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To George Washington from the Berkshire County Committees of Safety and Inspection, 7 June 1776

From the Berkshire County Committees of Safety and Inspection

Pittsfield [Mass.]
June 7th 1776

May it please your Excellency,

We beg leave to lay before your Excellency the Distresses of our Minds with all humility. Fear of injuring our Common cause by writing as well as speaking on the one hand, or by Silence on the other has filled us with peculiar Concern. The purport of this Epistle is so delicate we write with fear & Trembling least when we mean to serve our Country, we do it an irreparable Injury. Purity of Intention will not always secure us against rong steps. We beg leave to assure your Excellency that it is our hearty Intention to support your Excellency in the Defence of America against the Tyranny & Usurpation of Great Britain, & if that is the pleasure of the Honorable Continental Congress to the building up a distinct Republic, or American Empire, to the last Extremity. But what has filled our Minds with a peculiar Sence of Danger to our Common cause are the following Things which we take to be facts tho’ we may be deceived as to some of them.

That his Honor General Schuyler has had the superintending oversight of our Canadian Army.

That after the glorious Defeat of Decr 31st 1775 at Quebec in an Attempt to take it by Storm, Recruits were forwarded in the slowest & most dilatory Manner.

That our Army before the walls of Quebec during a long & tedious Winter underwent every kind of hardship & their Spirits were broken by being neglected.

That about the 4th of May so inconsiderable was the Army, so miserably provided with Provisions & Ammunition, in a word so greatly neglected that it was obliged precipitately to raise the seige & disgracefully to retreat, so as not only to leave those 500 valiant Sons of America taken within the walls of Quebec to the Mercy of our Enemies but an Additional Number of sick to be disposed of at their pleasure.

That his Honor General Schuyler some Time last Winter went on an Expedition to subdue the internal Enemies of this Country collected in Arms against the Country at Johnstown & after the Suppression of the said Rebellion The Ring Leader Sr John Johnston was not so much as put under moderate Confinement.

That the said Sr John Johnston hath since collected a Number of said Enemies as we suppose & Joyned some of the Kings forces in the upper forts & raised a Number of Canadians & Indians & come down upon Col. Beatles Regiment stationed at the Cedars & taken them to a Man not less than about 500 in Number many of whom were Shot & others Tommahawked in cool Blood by the insatiable Savages after they were made Prisoners this we have from Men of Credibility who were made Prisoners at the same Time but found Means to get away. The Col. of said Regiment being necessarily absent at the Time of said Fight after Provisions &c.

That our Army has long been in a most deplorable Situation in Canada as to provisions Intrenching Tools &c. & we view them as in Danger of being driven wholly out of those Territories which Event we have but too much Reason to fear will decide the fate of New England, & be of the most dangerous Consequence to all the united Colonies.

That the Minds of many Officers & Soldiers & others, are greatly dissatisfied with the Conduct of his Honor General Schuyler & have great fears Respecting his fidelity to his Country tho’ they may be wholly without foundation & we find a great Backwardness in Men to enlist in this Expedition on this Account. God forbid that we should harbour ungrounded Jealousies of the Deliverers & in a Sense Saviours of our Country, or willfully shut our Eyes against the greatest Dangers.

We beg leave to assure your Excellency that we consider all the United Colonies but as one & observe no other Distinctions but those of friends & Enemies to their Country. We indulge no private Dusgust or Resentment, we are of no faction or party. We wish not to injure the Reputation & Glory of his Honor General Schuyler were it in our power, we sincerely hope his Name may be handed down with immortal Honor to the latest Posterity as one of the great Pillars of the American Cause. We must not conclude without assuring your Excellency of the utmost Repose & Confidence placed in your Excellency by persons of all Ranks & Conditions within the Sphere of our Knowledge. We can chearfully rest in your Excellencies Wisdom under the Direction of him who ruleth over all, for the directing the Military Opperations in general thro’ this great Continent in Conformity to the Advice of the Honble Continental Congress. We heartily pray for Success to your Arms, & Salvation to America; And that your Excellencies disinterested Services may meet with a glorious Retribution in the Resurrection of the Just at the last Great Day & your present Tears for America be turned into neverending Joy & Triumph.

