From a Committee of the Continental Congress
Philadephia April 10. 1777
In obedience to an order of Congress we do ourselves the honor to inform your Excellency of the reasons and principles that have governed Congress in their resolution for forming a Camp on the west side of Delaware. The repeated information that hath been received of the enemies movements, and it being the opinion of your Excellency, as well as of many other General Officers, that this City was the Object of such movements,1 rendered it proper that means should be fallen upon, to prevent the success of such a design, as well to guard against the bad impression that it would certainly have on the affairs of America in general, as to give security to the valuable Stores here collected, and which cannot speedily be removed.
It has been considered, that if the real design of the enemy should be against this City, the Troops are here well fixed, and will be an encouraging place of resort to the Militia of this State in their present unfixt condition, being between their old plan of association, and their new, but yet unexecuted, law. On the other hand, should the design of the enemy be upon Hudsons river, or more eastward, the Troops here may with ease reach that river, before those now at Head Quarters can have all crossed it. But other considerations remain, and they are, should the enemy continue in Jersey with a view to attack your Army, or should your Excellency mean to make a decisive impression on them when your numbers are sufficient, in either supposition, the Troops ought not to be here. And therefore, in the whole of this business, Congress mean not, in any manner, to interfere with the designs, or to counteract the Judgement of your Excellency, but wish you freely to call up to Head Quarters, all, or any part of the Troops encampt here as you shall please. It is not supposed that this will occasion any delay, and will certainly prevent the injuries that would be derived to the Troops, as well in health as discipline, from their entering and remaining any time in this City. We are, with sentiments of much esteem, Your Excellencies most obedient humble servants
Richard Henry Lee
LS, in Richard Henry Lee’s writing, MdBJ-G; Df, in Lee’s writing, PPAmP: Correspondence of Richard Henry Lee and Arthur Lee.
This committee, which consisted of the four signers of this letter and James Wilson, was appointed by Congress on 9 April “to consider what steps are proper to be immediately taken by Congress, and recommended to the State of Pensylvania, for opposing the enemy, if they should attempt to penetrate through New Jersey, or to attack Philadelphia” (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 , 7:246–47). The committee on the evening of 9 April conferred with the Pennsylvania council and representatives from the state’s board of war and navy board (Pa. Col. Records description begins Colonial Records of Pennsylvania. 16 vols. Harrisburg, 1840–53. description ends , 11:203). On this date the committee reported to Congress, and Congress resolved “That a camp be immediately formed on the western side of Delaware, to which the continental troops, now in Philadelphia, and on their march from the southward and westward, shall be ordered to repair with all expedition.” Congress urged the Pennsylvania council “to put not less than three thousand of the militia of that state in readiness to march to the camp . . . on the shortest notice,” and it directed “That proper officers be immediately despatched to enquire into the number and condition of the troops at Annapolis, and between that city and Philadelphia, and to hasten the march of such as are fit for service.” Schuyler was given the job of executing those resolutions (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 , 7:250–51).
Congress also resolved on this date “That General Washington be immediately informed, by express, of the resolves now agreed on; and that he be informed that Congress mean not, by forming a camp on the west of Delaware, to delay the continental troops, or to prevent their joining the army under his command as fast as he shall think proper to order them; and that the committee, who brought in the report, bring in the draught of a letter to the General, assigning the particular reasons that induced Congress to come into the resolutions” (ibid., 251; see also Richard Henry Lee to GW, this date).
1. See in particular Israel Putnam’s letter to Hancock of 8 April from Princeton, which Congress read on 9 April before appointing the committee that wrote this letter. “I wish,” Putnam writes Hancock, “that the Troops in Philada were Armd and Accouterd, and the Malitia ready to turn out at the shortest notice—for by their [the British] movements; and our Intelligence we have the greatest reason to think that Philada is their greatest object at Present in View” (DNA:PCC, item 159).
2. Abraham Clark (1726–1794) of New Jersey served in the Continental Congress from 1776 to 1778, from 1780 to 1783, and from 1786 to 1788, and he was a member of the U.S. Congress from 1791 to 1794.