George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Nicholas Cooke, 14 September 1775

From Nicholas Cooke

Providence Septemr 14th 1775.


I am favoured with a Letter from Govr Trumbull in Answer to mine proposing a Voyage to Bayonne, in which he informs me that the Council of the Colony of Connecticut are summoned to meet this Day to take the Scheme into Consideration.1 This Sir is the Time to exert ourselves in sending to Europe for Powder, as the Vessels may perform their Voyages and return upon this Coast in the Winter, when the Enemy’s Ships are unable to cruize. I have written to our Delegates strongly recommending it to them to use their Influence that Measures may be taken to procure sufficient Quantities of that necessary Article.2 I have also advised them to move in Congress for opening some Lead Mines immediately, as the depending upon a precarious Supply by Sea when we have such Quantities in our own Country seems to me very preposterous. And I believe the Article in this Way will cost us less Money than it can be imported for.

Capt. Whipple sailed on Tuesday with Sixty-one Men on board; his Vessel being clean and every Way in good Order. I have given him Instructions to cruize Fourteen Days off Sandy-Hook for the Packet, and if he is so fortunate as to meet her to take her at all Events, to take out of her the Letters, Arms, Ammunition, and warlike Stores, and to land the Letters at South-Hampton and forward them immediately by Express. After the taking of the Packet or the Expiration of that Time he is immediately to proceed to Bermuda and, if possible, take the Powder into Possession without any Communication with the Inhabitants. I have given it to him strictly in Charge not to make any Use of your Address unless in Case of absolute Necessity.3

The noble Example set by the Lord Mayor, Aldermen and Livery of London in their late Address to the King, will, I hope have a good Effect in the other Parts of the Kingdom,4 &, together with the Disaffection of the People of Ireland to the iniquitous Measures now pursuing against the Colonies, added to our own Efforts, compel the Ministry to depart from their favourite Plan of establishing arbitrary Power in America.

This Letter waits upon you by Joshua Babcock Esqr.—He is a Gentleman of a genteel Fortune, a Member of our General Assembly, and hath highly distinguished himself in the glorious Cause in which America is embarked.5 I beg Leave to recommend him to your Excellency’s Notice, and am with great Esteem and Regard, Sir Your most humble and most obedient Servant

Nichols Cooke

LS, DLC:GW. The addressed cover includes the notation “Favoured by J. Babcock Esqr.”

1The Connecticut council on this date answered Cooke “that the colony had expended their money so largely in the article of powder that their funds were nearly exhausted, and though they expected a supply, they refused the offer, but recommended to him to propose the measure to Gen. Washington” (Hinman, Historical Collection description begins Royal R. Hinman, comp. A Historical Collection, from Official Records, Files &c., of the Part Sustained by Connecticut, during the War of the Revolution. Hartford, 1842. description ends , 334).

2Delegate Samuel Ward of Rhode Island laid Cooke’s proposal before the members of Congress’s secret committee on the importation of gunpowder. “I am instructed,” Ward wrote to Cooke on 5 Oct. 1775, “to acquaint You That they approve of the Plan and in Behalf of the united Colonies agree to advance a sufficient Sum of continental Money to purchase sixty or eighty Tons of good Gun Powder as suits You best. . . . The Money shall be paid to your Order on Sight. . . . If the whole Quantity of Gun Powder cannot be got the Comee would have as much Salt Petre with a proportionate Quantity of Sulphur to manufacture with it purchased as will make up the proposed Quantity of Powder” (Smith, Letters of Delegates description begins Paul H. Smith et al., eds. Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774–1789. 26 vols. Washington, D.C., 1976–2000. description ends , 2:122–23). Whether or not this voyage was made is not known.

3Abraham Whipple sailed in the armed sloop Katy on 12 September. For Cooke’s instruction to Whipple, see Clark, Naval Documents description begins William Bell Clark et al., eds. Naval Documents of the American Revolution. 11 vols. to date. Washington, D.C., 1964–. description ends , 2:76–78. The address was the one to the inhabitants of Bermuda, dated 6 Sept. 1775.

4On 24 June 1775 the livery of the City of London approved an address petitioning the king to change his policy toward the American colonies: “We have seen, with equal dread and concern, a civil war commenced in America, by your Majesty’s commander in chief: Will your Majesty be pleased to consider what must be the situation of your people here, who have nothing now to expect from America, but Gazettes of blood, and mutual lists of their slaughtered fellow-subjects. Every moment’s prosecution of this fatal war may loosen irreparably the bonds of that connection, on which the glory and safety of the British empire depend. . . . Your petitioners therefore again pray and beseech your Majesty to dismiss your present Ministers and advisers from your person and councils for ever; to dissolve a Parliament, who, by various acts of cruelty and injustice, have manifested a spirit of persecution against out brethren in America, and given their sanction to popery and arbitrary power; to put your future confidence in Ministers, whose known and unshaken attachment to the constitution, joined to your wisdom and integrity, may enable your Majesty to settle this alarming dispute upon the sure, honourable, and lasting foundations of general liberty” (Pennsylvania Gazette [Philadelphia], 13 Sept. 1775).

5Joshua Babcock (1707–1783), a physician and merchant from Westerly who had studied medicine in England, became major general of the Rhode Island militia on 3 May 1776. He was a member of a committee of three members that the general assembly sent in Sept. 1776 to confer with GW about the defense of Rhode Island.

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