George Washington Papers

To George Washington from a Committee of the Massachusetts Council, 11 August 1775

From a Committee of the Massachusetts Council

In Council [Watertown, Mass.] August 11th 1775.

May it please your Excellency,

We have taken into consideration the Honble Govr Cooke’s Lettr which your Excellency furnished us with; & by the Honble John Adam’s Esqr. from the American Congress, we are informed, that the Powder mention’d, has been Sent for, & is, probably, now on the Water; & Provisions are allow’d to be exported, in Pay for that article.1

We have also considered your Excellency’s message by Colo. Read; and acquaint your Excellency, that provision is made for finishing the Payment of the advanced Wages promised to the Troops; they have the liberty to take up of the Commissary, half their Wages; much has been taken up, & they have not had encouragement for any other payment ’till the end of the Campaign, & we apprehend, that they do not expect it: If they Shou’d be paid up to the first of August, it wou’d require a Settlement with ’em individually, which cannot now be attended to, without injuring the public Service.2

As to Vacancies of Commissions in the Army, we wou’d beg the favour of your Excellency to give us the earliest notice of Such as may happen in the Massachusetts Troops, & we will diligently attend to the matter, so that such Persons may be commissionated as will best promote the good of their particular Corps, & the general Service.

And as to the Prisoners, we wou’d recommend to your Excellency, that such of ’em as are of least importance, may be Secured in the Jails of Ipswich & Taunton; but there is a certain Ichabod Jones, & some officers, which, we think, had better be Sent to Northampton Jail, or other inland place of Security: And we doubt not your Excellencys care to prevent such Prisoners being exchanged, as may be eminently serviceable to our Enemies.3

And as to the Contracts made by the Comtee of Supplies, we see not how, in honour, they can be vacated, without the consent of both parties; but if in this, or any thing else, we can assist your Exellency, to promote the general Service, you may be assured that we shall chearfully meet your warmest wishes.4

J. Palmer Chairman

LS, in Joseph Palmer’s writing, DLC:GW; copy, M-Ar. The LS is prefaced with the statement “The Comtee appointed to take in consideration the Honble Govr Cooke’s Letter of the 8th Inst., & his Excellency Genl Washington’s Message of yesterday by Colo: Read, beg leave to Report by way of Letter to Genl Washington.” At the end of the LS appear the words “August 11th 1775 In Council read & accepted Perez Morton Secry Protem.”

No record of this committee appears in the journals of either house of the General Court. Nicholas Cooke’s letter of 8 Aug. is his of that date to GW, in which he proposes applying to the General Court for part of the money needed to send a ship to Bermuda for gunpowder. GW’s message of 10 Aug. apparently was delivered orally by Joseph Reed. No letter or memorandum of that date from GW or Reed to the council has been found.

1During the Continental Congress’s late summer recess, John Adams attended some meetings of the Massachusetts council, to which he had been elected on 21 July by the house of representatives. He was present on 10 Aug. and apparently informed the committee of Congress’s private agreement with a delegation from Bermuda to allow the Bermudians to continue to import foodstuffs from the mainland colonies in exchange for gunpowder. See Nicholas Cooke to GW, 11 Aug. 1775, n.2.

2The General Court’s resolution of 29 July, which established a committee to obtain a list of the men who had and had not received their advanced pay, appears in General Orders, 1 Aug. 1775. That committee reported on 9 Aug. that although it had applied to the colonels and paymasters of the Massachusetts regiments for the desired information, many of them had not yet responded, “which Delay causes great Uneasiness in those Regiments, at least where the Returns have been duly made, and will soon put it out of the Power of the Officers to quiet their Men, unless the Grounds of their Complaint are speedily removed.” To correct the situation, the General Court resolved that same day to empower Richard Devens, a member of the house of representatives and the committee of safety, “to receive the Money out of the Treasury, and Pay the advance Wages to those Men who have not receiv’d it,” as quickly as the committee was “able to ascertain to him the Numbers in each Regiment respectively” (Mass. House of Rep. Journal, July–Nov. 1775 sess description begins A Journal of the Honorable House of Representatives of the Colony of the Massachusetts-Bay in New-England. Watertown, Mass., 1775. (Microfilm Collection of Early State Records). description ends ., 56). For GW’s insistence on having all army pay accounts brought up to date, see General Orders, 10, 24, and 31 Aug. 1775, and GW to the Massachusetts General Court, 12 Aug. 1775. For the settlement of the Massachusetts accounts, see the Massachusetts General Court to GW, 18 Aug. 1775, and General Orders, 24, 31 Aug. and 5 Sept. 1775.

3Horatio Gates wrote to James Otis on this date: “By Order of The Commander in Chief I send to wait your Orders, an Officers Party to Escort Seventeen Seamen taken Prisoners at Machias; and One Tory, Ichabud Jones; thirty Prisoners more taken at Cape Ann, will be at Watertown to day. I believe you will think it best to Detain this party at Watertown, until that [from] Cape Ann Arrives, when they may have your Orders to what Town they are to March to be confin’d. I have already sent a Number of Prisoners to Springfield & Torys to Worcester. perhaps you may approve of placing these at Northampton, as there are so many at present at Springfield” (M-Ar: Revolution Letters). Ichabod Jones, a merchant at Machias in the District of Maine, went to Boston in May 1775 and returned to Machias on 2 June with two sloops to obtain lumber for the British army. An armed schooner from the British navy accompanied him. On 11 and 12 June a body of Machias Patriots, led by Jeremiah O’Brien and Joseph Wheaton, attacked Jones and his British protectors, killing several of the party and capturing the rest. Jones was confined in Northampton, and his property at Machias was seized by the local committee of safety. The prisoners from Cape Ann were men from the British sloop Falcon who were captured on 8 Aug. when they attempted to seize an American merchant vessel in the harbor at Gloucester, Massachusetts. They included a British gunner, 15 British seamen, 7 British marines, a boy, and several Americans who had been pressed into service.

4In a resolution passed by the house of representatives on 12 Aug. and approved by the council two days later, it was agreed “that as the Massachusetts Army, raised for the Defence of American Liberty, is now become Part of the Continental Army, that therefore all Contracts made by our Committee of Supplies, for Victualling said Massachusetts Army, are terminated; and the Commissary General of said Continental Army, is to be considered at Liberty to purchase Supplies for Victualling said Army, of such Persons, and in such Way and Manner as he shall see fit” (Mass. House of Rep. Journal, July–Nov. 1775 sess description begins A Journal of the Honorable House of Representatives of the Colony of the Massachusetts-Bay in New-England. Watertown, Mass., 1775. (Microfilm Collection of Early State Records). description ends ., 68; also in “Mass. Council Journal,” July 1775–Feb. 1776 sess. description begins In Journals, Minutes, and Proceedings, State of Massachusetts Bay, 1775–1780. (Microfilm Collection of Early State Records.) description ends , 77).

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