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Letter from the New-York Delegates to the Provincial Congress


"Philadelphia, March 1, 1776.

"GENTLEMEN: We laid before Congress your representation in favour of Mr˙ St˙ Clair, which met with their approbation, as you will observe by the resolution which we have the honour to enclose.


"General Lee informed Congress, by letter, that he had imposed a Test upon the inhabitants of our Colony, in order to ascertain their political principles. However salutary such a measure might be, when grounded on a legal and constitutional basis, we were much alarmed that it should owe its authority to any military officer, however distinguished for his zeal, his rank, his accomplishments, and services. We considered it as one of the most solemn and important acts of legislation, and a high encroachment upon your rights as the Representatives of a free people. We could not, therefore, be silent upon so momentous a point, though we were not favoured with your sentiments or instructions, nor informed of what, or whether anything had passed between you and the General respecting the disaffected inhabitants. We took up the subject on general principles. There can be no liberty where the military is not subordinate to the civil power in everything not immediately connected with their operations. Your House, the natural and proper tribunal for all civil matters within the circle of your own jurisdiction, was assembled, and Congress itself within the General' s reach, ready to enforce every reasonable proposition for the publick safely. To one or other he ought to have applied. A similar effort in Rhode-Island had passed over unnoticed; reiterated precedents must become dangerous; we therefore conceived it to be our unquestionable duty to assert the independence and superiority of the civil power, and to call the attention of Congress to this unwarrantable invasion of its rights by one of their officers. A resolution passed in consequence, on the 8th of March, that no oath, by way of test, be imposed upon, exacted, or required of any inhabitant of these Colonies by any military officer; and it was ordered to be immediately published. We flatter ourselves that our conduct on this occasion will meet with your approbation.

This will be presented by Brigadier-General Thompson, who, for the present, will command in your capital, General Schuyler' s residence at Albany being deemed indispensable. General Thompson is a gallant officer, and very much respected in this Province; and we doubt not of your endeavours to make his command as agreeable to himself and as salutary to the country as possible; to which nothing can contribute more essentially than harmony and mutual confidence between him and the civil power.

"Congress were much perplexed in appointing the officers to the four New-York Battalions, not knowing whether a former resolution, directing the English Troops, who wintered in Canada, to be formed into two battalions, had been carried into effect. In that case, a provision will be made for such of the gentlemen in that country as are entitled to promotion. However, it was not thought best to expose them to any uncertainty. It is the intention of Congress that if any of them should have been promoted in that department, they shall continue there, and others be appointed for the new battalions; if not, that they shall join those corps.

"A battalion was intended for Colonel Ritzema, but some objections having been suggested, it is left vacant, until he can have an opportunity of being heard, of which you will be pleased to inform him.

"We have the honour to be, with the utmost regard, gentlemen, your most obedient humble servants,


"P˙ S. The following battalions are assigned for the defence of New-York, besides the four you are raising, viz: Pennsylvanians — Wayne' s, Irvine' s, Shea' s, and Magau' s; New-Jersey — Lord Stirling' s and Dayton' s. These troops are raised, but not armed. The want of arms will, it is thought, be in a great degree remedied by executing the resolution of Congress of the 14th instant, a copy of which goes with these depatches. It is directed to be kept as secret as the nature of the service will admit.

"For your immediate defence, the General in your department is authorized to apply to the Governour of Connecticut, your Convention, and the Committee of Safety of New-Jersey, for so many of the Militia as he may judge necessary, who are to be paid by the Continent at five dollars a month for each private. A resolution passed the 8th instant for supplying you with five tons of gunpowder, and it


was ordered to be immediately forwarded by the Committee of Secrecy. We took it for granted that it had been sent forward accordingly, till Mr˙ Lewis' s letter to Mr˙ Alsop led to an examination, when the Chairman of that Committee reported that it had been detained for want of carriages. A copy of the order for the powder is enclosed. We shall be glad to know how far the battalions of last year were completed, as our Colony is reflected upon for a greater deficiency than we believe to be consistent with truth. It has also been represented that recruiting for the present service goes on very slowly, which, considering your danger and distresses, we scarce think credible.

"Honourable Provincial Convention, New-York."