George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Nicholas Cooke, 11 August 1775

From Nicholas Cooke

Providence August 11th 1775.


Since my last to you Mr Ward One of the Delegates hath returned from the Congress.1 He informs me that some of the Bermudians had been at Philadelphia soliciting for Liberty to import Provisions for the Use of the Island. They gave Information of the Powder mentioned in your Letter to me, and were of Opinion it might be easily obtained. They were told by the Delegates that every Vessel they should send to the Northward with Powder should be permitted to carry Provisions to the Island. Whether their Situation will not probably prevent them from bringing the Powder I submit to your Excellency.2 Mr Porter, and Mr Harris are both here. To Mr Porter who can fully inform you in the Matter I refer you.

I have forwarded about 1300 lb. of Lead which is all that can be procured at present; that Article being extremely scarce among us. In my last to you I mentioned that I thought it might be brought from Ticonderoga with more Ease than it can be procured in any other Way; and am still of the same Opinion.

I have given Orders to the Committee of Safety to purchase all the Tow-Cloth that is to be bought in the Government; but am afraid the Quantity will be small; the Scarcity of course Linens in the Colony having occasioned a great Use of that Article in Families. I am with great Esteem, Sir Your Excellency’s most obedient humble Servant

Nicho. Cooke

LS, DLC:GW; Df, MH: Cooke Papers. The addressed cover of the LS includes the notation “Favoured by Col. Porter.” GW referred this letter to the Massachusetts General Court. See GW to Cooke, 14 Aug. 1775.

1Samuel Ward (1725–1776), a prosperous merchant from Newport, served three terms as governor of Rhode Island during the 1760s. Elected a delegate to both the First and Second Continental Congresses, he represented his colony in Philadelphia until his death on 26 Mar. 1776 from smallpox. His son Samuel Ward, Jr. (1756–1832), was an officer in the 1st Rhode Island Regiment.

2Bermuda, having little agriculture of its own, relied heavily on shipments of provisions from the mainland colonies, and the islanders feared that they might starve when the Continental Congress’s nonexportation program began on 10 Sept. 1775. To avert such a calamity, a delegation of Bermudians arrived in Philadelphia in early July to petition Congress for an exemption from some of the proposed nonexportation restrictions. Vulnerable to British retaliation, they were unwilling to support the American cause openly, but they were prepared to curtail their trade somewhat if allowed to continue importing basic foodstuff from American ports. About the middle of July it was privately agreed that Congress would grant the Bermudians their desired exemption if they supplied the Patriots with gunpowder. The Bermuda delegation returned home, and on 14 Aug. a group of islanders seized about one hundred barrels of gunpowder from the royal arsenal near St. George. That gunpowder was shipped to Philadelphia and Charleston, and in the fall Congress approved the exportation to Bermuda of specified amounts of corn, bread, flour, meat, peas, beans, and rice (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends , 3:362–64).

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