to get her away I shall order her to Baltimore, under your own care. If I fail in this attempt you only add a little expense of labour to the loss, for the ship may in that case be destroyed. However, if General Howe will but give me a few days more, and Lord Howe keep away his myrmidons, I shall have the pleasure to despatch the Randolph, Hornet, Delaware, Security, Fly, and a large ship laden with tobacco; all which you may deem as saved from the flames. The removal of Congress has left me much other business. I am paying your debts, at least those of the Marine Committee, and directing fifty necessary things to be done; and, with General Howe' s permission, shall be glad to finish the business you would wish to have done here. But if Mr˙ Howe advances, I shall push off, and leave him to finish the business in his own way.

I am told there is a letter in town that mentions General Clinton' s arrival at Rhode-Island, and that he took peaceable possession of it, as all the inhabitants to a man abandoned the island; but tell Mr˙ Ellery I have not seen this letter, nor will I vouch for its authenticity.

You will please to receive enclosed some pleasing letters for the Marine Committee; and with perfect esteem and respect, I remain, sir, yours and the Congress' s most obedient and most humble servant,


To the Hon˙ John Hancock, Esq˙, President of Congress.