George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Robert Lettis Hooper, Jr., Nathaniel Falconer, and Jonathan Mifflin, Jr., 14 February 1778

From Robert Lettis Hooper, Jr., Nathaniel Falconer, and Jonathan Mifflin, Jr.

Reading [Pa.] 14th February 1778


We have inclosed to your Excelly Copies of our Instructions from the Honble the Board of War, appointing us Superintendants for forming Magazines of Provisions in the Counties of Philadelphia, Bucks, Berks, & Northampton in the State of Pennsylvania & the County of Sussex in the State of N. Jersey.1

Agreable to these Instructions we have met at this Town & have form’d a Sett of Directions to be observed by the Millers whom we have authorised to collect Grain for Flour & Horse Feed Copies of which with our Letter to the Board of War we have also inclosed.2

We shall at all Times be ready to execute your Excellencys Orders & will immediately exert ourselves to relieve the Wants of the Army. We are with Respect Your Excelly Most Obdt hbe Servts

Robt Lettis Hooper junr

Nathl Falconer

Jonan Mifflin junr

LS, DNA:PCC, item 78.

Nathaniel Falconer, a shipmaster since the early 1750s, had plied the London trade as a captain from the mid–1760s until the outbreak of the war. In January 1776 he was appointed one of the Continental navy commissioners at Philadelphia, and in October of that year he was made an agent to inspect Continental frigates being built in Rhode Island; by the summer of 1777 he was a commissary of Continental navy stores. On 12 Sept. 1778 Congress appointed Falconer a “superintendent of the presses for striking bills of credit, bills of exchange, and loan office certificates,” a position he held until 1781 (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 , 12:905). From July 1778 until 1790 Falconer served as a warden of the port of Philadelphia, and he later became health officer and master warden of the port.

1The enclosed copy of Horatio Gates’s instructions, dated 31 Jan. and addressed to “Brigr Genl James Ewing, Capt. John Byers, Robert Lettis Hooper, Jonathan Mifflin, Nathaniel Faulkner, Richard Bache, John Patton, James Read and Henry Hollensworth Esqrs. Superintendants appointed to purchase Flour, Wheat and other Articles for the better supply of the Army,” is in DNA:PCC, item 78, and in Pa. Archives description begins Samuel Hazard et al., eds. Pennsylvania Archives. 9 ser., 138 vols. Philadelphia and Harrisburg, 1852–1949. description ends , 1st ser., 6:307–9. The superintendents’ duties were based on a congressional resolve of 15 Jan. authorizing the Board of War to appoint superintendents “to purchase thirty thousand barrels of flour, or wheat equivalent, and have it ground into flour, and to deposite twelve thousand barrels, part thereof, at or near Lancaster, eight thousand barrels at or near Reading, six thousand barrels at or near Bethlehem, two thousand barrels at Downingstown, and two thousand barrels at Pottsgrove” (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 , 10:54–56). Gates’s instructions detailed the measures to be taken by the superintendents pursuant to other provisions of the congressional resolution, including the purchase of “any Pork, fat Cattle or Salted Meat within your respective districts” and flour casks, and directed them to procure teams, guards, clerks and storekeepers as well as “Mills and other Buildings” for grinding the wheat into flour. The superintendents would have authority to “instruct & direct” their equivalents appointed by the Pennsylvania general assembly and would receive cash for the purchase of flour as well as “two and an half per Cent for your private expences and trouble.” Gates also ordered the formation of additional magazines beyond those suggested by Congress: one of 10,000 barrels “at a place of Safety & convenient for the parts of your districts out of Pennsilvania,” one of 6,000 barrels at York, and another of 4,000 barrels at Carlisle, Pa.; and he directed the superintendents to “confine yourselves to the prices fixed by the Assemblies of New Jersey and Pennsilvania; and from such as refuse to sell, you are authorized to seize.”

