From John Hancock
Philadelphia 2d[—c.6] August 1776
I am particularly instructed by Congress to Answer that part of your Letter of 29th Ulto directed to the Board of War, which Relates to the filling up Vacancies in the Army. The Congress are Concern’d to find that an opinion is entertain’d that greater Confidence has been plac’d in, & larger powers given to other Commanders in that respect, than to yourself; They have in no instance, except in the late Appointment of General Gates to the Command in Canada, parted with the power of filling up Vacancies. The great Confusion & many Disorders prevalent in that Army & its Distance, induc’d Congress to lodge such a power in that General, for the limited space of three months, & only during his Continuance in Canada.1 Should Congress ever empower its Generals to fill up the Vacancies in the Army, they know of no one in whom they would so soon Repose a Trust of such Importance as in yourself; but future Generals may make a bad use of it. The Danger of the Precedent, not any suspicion of their present Commander in Chief, prompts them to Retain a power, that, by you, Sir, might be exercised with the greatest public Advantage.
I do myself the Honour to enclose sundry Resolves, and to request your Attention to them. They relate principally, as you will perceive to some new Regulations with Regard to Paymasters, Commissaries and Quarter Masters in the American Army and are intended to prevent Confusion and Disorder in those several Departments.
The Congress approve of your employing in the Service of the States, the Stockbridge Indians, if you think proper.2
The enclosed Resolve for taking into the Pay of the States such of the Seamen as may fall into our Hands on Board of Prizes, will, I trust, be attended with the good Effects, Congress had in View when they passed it.3 I have the Honour to be with perfect Respect & Esteem Sir your most obedt & very hble Servt
John Hancock Presidt
Your favr of 5 Inst. just Came to hand, will be Replied to by to morrow’s post.
LS, DLC:GW; LB, DNA:PCC, item 12A. The postscript to the LS is in Hancock’s writing. The LB does not include the postscript.
This letter was composed over a period of several days. The Board of War on 1 Aug. submitted a draft of the first paragraph to Congress, which then approved it and ordered “that it be transcribed, signed by the president, and forwarded” (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends , 5:625). The second and third paragraphs apparently were written on 2 Aug., the date of the resolutions to which they refer, and the fourth paragraph apparently was written on 5 Aug., the date of the resolution mentioned in it. The postscript must have been added late on 5 Aug. or early on 6 Aug., because GW’s letter to Hancock of 5 Aug., the receipt of which Hancock acknowledges, was read in Congress at the beginning of its session on 6 Aug. (ibid., 633).
1. See Congress’s resolution of 17 June 1776, ibid., 448.
2. The enclosed copy of these resolutions of 2 Aug. is in DLC:GW (see also JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends , 5:627–28).