John Jay Papers

To John Jay from Robert Morris, 12 January 1777

From Robert Morris

Philada. Jany 12th 1777

Dear Sir

I have been possessed of your obliging favr. of the 2d Ulto a considerable time,1 but being too much pressed with public & private business to permit my being a regular correspondent it is needless to apologize. You undoubtedly must have been well acquainted with the rapid progress made by our Enemies through the Jerseys and the danger to which this City has been exposed for some Weeks past, and you will have heard of the removal of Congress to Baltimore in the midst of the pannic.2 This step has been highly censured by many of their Friends and undoubtedly lost them the confidence of some valuable Men.

I confess for my own part I am not amongst the Number of those that Censure them for this hasty measure, for when it is considered that the Enemy s Troops were within a very few miles of us & no apparent Force sufficient to oppose their progress, it surely was time for a public body on which the support of the American cause so much depended, to provide for their safety— Meer personal safety I suppose wou’d not have induced many of them to fly, but their Security as a body was the object, had any Number of them fallen into the Enemies hands so as to break up the Congress America might have been ruined before another Choice of Delegates cou’d be had & in such an event they wou’d have been deemed criminal & rash to the last degree. Most of them dislike their present Station & complain horridly, particularly those you esteem, but it seems some others who generally carry their points, like their quarters & are for staying. I suppose it answers some of their purposes and I have but one objection in the world. They have appointed Mr Walton of Georgia, Mr Clymer & myself a Committee to transact all Continental business that may be necessary & proper in this place, the business of this Committee engrosses my whole time & encreases daily, so that I am now the veriest Slave you ever saw and wish them back to be relieved3

I wish to Heaven they had removed from hence last winter, If they had, Pensylvania wou’d long since have had a wholesome constitution, its Strength might have been drawn into proper exertion & her Capital wou’d never have been made to tremble. What has happened is the fruits of that winters Cabals, Our Constitution is disliked, the People divided, unhappy, and consequently weak, the power if any there be, is placed in improper hands and in short the people seem to loose one day, the Confidence they placed in leaders of the day before4

Where it will end God only knows, Dickinson & A. Allen have given mortal stabs to their own Characters & pity it is the wounds shou’d penetrate any further, but they were men of property Men of fair private Characters & what they have done, seems to pierce through their sides into the Vitals of their Contemporaries ^those who have similar pretentions^ to Fortune & good Character, the defection of these men is supposed to originate in a desire to preserve their Estates & consequently glances a Suspicion on all that have Estates to loose. I pity them both exceedingly, Dickensons Nerves gave way & his fears dictated a letter to his Brother advising him not to receive Continental money. His Judgment & his Virtue shou’d have prevented this Act of Folly, I call it such because I believe his Heart to be good & regret much that his exalted Character must ^shou’d^ be degraded, by what can cou’d hardly be called a Crime at the time he did it, but he thought the Game was up.5 A Allen deserves a better fate, than he will meet with, Aimiable in private character and deserving of the Felicity he has heretofore enjoyed he has rashly sacrificed it, by a temerity hasty resolution, he has long thought it impossible for us to withstand the power of Great Britain & he complained of that Conduct amongst ourselves which has been loudly censured by America’s warmest advocates & frequently exposed by the keen sentences of Mr. Jay, however nothing can justify the Step he has taken & it seems wrong to paliate it, I will therefore only say, I am most sincerely sorry for him.6 I removed my Family & some of my effects in the heat of our Fright but determined to stay by the City to the last moment very happy have I been since, in this determination, as it is fallen in way to be very usefull on many occasions, both to this State & to the Continent, and in every instance I have exerted myself to the utmost, Congress are Sensible of it and have approved all my doings, altho I acted for a considerable time without their Authority. I join in all your Sentiments respecting our good Friend Duane and if I had not been well convinced how Ill used he was by that Cursed piece of Slander I shou’d not have troubled him with it, nor shou’d I have sent it when I did, but having heard he was coming to Congress, I thought it my duty to prepare him. I have a letter from him on the Subject and think he treats it very properly by despising the report & its Author or Authors. I wish to heaven the affairs of your State wou’d permit both your attendance at Congress, believe me you & others are wanted there, There is a leader there that you do not like and as I understand they have the rule of the roost totally since their removal to the Southward. Pray shew this to Mr Duane & tell him the next bit of leisure I get shall be devoted to answer his two letters.7