2All of the enclosures are in DNA:PCC, item 78; see also Pa. Archives description begins Samuel Hazard et al., eds. Pennsylvania Archives. 9 ser., 138 vols. Philadelphia and Harrisburg, 1852–1949. description ends , 1st ser., 6:303–14. A letter of 31 Jan. from Gates at the War Office in York, Pa., to Hooper, Falconer, and Mifflin covered resolutions of the Board of War appointing them superintendents and briefly informed them of the districts and tasks for which they would be responsible. An undated letter from Hooper, Falconer, and Mifflin announced that the superintendents had “met at Reading to Consult & determine on the best & most Expeditious, ways and Means for Carrying Our Orders into Imediate Execution” and had determined to make Hooper responsible to “direct all the Business of Northampton, & sussex” while Mifflin and Falconer would “direct all the Business in the Counties of Philadelphia, Bucks, & Berks.” After describing the preparatory measures they intended to undertake, the superintendents indicated that their first meeting would be held at Allentown, Pa., on 25 February. Another enclosure consisted of a fourteen-step set of instructions for millers on collecting or purchasing wheat and having it ground into flour, empowering them to seize the grain when necessary.

The next enclosure was a copy of a letter from Hooper, Falconer, and Mifflin to Gates, dated 11 Feb. from Reading. In it the superintendents informed Gates that “We have already four Capital Mills imployed in the Counties of Northampton & Sussex, and hope in a few days to put every Capital Mill in our District in Motion. General Mifflin inform’d us that the Commissary of Forage at Head Quarters has Writ to him for Assistance in procuring Forage for the Army & having requested us to give Colonel Biddle all the Aid in our Power. We therefore beg leave to represent to the Board that being directed to regulate our Purchases by the Prices fixed by the Act of Assembly made in this State, we find it impossible without Force to procure, any Rye, Spelts or Oats for Horse Feed, as the Prices the Assembly has directed to be given, are much lower, than what are given by the People in the Country that have occasion to buy for their own Use. But knowing how essential it may be to the public Service, to collect as expeditiously as possible a considerable quantity of Horse feed, for the immediate Supply of the Army Horses we have taken the Liberty to request the Quarter Master General to direct his deputies to fix such prices as we think are equivalent in which he has been pleased to Acquiessce and shall forward to those persons we have employed Instructions to draw on us, for the Amount of the Grain they purchase for Forage.

“The Rates we propose are, for Rye 12 / per Bushel Spelts & Oats 7/6 per Bushel & Indian Corn 9 / per Bushel.

“We shall take the greatest precaution in forming the Magazines, by fixing on such places as will be most Safe & Convenient. We cannot yet determine where Captain Faul[c]oner will fix his Office as it is necessary for him first to consult some of our best Friends in the upper parts of Bucks County—Jonathan Mifflin will Fix his Office at Reading & Robert Lettis Hooper at Easton & Allentown.

“There is at Easton a quantity of Salt belonging to the States lately brought to Easton from New Windsor which will be sufficient to salt all the Meat we can purchase—It is with great concern that we inform the Honble Board that the purchasing of Beef & Pork has been too long delay’d & that the season is now too far advanc’d for us to procure a considerable quantity of Meat of any kind, but our utmost diligence shall be used & we hope Suddenly to furnish great Supplies of Flower and Horsefeed.

“We shall this day dispatch Mr Richard Cheekley to the board for Money & request you will be pleased to pay him for the use of our District One hundred thousand Pounds.”

Finally, the superintendents enclosed a copy of a letter dated 12 Feb. from Hooper to an unnamed deputy “Appointed by the Superintindants for forming Magaziens of Provisions for the Army, to purchase Wheat and to manufacture it into Flour.” In it Hooper directed the deputy to purchase and grind grain, seizing it when necessary, and listed the funds that would be provided to offset the deputy’s expenses.

Although GW replied on 15 Feb. encouraging Hooper, Falconer, and Mifflin in their duties and urging haste, within a few days Congress would call a halt to their activities (see Jonathan Mifflin, Jr., to GW, 20 Feb., n.1).

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