From the Massachusetts Council
State of Massachusetts Bay
Council Chamber Boston Jany 4th 1777.
Your favor of the 18th Decr last is come to hand which eased us in some Degree of the Anxiety we were in from an Ignorance of your Situation & at the same time gave us great Concern to find you had been so illy supported by the States in your Vicinity at a Period when every Effort might have been expected;1 but we hope an opportunity for Recollection will awaken a Sense of Injury, that will prompt them to Exertions correspondent to the Importance of the Contest.
Having learned that the addition we had made to the monthly pay of the Men, who should inlist in the Battalions raising by this State, had been disapproved by Congress, and by your Excellency, we immediately put a stop to all such Inlistments, and in lieu of the monthly pay gave an additional Bounty payable out of the Treasury of this State; thinking this a necessary step to raise our Men; and directed all such as had inlisted upon our first encouragement, who should refuse to reinlist upon the last Terms, to be discharged the Service, upon their restoring the Bounty Money, or other Things they might have received in consequence of their inlistment.2
But being informed by our Committee from the Northern Army, that they with the Consent of General Gates, had before our Battalions marched from Ticonderoga inlisted a Considerable Number of Men, upon the first mentiond Terms (and that probably more had since inlisted on the same Terms) a considerable proportion of which Men, they had reason to think woud decline to inlist on any other Terms by which means the little Army then under your Excellencys immediate Command might have been considerably weakened at a time which required every possible addition to its strength, we thought it absolutely necessary to take away that Election and retain such of them in the service upon the terms of their inlistment, as should decline accepting of the other until they should be duely discharged.
We trust this measure, instead of being disagreeable to the Congress, or your self, will meet with their, and your approbation, seeing unhappily we have before us but the choice of Evils.
As we thought it would be difficult, if not impossible, for General Lincoln to obtain your orders in time for the Disposition of the Militia under his Command we directed him to act in Concert with such General Officers as were left in the vicinity of New York in such manner as the situation of Affairs might require; subject to such Orders, as he might receive from the Commander in Chief, and we are happy to find our Directions to him coincide with yours3—Our Officers are recruiting in the Country & with Success, but least the Success should not be equal to the present Exigencies we have in contemplation some other measures to Expedite this Business.4
We heartily condole with you on the Loss of a brave Officer, and a Worthy Citizen in the Captivity of General Lee; and We feel the most tender Concern that your own Situation has been of late so embarrassed, but we hope that long before this time a spirit of Patriotism has roused the Friends of America, and prompted them to render you effectual Support.
You may depend on every Thing in our power for the general Safety, and we should be happy to know as often as may be, the situation of the Army under your immediate Command. I am Sir In the Name & by Order of the General Court of this State with very great Respect, & Esteem Your most obedt & humble servt
James Bowdoin Presidt of Council
LS, DLC:GW; two drafts, M-Ar: Revolution Letters. The first draft, which is on pages 106–8A of volume 196, was written on 3 Jan. 1777, but the writer inadvertently dated it “Jany 3d 1776.” The second draft, which is on pages 109–11 of volume 196, originally was dated “Jany 3d 1777,” and then it was changed to read “Jany 4th 1777.” The committee that prepared the draft included Joseph Palmer, William Phillips, and Caleb Strong. The committee also conferred with John Adams and Robert Treat Paine, two of the state’s delegates to the Continental Congress (see Mass. House of Rep. Journal description begins A Journal of the Honorable House of Representatives of the Colony of the Massachusetts-Bay in New-England. Watertown, Mass., 1777. (Microfilm Collection of Early State Records.) description ends , May 1776–April 1777 sess., 209–11, 213; and “Mass. Council Journal,” Oct. 1776–Feb. 1777 sess., description begins In Journals, Minutes, and Proceedings, State of Massachusetts Bay, 1775–1780. (Microfilm Collection of Early State Records.) description ends 406, 415, 417–18).
2. The General Court took this action on 1 January. The amount of the new bounty was twenty pounds (see “Mass. Council Journal,” Oct. 1776–Feb. 1777 sess., description begins In Journals, Minutes, and Proceedings, State of Massachusetts Bay, 1775–1780. (Microfilm Collection of Early State Records.) description ends 403–5).
3. See the Massachusetts Assembly to Benjamin Lincoln, 31 Dec., in Force, American Archives description begins Peter Force, ed. American Archives. 9 vols. Washington, D.C., 1837–53. description ends , 5th ser., 3:1518.
4. The committee that drafted this letter reported that in their opinion “it is of the last consequence that this Court immediately order the several towns, and places, in this State, to furnish such proportion of the number of male persons belonging to such town, & place, respectively, from sixteen years old and upwards, as shall be sufficient to complete the fifteen battalions required of this State” (“Mass. Council Journal,” Oct. 1776–Feb. 1777 sess., description begins In Journals, Minutes, and Proceedings, State of Massachusetts Bay, 1775–1780. (Microfilm Collection of Early State Records.) description ends 417–18).