I do not pretend to give you any acct of Military operations as I suppose you get them from day to day. What a glorious change in our prospects Pray Heaven Continue our Success and grant me an opportunity of Congratulating you on regaining the City of New York. I have not heard from Mr Deane for sometime past & fear he will complain for want of remittances & Intelligence those Damnd Men of War plague us exceedingly & have taken many of our Vessells, but we must persevere untill we gain success. I am Dear Sir Your affectionate Friend & Servt

Robt Morris.

ALS, NNC (EJ: 6993). Addressed: “The Honorable / John Jay Esqr / Member of Convention at the / Fish Kills.” “2 / 4 Postage” noted. Endorsed.

2Fearing a British advance on Philadelphia, Congress adjourned to Baltimore on 12 Dec. 1776. Sessions were held there 20 Dec. 1776–March 1777. JCC description begins Worthington C. Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, D.C., 1904–37) description ends , 6: 1027, 1028.

3On 21 Dec. 1776, Morris, George Walton (c. 1749–1804) of Georgia, and George Clymer (1739–1813) of Pennsylvania were appointed a committee “with powers to execute such continental business as may be proper and necessary to be done at Philadelphia.” JCC description begins Worthington C. Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, D.C., 1904–37) description ends , 6: 1032.

4On 28 Sept. 1776 the Pennsylvania Convention adopted a radical state constitution that provided for a unicameral legislature and an executive council presided over by a president. Opponents of the new constitution mobilized forces for the assembly campaign that followed. Anticonstitutionalists won one-third of the seats in the legislature, enough to prevent the assembly from organizing when it met on 28 Nov. John Dickinson, the anticonstitutionalist leader in the assembly, proposed that his followers would agree to elect a speaker and cooperate in routine business if the assembly consented to call a new constitutional convention in January 1777, but this compromise was not adopted, and the assembly adjourned until January 1777, when conservative forces again prevented the organization of the new state government. Allan Nevins, The American States During and After the Revolution, 1775–1789 (New York, 1924), 150–56; Robert L. Brunhouse, The Counter-Revolution in Pennsylvania, 1776–1790 (New York, 1971), 13–23.

5John Dickinson was left out of the Pennsylvania delegation chosen in July 1776. Despite his opposition to the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, Dickinson saw military service against the British in the late summer of 1776. Dickinson’s dissatisfaction with the political situation in Pennsylvania, along with the anticipated British march on Philadelphia, prompted him to make arrangements to move his family to his estate in Delaware in late 1776. His political standing in both Pennsylvania and Delaware was harmed by the interception of a note written to his brother on 14 Dec. from Newcastle, Del.: “Receive no more continental money on your bonds and mortgages— The British have conquered the Jerseys, and your being in camp, are sufficient reasons— Be sure you remember this— It will end better for you.” When Dickinson’s servant applied to the Council of Safety for a pass, the council assumed that Dickinson’s compromising note was intended for the council and opened the letter. The servant was jailed, and Dickinson’s new home in Philadelphia seized for use as a hospital. Despite Dickinson’s efforts to explain the circumstances of the letter, the council published part of the note and refused to discuss the matter with him. Delaware had elected him to the Continental Congress in November, but he declined the office in January 1777. After resigning his seat as a Delaware congressman, Dickinson withdrew to private life and did not hold public office again for two years. For Dickinson’s account of the circumstances of his note to his brother, see Charles J. Stillé, The Life and Times of John Dickinson, 1732–1808 (Philadelphia, 1891), 400–407.

6Andrew Allen (1740–1825), a Pennsylvania delegate to the Continental Congress, did not attend sessions of Congress after May 1776. In December 1776, Allen fled to the British lines at Trenton; he subsequently took the oath of allegiance to the British king and went to England; he was attainted for treason to the U.S. and his properties confiscated.

7Letters not found. For the charges against Duane, see also Robert R. Livingston to JJ, 15 Feb. 1776, and JJ to Morris, 2 Dec. 1776, above.

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