Benjamin Franklin Papers

The Secret Committee to the American Commissioners, 17 February 1777

The Secret Committee to the American Commissioners

ALS: British Library; draft:8 Harvard University Library

In the secret Committee of Congress Baltimore in Maryland

Feby. 17th. 1777

Honorable Gentlemen

We have the honor to inclose you a Resolve of Congress that is of great Importance to the public Service, which has suffered considerably the last Fall, and during this Winter, by the insufficient manner in which our Soldiers were clothed. Having found much Delay heretofore in getting Cloth made up, the Congress desire that 40,000 compleat Suits of Soldiers Cloaths may be sent. In giving directions for the making these Cloaths, it may be necessary, Gentlemen, to inform that both the Coats and Waistcoats must be short skirted, according to the dress of our Soldiery, and that they should be generally for Men of stouter make than those of France.9 Variety of Sizes will of course be ordered.

The Eastern Ports are generally entered with so much more Safety than the Southern, that we recommend the former for these Goods to be sent to, giving Orders to the Captain to inform Congress immediately of his Arrival, either by Express or by personal Attendance. We expect this Letter will be delivered you by Capt. Johnston, Commander of the Lexington armed Vessel,1 and as the Congress are very anxious to hear from you, it is probable Capt. Johnston will not remain long enough in France to get either Cloth or Cloaths in any quantity, but since it is necessary for the health of the Soldiers to cover them from the Dews of Summer it will be of great Advantage to send a considerable quantity of Blankets and Tent Cloth by the Return of the Lexington, with Stockings, Flints, and Muskets with Bayonets. The Soldiers Cloaths and the Cloth should be so contrived as to reach North America by the month of September at furthest. We are with esteem, honorable Gentlemen, your most obedient and very humble Servants

Richard Henry Lee
Fras. Lewis
Wm Whipple2


[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

8Both are in the hand of Richard Henry Lee, and he signed the draft; they differ only in inconsequential details.

9The resolution instructed the commissioners to send the 40,000 uniforms if possible, cloth for as many more, and a large quantity of blankets, stockings, flints, and lead: JCC, VII, 92–3. The draft lists these requirements at the foot of the page.

1This is the first appearance of a man who will often reappear. Henry Johnson had had an earlier and disastrous voyage, when British prisoners on the privateer he commanded took her over and sailed her to England; she was anchored in the Thames, and the crew confined for a time in the hold under appalling conditions. Johnson eventually made his escape to France and so to America, where he was promptly given his new command. William J. Morgan, Captains to the Northward: the New England Captains in the Continental Navy (Barre, Mass., 1959), pp. 103–5.

2For the New Hampshire delegate, who had been added to the committee the previous November, see the DAB.

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