To John Hancock
Head Quarters Morris town 31st Jany 1777.
I have none of your favors unanswered at present. There is such a demand upon me from all Quarters for Money, which I am unable to answer, that I cannot help again pressing you to send on a Supply. The recruiting Service is almost at a stop here for want of Money, and Governor Trumbull writes me word that it is totally so in Connecticut. He adds, that their loan Officers cannot proceed in their Business for want of proper Checque Books and Notes, but that if they were furnished with them, they could soon take in a sufficient quantity to answer their purposes.1
I shall be glad to be informed, whether I have a right to draw Warrants upon the loan Officers in the different States. The State of Connecticut advanced, Colo. Sheldon at my request, ten thousand pounds lawful to raise his Regiment of Horse. For their reimbursement, they desired me to give them a draft upon the loan Office, but not knowing whether I had a right to draw upon that fund, I deferred it, till I heard from you.2
I must beg you will write to the Assemblies of the different States, and insist upon their passing a law to inflict a severe and heavy penalty upon those who harbour deserters, knowing them to be such. Our Army is shamefully reduced by desertion, and except the people in the Country can be forced to give Information when Deserters return to their old Neighbourhoods, we shall be obliged to detatch one half of the Army to bring back the other.3
I have a letter from Genl Heath of the 24th Instant. he was at and near Kingsbridge with his Army. I dont find that he is likely to do more, than to draw the Attention of the Enemy that way, and to cut them off from Forage, of which they are in great want. The Troops had not returned from Rhode Island, by the last accounts, but were daily expected. I have the Honor to be Sir most respectfully Yours
LS, in Tench Tilghman’s writing, DNA:PCC, item 152; Df, DLC:GW; copy, DNA:PCC, item 169; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. The Continental Congress executive committee forwarded this letter to Hancock on 4 Feb. after receiving it the previous day (Smith, Letters of Delegates description begins Paul H. Smith et al., eds. Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774–1789. 26 vols. Washington, D.C., 1976–2000. description ends , 6:212–15), and on 8 Feb. it was read by Congress and referred to the Board of War (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 , 7:101–2).
3. See GW’s Circular to Eleven States, 31 Jan.-1 Feb. 1777. On 12 Feb. the Continental Congress appointed Samuel Chase, Jonathan Dickinson Sergeant, and Richard Henry Lee to a committee to study this matter (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 , 7:108–9), and on 13 Feb. the committee submitted a lengthy report recommending that Congress call on the states to pass laws empowering “any constable, freeholder, or Keeper of any public ferry” to apprehend suspected deserters and turn them over to any justice of the peace. The committee also proposed that a $5 bounty be paid for the arrest of each deserter (ibid., 115–16). Congress considered and revised the committee’s report on 25 Feb. following a heated exchange between delegates Thomas Burke of North Carolina and James Wilson of Pennsylvania over whether Congress or the states were competent to enact laws for apprehending deserters and thereby restraining the liberty of citizens of the individual states (see Thomas Burke’s Notes of Debates, 25 Feb., in Smith, Letters of Delegates description begins Paul H. Smith et al., eds. Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774–1789. 26 vols. Washington, D.C., 1976–2000. description ends , 6:356–63). The resolution that Congress approved on that date urges local committees of observation and inspection to escort deserters detained in their counties or districts to the nearest Continental army officer and directs all such officers to receive and deliver the deserters to their respective regiments, that they may be “brought to a speedy trial and exemplary punishment; and farther, to pay to the persons delivering such deserters, eight dollars for each deserter so brought and delivered” (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 , 7:154–55). Congress ordered that the resolution be printed in “the several news papers for six months, and also, that 300 copies be printed in hand bills, and sent to camp, to be distributed among the officers” (ibid., 155). It appeared in the Pennsylvania Packet (Philadelphia) on 18 March.