From John Hancock
Philada April 16th 1777.
The enclosed Resolves will convey to you such Information of the Proceedings of Congress as may be necessary for your Direction and future Conduct touching the same.1
In the present Situation of the British Army, it is extremely to be wished, that an Attack could be made upon their Troops in Rhode Island, which, tho’ it should not prove successful, would, in all Probability, cause a Diversion of their Forces in New Jersey or elsewhere. The Congress therefore have strongly recommended to the State of Rhode Island to make the Attack, and to the States of Massachussetts Bay and Connecticut to afford them all the Assistance in their Power in executing this important Service. I have wrote to these States on the Subject.2
The printed Resolves herewith transmitted, being of the utmost Consequence, I beg Leave to refer your Attention to them. Should they fail of procuring the several Quotas to be raised by the respective States, it is the Intention of Congress, that after the first of May, Draughts should be made from the Militia.3
Your Favour of the 12th Inst. I was duely honoured with, and immediately communicated the same to Congress. I have the Honour to be with the greatest Esteem & Respect, Sir, your most obed. & very hble Servt
John Hancock, Prest
LS, DLC:GW; LB, DNA:PCC, item 12A.
1. The enclosed copies of various resolutions on military matters that Congress passed between 10 and 16 April include, in addition to the ones mentioned in the second and third paragraphs of this letter (see notes 2 and 3), resolutions concerning appointments for the mustermaster’s and hospital departments; duties of hospital officers; pay increases for various staff officers; construction of an ordnance magazine and laboratory at Springfield, Mass.; monuments for Joseph Warren and Hugh Mercer; a ban on special names for Continental regiments such as “Congress’s own regiment” and “General Washington’s life guards”; Gen. Andrew Lewis’s resignation; and appointments of an adjutant, three foreign officers, three claims commissioners, and committees on safeguarding provisions and aiding the recruiting service (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 , 7:252–60, 266, 269–70).
2. See Hancock to Certain States, this date, in 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 , 6:591–92. The enclosed copy of Congress’s resolutions of this date on the proposed attack 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 , 7:272–73). One of the resolutions directs GW to appoint a general officer to carry out the attack.
3. Hancock enclosed two different one-page broadsides containing resolutions of 14 April. The resolution on one of the broadsides revises four articles of war that concern provision contracts, officer complaints, and court-martial procedures. That broadside bears the imprint of John Dunlap of Philadelphia (DLC:GW; see also ibid., 264–66, GW to Alexander McDougall, 18 April, and GW to Samuel Holden Parsons, 19 April). The other broadside, which has no imprint, contains several resolutions dealing with measures for expediting the recruiting of the Continental army. In those resolutions Congress recommends that state executive authorities replace negligent recruiting officers and send Congress without delay returns of Continental soldiers in their respective states. Congress recommends that state legislatures “enact Laws exempting from actual service any two of the Militia, who shall . . . furnish one able-bodied Recruit, to serve in any Battalion of the Continental Army” for three years or the duration of the war. Legislatures also are urged to require other persons exempted from bearing arms to furnish substitutes, “to permit the inlisting of servants and apprentices, and to prohibit the imprisoning . . . of Soldiers in Continental service for any debt not exceeding fifty dollars.” The date recommended in these resolutions for beginning “indiscriminate” militia drafts, if necessary, is 15 May (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 , 7:261–63).