Asa Douglass
Chairman of the Committee

LS, in Douglass’s writing, DLC:GW. The heading on the manuscript indicates that this address was written “with the Approbation of Kings District” in adjoining Albany County, New York. For similar accusations of disloyalty against Schuyler, see the King’s District Committee of Correspondence to GW, 13 May, and the Great Barrington, Sheffield, and Canaan Committees of Safety to GW, 26 May 1776.

This address is preceded by a long undated letter from Douglass to GW, in which he more openly attacks Schuyler. “I speak plainly,” he writes. “I believe by all that has transpired that General Schuyler is a Traitor & that an overwhelming Destruction upon our Army in Canada if not upon all the New-England Provinces is near at hand. What but Disgrace & Infamy are constantly pursuing our Army there & all for the want of their being provided for. Why is Sr John Johnston now at the Head of a powerful Army swallowing up our forces by large mouthfuls in Canada, is this the Man that was taken in arms against his Country last Fall & not so much as confined? be astonished O Earth. Why was our Army last year universally disaffected toward General Schuyler? was there no reason for their universal Complaint, I speak of Officers & Soldiers; when all was love & Affection for the glorious Montgomery not a Murmur, not a whisper heared to his Disadvantage. Why has our Army been starving when Albany has been overflowing with Provisions, & this Country all round about us suffering thro’ plenty. How many Bushels of Wheat were sold in Albany last Winter for half a Dollar paid in goods at the highest price & how many tens of Thousands of Bushels might now in a Days Time be carried in for two thirds of a Dollar. Why has there been such cheating in that Army as to the pork great part of which has been fit only for Dogs to eat: owing to the Waggoners leting out the brine to lighten his Load.

“The Army in Canada O how unlike the one before Boston last Year I expect to hear Nothing but Disgrace & Infamy from our Canadian Army without some Great Change & mighty Exertions. If Canada is gone America is undone I speak here from Knowledge. A more important post as to the support of our cause is not upon this whole Continent. Can’t General Schuyler be removed with honor to some other post or have an Assistant General or no other Measures be taken to satisfy the Minds of people in General? What a dark plot has been carrying on of late thro’ out New York Government. What Dependance has Government upon our internal Enemies what Multitudes from one End of New York Government to the other stand Tiptoe to Joyn our Enemies. I expect it will be but a few Weeks before this Continent will be struck with Amazement & Horror. Great Cromwell, under God, I rest upon you to save this Country from Ruin” (DLC:GW).

Asa Douglass (1715–1792), who describes himself in his letter to GW as “a Grey headed Farmer,” apparently moved back and forth between Berkshire County, Mass., and Albany County, N.Y., during the Revolution. In the spring of 1775 he raised a company of men and participated in the capture of Ticonderoga on 10 May. Dispatched to Congress a few weeks later, Douglass “was Thunder struck,” he tells GW, to hear on his way there that Congress had ordered Ticonderoga to be abandoned. “Knowing that to be the Key to all New England & an inlet to the Savages to ravage our Frontiers for many Hundred Miles in length, . . . I viewed said doings of the Congress as the finishing Stroke to New England. When I arrived at Philadelphia I carefully searched out the cause of it & I found the Land Jobbers were the foundation or efficient cause of said Resolution of Congress. I gave myself no Rest till that Resolution was reversed” (DLC:GW). He was also a member of the King’s District, N.Y., committee of inspection 1775–77 and major of the district’s regiment in the Albany County militia 1775–78. In 1782 Douglass petitioned Congress as the agent for a number of Stockbridge Indians who claimed that they had been defrauded of their lands (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 , 22:120, 127; Stockbridge Indians to John Hanson, 25 Mar. 1782, DNA:PCC, item 41).

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