To James Warren
Philadelphia May 6. 1777
About Ten Days ago, I had the Boldness to make a Motion that a Navy Board Should be established at Boston1—certain Gentlemen looked, Struck and Surprized—however it passed. I have moved, I believe fifteen Times, that a Nomination should take Place. Certain Gentlemen looked cold.
This Day the Choice came on. At last Vernon, Warren and Deshon were chosen. The Board are to appoint their own Clerk who is to have 500 Dollars a Year.
I hope you will engage in this Business and conduct it with Spirit. You cannot be Speaker, and do this Duty too, I believe.
I think the Town of Boston, will be offended.4 But I could not help it. I would this you will not mention. The Salary for the Commissioners is 1500 Dollars a Year. You will have the Building and fitting of all ships the appointment of Officers, the Establishment of Arsenals and Magazines &c.—which will take up your whole Time. But it will be honourable to be so capitally concerned in laying a Foundation of a great Navy. The Profit to you will be nothing. But the Honour and the Virtue, the greater.
I almost envy you this Employment. I am weary of my own, and almost with my Life. But I ought not to be weary in endeavouring to do well.
RC (MHi:Warren-Adams Coll.); docketed: “Mr. J. A Lettr May 6 1777.”
1. Made on 19 April, the motion is in JCC description begins Worthington C. Ford and others, eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, Washington, 1904–1937; 34 vols. description ends , 7:281.
2. Comma supplied.
3. Readily identifiable are John Langdon (N.H.), William Vernon (R.I.), John Deshon (Conn.), Tristram Dalton (Mass.), Azor Orne (Mass.), and Thomas Cushing (Mass.). Dalton, Orne, and Cushing were members of the General Court. According to Samuel Adams, members of the congress from Rhode Island and Connecticut were determined to have representation on this board serving New England. William Whipple, however, did not think the job was attractive enough to push for his fellow New Hampshireman (JCC description begins Worthington C. Ford and others, eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, Washington, 1904–1937; 34 vols. description ends , 7:331; Burnett, ed., Letters of Members description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress, Washington, 1921–1936; 8 vols. description ends , 2:340, 359). The identification of Henley and Smith remains conjectural. Burnett indexes Henley as David, but he had been appointed some weeks before as colonel of an additional Continental regiment. Since he was only 28, his father, Samuel, a well known Charlestown distiller and town treasurer, would seem a more likely choice (Heitman, Register Continental Army description begins Francis B. Heitman, comp., Historical Register of Officers of the Continental Army during the War of the Revolution, new edn., Washington, 1914. description ends , p. 25; Thomas Bellows Wyman, The Genealogies and Estates of Charlestown . . . 1629–1818, 2 vols., Boston, 1879, p. 493–494). Smith may have been Isaac Smith Sr., AA’s uncle.
4. Because only one of the successful nominees, James Warren, was from Massachusetts and not a Boston man at that.